Two Boks in rugby's most-capped XV
SPOTLIGHT: World Rugby has put together rugby’s most-capped team.
There are some who enter the international arena and become mainstays in the first team for years on end, taking up iconic positions in the squad, amongst the fans and rugby as a sport.
Below are some of those select few in international men’s rugby’s all-time most capped team. It’s the most-capped players per position.
1 – Gethin Jenkins, 134 caps (Wales/British and Irish Lions)
Featuring on two Lions tours and part of three Welsh Grand Slams, Jenkins is the most capped prop in rugby history. The loosehead transcended the role of a prop, not only dominating at the set-piece but by being ahead of his time when it came to attacking the breakdown and all-round play.
2 – Keven Mealamu, 132 (New Zealand)
A two-time Rugby World Cup winner, Mealamu’s final minutes on the international stage were in the glistening victory of the 2015 final. His passion for his country and jersey saw him lead the various forms of the Haka over 50 times.
3 – Jason Leonard, 119 (England/British and Irish Lions)
The first-ever front-row forward to achieve ‘century’ status, Leonard was part of England’s victorious Rugby World Cup 2003 squad, earning revenge for the defeat they’d suffered in 1991. When he made his debut aged 22 years old, Leonard was the youngest Englishman to pack down in the front row.
4 – Alun Wyn Jones, 150* (Wales/British and Irish Lions)
The most capped player in the history of the game, the Wales and Lions lock has been the figurehead of Welsh rugby for well over a decade. His record cap figure is a historic statistic in the sport, contributing to three of Wales’ Grand Slams.
5 – Victor Matfield, 127 (South Africa)
A Springbok powerhouse, who for many is the greatest lock of the modern era. Matfield won the man of the match award in the Rugby World Cup 2007 Final. South Africa’s most capped player completes the tight five.
6 – Alessandro Zanni, 119 (Italy)
Having made his debut against Tonga in 2004, Zanni’s career with the Azzurri lasted 16 years before his retirement earlier this year, where he took up a coaching spot at Benetton in the Pro14.
7 – Richie McCaw, 148 (New Zealand)
McCaw’s Test cap record stood from the Rugby World Cup 2015 Final until Wales played Scotland in 2020, when Jones overtook him. Along the way, McCaw became a two-time Rugby World Cup winner and three-time World Rugby Player of the Year.
8 – Sergio Parisse, 142 (Italy)
Having played 10,890 Test match minutes, Parisse has featured on a rugby field for a longer period than any other player. His international farewell was delayed first by Typhoon Hagibis and second by the COVID-19 pandemic, postponing what will hopefully be a golden swansong for the Italian legend.
9 – George Gregan, 139 (Australia)
One of four Wallabies to make the 23, Gregan featured more times on the international stage than any other Australian in history. A member of the Rugby World Cup 1999 winning squad, Gregan boasted great bravado and quick wit on the pitch.
10 – Ronan O’Gara, 130 (Ireland/British and Irish Lions)
Racking up 1,083 points, O’Gara holds the record as Ireland’s top point scorer and is one of only five men to surpass the 1,000-point barrier. He also holds the record for the most points in the European Cup.
11 – Adam Ashley-Cooper, 121 (Australia)
A rare player to have featured in four Rugby World Cups, Ashley-Cooper’s 39 tries for Australia sees him third in their all-time try-scoring list, behind David Campese and Chris Latham. Known for his versatility, he played at wing, fullback and centre for the Wallabies.
12 – Florin Vlaicu, 124* (Romania)
Vlaicu may still be an active player, but at 34 years old and no Tests planned for the rest of the year, time is running out for the Romanian to add to his impressive tally. He is just eight points off the 1,000-point mark, and will be hoping to surpass that, if possible, next year.
13 – Brian O’Driscoll, 141 (Ireland/British and Irish Lions)
The fourth most capped player in history, O’Driscoll’s eight games for the Lions is surpassed by just 10 players. Ireland’s long-time talisman, the legendary 13 is the holder of various try-scoring records, including that of the Six Nations. He also managed to slot over five drop goals, despite playing in midfield.
14 – Brian Habana, 124 (South Africa)
Once dubbed the fastest player on the planet, Habana raced a cheetah to prove the point. The Rugby World Cup 2007 winner also bagged himself 67 tries in his international career, just two behind record try scorer, Daisuke Ohata. Habana jointly holds the record for most Rugby World Cup tries (15), with Jonah Lomu.
15 – Yuri Kushnarev, 115* (Russia)
Kushnarev’s career has spanned 15 years to date. He has 784 points and two Continental Shields, but aged 35 may not have too many opportunities left to add further caps to his tally.
16 – Stephen Moore, 129 (Australia)
One of the best hookers to grace the game, Moore’s 129 caps came in just 12 years. He captained the Wallabies to their Rugby World Cup 2015 final defeat and retired two years later.
17 – Tony Woodcock, 118 (New Zealand)
A winner of both the World Rugby Under-20 Championship and Rugby World Cup. Woodcock bagged a try in the 2011 final, which proved decisive, having started all seven games that campaign. He would also add another title to his name four years later, despite bowing out to injury early in the competition.
18 – Martin Castrogiovanni, 119 (Italy)
Italy’s most recognisable player due to his shaggy beard and hair combination. Various injuries and illnesses saw him end his career slightly prematurely, despite a healthy try to cap record for a tighthead, with 12 to his name.
19 – Sam Whitelock, 121* (New Zealand)
Another of New Zealand’s two-time Rugby World Cup winners, Whitelock has also bagged seven Rugby Championships. At six feet eight inches, he’s also the largest man on the list. And at just 32, there’s also plenty of time for him to add to his tally.
20 – Kieran Read, 127 (New Zealand)
The legendary No.8 and former captain of his country was named World Rugby Player of the Year 2013. Another two-time Rugby World Cup winner, Read has seven Rugby Championships to his name and led the All Blacks team to a series draw with the British and Irish Lions in 2017.
21 – Will Genia, 110 (Australia)
Genia holds the lowest number of caps for anyone in this squad, but the former Wallabies captain managed to win both the Tri-Nations and its newer format, The Rugby Championship.
22 – Dan Carter, 112 (New Zealand)
The record point scorer in test rugby (1,598), a two-time Rugby World Cup winner and three-time World Rugby Player of the Year. Seen by many as the game’s greatest ever flyhalf, Carter’s final outing came in the 2015 final.
23 – Davit Kacharava, 122 (Georgia)
Georgia may be known for their hulking forwards, but it’s centre Kacharava who holds their record cap tally. He retired in 2020 to enter politics.
Total caps: 2,923 (Average: 127)