The Greatest Women Rugby Players of All-Time

This is really something I should have done to coincide with the recent women’s World Cup but better late than never so here goes.
As with many team sports it can be difficult to assess who is the best individual player. I won’t be giving a definitive verdict on who is the best woman to have played the game but here are a few thoughts on who could be considered.

For some of the players who are now retired a good starting point is to look at the World Rugby Hall of Fame.

The first women to be inducted were these six players in 2014 with my brief notes on their achievements.

Nathalie Amiel (France) – 56 caps between 1986 and 2002

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Gill Burns (England) – 73 caps from 1988 to 2002. Won the World Cup with England in 1994. Captain of England from 1994 to 1999 and the World Women’s XV in 2003.

Patty Jervey (USA) – 40 caps and 178 points between 1989 and 2006. World Cup winner in 1991.

Carol Isherwood (England) – Eight appearances for Great Britain and seven for England between 1986 and 1992. Captain of GB and England.

Anna Richards (New Zealand) – when she retired the most capped player for the Black Ferns with 49 and was their record points scorer with 89. She was in four World Cup winning squads between 1998 and 2010.

Farah Palmer (New Zealand) – captain of the World Cup winning Black Ferns in 1998, 2002, and 2006. Played 35 times for them between 1996 and 2006, scoring 25 points.  World player of the year in 2005.

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Farah Palmer and Anna Richards are pictured in the foreground here

The two female players subsequently admitted to the Hall of Fame have been:

Heather Moyse (Canada) – leading try scorer at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.  In 2010 she was also top points scorer.

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Maggie Alphonsi (England) – flanker for the England team which won the World Cup in 2014 and reached the final in 2010.  She was the first woman to win the Rugby Writers Award for the outstanding player in the world. World player of the year in 2006.

For players from a more recent vintage these names can be mentioned as some of the best.  Separate awards for the best Sevens player have been made since 2014.

Other women who have won the World Player of the Year are:

2001 Shelley Rae (England)

2002  Monique Hirovanaa (New Zealand)

2004 Donna Kennedy (Scotland) The world record caps holder in the women’s game with 115 between 1993 and 2010 for Scotland in the back-row.

2009 Debby Hodgkinson (Australia)

2010 Carla Hohepa (New Zealand) – leading try scorer in the World Cup

2013 Kayla McAlister (New Zealand Sevens player)

2014 Magali Harvey (Canada) , Emilee Cherry (Australia Sevens.  Top try and points scorer in the World Sevens Series)

2015 Kendra Cocksedge (New Zealand – top points scorer in World Series), Portia Woodman (New Zealand Sevens)

2016 Sarah Hunter (England – captain),  Charlotte Caslick (Australia Sevens – Olympic gold medal winning team)


Looking at some of the record holders for internationals among the top nations gives some more great players.

Fiao’o Faamausili is the first New Zealand player to win fifty caps and has captained her country since 2012.  She has been part of three World Cup winning squads.

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Kendra Cocksedge has scored more than 130 points for New Zealand and 63 at the 2017 World Cup.  Portia Woodman was the leading scorer at the World Cup with 65.

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Rochelle “Rocky” Clark of England is the most capped player in the history of the women’s game with over 130 caps.  She was in the World Cup winning team in 2014 and has scored over 100 points for her country in a fifteen year international career.

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Katy McLean has scored more than 400 points for England and played over ninety times.

Her English record points total was overtaken by Emily Scarratt at the 2017 World Cup.

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Emily Scarratt

As I said it is hard to choose but if pushed I would go for Anna Richards for winning so much and setting records that have only been eclipsed since more regular internationals have been played.

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