Tallest players in Rugby History
The average rugby rule book will tell one that rugby locks are typically around 1.98m tall. With their large frames and long limbs, they are incredibly useful at lineout and scrum time.
But rules are there to be broken and in this category, there have been the odd giant turn out who were taller than 2 meters.
We take a look at some of these giants in rugby, some of whom are still actively playing and who all quite comfortably stand head and shoulders above most players on the rugby pitch.
It is quite interesting that big men like South Africa’s Eben Etzebeth, RG Snyman or even Lood de Jager don’t even make the top ten list. Same goes for big All Blacks like Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick, who are meander between 2.03m and 2.04m.
Up until today, Richard Metcalf remains the tallest international rugby player that has ever graced a rugby field at 2.13m. Only Dean Williams, also 2.13m, equalled Metcalf, but he only represented club teams in England and New Zealand, where he still resides.
10. Rory Arnold 2.08
The 32-year old Arnold made his debut for the Wallabies in 2016 and has gone on to represent them in 22 Test matches up to date.
Back then the debutant ‘three-storey Rory’ became the Wallabies’ tallest ever player at 208cm, just five years after his first rugby training session in bare feet because he couldn’t find size 16 boots.
Rory Arnold’s journey to international rugby is pretty remarkable, not least because he was born in Wagga Wagga and then grew up in rural Murwillumbah in northern New South Wales.
He was working at a sugar mill when he first started training with the local club and within three years the giant forward moved to Gold Coast Breakers who play in the Queensland Premier league and also featured for South African side Griquas in the Currie Cup.
The former Brumbie joined French outfit Toulouse in 2019 and is set to head to Japan, thus becoming he Wallabies’ best-paid rugby player,
9. Richie Gray 2.08m
Scotland’s Richie has been appropriately called the Scottish Giant, as he hails from the land of giants.
Gray, easily recognised on the pitch due to his height at 2.08m and his long, peroxide blond hairstyle, has consistently been one of the tallest locks in northern hemisphere rugby this decade after breaking through at Glasgow Warriors. After making his debut in 2008 for the Scotstoun outfit, Gray went on to become a key first-team regular during the 2010/11 season when he was named in the Celtic League (PRO12) Team of the Year in an otherwise fruitless season for Glasgow.
Moves to Sale Sharks, Castres and Toulouse have followed to see Gray feature on the international scene alongside his younger brother Jonny – who doesn’t quite measure up to his brother being 9cm shorter than his older sibling.
8. Andries Bekker 2.08m
Bekker was one of the tallest players to have ever featured in international rugby in his time who earned two caps for South Africa. At 2.08m he will be remembered for his stint at the Stormers, where he played for eight years.
The second-row made his Super 14 debut in 2005 and his athletic qualities immediately stood out. Using his height effectively, Bekker was adept at the lineout while he also had the power to barrel through the first-up defence, but his skills in the loose were similarly impressive. With an outstanding ability to off-load and roam in the wider channels, he wasn’t your archetypal South African front five forward, which benefited his franchise immensely.
Bekker maintained his fine form up until 2013. His time duly ended after that campaign had finished as he signed for Japanese side the Kobelco Steelers, where he remained until his retirement in 2018.
7. Martin Bayfield 2.09m
Martin Bayfield was one of the tallest rugby players of his generation, which he used to his full advantage as one of England’s forwards. He enjoyed a successful international career, winning 31 England caps and 2 Five/Six Nations Grand Slams from 1991 to 1996, as well as being selected to represent the British & Irish Lions in New Zealand in 1993.
Injury prematurely ended Martin’s rugby career in 1998, but his charismatic personality and natural stage presence enabled him to easily transition into TV Presenting and speaking at corporate events.
His heroics did not stop on the rugby field as the former lock is also well known for serving as the body and stunt double of the much-loved giant Rubeus Hagrid, played by Robbie Coltrane, in the entire Harry Potter franchise. He has also appeared as a cyclops in the film Wrath of the Titans.
6. JP du Preez 2.09m
JP du Preez is quite possibly the tallest rugby player out of South Africa. The lock is one imposing figure with a tremendous work-rate and without a doubt the tallest player in every team he has represented at 2.09m.
