Earlier this week multiple heroes of the game travelled to the English town of Rugby to be officially inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Among those honoured were Ronan O’Gara (Ireland), Liza Burgess (Wales), Stephen Larkham (Australia), Pierre Villepreux (France) and Bryan Williams (New Zealand) for their contributions to the sport.
Here, Brendan Gallagher picks 12 players who are well worth consideration for 2019’s class of inductees.
England’s first black rugby player who breathed life into the side at fly-half against Scotland and France in 1906 but was disgracefully dropped against South Africa at the behest of the Springboks on account of his colour. Started his career with Knowle before being asked to leave for the same reason.
Arguably the best dead ball kicker of all time. Scored 983 points in 74 Tests with a middling Italy side, 27 in two for the Pumas. Still fourth in the all-time Heineken Cup list with 645 points despite not playing since 2004! Helped guide Italy into the Six Nations but they have struggled horribly to replace him.
Curious that rugby’s best ever administrator has not yet been honoured. Insisted on an end to the duplicity and hypocrisy of shamatuerism and took rugby down the professional route. Also more than anybody argued Italy’s case in the Six Nations. Would have had Georgia in long ago had he lived.
Bull-like No.8 who represented Uruguay at Test level for 20 years – from the age of 20 to the age of 40 when he captained them at the 1999 World Cup Finals, a campaign that included a win over Spain when he scored a try. One of the top equine vets in South America.
Considerable England flanker before injury, long time England selector but his great contribution has been keeping the Barbarians alive in this harsher professional world. Without his passion, networking and bending with the wind and changing the nature of Barbarians games they would have died.
Just a mighty rugby man who badly needs honouring. At the very heart of those trail-blazing Samoa World Cup sides of 1991, 1995 and 1999, a guiding on field light with Northampton and Newcastle and a passionate coach who took Connacht to an unlikely Pro14 title. Now looking to work his magic at Bristol.
Fearsome Pooler, Wales and Lions prop but it was the passion and commitment he gave to Pontypool – the town as much as the club – that needs honouring. At a time of unemployment, hardship, decline and despair, he gave his community a roaring unstoppable mean machine of a side to be proud of and lift the spirits.
The first black South African to play for the Springboks making his debut at the age of 31 against Ireland in 1981 when apartheid was still rampant. Perversely found himself as the target of anti-apartheid protests in New Zealand when on tour later that year. Six Tests and six wins for South Africa.
Piratical flanker renowned for a decade as the toughest forward in the French Championship who made it his personal crusade to get Italy into the Six Nations. Led Italy to victory over champions Scotland on their debut in 2000, but a serious eye injury in that game forced him to retire.
The classiest of centres, a Rolls Royce back in a world of bish bash bosh. Would have been a complete legend had he taken the All Blacks route but stuck with his native Samoa whom he proudly represented for 15 years, being their stand out player in their first three World Cup tournaments.
Led England to not one, not two, but three Grand Slams and subsequent years have shown how difficult they are to nail down. Was there at the dawn of professionalism trying to drag the game forward. Didn’t make him popular with old farts… but today’s generation have reaped the benefits.
The greatest moment in Tongan rugby and arguably the best ever win by a Pacific Island nation was when Mafe, an outstanding No.8, captained his emerging Tonga side to a 16-11 win over a full-strength Australia at Ballymore, outscoring their hosts four tries to one.