Rugby Union's Top 10: The best players for Australia over the years
The third of our Rugby Union Top 10 series, as we look at Australia's greatest performers
By Sky Sports Rugby Union
Last Updated: 21/04/20 3:00pm
The third instalment of our Rugby Union Top 10 series, as we take a look at 10 of Australia's greatest performers.
Keep an eye out over the next few weeks as we look at 10 of the best players from the 10 leading rugby-playing nations in the world: England, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa, Wales, Australia, Scotland, Australia, France and Italy.
Next up it's Australia - in no particular order...
John Eales (1991-2001)
The forward played in 86 Australia Tests over a decade and started all of them. He won 77.90 per cent of those matches, and was Wallabies captain in 55 Tests.
Eales won two World Cups eight years apart in 1991 and 1999 - captaining in the latter - while he was also a winning Wallabies series captain against the British & Irish Lions in 2001.
The second row kicked goals at Test level, including most famously - and unusually for a lock forward - to win the 2000 Bledisloe Cup in Wellington at the death.
A World Rugby Hall of Famer, Eales walks into most people's World XVs.
Joe Roff (1996-2004)
The wing picked up 86 Test caps for the Wallabies from 1996 to 2004, winning 72.09 per cent of them. Roff started in 79 of those Tests and scored 30 tries.
A World Cup winner, he started on the wing in the 1999 World Cup final. Was also a two-time Super Rugby winner with the Brumbies.
Stephen Larkham (1996-2007)
Featured in 102 Tests for the Wallabies in his career, the first 15 of which came at full-back.
Larkham started in some 97 Tests, including at fly-half in the victorious 1999 Rugby World Cup final against France after kicking 'that drop goal' in the semi-final against the Boks.
His injury in the 2007 World Cup campaign cost the Wallabies dearly. Like Roff, he was a two-time Super Rugby winner with the Brumbies. He was also inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2012 and to the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2018.
Tim Horan (1989-2000)
The centre picked 80 Tests from 1989 to 2000 and started in every one of them, finishing with a winning percentage of 74.37 per cent.
One of only a handful of players to have won two World Cups - in 1991 and 1999. He finished off a wonder try taking over a shoulder pass from David Campese to knock New Zealand out of 1991 Rugby World Cup semi-finals at Lansdowne Road.
Horan was inducted into both the World Rugby Hall of Fame and the Australian Rugby Union Hall of Fame in 2015.
Ken Catchpole (1961-1968)
Played just 27 Tests from 1961 to 1968, including 13 as captain, but is revered as one of Australian rugby's greatest players.
Incredibly, Catchpole was made Wallabies captain at the age of just 21 on his Test debut. The scrum-half's playing career ended at just 28 when he sustained a severe hamstring injury in a tackle from All Blacks legend Colin Meads.
Played more than 180 games for Sydney club Randwick and is considered one of their greatest players. Immortalised with a statue outside Allianz Stadium, while the Shute Shield's (Sydney grade club rugby's) most valuable player award honours his name. Passed away in December 2017 at the age of 78.
Michael Lynagh (1984-1995)
Won 72 Test caps between 1984 and 1995, starting 71 of them, and 15 as captain. Lynagh finished with a winning percentage of 71.52 per cent and a points haul of 911.
He was such an important player for the Wallabies and, of course, was the starting fly-half in the Wallabies' victorious 1991 Rugby World Cup final win over England.
Played inside-centre on Australia's famous 1984 Grand Slam Tour. Was a Super 10 winner with Queensland Reds. Was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1996, inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1999, received an Australian Sports Medal in 2000, and was inducted into the Rugby Hall of Fame in 2001.
Mark Ella (1980-1984)
Only played 25 Tests between 1980 and 1984, but started in all 25 Tests, and 10 as captain.
Ella's winning percentage was only 54 per cent but he'll be best remembered for that undefeated Grand Slam tour in 1984, scoring a try in each of the Tests on tour in wins over England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland.
That tour is regarded as highly significant as it is seen as confirmation of Australia's coming of age as a world-class rugby nation, marking the end of three difficult decades of inconsistent performances from the 1950s onwards.
And then Ella was gone, retired at just 25 years of age! Possibly the most naturally gifted Wallaby of all time.
George Gregan (1994-2007)
Australia's most capped ever player on 139 and the fifth all-time in world rugby.
In his first season with the Wallabies, Gregan appeared from nowhere to make an amazing tackle on All Blacks wing Jeff Wilson as he was diving for the line. That moment of genius helped Australia win the Bledisloe Cup that year.
The scrum-half went to three Rugby World Cups with Australia, and captained the Wallabies to the 2003 World Cup final - ultimately losing to England.
He was appointed a member of the Order of Australia in 2004, inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2000, and into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2013.
George Smith (2000-2013)
The flanker featured in 111 Tests between 2000 and 2013, starting 93 of them and captaining the team in seven Tests. All of his caps came between 2000 and 2009, bar one 2013 Test when he faced the Lions.
Despite his illustrious career, he missed out on a World Cup victory and only won 59.45 per cent of the matches he played in.
Would have ended his career as the most capped all-time player in world rugby if he had stayed in Australia. A Super Rugby champion with the Brumbies, he was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2012.
David Campese (1982-1996)
The stylish and brash full-back played in 101 Wallabies Tests between 1982 and 1996, starting 100 of them.
Campese scored 64 tries in those Tests - an extraordinary strike rate. The over the shoulder pass to Horan in the 1991 Rugby World Cup semi-final against New Zealand was the stuff of genius.
He started the ensuing victorious 1991 Rugby World Cup final.