He joined the Toyota Cheetahs from the Lions in 2018, where he played for the team from the Highveld in the Super Rugby. He has a distinction of being the tallest player ever to play in Guinness PRO14. Despite being as tall as he is, and tipping the scales at 115kg, he is also very mobile on the park.
He signed a contract with the Sale Sharks in 2021 and at the end of that year announced his move to Glasgow Warriors.
5. Luke Charteris 2.10m
Luke Charteris is a former Wales international who represented the Dragons from 2004 to 2017 in 74 encounters.
Following a storied career in Rugby, Luke Charteris announced his retirement from the sport in 2019.
Charteris’ tenure spanned multiple 6 Nations, including a 2012 Grand Slam and two World Cups (in 2011 and 2015).
Standing at 6’9″, a life in the second-row was inevitable. But his talent within the position stretched far beyond physical capabilities; his skill in the line-out (foreshadowing his role at Bath Rugby) was evident, as was his ability to disrupt opposition mauls and a ferocious hitter of rucks. His tackling is also deservedly celebrated, with Charteris delivering a then record 31 tackles in the 2015 6 Nations victory over Ireland and the second-row placing fourth on the list of most consecutive tackles made in a 6 Nations without missing (with 117 between 2015 and 2017).
4. Devin Toner 2.10m
Devin Toner, the tallest player ever to tog out for Ireland announced his retirement from rugby this year while playing for Leinster, where he became the province’s record holder for appearances.
He has played 276 times to date. The 35-year-old Big Dev won 70 caps for Ireland, won three Six Nations winners’ medals and was a member of the 2018 Grand Slam winning side.
At Leinster he won four Heineken Cup titles, a Challenge Cup title and seven league titles.
The 36-year-old was a late bloomer on the international stage and – having been fondly known as the Big Friendly Giant during his school days – revealed how he had to develop an abrasive edginess to ensure that his oversized frame can fulfill its destructive potential.
3. Will Carrick-Smith 2.11m
Affectionately nicknamed ‘The Bus’, lock Will Carrick-Smith spent an age waiting for his first-team chance.
The 30-year old Carrick-Smith made his debut for Exeter against London Welsh on 11 November 2012.
At the end of the 2012/13 season he ventured out to Australia on loan for a brief stint with Randwick.
On 25 August 2015, Carrick-Smith signed a permanent deal to join RFU Championship club London Scottish from the 2015–16 season, effectively leaving Exeter, after which he made the move to Championship rivals Bedford Blues from 2016.
The lanky lock, affectionately know by his teammates as ‘Tree’, has since gone from strength to strength at Goldington Road.
The 2.11 meter Carrick-Smith s certainly someone who likes to chop down his opponents. An excellent lineout operator who provides plenty of power to the scrum, Carrick-Smith has formed a great alliance with Ed Taylor and will be looking forward to teaming up with Oli Curry this campaign.
2. Dean Williams 2.13m
At an impressive 2.13 metres, Dean Williams is one of the largest players in rugby – anywhere.
The ex-pat Brit has put his considerable size to good use as a premiere-grade lock with the west Auckland-based Suburbs RFC.
The size 15-shoed second rower skittles those unlucky or courageous enough to try and tackle him.
A former Macclesfield Blues and Sedgley Tigers second row stalwart, Williams made a name for himself Down Under, not just for his rugby ability where enjoyed his time with West Auckland-based Suburbs RFC, – the home Club of both Mils Muliania and Craig Dowd – but also for his sheer physical size.
He joined Harbour in the south in the 2018 season.
1. Richard Metcalfe 2.13m
Scotland’s Richie Metcalfe really was a giant of rugby and will be familiar to supporters of Newcastle Falcons and Northampton Saints.
The Leeds-born lock played 13 times for Scotland and is known for being international rugby’s tallest player.
He won 13 Scotland caps between 2000 and 2001 and played for the Newcastle Falcons and Northampton Saints. In 2003, however, his contract with the Borders/SRU was terminated and he retired after he suffered a long-term knee injury.