One of the most exciting parts of any game day build-up is checking out those head to heads.
Which scrum-half is going to be quicker to the breakdown? Which prop will keep his footing? Which full-back is safer under the high ball?
Below we take a look at some of the most fascinating matchups in rugby history:
1. Jonny Wilkinson vs Dan Carter
Neither player needs any introduction whatsoever. Often thought to be the greatest two fly-halves in the history of the game, their respectful rivalry spanned well over a decade.
With Jonny Wilkinson making his international debut back in 1998, he had a slight head start on his points accumulation over his southern hemisphere counterpart.
Following his 2003 world cup winning exploits it was commonly thought that Wilkinson was the greatest player in world rugby. Out from Carlos Spencer’s shadows appeared a young Dan Carter, however. After performing predominantly at inside-center for the 2003 world cup, Carter cemented the starting birth in the All Blacks at fly half the following year.
With Wilkinson falling prey to many an injury over the next few years. Carter then became the standout number ten in world rugby, epitomised by his demolition of Wilkinson’s British and Irish Lions team of 2005.
The two great friends kept each other at the highest levels of competition for years to come. By the time they had both retired, Wilkinson had 1246 international points to his name, and Carter led the world record with a huge 1598 points total.
2. Jonah Lomu vs Mike Catt
When you think of these two players, you will not find many similarities. This was not a long-running feud between two like-for-like players. What it was in fact, was a single moment of David vs Goliath magnitude, but with Goliath literally trampling over David.
Over 25 years later, it is still thought of as one of the most bone-shattering collisions the world of rugby has ever seen.
3. Etzebeth vs Itoje
Potentially thought to be an odd inclusion considering how fresh this rivalry is, but there’s no doubting the fan hysteria behind each player.
Both intimidating locks, the South African Eben Etzebeth is well known for using his brute force to act as an enforcer for his club and national side.
Maro Itoje being a pure nuisance in and around the rolling maul, often causes spats to ensue between these two players.
Players for the big occasions, these two were box office in both the world cup final in 2019 and the British and Irish Lions tour of 2021.
Both have a huge following from their home countries, making for some truly fantastic debates over a pint between the English and South Africans.
4. Brian O’Driscoll Vs Tana Umaga
This rivalry is tainted with some seriously bad blood.
Back in the 2005 British and Irish Lions tour, Brian O’Driscoll (BOD) had laid down a challenge to the All Blacks outfit by picking up a piece of grass at the end of their traditional Haka as a sign of disrespect.
From that moment on BOD became a target for the men in black. Less than a minute into the game Kevin Mealamu and Tana Umaga picked BOD up and twisted him horizontally and then vertical in a malicious spear tackle, fracturing BOD’s shoulder and putting him out of the tour.
Both were thought to be the greatest centres in world rugby at the time, this made ripples around world rugby. It was then years before the two reconciled their differences, but have now put the past aside.
5. Manu Tuilagi Vs Mathieu Bastareaud
Centres, they’re units, powerhouses. The importance of a big centre is to break the gain line, getting your team on the front foot. There have been very few in the history of world rugby history that have achieved this quite as well as the aforementioned two.
It was a regular sight to see in the Six Nations these two lining up against each other in the England vs France fixtures. Pundits and fans alike would be hopping up and down ready to see the first collisions between these two.
With Manu Tuilagi weighing in at 110 kg, and Mathieu Bastareaud at 120 kg was like two human trains colliding. The bottled buzz of anticipation was felt in every stadium as one would line the other up for a huge hit, before the spectators would erupt with audible shock when one would inevitably crumple the other.
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This content was originally published here.