The position the fatties love to hate but secretly wish they were good enough to play in. Just ask Mauro Bergamasco…
I’m a little too young to fully appreciate Gareth Edwards so my nominees are of a more recent vintage. It’s not a position that historically England has been especially blessed in, Dawson is probably the best we have had in the professional era, I believed for a long time that Ben Youngs would go on to become the best English 9 but he has never quite lived up to his early promise. Harry Ellis was probably the one that could have challenged but for injury. France have had many fine scrum halves – or petit generals – most of which were as happy in the 10 shirt as the 9. My top 5 though is regrettably dominated by the Southern Hemisphere.
5. Fourie du Preez. Fantastic all round skill set & was probably the best scrum half in the world between 2006-10. Captained the Boks with distinction and for a 9 was generally quite likeable!
4. Alessandro Troncon. The heartbeat of the Italian team that made a compelling case for the Five Nations to become the Six Nations. Vying with Parise for the title as the best ever Italian player. He did have the luxury of playing behind some pretty solid Azzuri packs and toward the end of his career managed games really well off of scraps. Like all the best 9’s he was fiery, a great distributor and had a good running game too.
3. Nick Farr-Jones. Possibly the best passer of the ball to ever play the game (Aaron Smith is the next best). He could run, tackle and organise too. A fine captain and a World Cup winner who cements his place in my Top 5.
2. George Gregan Another nuggety & durable Aussie. Had all the skills and was the fulcrum around which several brilliant Australian back lines were built. Like all good fatty herders he had plenty of chat to go with it too. In fact he edges out Farr-Jones on the list by dint of his “four more years” sledging of the Kiwis – my second favourite memory of 2003….
1. Joost van der Westhuizen Re-invented the role and paved the way for bigger more physical 9’s like Holmes, Murray and Phillips. Huge physicality, a massive try scoring threat & an indomitable spirit made him extremely influential. One of the finest players ever to represent the Boks and of the modern era. Had a damn fine scrap with MND too but sadly lost that one in the end.
Honourable mentions for Holmes, Howler, Peel, Phillips (was a giant on the 2009 Lions tour), Reddan, Murray Armstrong, Laidlaw (no not that one!) Aaron Smith, Pichot, Genia, Marshall, Ellisade, Galthie & Berbezier.
Faff de Klerk has many admirers but not quite in this company yet for me. Dupont could go on to be a great.
Fill your boots but remember #BeKind 😏