After revealing 80 players over the last four days, The Telegraph is into the top 20 and the final countdown towards who they believe 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:

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Now, it's time for our final countdown.

20. Liam Williams (Saracens and Wales)

Josh Adams, of Wales, celebrates with team-mate Liam Williams after he scores a try. Photo / Photosport
Josh Adams, of Wales, celebrates with team-mate Liam Williams after he scores a try. Photo / Photosport

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.

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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)

James Ryan. Photo / Photosport
James Ryan. Photo / Photosport

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)

Sam Whitelock. Photo / Photosport
Sam Whitelock. Photo / Photosport

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 les Bleus from 35 metres.

One weakness

A recent dip in sharpness saw Ioane dropped to club and provincial colours ahead of Rugby World Cup 2019.

14. Aaron Smith (Highlanders and New Zealand)

Aaron Smith. Photo / Photosport
Aaron Smith. Photo / Photosport

What to look out for

Seven years of Smith in Test rugby have reinforced how the classical aspects of scrum-half play – swift distribution, accurate box-kicking, tireless support play and constant yapping at forwards – remain just as relevant and valuable in the modern game. Of course, his stratospheric standards help. Smith is a passing master, and the flat bullets from off-the-top lineouts only scratch the surface.

Transfers following opposition turnovers, either short flicks off the floor or long, deep loopers that locate sprinting backs on the run, switch defence to attack seamlessly and inspire length-of-the-field tries. Shallow kicks in the 15-metre channels, probing the no man's land behind the defensive front line yet in ahead of hanging wings, are worth monitoring.

How he can win you a game

Put simply, Smith brings out the best in those around him, both as a vocal gee-up merchant and a distributor. He is ever-conscious of inventive ways to prise apart defences, such as one-two pass exchanges between roaming wings and scrum-halves. Alongside Ben Smith, he seemed to borrow that fashionable trick from touch rugby. It has appeared all over the world since – although seldom as smoothly.

A moment that sums him up

Smith's try against Australia at Eden Park in August, founded on a typically proactive support line in pursuit of a breaking George Bridge, capped an unbroken sequence of one minute and five seconds that also featured the scrum-half recovering his own box-kick. It was an archetypal All Blacks score.

One weakness

One of very few vulnerabilities is that so much of a team's performance rests on Smith finding a rhythm. If teams manage to smother him, the collective suffers.

13. David Pocock (Panasonic Wild Knights and Australia)

What to look out for

Pocock oozes game intelligence and has made the chief aim of defence – winning back the ball– into an art. While the breakdown has become a hazardous and often enigmatic landscape, his combination of wit and muscle makes one thing certain. If an isolated carrier hits the ground close to Pocock, you can expect a turnover.

He relishes the grey areas that smudge the lines of rugby union's laws, adapting with new directives and keeping referees on their toes in a bid to push the boundaries. Against Ireland in the summer of 2018, after conceding a penalty, he had to explain to Paul Williams, the official in charge, why he was not offside. And, technically, he was right. Pocock had advanced because Devin Toner had hit the floor without being tackled by an Australian player.

How he can win you a game

As England found out at Rugby World Cup 2015, and as South Africa discovered four years previously, a flurry of turnovers simply crushes your chances. Field position and possession are surrendered with one instant of imprecise support. He does not target penalties, either. Pocock aims to stay alive and set off post-pilfer counter-attacks. His low centre of gravity allows him to contribute to the carrying load, and he hits hard in the tackle as well.

A moment that sums him up

Another tackle from the 2018 series against Ireland, when Pocock feigned to adopt a jackal position before withdrawing like a matador and coaxing Peter O'Mahony into flying off his feet. Pocock bought a penalty for being tackled off the ball, adding a layer to his breakdown trickery.

One weakness

Pocock should finish up around the 80-cap mark, but could have earned plenty more without a splurge of injuries sustained around the tackle area due to his style of play.

