Liam Williams 2019 Rugby World Cup: The Telegraph’s 20 best rugby players in the world

Liam Williams 2019 Rugby World Cup: The Telegraph’s 20 best rugby players in the world

Liam Williams This is one helpful ingredient!!

After revealing 80 players over the last four days, The Telegraph is into the top 20 and the final countdown towards whotheybelieve is the best player in the world.

What makes the top players in the game stand out above the rest? Their ability to win matches for their team, sometimes all on their own.

With that in mind, The Telegraph asked all of its rugby writers to vote for their top 50 players in the world and combined their picks with those of coaches and directors of rugby from within the English game.

Telegraph subscribers were also asked to nominate their top 10 best current players, and their votes were included within calculations. The result is this, the 100 best players in the world today. Here are the previous parts:

Now, it’s time for our final countdown.

20. Liam Williams (Saracens and Wales)

What to look out for

A self-professed “bomb-defuser”, Williams relishes aerial skirmishes. It is very easy to see why supporters adore his effervescent playing style. A hardy defender, both in the initial tackle and when scrapping on the floor, he thoroughly enjoys climbing to contest high balls. He arcs past kick-chasers to ignite counters if and when kicks travel too long and afford him space to do so. He is wily enough to aim at escorting teammates as well.

At Saracens, deployed mainly on the wing to accommodate Alex Goode, his midfield distribution, especially from pre-called strike-moves, has come on leaps and bounds. That said, the non-negotiables with Williams – tremendous tenacity and commitment – never fade.

How he can win you a game

Against England in Cardiff, Williams was so assured in the air and so effective when returning clearances that visiting half-backs Ben Youngs and Owen Farrell would have regretted their persistence with kicking. His back-field coverage allows an aggressive front line to press and pester. The odd sprinkle of attacking magic, from slaloming breaks to offloads, comes in handy as well.

A moment that sums him up

Williams’ pivotal breakdown turnover against Leinster in the 2019 Champions Cup decider, which saw him rush in from the edge and tackle Garry Ringrose before stealing on the floor, breathed life into Saracens.

One weakness

This is more a focus for improvement than a weakness. Recently with Wales, he has begun to step up as a first-receiver in phase-play. Polishing those qualities would take him to another level. Charlie Morgan.

19. Finn Russell (Racing 92 and Scotland)

What to look out for

Gun-slinging Russell exudes entertainment value like few other players, let alone fly-halves, in the Test arena. The range and imagination of his passing, whether standing flat in phase-play or slightly deeper in a second tier of attack, has amassed a truly special highlight-reel.

How often have you seen him lure up defending wings before looping the ball over the edge for colleagues to collect? He manipulates tacklers with his gaze and a tidy running game that has been honed at Racing 92, occasionally unfurling offloads. Defensively, he is sturdier than he is given credit for and is mastering the art of the interception.

How he can win you a game

Russell’s interview after Scotland’s epic 38-38 draw with England, when he questioned the kicking strategy of coach Gregor Townsend and admitted to disagreements at half-time, illustrated a spiky self-confidence. He lives and dies by his approach, which is to play at a high tempo and use the entire width of the field where possible.

A moment that sums him up

Only Russell could have thrown the delicious pass that lobbed Jonathan Joseph and sent Huw Jones bolting 50 metres up-field at Murrayfield in 2018. It was a death-or-glory play that came off beautifully.

One weakness

Concentration lapses have occurred when Russell’s patience has run thin, resulting in errors.

18. James Ryan (Leinster and Ireland)

What to look out for

You may remember that James Ryan began his career with an absurd unbeaten run of matches. That streak lasted 24 games, including a Grand Slam triumph for Ireland, before he was beaten in the first Test against Australia in 2018. It has been a quite astonishing rise for a player who only turned 23 in July.

He has already won everything bar a British and Irish Lions tour and a Rugby World Cup, which is obscene. Now, with Devin Toner left at home, he looks set to call the lineout for Ireland in Japan.

