Outspoken British rugby writer Stephen Jones has listed former All Blacks skipper Wayne Shelford as his hardest rugby player of all-time.

Writing for the Sunday Times, the controversial Welsh scribe placed Shelford at the top of his rankings as both he and English colleague Stuart Barnes continue their 'top 10' series around international rugby.

Similarly to the other lists the duo have compiled, neither could agree on a No. 1 pick, with Barnes instead opting for former England prop Gareth Chilcott.


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The ex-England and British and Irish Lions playmaker did find room for Shelford, though, placing the man renowned for having his scrotum stitched up during a test against France in 1986 at No. 6.

"The intimidating 'Buck' was completely free of instincts for self-preservation, and apparently impervious to pain," Jones wrote of Shelford.

"Probably the hardest man who ever played and terrifying even when leading the haka. New Zealand missed his driven play when he retired in the early nineties, and remarkably he was in one piece when he did so."

Former All Blacks captain Wayne Shelford leads the haka in 1989. Photo / Photosport
Former All Blacks captain Wayne Shelford leads the haka in 1989. Photo / Photosport

Barnes offered similar praise for Shelford, writing: "The Northampton and England contingent didn't realise just how often they would say, 'Buck says'. The All Black came to the East Midlands towards the end of his career but made the Gardens his own. Iron in the soul, this No. 8 certainly had balls …"

The 22-test All Black wasn't the only New Zealand captain on either list, with Jones picking for former hooker Sean Ftizpatrick at No. 5, while Barnes selected two-time World Cup winning flanker Richie McCaw at No. 8.

McCaw's inclusion on Barnes' list piqued the interest of Jones, who snubbed the 148-test veteran from his top 10 captains of all-time a fortnight ago, claiming his "late grandmother could have led them [All Blacks] to the same record".

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Jones caused similar controversy last week when he ranked decorated former All Blacks playmaker Dan Carter as only the 10th best first-five in history, instead opting for dual-code Welsh playmaker David Watkins.


In both of his lists, Barnes selected McCaw and Carter as his No. 1 picks.

Unimpressed at the selections of what he described as "choirboys", Jones again took aim at the inclusion of McCaw in Barnes' list of hard men.

""Hard men? Where are the true ruffians, the devils? This list comprises largely of choirboys, Stuart," Jones wrote of his colleague's compilation.

"Is it a rule that Richie McCaw must be in almost every one of your lists? I presume he'll still be in when we go for the top ten goal kickers. Or top ten astronomers?"

Other names to have featured across each pundit's lists include recently-retired Wallabies loose forward David Pocock, former Namibian powerhouse Jacques Burger, ex-Samoan hitman Brian Lima and towering Springboks lock Eben Etzebeth.

Stephen Jones' greatest hard men of rugby: 1 Wayne Shelford (NZ), 2 Jacques Burger (Namibia), 3 Gerard Cholley (France), 4 Mike Teague (England), 5 Sean Fitzpatrick (NZ), 6 Del Haines (Wales), 7 Ron Glasgow (Scotland), 8 Brian Lima (Samoa), 9 Andre Venter (South Africa), 10= Terry Cobner (Wales) and Mike Fry (England).

Stuart Barnes' greatest hard men of rugby: 1 Gareth Chilcott (England), 2 Gerard Cholley (France), 3 Jonny Wilkinson (England), 4 Graham Price (Wales), 5 Eben Etzebeth (South Africa), 6 Wayne Shelford (NZ), 7 David Pocock (Australia), 8 Richie McCaw (NZ), 9 Scott Gibbs (Wales), 10 Jim Telfer (Scotland).

This article first appeared on and has been republished with permission