The Six Nations is currently in full swing so what better time to look back on some of the tournament’s best-ever players as we pick out the top five try scorers in the history of the annual competition.
It’s not always the case that tries win matches in rugby union with often the kickers earning the plaudits and deciding tight encounters.
However, there can be no doubting the importance of crossing the whitewash – especially in the Six Nations. This list is littered with Wales stars, and we’ve grouped together those on the same number of tries throughout the history of the tournament, which was orignally known as the Home Nations, then the Five Nations Championship from 1910 when France joined to compete against the British teams. It was further expanded in 2000 to become the Six Nations Championship when Italy were accepted into the fold.
5 – Ken Jones, Ben Cohen, Gerald Davies, Willie Llewellyn – 16 Tries
Four players have scored 16 tries for their respective countries in the Five and Six Nations. Wales trio Ken Jones, Gerald Davies and Willie Llewellyn are joined at number five on our list by England’s Ben Cohen.
4 – Gareth Edwards, Rory Underwood, Cyril Lowe – 18 Tries
There are three players tied for fourth in the top-five rundown. Welsh legend Edwards is arguably the biggest of them as such is the high regard the scrum-half was held in that, back in 2003, in a poll of international rugby players conducted by Rugby World magazine, he was declared the greatest player of all time, no less.
Wing Underwood was an England star of the 1980s and 90s and remains England’s record international try scorer with 49 tries in 85 internationals in a brilliant 12-year spell for his country.
Lowe had previously held England’s try scoring record for over 60 years and played 25 times for his country in a war-interrupted period between 1913 and 1923.
3 – Shane Williams, George North – 22 Tries
Continuing the theme of players tied on the same number of tries, next up are two more men to grace the famous red jersey in the shape of Shane Williams and George North with 22 tries each. Williams had a fine 11-year international career for Wales between 2000-20011 with arguably his greatest individual achievement coming in 2008 when he was named the World Rugby Player of the Year.
North, meanwhile, is still playing and may well be in his prime now at the age of 29. Another proud Welshman, North has also represented the British & Irish Lions and his club sides have been Scarlets, Northampton Saints and Ospreys.
2 – Ian Smith – 24 Tries
Ian Smith is the only Scotland international on the rundown after he amassed 24 tries in the tournament during his career, which spanned nine years between 1924-1933.
He may well be from a different era but his achievements are still remarkable. Smith was actually born in Australia, was brought up in New Zealand, then moved to England but was eventually selected for Scotland, for whom he was eligible because of his Scottish parents. Smith was captain in Scotland’s famous Triple Crown-winning season in 1933 and his 24 Five Nations and Home Nations tally was an international record until 1987 and also a Five/Six Nations record until as recently as 2011.
1 – Brian O’Driscoll – 26 Tries
Brian O’Driscoll, who retired in 2014 after a glittering 15-year international career, will go down as not just an Irish legend but a true great of the sport. O’Driscoll is the fourth most-capped player in rugby union history, making 141 Test appearances, made up of 133 for Ireland – in which 83 were as captain – and eight for the Lions.
His 46 tries for Ireland is a national record and he sits as high as eighth on the all-time international try scorer list.
Not only does he hold the record for the most tries in the Six Nations but O’Driscoll also has the most Heineken Cup tries (30) by an Irishman on his CV and was awarded the Player of the Tournament accolade in the Six Nations three times – in 2006, 2007 and 2009.
The Six Nations continues this weekend and before Saturday and Sunday’s second-round games, Ireland are 17/10 to win the tournament overall. France are 5/4, while England and Scotland are both currently 6/1 shots.
*All odds correct at time of writing.