12. Ben Smith (Pau and New Zealand)

Ben Smith. Photo / Photosport
Ben Smith. Photo / Photosport

What to look out for

The finest all-round player on the planet. Now, admittedly that is quite a bold claim, but even now he's entered into his 30s and a well-earned payday is looming around the corner with Pau, it's a point that still stands when it comes to discussing the great Ben Smith. Thankfully, Steve Hansen, the New Zealand head coach, seems to have settled on restoring Smith to his best position at full-back.

From there he can roam the field, spying for defensive weaknesses. He makes his wingers and centres ten times better, more than holds his own defensively and is simply outstanding under the high ball. Defines 'world-class'.

How he can win you a game

Smith is a master of executing two-on-ones, hitting the right arcing runs that catch defences out before releasing his wingers, which in Japan are likely to be George Bridge and Sevu Reece as things stand. Bucket loads of composure, a brave tackler and also a leader at full-back.

A moment that sums him up

One try against the Brumbies last year sums up Smith; taking a pass over 40 metres out, confusing the opposite wing, the arcing run from out to in before burning away to score. Class.

One weakness

There isn't one, although the joints are likely to be a little stiffer with Smith now aged 33. Since missing out on the 2011 Rugby World Cup squad, Smith has become one of the great modern All Blacks.

11. Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks and South Africa)

What to look out for

A diminutive livewire with the heart of a lion, De Klerk has helped to spark the Springboks. His pace from the base of scrums and rucks, with or without quick ball, fixes defenders. Passes on the run catapult carriers towards weak shoulders as these would-be tacklers readjust, eventually taking their eyes off the shock-blonde, He-Man look-a-like of a scrum-half that has ignited the move.

The nuts and bolts of his kicking game are sound, but his defensive play has been revolutionary. South Africa permit him to roam in an innovative role, sitting behind the front line and shooting up at will. In 2018 at Newlands he sent Nathan Hughes, some 40kg heavier than him, into reverse with a full-blooded tackle.

How he can win you a game

A scooting De Klerk, surrounded by burly forwards on either side of a breakdown with quick backs behind them, brings another dimension. It is no coincidence that South Africa have engineered a number of bounce-back patterns to capitalise on blindsides. Perhaps even more influential, though, is De Klerk's habit of stifling opposition playmakers with anticipation and persistence.

A moment that sums him up

During a famous 36-34 victory over New Zealand in Wellington in 2018, as the All Blacks cycled through phases in the second half, De Klerk lurked behind a breakdown before speeding up and crossing the offside line with precise timing just as opposite number Aaron Smith lifted the ball from the floor. The opportunistic De Klerk collared New Zealand's conductor and forced a knock-on.

One weakness

De Klerk's unconventional play and self-confidence sometimes leaves colleagues on a different wavelength.

10. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster and Ireland)

Ireland's Tadhg Furlong. Photo / Photosport
Ireland's Tadhg Furlong. Photo / Photosport

What to look out for

Another from the Mako Vunipola School of propping albeit on the tighthead side of the scrum, Furlong is under threat of being expelled from the front-row union as he, too, roams in the wide parts of the pitch with all the dexterity and zest of a back.

Furlong belies his traditional Co. Wexford farming stock with his all-court game an impressive add-on to his abilities as a set-piece forward. Ever since he made his provincial debut for Leinster in 2013, Furlong has taken the rugby world by storm with his all-action presence.

How he can win you a game

Furlong has a real turn of speed and can pop up in so many unexpected places to carry the game to the opposition himself or to put a teammate into a threatening position.

A moment that sums him up

Furlong's one-handed offload to his Leinster teammate, wing, James Lowe, to seal the bonus-point score against Wasps set the tone for a rampant opening night Champions' Cup performance from the defending champions.

One weakness

To nit-pick, critics might wonder if Furlong's self-expressiveness in the loose might affect his coal-face duties at the scrum. Furlong may not be a dominant tighthead in the old tradition but with three starts for the Lions in New Zealand, he is no mug.

9. Maro Itoje (Saracens and England)

What to look out for

To understand the nuances of Itoje's game – and he deals in the age-old, sometimes intangible art of being awkward to play against – you need to appreciate ripple effects. He harasses sides when they attempt to clear their own 22, counter-rucking robustly and leaping to charge-down half-backs. The result is usually a useful platform, either from a set piece or a poor kick.

