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Tuesday Apr 16, 2024

Five of the best over 35 players in the world

As the saying goes, ‘ageing like a fine wine’; in the case of our top five over thirty-five players, this could not be more accurate.

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Still capable of starting week-in and week-out for their respective club teams, these five players have beaten father time and are true examples of what it takes to be top-level professional rugby players.

Honourable mentions – Deon Fourie (37), WP Nel (37), Dave Kilcoyne (35)

5. Dan Cole (36) – Leicester Tigers and England

Still a feature in England’s match-day squads, the 36-year-old Leicester Tiger made his professional debut for the club back in 2007 and has gone on to play over 300 matches for the English midlands powerhouse. Playing a key role in Leicester’s four Premiership titles in that time, the tighthead will be a key piece of the puzzle if the Tigers are to crack the top four this season. In the Test arena, Cole has played 108 times for England, scoring four tries and winning three Six Nations titles, plus a silver medal at the 2019 Rugby World Cup and a bronze at the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

4. Cian Healy (36) – Leinster and Ireland

Another front-row icon, Leinster’s Cian Healy, burst onto the scene as a dynamic ball-carrying prop who could play both sides of the scrum way back in 2007. Settling into the loosehead role for the bulk of his career, Healy reminded fans of his versatility in the 2023 Guinness Six Nations when injuries forced him to pack down at hooker against Scotland. In terms of titles, Healy has a trophy cabinet that would be the envy of any in the northern hemisphere, with four European Cups, seven domestic league titles and five Six Nations, including two Grand Slams. Despite his age, Healy remains an important bench option for Leinster and Ireland, meaning he could well add to his 129 caps this summer against the Springboks.

3. Courtney Lawes – Northampton Saints and England

English Rugby’s bone collector has left his mark on the white jersey as one of the very best to ever to do it. Playing the bulk of his early career in the secondrow, Lawes shifted to the backrow and not only continued to be a class operator but went up a level. Despite retiring from Test Rugby, Lawes remains a major influence on the Premiership table-topping Northampton Saints and will look to end his final season at Franklin Gardens with a bang. A test centurion with England and a member of two British and Irish Lions tours, Lawes just might be the best English forward of the past fifteen years.

Insane work ethic highlights why Courtney Lawes should still play for England

2. Aaron Smith (35) – Toyota Verblitz and New Zealand

Without a shadow of a doubt, the greatest scrumhalf to wear the famous black number nine, Aaron Smith, bossed the All Blacks’ starting halfback role for over a decade. Playing 124 tests over eleven years, Smith won everything available to him, including a Rugby World Cup, The Rugby Championship, The Bledisloe Cup and Super Rugby. Now plying his trade in Japanese Rugby’s top league alongside long-term halfback partner Beauden Barrett and Springbok star Pieter-Steph Du Toit, the 35-year-old remains razor sharp and could certainly still do a job for the All Blacks.

1. Sam Whitelock (35) – Pau and New Zealand

With retirement looming, this is our last chance to include the double Rugby World Cup winner on this list. What can be said about the powerhouse lock that hasn’t already been said? Winning 153 Test Caps, Whitelock is second only to Wales’s Alun Wyn Jones and is five ahead of All Blacks great Richie McCaw. His list of accolades is unlike any in World Rugby, given the Crusaders and All Blacks utter dominance during his time. Closing out his career with Top 14 side Pau, Whitelock will bring down the curtains on the most incredible of careers in just a couple of months’ time.

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