Three All Blacks ranked in the world’s top 10

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He is one of 17 New Zealanders on the list compiled by England's Rugby World magazine. England also has 17 players included, joining New Zealand as the two leading contributors to the list.

The top-ranked player is French halfback and captain Antoine Dupont.

Black Ferns Sevens player Tyla Nathan-Wong, at No27, is the third-ranked woman player on the list.

Of Savea, Rugby World said: "We think we know all about nuances needed in each of the positions in the back row. But once in a blue moon, a player rushes into the Test game with the toolkit to excel at flanker or at eight. Ardie Savea has cracked it, smiling as he goes…

"It's the Robin Hood spirit- robbing your foes blind but distributing too rather than sitting on the prize – that has made swashbuckling Savea so [much] fun to watch. For a few years, we've heard fans bemoan the stop-start nature of Tests, with scant phases between hoisted kicks and set-pieces.

"Here is a player who can slink into a breakdown under the cover of All Black darkness, before spreading it around or even thundering forward himself a few moves later. A polymath with a merciless streak."

When Savea emerged from brother Julian's shadow in 2016, it was wondered if he lacked the size to make an impact in the loose, but there was no doubt now.

"When Savea is jamming, it can be a blur of limbs and missed hits as he pushes on ahead with the ball in his hands. Or on the other side, he is onto a fallen carrier lickety-split. There's barely time to breathe sometimes. But he says he's loving it. And the fans love it too," it said.

Coming in at No6 is halfback Aaron Smith. The magazine said: "He may not have been as ever-present for the All Blacks in 2021 as we're accustomed to but when he has been in action it's been clear that his class has not diminished. His pass is second to none. Stuart Barnes describes it as 'the best passing technique on the planet.'"

Lock, and captain, Sam Whitelock is named at No10. One of the magazine's writers Stephen Jones said Whitelock 'is in the same stratosphere as Colin Meads.'

"He is still playing with such fire, and has been an even greater player in recent seasons than in his earlier days…the last year or two has seen him probably at the peak of his powers.

"He is one of the sport's most influential figures: rock-solid, athletic and dominant in the tight phases of play, influential as a leader – but also with a turn of foot around the field."

Coming in two places behind Whitelock is his locking partner Brodie Retallick who was, the magazine said, 'unquestionably he's one of the great second-rows of the modern era.'

As with the All Blacks during the year, Beauden Barrett has edged first five-eighths rival Richie Mo'unga on the list, Barrett is at 14 and Mo'unga 15.

Of Barrett, they said, "He's not a player to die wondering, and so much of what he tries comes off, from reverse offloads to audacious kick-passes.

"Quick enough to shame most international wingers, Barrett's ability to see the space and exploit it with searing acceleration has ripped holes in all of the world's best defences…Speed of foot and speed of thought – it's a deadly combination and quite apart from the avalanche of Test tries this twice World Player of the Year has created for others, Barrett has scored 39 of his own."

And of Mo'unga, it said, "The stand-off has been the driving force behind the Crusaders' five Super Rugby titles in five years. Of course, his goalkicking has been important, as has his ability to be an attacking weapon in his own right – he beat more defenders than any other player and was joint top for clean breaks in this year's Aotearoa tournament.

"Yet it's his ability to call the right plays at the right time, to pull that clever trick out of his playbook and set up scoring opportunities for himself or others, that has arguably contributed most to his franchise's bulging trophy cabinet."

New Zealand players on Rugby World's 100 Best Players list are:

2 – Ardie Savea, 6 - Aaron Smith, 10 – Sam Whitelock, 12 – Brodie Retallick, 14 – Beauden Barrett, 15 – Richie Mo'unga, 27 – Tyla Nathan-Wong, 45 – Michaela Blyde, 49 – Sarah Hirini, 50 – Will Jordan, 55 – Jordie Barrett, 65 – Codie Taylor, 72 – David Havili, 74 – Damian McKenzie, 80 – Kelly Brazier, 84 – TJ Perenara, 91 – Charles Piutau (now playing in England)


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