One prime passage of irritating last season ended with Itoje blindfolding James Ryan with the Leinster lock's own shirt. He is an intuitive lineout strategist, a breakdown scavenger and a dominant defender whose link play now features accurate passes and offloads. Ominously for foes of England and Saracens, the 24 year-old appears to be developing all the time.

How he can win you a game

Relentless disruption simply exhausts teams, emotionally and physically. From maul turnovers and jackalling to clattering tackles via stealing lineout throws and his trademark rip out of contact, Itoje has so many methods with which to derail attacks. And he does not ease up, which singles him out as a rallying force. When called upon to carry, his loping stride builds momentum in narrow exchanges and causes headaches out wide.

A moment that sums him up

Although it came against Lyon in a disjointed European group game, Itoje's strip-sack – to borrow an American football term, a tackle that also saw him pickpocket Etienne Oosthuizen – and 50-metre sprint to score last October encapsulated his extraordinary blend of athleticism and contact skills.

One weakness

Yellow cards in the 2019 Champions Cup and Premiership finals suggest that enthusiasm occasionally crosses the line into indiscipline.

8. Johnny Sexton (Leinster and Ireland)

Ireland's Johnny Sexton. Photo / Photosport
Ireland's Johnny Sexton. Photo / Photosport

What to look out for

This is almost the end for Johnny Sexton, a somewhat terrifying thought given it feels like only yesterday that he was impatiently waiting on the wings to take Ronan O'Gara's 10 shirt. Now 90 caps and over 750 Test points later, Sexton is 34 and has been kept in cotton wool for as long as possible by Ireland until their final warm-up match against Wales, which the nation will have watched through their fingers.

Can Ireland win the Rugby World Cup without Sexton directing traffic? No. Which is probably why he sits so high up on this list.

How he can win you a game

Is there a more ferociously competitive fly-half in the world? Owen Farrell would push that claim, certainly, but Sexton's bite has always stood out. An absolutely supreme tactical kicker, his loop moves in attack with his centres have become his trademark. Hits hard in defence too. Look out for those cross-field nudges.

A moment that sums him up

Has to be Paris, and that improbable drop goal in the closing stages last year that saw Ireland beat France, the first stop on their way to a Six Nations Grand Slam.

One weakness

His fitness has to be a worry at 34, having missed most of the warm-up matches with what he described as an "unfortunate" thumb injury. Opponents will target him, as ever.

7. Jonathan Davies (Scarlets and Wales)

What to look out for

One of the most consistent performers on the world stage, Davies can be spoken about in the same breath as a Conrad Smith or a Philippe Sella or John Dawes in that he is a master of the midfield – tough, reliable, intuitive, classy as well as pacey.

It may have come as a shock to some when Brian O'Driscoll was passed over by head coach, Warren Gatland, for the third test of the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia in 2013. Few saw that coming in what would have been O'Driscoll's last outing in the famous red jersey. Yet Gatland was vindicated as the Lions closed out the series with a 41-16 win in Sydney. Davies featured in seven matches that tour and four years later was voted Player of the Series in New Zealand, a fitting accolade.

How he can win you a game

With his rugby intelligence, his ability to do the right thing at the right time and even if the legs of the 31 year old are not quite as fresh and fizzing as once they were, Davies' speed of thought frequently puts him ahead of the game.

A moment that sums him up

Davies was at the heart of so much that was good in Wales' performance as they bounced back from defeat at Twickenham to land a bloody nose on England in Cardiff in the 13-6 World Cup warm-up victory.

One weakness

Has Davies got the pace of old? That is the only critical question that could be levelled at him, for the efficiency and robustness of his all-round game is what defines him.

6. Billy Vunipola (Saracens and England)

What to look out for

The most striking thing about Vunipola is his ability to provide front-foot ball even in heavy traffic. There are very few No 8s playing today - nor have there been many in rugby history - who are able to run directly at forwards, rather than lightweight backs, and still get over the gainline with regularity.

