Updated: Mar 29, 2021
'RugbyHow' defines a Number 8 as someone who must be able to tackle well, be strong, tough, fit and mobile; to be fair, not too dissimilar to the definition we gave during our 'Underrated Premiership Centres' list; perhaps this time around the definition is far more intensified! We thought we would follow up that list by looking back through the history books once again and reflecting on those who didn't get the justice they deserved internationally despite being stalwart Premiership titans. Just a quick reminder here too, you are only eligible for this list if you have less than 10 international caps, you can't be underrated and hit double digits internationally... So no Dallaglio, Vunipola, Corry, Easter etc. Let's dive right in!
5. John Hart (London Wasps)
Wasps have a weird knack for finding excellent Number 8's (Dallaglio, Hughes, Vunipola, Tom Willis and recently, Alfie Barbeary) and Hart has always felt like the forgotten man in that list. Despite the back row dominance of Dallaglio through the noughties, we often forget that he was largely used as a utility back rower due to Harts regular, great form. The huge 6ft 5 frame and 16 stone bulk of Hart made him a target man at the lineout, a force at the back of the scrum and a disruptive ball carrier. He played in two Premiership winning finals and played a key role in the squads that won two Heineken Cup titles. However, what lands him a spot on this list is his leadership ability. Whenever Dallaglio was away on international duty or suffered a long term injury, the captaincy never really fell to Shaw, Lewsey, King or Worsley, it always came to Hart who won over a third of his appearances as captain of London Wasps during their most successful era.
Premiership Appearances: 115
International Caps: 0
4. Jordan Crane (Leeds, Leicester Tigers, Bristol Bears)
Jordan Crane doesn't get the respect he deserves as a true Premiership professional. Although his form fell off in his later years and he was involved in some dodgy Bristol squads as they yo-yo'd up and down the pyramid, his achievements at club level are eye watering. A big ball carrier, consistent work horse and capable of utility flexibility, Crane spent more than 13 years plying his trade at the top level for one of Europe's top clubs. His stats were always up there with the best in the world too, with a surprising amount of successful offloads (top 10 in the world in 2015/16) and metres gained for such an attritional forward. He could never quite translate his consistent and reliable form to the international stage and unfortunately he was unable to usurp Easter throughout the backend of the 2000's. With just under 200 performances in the Premiership, Crane is more than deserving of this number 4 spot.
Premiership Appearances: 198
International Caps: 3
3. Jackson Wray (Saracens)
We might be jumping the gun here, but at just 30 years old, I still look back at Wray's career and wonder how he hasn't had an England cap. Sure the form of Vunipola of the last decade has been good enough to see him maintain that starting jersey, but it's baffling how Wray has never so much as received a call up when England looked so shallow in that area in 2015/16. Premiership Rugby TOTY winner for 2016/17, quadruple Premiership winner (featuring in all four finals), triple European Champions Cup winner, over 250 appearances for the most dominant team of the decade, Wray is a Premiership phenomenon. Formidable ball carrier, tough as nails, great match intelligence and impressive handling makes Wray the all-round package. Despite playing in the same position as England heavyweight Vunipola, Wray has forged a career of his own that rivals some of the all time best in his position.
Premiership Appearances: 178
International Caps: 0
Copyright: Getty Images
2. Hugh Vyvyan (Newcastle Falcons, Saracens)
Another Saracen to feature on this list, Vyvyan is widely regarded as one of the strangest one cap wonders in English Rugby history having his only appearance against Canada in a try-scoring, winning effort. His form for Saracens especially made him one of the leagues standout performers year on year; the only reason I can think of that he didn't get more caps was due to the preference for Dallaglio, Corry and Easter in that England setup. His work rate on and off the ball was phenomenal, but it was his leadership that made all of the difference. Vyvyan captained his side throughout the noughties and early 2010's, even lifting the Premiership title 7 years after he originally started captaining the side; he became captain of Saracens before even playing his first game! A hall of famer, an ex-most capped Premiership player, a 6ft 6, 18 stone monster, it's hard to believe he started his career at Fly Half!
Premiership Appearances: 238
International Caps: 1
1. Thomas Waldrom (Leicester Tigers, Exeter Chiefs)
Perhaps the easiest pick of the bunch, Waldrom's career is like a fine wine, getting better and better with age. On this list we have mentioned leaders, athletes, consistent figures, but Waldrom makes this list for being the best attacking Number 8 the Premiership has ever seen (Simmonds could be up there soon too if he keeps his form). He scored 16 TRIES in his debut season with Exeter, scored TWO HAT TRICKS and became Top Premiership Try Scorer TWO years running in his second season with the Chiefs and scored a further 9 TRIES in his third season helping Exeter lift the league trophy. Waldrom's good form coincided with Exeter's rise to dominance and to be honest, he is the most important signing that club has ever made. However, we can't look past his form at Leicester either. Over 100 appearances, 17 tries and a Premiership winner there too, he's one of the few players to win titles wherever he went. The 'Tank Engine' often went on rampaging runs and gave train blowing gestures to the crowd as he went in for solo effort after solo effort. Over 300 Premiership points is great for a Fly Half, let alone a Number 8! His mentorship of Sam Simmonds has also become instrumental in the teams consistent success, arguably making him the only person on this list who's impact could still be felt 10 years into the future.
Premiership Appearances: 158
International Caps: 5
(Bonus Premiership Try Count: 54!)
Copyright: 2016 Getty Images