Top 10 All Blacks performers at World Cups

1:28 pm on 7 September 2023
Dan Carter and Richie McCaw RWC2015

Dan Carter and Richie McCaw are our two greatest World Cup performers. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The big stage requires your best stand up. As the world gears up for another quadrennial clash of rugby titans, Jonty Dine looks back at the 10 greatest All Blacks performers in World Cup history.

Richie McCaw

  • Flanker, Canterbury
  • Apperances- 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015
  • Best performance - vs France 2011 final
  • Titles - 2011, 2015
Former New Zealand international Richie McCaw holds the Rugby World Cup trophy during the tournament's opening ceremony at the Tokyo Stadium in Tokyo on September 20, 2019,

McCaw has left an enduring legacy. Photo: AFP

The epitome of leadership and commitment, McCaw's legacy was cemented in 2011 when, after 24 long years, the All Blacks finally managed to win the World cup for a second time. Captain Fantastic illustrated his tenacity in the home World Cup when he played through the pain of a broken foot for the entire tournament. He is the only man to captain back to back World Cup-winning teams after the All Blacks bounced back from the bitter disappointment of 2007 (where they were beaten in the quarter-finals by France). First equal on the all time World Cup appearances list with 22 and the player with the most wins with 20. McCaw's aggression, game intelligence, and unmatched work rate made him an irreplaceable figure on and off the field. An influence which saw him retire as one of the greatest captains and players of all time.

Dan Carter

  • First-five, Canterbury
  • Appearances - 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015
  • Best performance - vs Australia 2015 final
  • Titles - 2011, 2015
Dan Carter celebrates the All Blacks World Cup win at Twickenham.

Dan Carter is our all time highest point scorer at Rugby World Cups. Photo: Photosport

The fly-half orchestrated the All Blacks' campaign with masterful precision, culminating in a stellar performance in the final against Australia in 2015. Carter's boot, vision, and ability to control the game under pressure guided New Zealand to glory at Twickenham with a 19-point haul. His match-winning exploits added a final and fitting chapter to his illustrious career. Cruelly struck down by injury while in arguably career best form in 2011, many questioned DC's ability to get the job done four years later. Carter made a mockery of his detractors, producing two master classes in the semi final and final. Carter sits fourth on the all time World Cup point scorers list with 191 and has kicked the most conversions in the tournament's history.

Jonah Lomu

  • Winger, Auckland
  • Appearances - 1995, 1999
  • Best performance - vs England 1995 semi final
  • Titles - 0
Jonah Lomu in action during the 1995 World Cup.

Lomu's on field feats will never be seen again. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Quite simply, a rugby phenomenon. Lomu redefined the wing position and what it meant to be an international rugby star. Lomu's size, speed, and power made him an unstoppable force, and his try scoring exploits propelled him into global stardom. His legacy endures as he stands as one of the sport's most iconic figures. Tragically, the big man was never part of a World Cup-winning side, playing in the heart-wrenching losses of '95 and '99. Despite this, Lomu lit up the World Cup like no one has since, scoring 15 astonishing World Cup tries that continue to inspire.

Ma'a Nonu

  • Second Five, Wellington
  • Appearances - 2003, 2011, 2015
  • Best performance - vs Australia 2015 final
  • Titles - 2011, 2015

Nonu played a pivotal role in two World Cup wins. Photo:

The midfield maestro established the greatest centre pairing in All Blacks history with Wellington teammate Conrad Smith. His blend of strength, skill, and creativity made him a linchpin in New Zealand's backline. Nonu's ability to break tackles, offload, and score crucial tries were integral to the All Blacks' consecutive World Cup victories. Nonu's tries in the 2015 final and 2011 semi final against Australia underlined his importance to the team after he was dropped by Graham Henry in 2007. Another with two World Cup titles to his name, 'Rock' lived up to his nickname as an impenetrable force in the All Blacks backline.

Jerome Kaino

  • Flanker, Auckland
  • Appearances - 2011, 2015
  • Best performance - vs Australia 2011 semi final
  • Titles - 2011, 2015
Jerome Kaino goes in for the first try.

Kaino's all important try in the 2015 semi final. Photo: AFP

The lasting image of the 2011 World Cup semi final will be Jerome Kaino manhandling Digby Ioane, dragging the Wallabies winger backwards as he looked set to score. The powerhouse in a back row consisting of McCaw and Kieran Reed, Kaino's physical presence was the perfect balance to the trio. Known for his ferocious tackling, Kaino was a cornerstone of New Zealand's success in both the 2011 and 2015 tournaments, scoring in the 2015 semi final win over the Boks. His ability to dominate in defence and attack was sorely missed at the 2007 World Cup, which Kaino did not play due to injury.

