Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Trick or Treat: A Halloween XV of the scariest rugby players

Posted on 31 October 2018 by Robert Sutton

It’s Halloween! And the Sports Gazette have put together a starting XV of rugby players who have struck fear into both their opponents and fans alike.

Prop: Tendai Mtawarira

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Nicknamed ‘The Beast,’ Mtawarira has been capped over 100 times by South Africa. He is a prop who can dominate virtually any opponent in world rugby on his day and is hugely popular among the South African supporters.

Weighing over 18 stone, Mtawarira has turned out for the Barbarians on a few occasions and displays some good pace for a front rower.

Hooker: Trevor Leota

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A cult hero during Wasps’ golden era, Trevor Leota is one of the hardest tacklers ever to grace the Premiership. Leota was spotted by Wasps coach Nigel Melville while Western Samoa were touring the UK in 1995 and went on to spend nine seasons at the club.

He won the Premiership three times and was a key part of Wasps’ success in the Heineken Cup in 2004, scoring the winning try in the semi final against Munster.

Prop: Martin Castrogiovanni

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One of the most easily recognisable faces during the Six Nations, Martin Castrogiovanni was capped 119 times by Italy between 2002 and 2016. He scored 12 tries for his country and actually ended up as Italy’s top try scorer in the 2008 championship.

Castrogiovanni was fan’s favourite at Leicester Tigers, where he spent seven seasons before finishing his career in France. The Italian now owns a restaurant in Leicestershire with Tigers head coach Geordan Murphy.

Second row: Paul O’Connell

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Standing at 6ft 6in, Paul O’Connell dominated the line-out for Munster and Ireland for nearly 15 years. O’Connell was an integral part of Munster’s two Heineken Cup victories, but he’s most remembered for his time with Ireland.

He captained their historic first match at Croke Park against France in 2007 and was Man of the Match in a 43-13 win over England at the same venue.

O’Connell was a key member of the Irish squad that won the Grand Slam in 2009 and captained the Lions tour to South Africa. He remained crucial to Ireland until injury ended his career at the 2015 World Cup.

Second row: Olivier Merle

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Going by the nickname ‘Le Massif Central,’ Olivier Merle was never far from controversy. In 1995, he head butted Welsh prop Ricky Evans, with the incident leading to Evans breaking his ankle.

Merle featured in the French side that reached the semi finals of the 1995 World Cup and that won the Grand Slam in 1997.

Flanker: Jacques Burger

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As a rugby player, you’re supposed to leave everything out on the pitch. Jacques Burger, however, defied this, frequently returning to the changing room with blood spattered over his shirt.

The Namibia international was nominated for Player of the Tournament at the 2011 World Cup despite the fact his side conceded 266 points in four matches.

Flanker: Richie McCaw

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Arguably one of the greatest players ever to play in the modern era, Richie McCaw captained New Zealand for 11 years.

He was a superb player and led the All Blacks back from their humiliating loss to France in the 2007 World Cup. He is the only captain to win the tournament twice and even his name alone on the team sheet was enough to frighten the opposition.

Number eight: Sebastien Chabal

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The first name on this particular team sheet is Sebastien Chabal. He was known for his long hair and ferocious tackling, earning him the nickname of ‘the Caveman’ during France’s home World Cup in 2007.

Chabal spent five years playing in England —where he represented Sale — making over 100 appearances for the north-west side. He returned home to France and finished his playing career with Lyon.

Scrum-half: George Gregan

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Scrum-half was a tough position to pick in this side, but Australian George Gregan was an obvious choice. One of the strongest scrum-halves seen in international rugby, he burst onto the scene with a try saving tackle to defeat the All Blacks in 1994.

Gregan lifted the World Cup in 1999 and was captain when Australia lost in the final four years later against England. He finished with 139 caps for the Wallabies, the highest number of test caps for an Australian.

Fly-half: Francois Steyn

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A name to strike fear into any England rugby fan, Francois Steyn is best remembered for his long range goal-kicking that was such a key element to South Africa’s success in the 2007 World Cup.

He is the only player in history to kick three penalties from his own half in an international fixture.

Wing: Nemani Nadolo

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Fijian winger Nemani Nadolo can do it all. He is 6ft 4in, weighs over 21 stone, scores tries and kicks conversions and penalties.

Nadolo’s record since moving to Montpelier has been outstanding — 41 tries scored in his first 50 appearances for the French side.

Centre: Tana Umaga

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Former All Black captain Tana Umaga was public enemy number one during the 2005 British and Irish Lions Tour, following a tackle that injured Brian O’Driscoll in the early stages of the first test.

His style often took them to the edge in a career that included 74 caps for the New Zealand. Umaga is now head coach of Super Rugby side Blues.

Centre: Mathieu Bastareaud

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Mathieu Bastareaud has been a cornerstone of French rugby over the past decade. He was hugely influential in Toulon’s three consecutive European Cup victories and helped France to a World Cup final in 2011.

However, he has often ended up in trouble both on and off the pitch. He missed the whole of the 2018 Six Nations following an altercation with an Italian player in a Champions Cup game and is currently banned once again for foul play.

Wing: Semesa Rokoduguni

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6ft Fijian winger Semesa Rokoduguni served for the British Army in Afghanistan in 2011 and turns out for the Army XV in their annual fixture against the Navy at Twickenham.

The 31-year old is a huge hit with Bath supporters and many people find it surprising that he has only won four caps for England.

Full-back: Mike Brown

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Mike Brown is a classic English full-back. Loved by his own supporters, hated by the opposition.

Brown recently celebrated his 300th appearance for Harlequins and will be looking to add to his 72 England caps in the upcoming Autumn Internationals.

Featured photograph/World Rugby/NZRU