Weighing in at over 20st, his abnormally quick feet, along with an instinctive ability to time a run, make him a nightmare for defenders. The impact of Vunipola at the back of the scrum is such that England are contemplating employing two opensides alongside him; there is no need for a dedicated ball-carrying blindside.

How he can win you a game

By his mere presence! There is seemingly no other person in world rugby who is more important to their team. He is England's - and arguably the world's - supreme No 8 and, were the Saracens behemoth to sustain a serious injury, England's World Cup hopes would be in turmoil.

A moment that sums him up

No one scores from No 8 pick-ups these days - except Billy. Even more impressive, then, that it was in the Champions Cup final against Leinster with Saracens down by three points. Colossal.

One weakness

For all his strengths, fleet-footedness is not one of them. He can be exposed defensively when looking for a big hit; moving the point of contact swiftly is crucial.

5. Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys and Wales)

Alun Wyn Jones of Wales. Photo / Photosport
Alun Wyn Jones of Wales. Photo / Photosport

What to look out for

If this list were to be measured by raw metrics such as speed, power and skill then it is unlikely that Jones would figure in the top 20. Heck he might not even squeeze into the top 50. Yet rugby is about so more than raw statistics and no other player can bend a match to his will alone like the Wales captain.

Many of his qualities may seem intangible such as leadership, experience and indefatigable courage, but there has been no more important player to Wales' three Grand Slam titles under Warren Gatland.

How he can win you a game

Just by being on the pitch. His presence alone lifts his teammates to greater heights and there is no better captain at dealing with referees than Jones. While his handling skills are underrated, his greatest work tends to be on the back foot whether organising a defensive stand or sacking a maul, usually an English one. There is no player you would trust to stop a close-range lineout than Jones.

A moment that sums him up

The clock had gone red at the Principality Stadium and Wales had long since won the 2019 Grand Slam as Ireland scored a consolation try through Jordan Larmour. Jones, who had hurt his knee in the opening minutes of the contest, somehow summons the energy to sprint in a vain attempt to charge down Jack Carty's conversion exhorting his shattered teammates to follow him.

One weakness

Soon to turn 34, you would no longer wish to see Jones thrown into an end-to-end, Sevens-style contest.

4. Mako Vunipola (Saracens and England)

What to look out for

The older of the Vunipola brothers may not exude freshness and exuberance in his body language off the field but there is simply no doubting the energy and cleverness he brings to the game out where it really matters. It is often said, and rightly so, that Vunipola has the build of a front-row forward and the touch of a world-class back.

His skill level marks him down as one of the most dangerous operators in open field, linking and popping the most delicate of passes into space, a real asset for any side.

How he can win you a game

By his ball-carrying and his on-field awareness of possibility. Some skills can be taught, some are beyond the scope of even good players. Vunipola has great vision and is deceptively fast.

A moment that sums him up

Injury has prevented Vunipola from making too many appearances of late but his all-encompassing play in the opening match of the 2019 Six Nations match against Ireland in Dublin was a master-class of total involvement.

One weakness

Scrummaging. Or so it has been levelled at him. The complaint does not stand too much scrutiny given Vunipola's roll-call of honours in recent years.

3. Owen Farrell (Saracens and England)

Owen Farrell of England. Photo / Photosport
Owen Farrell of England. Photo / Photosport

What to look out for

Being a presence, being the fulcrum of attack and a bulwark in defence, it is Farrell's ability to make good decisions under pressure that has always marked him out as a player's player, a man who gets the job done no matter what.

Farrell exudes confidence and defiance in all that he does, traits that he learned at the knee of his father, Andy, while watching training week after week at Wigan RL, learning initially by osmosis as a young kid and then by forensic questioning after he was blooded in Saracens' ranks as a 17-year-old by then director of rugby, Eddie Jones.

How he can win you a game

With the boot or with the hand or even with a tackle. Farrell is a high-end goal-kicker, regularly striking at over 80 per cent and England fans expect him to do as Jonny Wilkinson once did and land the goals that matter.

