Dominant Midfield Maestros: The 10 Best Rugby Centres of All Time

In the dynamic world of rugby, the centre position holds a special place as the heartbeat of a team’s attack and defense. Centres are known for their vision, creativity, powerful running, and defensive prowess. Over the years, the rugby world has witnessed the rise of exceptional talents who have left an indelible mark on the game. In this article, we explore the ten best rugby centres of all time, celebrating their contributions and legendary status in the sport.

  1. Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland): Brian O’Driscoll is widely regarded as one of the greatest centres to have graced the rugby field. His skill, speed, and innate ability to read the game set him apart. O’Driscoll’s leadership, creativity, and countless memorable moments make him an iconic figure in the rugby world.
  2. Tim Horan (Australia): Tim Horan’s versatility and skill set made him a force to be reckoned with. He possessed exceptional handling, intelligent running lines, and a powerful presence on the field. Horan’s contributions to the Australian team, including their World Cup triumphs, solidify his place among the all-time greats.
  3. Conrad Smith (New Zealand): Conrad Smith’s astute decision-making and defensive prowess made him an integral part of the All Blacks’ success. Known for his exceptional reading of the game, Smith’s ability to create opportunities for his teammates and shut down opposition attacks set him apart as a world-class centre.
  4. Philippe Sella (France): Philippe Sella’s longevity and consistency in the centre position were unmatched. A true stalwart for French rugby, Sella’s skillful running, outstanding support play, and unwavering commitment to the game make him a legend of the sport.
  5. Frank Bunce (New Zealand/Samoa): Frank Bunce showcased his immense talent and physicality during his career. Equally adept at playing for both New Zealand and Samoa, Bunce’s powerful running, exceptional offloading skills, and tenacious defense established him as a formidable force in the midfield.
  6. Jeremy Guscott (England): Jeremy Guscott possessed incredible flair and elegance as a centre. Known for his ability to unlock defenses with his footwork and vision, Guscott played a pivotal role in England’s successes, including their memorable 1995 Rugby World Cup campaign.
  7. Ma’a Nonu (New Zealand): Ma’a Nonu was a powerhouse in the midfield. His strength, speed, and ability to break through tackles made him a nightmare for opposing defenses. Nonu’s combination of brute force and finesse played a significant role in New Zealand’s dominance during his tenure.
  8. Will Greenwood (England): Will Greenwood’s rugby intelligence and superb skill set earned him a place among the best centres. Renowned for his support play, accurate passing, and clever angles of running, Greenwood was a vital cog in England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup triumph.
  9. Danie Gerber (South Africa): Danie Gerber’s impact on South African rugby cannot be overstated. Known for his devastating running and ability to score sensational tries, Gerber’s name is synonymous with excellence. His contributions to the Springboks’ successes, including the 1995 World Cup win, cement his status as a true great.
  10. Samu Kerevi (Australia/Fiji): Samu Kerevi burst onto the international scene with his powerful running and remarkable offloading ability. His ability to break tackles and create opportunities for his team make him one of the most exciting centres in recent memory.


The position of rugby centre has been graced by some truly exceptional talents throughout the years. The ten players mentioned above represent a blend of skill, athleticism, and rugby intelligence that set them apart from their peers. From Brian O’Driscoll’s legendary career to the flair of Philippe Sella and the physicality of Ma’a Nonu, these centres have left an indelible mark on the sport. Their performances, achievements, and contributions to their respective teams have etched their names into the annals of rugby history, forever celebrated as the best to have played in the midfield.


What is the role of rugby centres? Rugby centres play a pivotal role in both attack and defense. They form the midfield partnership and act as a link between the forwards and the backs. Centres are responsible for creating and exploiting gaps in the opposition’s defense, distributing the ball to their teammates, and providing a strong defensive presence in the midfield.

What are the different types of centres in rugby? In rugby, there are typically two types of centres: inside centre (number 12) and outside centre (number 13). The inside centre often plays a more direct, physical role, involving close support play and hard running lines. The outside centre tends to be more elusive, using their speed and agility to exploit gaps and create opportunities for their team.

Can centres play in other positions? Yes, centres can often adapt their skills to play in other positions. Depending on their versatility and attributes, some centres may transition to fullback, fly-half, or even the wing. Their ability to read the game, make decisions, and contribute to both attack and defense makes them adaptable to various positions.

How do centres contribute to the team’s success? Centres play a crucial role in a team’s success. Their ability to create scoring opportunities, distribute the ball effectively, and provide a strong defensive presence significantly impacts the team’s performance. Centres are often involved in set-piece plays, such as lineouts and scrums, and act as key decision-makers in organizing attacking patterns and defensive structures.

Who are some of the best rugby centres of all time? Some notable rugby centres who have left an enduring legacy in the sport include Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland), Tim Horan (Australia), Conrad Smith (New Zealand), Philippe Sella (France), Jeremy Guscott (England), Ma’a Nonu (New Zealand), Will Greenwood (England), Danie Gerber (South Africa), and Samu Kerevi (Australia/Fiji). These players have showcased exceptional skills, achieved remarkable success, and have become iconic figures in the rugby world.

What makes a great centre in rugby? A great centre in rugby is defined by a combination of skills, including strong running ability, good passing skills, astute decision-making, and solid defensive capabilities. Great centres have the vision to read the game, the ability to create scoring opportunities for their team, and the versatility to adapt to different game situations. Leadership, communication, and the ability to thrive under pressure are also qualities that set great centres apart.

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