John Kirwan

  • Wing, Auckland
  • Appearances - 1987,1991
  • Best performance - vs France 1987 final
  • Titles - 1987
Rugby World Cup Final 1987
New Zealand vs France
John Kirwan of New Zealand on the attack
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Kirwan scored on of the All Blacks three tries in the 1987 final. Photo: Photosport

Kirwan's speed, agility, and ability to find the try-line set him apart as a legendary winger of the 80's and early 90's. Kirwan's standout moment came during the first World Cup in 1987, where his iconic solo try against Italy captured the world's attention. His remarkable run saw him cut through the Italians with ease to score a sensational individual effort. Kirwan was at it again in the final against France, dotting down for one of three All Blacks tries as New Zealand beat the French to become the first official rugby world champions.

Sam Whitelock

  • Lock, Canterbury
  • Appearances - 2011, 2015, 2019
  • Best performance - vs Australia 2015 final
  • Titles - 2011, 2015
Sam Whitelock. New Zealand All Blacks v Tonga at St James Park,  Pool C match of the Rugby World Cup 2015 in England. 9 October 2015. Photo credit: Andrew Cornaga /

Whitelock could become our most capped All Black at the 2023 World Cup and our first ever three time winner. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Sam Whitelock is a giant of New Zealand rugby both figuratively and literally. With remarkable athleticism and work rate, Whitelock's towering lineout presence and composure has earned him the honour of captain on numerous occasions. A pivotal figure in two of New Zealand's successful World Cup campaigns, Whitelock's ability to dominate in set pieces and contribute across the park places him among the elite locks in rugby history. The only player on this list still playing in 2023, Whitelock could become the first All Black to win three Rugby World Cups. he is also set to overtake the great Richie McCaw as the most capped All Black of all time.

Sean Fitzpatrick

  • Hooker, Auckland
  • Appearances - 1987, 1991, 1995
  • Best performance - vs South Africa 1995 final
  • Titles -1987
L-R: Steve McDowell, Sean Fitzpatrick and captain David Kirk celebrate winning the 1987 Rugby World Cup final against France on 20th June 1987.
Copyright photo:

Fitzpatrick was among our first All Blacks to lift the World Cup. Photo: Photosport

Fitzpatrick's career spanned an era of excellence for New Zealand rugby. His exceptional leadership and contributions to the forward pack set the standard for modern hookers and earned him a place among the sport's greats. His courageous effort in the 1995 final along with his teammates as they battled food poisoning was inspiring and though they came up short, the heart of Fitzy's troops in the republic that day could not be questioned.

Michael Jones

  • Flanker, Auckland
  • Appearances - 1987, 1991
  • Best performance - vs France 1987 final
  • Titles - 1987
New Zealand's Michael Jones. 1987 Rugby World Cup. All Blacks, New Zealand, Rubgy Union. Photo: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Sir Michael Jones scored the first ever try in Rugby World Cup history. Photo: Photosport

One our finest flankers, Jones was all class on and off the field. His unique set of skills for a lose forward at the time and unyielding commitment to the breakdown earned him admiration worldwide. His presence was pivotal during the Rugby World Cup 1987. Jones scored the first ever try in a World Cup match and a World Cup final, getting the All Blacks off to a perfect start in the decider against France. Jones would also provide the offload which sent David Kirk away for the match winning try in the final. Jones was omitted from the 1995 squad as his stance of not playing on Sunday's meant he would have been unavailable for the quarterfinal and semifinal.

Grant Fox

  • First-five, Auckland
  • Appearances - 1987, 1991
  • Best performance - vs France 1987 final
  • Titles - 1987
Grant Fox kicks.
New Zealand All Blacks v Fiji, 1987 Rugby World Cup match at Lancaster Park, Christchurch on 17 May 1987.
Copyright photo:

Grant Fox's boot led New Zealand to their 1987 triumph. Photo: Photosport

Revered for his tactical acumen and deadly accurate kicking, Fox played a crucial role in the All Blacks' success of the 1987 World Cup. The New Zealand number 10 kicked 17 points in the final against France. Fox also sits fifth on the all time World Cup point scorers list with 170 from just two tournament appearances. He holds the record for most conversions at one World Cup with 30, and leads the way for points at a single tournament, amassing 126 in 1987.

The All Blacks perform the haka before the Rugby World Cup semi-final match between England and New Zealand at the International Stadium Yokohama on October 26, 2019.

The All Blacks are set to take on the world's best starting with France on September 9. Photo: Behrouz Mehri / AFP