A moment that sums him up

Helping Saracens to another domestic and European double, Farrell hauling his side back into the Premiership final when trailing against Exeter Chiefs, his sharp-eyed kick to the right paving the way for Liam Williams' try.

One weakness

His tackling, an occasional weakness in its rashness as much as it is invariably a strength. Farrell was twice lucky to escape without the ultimate red card sanction in England's autumn tests against South Africa and Australia.

2. Brodie Retallick (Chiefs and New Zealand)

Brodie Retallick. Photo / Photosport
Brodie Retallick. Photo / Photosport

What to look out for

Retallick's consistent class has altered the landscape as far as what is expected of locks, and indeed tight-five forwards in general. His decision-making on the gain-line as a first-receiver, capable of delivering a variety of passes, rivals that of most fly-halves. Not only that, his imposing frame adds a layer of deception that manipulates defences, bunching them narrow before the ball fizzes back to an arcing runner.

He is the reason that the rest of the world has needed to up-skill their piano-pushers. Retallick's mobility is remarkable, too. Holding the ball in two hands, he will bound clear of most players in open space. And he does not compromise on old-fashioned grunt or nous around set pieces and breakdowns.

How he can win you a game

Take the logic-defying, highlight-reel moments – such as the dummies followed by 25-metre gallops – as a given. Twickenham staged one distinct example of his technical influence last November. Retallick wrecked England's lineout, stealing three throws in the second half.

His anticipation snapped the hosts' will. All the while, in pouring rain, Retallick carried and tackled until the All Blacks snuck over the line. Nuts and bolts and bells and whistles. He is a phenomenal player.

A moment that sums him up

Argentina attempted to catch out New Zealand with a bounce-back move in Buenos Aires in July 2019. Retallick was the last defender. Most locks would feel vulnerable. Retallick simply stepped in, plucked an interception from Pumas fly-half Nicolas Sanchez above his head and strode home to score from halfway.

One weakness

Maybe only New Zealand's reliance on him, or the drop-off when he is not around.

1. Beauden Barrett (Blues and New Zealand)

Beauden Barrett. Photo / Getty Images
Beauden Barrett. Photo / Getty Images

What to look out for

As ball-in-play time rises and the 15-a-side game has gradually seen greater periods of "unstructured" play, Barrett has thrived. Extreme pace and a balanced style of running lend themselves to swerving breaks that isolate and embarrass flat-footed defenders. Allied to those attributes, Barrett boasts a fine, very modern kicking game.

Cross-field kick-passes and flat restarts have proven fruitful for New Zealand at various times. He can slice teams apart in an instant but will also ping punts towards the corners in a bid to entice a fatal mistake. Although Samu Kerevi bulldozed him in Perth, Barrett punches above his weight in the contact area in both attack and defence.

How he can win you a game

One subtle defensive lapse is all it takes for Barrett to conjure a five-pointer, from either fly-half or full-back. If midfielders drift too early, he will dummy and dart from first-receiver. If a rival wing creeps too narrow, the ball will sail over their head and into the arms of a grateful teammate.

From second-receiver, taking trendy pull-back passes from forwards, Barrett can change direction rapidly and glide through holes. Spectators and adversaries must stay alert for 80 minutes.

A moment that sums him up

At the end of a clunky first half against South Africa in July 2019, New Zealand trailed South Africa 6-0 and the Springboks had possession beyond the All Blacks' 10-metre line. Then Kieran Read intervened with a jackal turnover. Barrett stepped up from full-back and the ball reached him via passes from TJ Perenara and Sonny Bill Williams. Because South Africa wing Makazole Mapimpi had bitten in, there was around seven metres of space.

It proved enough. Barrett stretched away from a scrambling Lukhanyo Am, dancing along the touchline before drawing Willie Le Roux and releasing Jack Goodhue for a quicksilver, sucker-punching try. From nowhere, New Zealand were in front.

One weakness

Barrett would want to be more reliable from the tee. He has skewed a few pivotal goal-kicks wide of the mark.