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The best 3 players in the world by position: The World Class 45 - #8 Number 8

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Who is the best Number 8?

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Post by Sgt_Pooly Wed Dec 15, 2021 5:03 am

1. Loose-Head Prop https://www.606v2.com/t70475-the-best-3-players-in-the-world-by-position-the-world-class-45-1-loose-head-prop
2. Hooker https://www.606v2.com/t70476-the-best-3-players-in-the-world-by-position-the-world-class-45-2-hooker
3. Tight-Head https://www.606v2.com/t70477-the-best-3-players-in-the-world-by-position-the-world-class-45-3-tight-head-prop
4/5. Locks https://www.606v2.com/t70478-the-best-3-players-in-the-world-by-position-the-world-class-45-4-5-locks
6. Blindside https://www.606v2.com/t70481-the-best-3-players-in-the-world-by-position-the-world-class-45-6-blindside-flanker
7. Openside https://www.606v2.com/t70484-the-best-3-players-in-the-world-by-position-the-world-class-45-7-openside-flanker

I seem to recall a good poster called Pete defining his best players in the world in each position at the end of every year and I thought I'd try and bring it back somewhat.

So, a little caveat....I've not watched as much rugby as I would have liked this year so I may be a bit off in some of my suggestions....I'm sure we can have a nice sensible discussion though, as we always do! I also may a have a slight English bias, go easy on me Welshies.

The criteria:

I'm selecting world class players......when I say world class, you have to be in the top 3 in your position. I'll possibly look to do 5 for locks/wingers due to different styles and sides.

#8 Number 8

One of the key players in your pack. Traditionally, the guy to get you over the gain line...the player to make the hard yards. He should be a bruising carrier , have the footballing skills of Messi and hands like he's been using fairy washing up liquid for 48hrs straight (super soft). I think we've recently left a golden age for top class numbers 8's......Parisse, Read, Picamoles, Heaslip, any of which would have arguably been a standout in the current game. A tough one really.....

Duane Vermeulen

The South African Thor.....the blonde bomber (I made that one up), when Vermeulen is on the park, you know about it. He carries, he hits hard, he jumps like a lock, he jackles.....he pretty much does everything you would ever want in an 8. At 35, he's certainly entering the twilight of his career, but what a career he's had, SA will miss him greatly.

Jack Conan

I may be wrong here, but I see Conan as a bit of late bloomer. I've obviously seen him play a fair bit (mostly with Ireland and Leinster in Europe), but he never really struck me as a top class operator and he tended to get injured for the big stages.....until this year. Conan has had a fantastic year. He's not the biggest at 6'4" and 114kg, but he packs a punch and will happily front up against the bigger men. He's not a devastating carrier in the Billy V mould, but he has great feet and will always seem to make those extra few yards and has the ability to get the ball away when it's on.  

Charles Ollivon

I really struggled with the 3rd choice. I toyed with Faletau & Vunipola, but they've not been great for a while now. Ollivon is an outstanding backrower and I always think he plays best at 8. He's a big guy at 6'6", but he just glides across the park when in open play. He's outstanding in the lineout, strong in the tackle, has great hands and is a leader on the park.

Notable mentions.....Matt Fagerson, Facundo Isa, Toby Faletau, Billy Vunipola.

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Post by No 7&1/2 Wed Dec 15, 2021 7:37 am

Another easy one; Vermeulen. Pretty much every one else is either at the stage of introducing newbies or putting square pegs in round holes. Though Parrisse has announced he's available again so...

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Post by Hazel Sapling Wed Dec 15, 2021 9:55 am

Bit of a sad state of affairs for no.8's that a 35 year old probably deserves it. Vermuelen oozes class, but really it speaks to the weakness of the alternatives that no one has managed to pass him.

Conan probably deserves it for the year he had, though I expect he will fall back with Doris on his heels. Ollivon plays more on the flank for France. I would replace Ollivon with Aldritt who has become a premier operator at no.8 for France and La Rochelle. Smaller than what we expect from monster no.8s but his work rate is exceptional and he is surprisingly hostile in the carry.

Simmonds deserves to be in the also rans. Can be a bit of a limited player but there is no one more terrifying from the base of an attacking scrum 5m out. Isa has fallen back a bit and keeps getting picked on the flank though still up there. Faletau and Vunipola are fading lights who could come back into contention. Bill Mata (Edinburgh and Fiji) was at one point in the not too distant past a very coveted player around Europe and would have more recognition playing for a T1 nation. Polledri will have to return to form whenever he comes back from his knee injury and is a leading light in a poor Italy side that could be on this list.

Reading back there are not many up and comers in my also rans.

On MF, I like Matt Fagerson, he is a good no.8 for Glasgow and at 23 has plenty of room to grow. At international level, he is underpowered and is not quite as all action as Aldritt who is a much better option. I would not include him in a list about potential World Class operators at 8 as he is still trying to prove he is more than an average international.