How he can win you a game

Ryan’s built to lay down the law as a second-row, standing at 6ft 8in tall and steadily adding muscle to his frame the older he gets. Which makes him the perfect player to control Ireland’s maul, win the collisions in midfield and help Ireland control the breakdown and now, with Toner axed, the lineout.

A moment that sums him up

Antoine Dupont has had a bright start to his Test career, but he was engulfed by Ryan with one monster tackle during the Six Nations, earning Ireland a five-metre scrum.

One weakness

Hardly a weakness, but Ryan’s work-rate can be absolutely extraordinary, racking up carries and tackles into double figures. He might be young, but is that sustainable?

17. Michael Hooper (Waratahs and Australia)

What to look out for

Paired for so long in the minds of rugby viewers with his partner in crime in Australia’s back row, David Pocock, in the past four years Michael Hooper has emerged as a world-class player all in his own right. He truly can do it all, from winning turnovers at the breakdown to running in long-range tries given his pace – he might have made a hell of a Sevens player, in hindsight.

Hooper has been tasked as captain with steering Australia through a difficult period but there have been hints this year that they can surprise a few people at the Rugby World Cup.

How he can win you a game

Two things Hooper does exceptionally well – making big tackles, and scoring tries. His engine never seems to stop, careering from ruck to ruck like a madman. Not to mention, tons of experience. Hooper should become a Test centurion if Australia reach the quarter-finals, given he currently sits on 95 Test caps.

A moment that sums him up

Take your pick from a collection of phenomenal tackles, but one on Schalk Burger a few years back, driving the great Springbok back behind his own posts, sticks out.

One weakness

As with most openside flankers, Hooper at times can turn into a penalty machine, which will put his relationship with referees in Japan under the spotlight.

16. Sam Whitelock (Crusaders and New Zealand)

What to look out for

Now 30 years old with 111 Test caps under his belt and two Rugby World Cup winners’ medals already, Sam Whitelock boasts one of the most impressive CVs in the game today. On top of that, he has recently led the Crusaders to a hat-trick of Super Rugby titles, all while maintaining his billing as one of the best second-rows in the world.

Whitelock has always been physical but it’s his prowess at the lineout and soft hands out wide that have set him apart, along with the odd gallop for a long-range try. An amazing athlete and leader.

How he can win you a game

It’s rare for Whitelock to finish a Test without having racked up tackles into double figures, or to have failed to steal a lineout either. There’s also a reason Aaron Smith has such quick ball at each ruck – because Whitelock is often the man clearing the way.

A moment that sums him up

Whitelock’s 60-metre try against the Queensland Reds four years ago is still amazing: the fend, the acceleration, the pace to finish it all off.

One weakness

Honestly not sure if there is one. He keeps his discipline, has avoided injuries, is playing some of the best rugby of his career and can step in as captain if Kieran Read goes down.

15. Rieko Ioane (Blues and New Zealand)

What to look out for

Speed, agility and fast-twitch power make for a heady cocktail. Such attributes have ushered Ioane from Sevens into the 15-a-side game and established a wonderful try-scoring record since he emerged on the Test scene in late 2016. Wings unlucky enough to mark the prodigious All Black must endure nightmares, because, at his best, Ioane hustles and harries all game in search of an error that might lay on a scoring chance.

In tight spaces, whether tearing along touchlines or around rucks with a pick-and-go, he slips off tacklers so naturally. A trick borrowed from Sevens – when an isolated carrier lets go of the ball, bounces to their feet and picks up to go again – is worth watching out for as well.

How he can win you a game

Should one of your back-three players be unfortunate enough to commit three mistakes, from a positional lapse to a dropped kick via a missed tackle or a botched defensive read, Ioane could easily pouch a hat-trick. Even the most solid defensive systems can be broken and scrambled by elite athleticism.

A moment that sums him up

The first try of a hat-trick against France in June 2018 saw Sonny Bill Williams find Damian McKenzie behind Jack Goodhue’s decoy line. Ioane then surged through to collect a deft inside ball. He needed the smallest hole to carve up l

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