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14th Dec 2022

“He’d pick a fight at a morgue!” – Ireland stars feature on list of hardest players in rugby

Patrick McCarry

hardest players

“As hard, dangerous and nasty as anyone I’ve ever seen.”

In his 15 seasons playing professional rugby, Alex Goode has come across his fair share of hard nuts and fierce competitors. Asked to name some of the hardest players in rugby, he came up with a fine list that drew a swift response.

The Saracens back, who won 21 England caps, three European Cups and claimed a European Player of the Year award, in 2018, has played more than 400 games for club(s) and country, and gave his list of hardest players on House of Rugby.

Goode opted to go for a selection based on the Six Nations sides, although Springboks legend John Smit added an All Blacks name to the list, later in the show.

“We’ll start with France and Paul Willemse is just so big that any sort of wrestle or fight would be so hard, once he gets on to you. He’d be their warrior. Very French name, as well!

“For England, you’d just have to go with Ellis Genge. He wants it the most, and he’s got that aggression in him.

“For Ireland, you could go with either Andrew Porter or Bundee Aki. If I had to pick one, I’d go Bundee – a lot of power there and he’s not long back off a ban, so he is pent-up and ready to go!

“Scotland, it has to be Finn Russell – he’ll blind you with some magic and do something to you. Wales, Toby Faletau. Rangy, big guy.”

John Smit on his toughest opponent

With six names on his list, Alex Goode opined that the final for his hardest players in rugby competition [Six Nations edition] would be between the Mike Tyson-esque Ellis Genge and the Klitschko-like figure of Paul Williemse, with the England star winning out.

On the same show, former South Africa captain John Smit was asked for his toughest opponent. He named his opposite number, for many years, from the All Blacks.

“I was lucky, or unlucky, to be of the same vintage as All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu. We played hooker against each other for the best part of a decade, both in Super Rugby and internationals. He was such a gentleman, off the field, an absolute tough nut to crack, on it.”

Following the list put forward by Alex Goode, a host of Rugby JOE followers were in touch with their hardest players suggestions:

  • Peter O’Mahony of Ireland. That man would pick a fight at a morgue!”
  • Ross Moriarty of Wales. Hard as nails.”
  • Eben Etzebeth. He showed us over the autumn just how tough he was.”

“The criteria was hardest,” Goode reasoned, “not who was most likely to get in a fight. Peter is hard, but he’s not as hard as he used to be. Happens to all of us in our 30s!”

Henry Tuilagi was as hard, dangerous and nasty as anyone I’ve ever seen,” he Saracens star added.


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