Former Australian international Matt Giteau has been discussing the very best players in the history of the game on the recent RugbyPass podcast, naming fellow 103-cap Ma’a Nonu as the greatest inside centre of his era.
Giteau is arguably in the ideal position to pick the perfect 12 having played with and against the world’s very greatest during a 14-year international career. Playing predominantly at inside centre himself, he had a fantastic ability to read the game – which alongside his sublime handling abilities made him a stand-out player in an era full of legends.
Able to conduct himself well at both scrumhalf and flyhalf, Giteau also had the opportunity to work alongside some fantastic inside centres as a first-contact playmaker, as well as being a fantastic secondary playmaker at inside centre himself.
It was former Toulon teammate Ma’a Nonu that got the nod from Giteau as the greatest centre of his era, with the Australian saying: “Eras are so different [because] the styles are so different, so you think from around the time I was playing, you’d probably say Ma’a was the one”.
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Often competing on opposite sides of the trans-Tasmin divide, Giteau and Nonu fought instead over the 12 shirt at Toulon. The French side had a plethora of world-class players to choose from at the time, with both players able to adapt to other positions when necessary. It was eventually Nonu that laid claim to the 12 shirt in Giteau’s final match for the club, the 2017 Top 14 final, before heading off to play his rugby in Japan.
Nonu stayed at Toulon until 2021, when he then decided to transfer to the USA to play for San Diego Legion, for whom he has recently help take to the MLR final.
Nonu in his heyday was known to be one of the most effective running centres in the world, with his ability to break the tackle proving a nightmare for any defence that happened to get in his way. His deft touches and the evolution of his kicking game enabled the now 41-year-old to become one of the greatest players of a generation.