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Post by Sgt_Pooly Wed Dec 15, 2021 10:03 am

It shows you how weak the position is globally when Sam Simmonds enters the discussion...Wink

Totally agree on the others. Aldritt was considered, I should have put him on the mentions list really. I really like Ollivon and he plays at 8 a fair bit and he's a bit different from the norm.

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Post by Sgt_Pooly Wed Dec 15, 2021 10:04 am

Well, that's the pack complete, I'll bang out the backs next week.

I was having a think about 10 on my way to work this morning, it's going to be really tough squeezing 3 in from about 8 top class operators.

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Post by GeordieFalcon Wed Dec 15, 2021 10:46 am

Cant believe you didnt put Curry in here?

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Post by The Oracle Wed Dec 15, 2021 10:54 am

Is it perhaps that the role of the no.8 has changed a bit?  Not sure why but the days of the number 8s like Scott Quinell and Xavier Rush (I watched a lot of them over years) picking from the base of the scrum and rampaging like a crazy rhino and smashing into the opposition seem to be over.  The back rowers seem more interchangeable these days, hence the debates on the openside and blindside threads about who plays where!  In Wales we seem to have hybrid backrowers lately who play anywhere in the back row.  Sometimes we even put out three 7s, but that's always a bit too lightweight in my view.

So is there a dearth of big rampaging 8s?  Or is there a shift in the game to more hybrids players who are a bit more mobile than the 8s of old and interchange and play across the back row where needed?
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Post by Sgt_Pooly Wed Dec 15, 2021 11:08 am

Whatever is happening, I don't like it. Bring back Chabal!

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Post by Hazel Sapling Wed Dec 15, 2021 11:25 am

It is not like we are that far in history from the big rampaging 8.

Billy Vunipola and Nathan Hughes were the England 8s leading into the last RWC with Dombrandt another option coming through, Denton and Bradbury were or are in contention for Scotland, Faletau is still hanging about for Wales. We are not far off the Picamoles era in France, the Pirasse one in Italy or Reid for NZ. Bill Mata is a big man for Fiji as is Yato if he is the back-up.

I think the position has altered somewhat with work rate becoming a greater priority and carrying spread amongst the pack. This has allowed smaller no.8's to become normalised. I don't think it will be too long before a team finds a behemoth who can overpower smaller opposite numbers narrows the defense and provides more space out wide.

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Post by Poorfour Wed Dec 15, 2021 11:48 am

Number 8 is a position in transition. It's gone from being a big bloke who can carry to having a much wider range of demands on it - some of which are shared around among the back row. Between the three of them, you need:
- A primary carrier
- Someone who can control the base of the scrum
- A front line lineout operator
- High workrate and tackle count across the row
- A defensive leader.

Eddie is experimenting with Curry at 8 because he ticks some of those boxes and it then frees up 6 for a lock, but to my mind it doesn't really work. Simmonds presents a similar conundrum, because he isn't really a lineout option, and I think his carrying works best with a pack on the front foot (which Exeter can pretty much guarantee but at international level there will always be times you're under the cosh).

It would be interesting to do this again after the RWC, when I think we may have a very different view. Of the contenders, I think Conan and one of Aldritt or Ollivon are probably closest to the full package. We haven't seen enough of Dombrandt at international level yet to know whether he can make the transition, but on paper he has everything it takes and he probably just needs Eddie to back him and give him a run of games.
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Post by No 7&1/2 Wed Dec 15, 2021 1:28 pm

Speaking from an England perspective I'm not sure the number 8 role is changing that much rather than in transition between players. Dombrandt, Barbeary, Willis and a fair few others are buys who carrying hard, think Curry is there as Jones eases those guys through. Also a 6 he was introducing in the other Willis unfortunately ruled himself out for a good while. I would not be surprised if by next November Barbeary is first choice or on the bench covering.

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Post by Sgt_Pooly Wed Dec 15, 2021 3:01 pm

I'm not sure I'd put Willis in the carrying hard group 7.5. He's an ok carrier, not a huge strength imo

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Post by Poorfour Thu Dec 16, 2021 9:38 am

I missed seeing Barbeary before his injury, but last weekend he was pretty ineffective - the defence got to him before he could get up momentum and he wasn't making much ground over the gainline.

He's clearly got the physical attributes to be a very good 8, but it looks to me that he'll have to work on his reading of the game before he's ready for international rugby. Right now, there's a touch of the Ben Morgans about him - very effective if allowed to do his thing, but without a backup plan against a defence that knows how to mark him.

