In the realm of rugby, England has produced some of the most electrifying wingers to ever grace the field. These speedsters have thrilled crowds, scored breathtaking tries, and left an indelible mark on the sport. In this article, we celebrate the careers of five of the best English wingers of all time, delving into their outstanding achievements, their unique backgrounds, analyzing their physical attributes, examining their career statistics, and uncovering what made them truly special.
1. Jason Robinson: The Rugby League Convert
Achievements: Jason Robinson, known as “Billy Whizz,” is one of England’s most iconic wingers. He earned 51 caps for the national team, including the 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning squad. Robinson’s electrifying pace, elusive running, and ability to score from anywhere on the field made him a standout player.
Background and Physical Stats: Born in Leeds, England, in 1974, Jason Robinson initially made his name in rugby league before transitioning to union. Standing at 5 feet 8 inches (173 cm) and weighing around 86 kg (190 lbs), Robinson was a small package with explosive speed. His rugby league background provided him with exceptional footwork and agility.
Career Stats and What Made Him Special: Jason Robinson’s ability to beat defenders one-on-one and his knack for scoring crucial tries made him special. He was equally adept at fullback, where his counter-attacking skills were equally impressive. What set him apart was his versatility, allowing him to play multiple positions in the backline. Robinson’s World Cup-winning exploits and his ability to shine on the biggest stages established him as an England rugby legend.
2. Rory Underwood: The Try-Scoring Machine
Achievements: Rory Underwood is one of England’s all-time leading try-scorers. He earned 85 caps for the national team and represented England in three Rugby World Cups. Underwood’s remarkable consistency, prolific try-scoring record, and longevity in the international arena set him apart.
Background and Physical Stats: Born in Middlesbrough, England, in 1963, Rory Underwood hailed from a family of rugby players. Standing at 6 feet (183 cm) and weighing around 91 kg (200 lbs), he had the physique and speed to excel as a winger. His background as a Royal Air Force pilot gave him the discipline and fitness required for international rugby.
Career Stats and What Made Him Special: Rory Underwood’s ability to find the tryline consistently made him special. His incredible pace, balance, and timing in support lines were key to his try-scoring prowess. What set him apart was his remarkable durability, as he maintained a high level of performance throughout his international career. Underwood’s legacy as one of England’s greatest wingers is etched in his impressive try-scoring records.
3. Ben Cohen: The Physical Presence
Achievements: Ben Cohen was a powerful and physical winger who earned 57 caps for England. He was a key figure in the team’s success during the early 2000s, including the 2003 Rugby World Cup victory. Cohen’s strong ball-carrying, hard-hitting tackles, and versatility on the wing made him a valuable asset.
Background and Physical Stats: Born in Northampton, England, in 1978, Ben Cohen was known for his physicality and aggression on the field. Standing at 6 feet 2 inches (188 cm) and weighing around 103 kg (227 lbs), he was one of the more imposing wingers of his era. His background in karate and judo contributed to his strength and balance.
Career Stats and What Made Him Special: Ben Cohen’s ability to break through tackles and his defensive prowess made him special. He was equally comfortable playing on either wing, offering versatility to the team. What set him apart was his physical presence and his willingness to do the tough, unglamorous work on the field. Cohen’s contributions to England’s Rugby World Cup triumph in 2003 showcased his importance to the team.
4. Will Greenwood: The Versatile Back
Achievements: Will Greenwood, while known more for his versatility, was a prolific try-scorer and an accomplished winger. He earned 55 caps for England and was part of the team’s 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning squad. Greenwood’s rugby intelligence, support play, and ability to create scoring opportunities were his standout qualities.
Background and Physical Stats: Born in Blackburn, England, in 1972, Will Greenwood was a versatile back who could play in multiple positions. Standing at 6 feet 4 inches (193 cm) and weighing around 98 kg (216 lbs), he possessed the size and skill to excel as a winger. Greenwood’s rugby intelligence and tactical awareness were his key attributes.
Career Stats and What Made Him Special: Will Greenwood’s ability to create scoring opportunities and his support lines made him special. While not the traditional winger in terms of pace, he had the vision and playmaking skills to set up tries. What set him apart was his versatility, as he could seamlessly transition between center and wing positions. Greenwood’s contributions to England’s World Cup victory and his rugby IQ solidified his place among the best English wingers.
5. Josh Lewsey: The Explosive Runner
Achievements: Josh Lewsey was a dynamic and explosive winger who earned 55 caps for England. He was a key figure in the team’s successes during the early 2000s, including the 2003 Rugby World Cup victory. Lewsey’s speed, agility, and ability to beat defenders made him a formidable attacking threat.
Background and Physical Stats: Born in Bromley, England, in 1976, Josh Lewsey was known for his blistering pace and agility. Standing at 6 feet (183 cm) and weighing around 92 kg (203 lbs), he had the physique and speed to excel as a winger. His background in the British Army brought discipline and fitness to his rugby career.
Career Stats and What Made Him Special: Josh Lewsey’s ability to beat defenders and his explosiveness in open play made him special. He was equally comfortable playing fullback, showcasing his versatility. What set him apart was his fearless approach to the game, his ability to step up in high-pressure situations, and his knack for scoring vital tries. Lewsey’s contributions to England’s Rugby World Cup victory in 2003 solidified his reputation as one of the country’s finest wingers.
These legendary English wingers have left an enduring legacy in the world of rugby. Their remarkable achievements, unique physical attributes, and unwavering dedication to the England rugby team have cemented their places among the greatest wingers in the sport’s history.