Now he's committed to back row, Eddie will undoubtedly have given him a list of work-ons, as he will have done for the other candidates. It's basically a race to see who can tick the boxes fastest. Dombrandt has a bit of an advantage here in that his are "get fitter, work harder", which is easier than Simmonds "play like a bigger player" or Barbeary's "learn how to play when you can't use your physicality to get out of trouble"

Anyway, this belongs in the England thread.
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Post by majesticimperialman Thu Dec 16, 2021 5:33 pm

Billy Vunaploa

Kieron Read

Duane Vermeulen

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Post by No 7&1/2 Thu Dec 16, 2021 5:35 pm

You melt.

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Post by king_carlos Fri Dec 17, 2021 8:19 am

A lesser known name who returned to international rugby this year after injury would be Kazuki Himeno. If I could choose an 8 for England to be able to pick I'd personally be taking Himeno ahead of Conan and Ollivonn. I rate both those players highly as well. I just think Himeno offers similar strengths in attack but more at defence with his breakdown work.

The same would have been true of Beka Gorgadze but he missed a lot of rugby in the last 18 months. He's back playing with Pau and looking as good as ever though which is brilliant. He's a fantastic number 8.

From those listed I'd take Vermuelen still.

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Post by Sgt_Pooly Fri Dec 17, 2021 11:08 am

I didn't even realise Gorgadze was still playing Carlos....35 now?

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Post by king_carlos Fri Dec 17, 2021 2:52 pm

Sgt_Pooly wrote:I didn't even realise Gorgadze was still playing Carlos....35 now?
Mamuka Gorgodze retired after the 2019 RWC. Mamuka was an absolute freak, brilliant player. Beka Gorgadze is so good at 8 that he actually prompted Gorgodze finishing his career more at lock though.

Gorgadze is the 25-year-old Georgia number 8. He's a very different player to Mamuka in that he's quicker, has very good hands and carries great both in the loose as well as tight. He's also one of the best back row lineout jumpers in rugby and excellent over the ball at the ruck. On top of all that he's genuinely brilliant taking high balls so frequently sits back for Georgia to cover kicks as he can return poor kicks with a run-up and compete for good kicks in the air! Just a brilliant all round player basically who would get constant plaudits in a better international side.

In the Georgia vs England AI in 2020 he was one of the few bright lights for a Georgia side that was largely semi pro and mostly hadn't been able to train over lockdown so were very out of shape. I think they also had no coach. Not a great combo.

Sadly he got a horrible injury against Ireland in November 2020 (his screams were caught on the ref mic and were so nasty that there were a few complaints around it being broadcast even though it was live so couldn't be avoided) which ruled him out for over a year. He's back with Pau this season though and thankfully playing as well as ever.

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Post by Sgt_Pooly Fri Dec 17, 2021 10:04 pm

Ah ok....know zero about him!

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Post by nlpnlp Sat Dec 18, 2021 1:19 am

Sgt_Pooly wrote:Ah ok....know zero about him!
Sums up most of the people on this site, know zero about...... Duane Vermeulen best no 8 in the world over the last 12 months????? SA third in the Championship table, beaten by a poor England team. I would take Savea over all the 'nominations'. Maybe not a vintage New Zealand team right now, but would you really take Vermueulen over Savea?

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Post by Sgt_Pooly Sat Dec 18, 2021 7:46 am

nlpnlp wrote:
Sgt_Pooly wrote:Ah ok....know zero about him!
Sums up most of the people on this site, know zero about......  Duane Vermeulen best no 8 in the world over the last 12 months?????  SA third in the Championship table, beaten by a poor England team.  I would take Savea over all the 'nominations'.  Maybe not a vintage New Zealand team right now, but would you really take Vermueulen over Savea?

Yes I'd take Vermeulen over Savea at 8, I'd play Savea at 7.

Where does it state that this is judged over the last 12 months?

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Post by No 7&1/2 Sat Dec 18, 2021 1:45 pm

nlpnlp wrote:
Sgt_Pooly wrote:Ah ok....know zero about him!
Sums up most of the people on this site, know zero about......  Duane Vermeulen best no 8 in the world over the last 12 months?????  SA third in the Championship table, beaten by a poor England team.  I would take Savea over all the 'nominations'.  Maybe not a vintage New Zealand team right now, but would you really take Vermueulen over Savea?

Must have missed Savea being on the shortlist there. That said yeah Vermeulen this year has been better than Savea. Also incredibly stupid of someone to equate a teams results to how good individual players. Really stupid.

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Post by Mr Bounce Sat Dec 18, 2021 5:59 pm

Not sure I would put Ollivon on this list, especially as he doesn't play there for France. A cracking player, put as he's not an international 8 I struggle with his selection I really rate Gregory Alldritt - he's a real "under the radar" player who does an awful lot of the unseen work but he's also great in the loose and has a fantastic all-round game.

Vermeulen is fantastic though, and he's who I would pick from this list.

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