Power Rankings: Our top five Northern Hemisphere fly-halves

Johnny Sexton with Marcus Smith after the game 12/3/2022
Always at the heart of the action, the northern hemisphere’s best fly-halves are sure to dazzle once more as the new season unfolds.

Always at the heart of the action, the northern hemisphere’s best fly-halves are sure to dazzle once more as the new season unfolds.

There is much to play for over the next few months and with another Guinness Six Nations rapidly approaching, Europe’s best playmakers will want to ensure they make a strong start to the domestic season ahead of a mouth-watering year of international rugby.

Here we take a look at those who are bound to produce more memorable moments in the latest instalment of Rugby’s Greatest Championship and beyond.

1. Johnny Sexton

As long goodbyes go, few have been more successful than Johnny Sexton’s. The fly-half is set to retire after the World Cup in France next year, but he is sure isn’t going quietly and the challenge of replacing the 37-year-old grows more daunting with each scintillating performance and record surpassed.

Sexton steered Ireland to their biggest win at Twickenham in over 50 years in the spring and soared to new heights in the summer as Ireland claimed a first-ever series win in New Zealand with Sexton passing 1,000 international points in the process.

He set Andy Farrell’s side on their way in the second Test in Dunedin with a brilliant pull back pass for Andrew Porter inside three minutes and enjoyed a perfect evening from the tee as Ireland levelled the series at 1-1.

Then in decider, he was unstoppable as Ireland ran in three first-half scores which all-but secured the series victory and their place as the world’s number one ranked side – only the third time in history they have topped the charts, all of which have come in the Sexton era.

2. Dan Biggar

The next staging of the Guinness Six Nations will come ten years after Dan Biggar’s remarkable breakthrough campaign.

Billed as the understudy to the injured Rhys Priestland, Biggar started all five matches in 2013 as Warren Gatland’s Wales claimed their first back-to-back titles since 1979.

He has made the jersey his own since then and time and time again has held off challengers for the No.10 shirt, most recently Gareth Anscombe and Callum Sheedy.

In the midst of a difficult 2022 Guinness Six Nations campaign Biggar took on the captaincy and steered Wales to a gutsy 20-17 victory over Scotland on the day of his 100th Test cap and before captaining Wales to a first-ever win over the Springboks in South Africa.

His composure under the high ball has become a familiar sight to rugby fans across the globe and his unwavering poise from the tee has carried him to fourth on the list of Wales’ all-time points scorers.

3. Paolo Garbisi

The youngest entrant to this list, Paolo Garbisi has been central to Italy’s ever-improving record.

Then just 21, he kicked the conversion which saw Italy beat Wales at Principality Stadium for the first time as they earned a first Championship win in seven years.

Garbisi then carried that form into the climax of the domestic season, helping Montpellier to a first-ever Top 14 victory in June.

His progress has accelerated since making the move to France from Benetton in 2021, with the Venice-born star even moving ahead of World Cup winner Handre Pollard in the pecking order at Les Cistes last season.

With his younger brother Alessandro having earned his first Test caps during the summer, the Garbisi brothers could be the half-back pairing to watch when Italy kick off their 2023 Guinness Six Nations campaign against France.

4. Marcus Smith

Flamboyant for Harlequins, England’s series victory over Australia showed that Marcus Smith can win ugly.

Now a year on from his international debut, Smith has established himself as key man in Eddie Jones’ new-look England.

He produced the decisive score in the decider against the Wallabies showing great intuition in what was a cagey contest, ill-suited to his energetic approach.

Further Tests at international level lie, ahead with games against South Africa and New Zealand in the autumn sure ahead of a huge 12 months which will encompass his second Guinness Six Nations and first World Cup.

5. Matthieu Jalibert

Were it not for injury, Romain Ntamack would unquestionably be on this list, but his absence could open up the door for fly-half rival Matthieu Jalibert. The Bordeaux-Bègles man missed the Grand Slam through an injury of his own, but made it back by the end of the season and helped France to a 2-0 win in Japan in the summer.

After a shaky opening game of the Top 14 season, he has started to find his form, and as an attacking force, there are few who can match Jalibert. Depending on Ntamack’s return to fitness, the 23-year-old could get a chance to run the show for France in the Autumn Nations Series as they take on Australia, South Africa and Japan once again.

Honourable mentions

As mentioned earlier, Ntamack would be pushing towards the top of the list but for the ankle injury that is keeping him out. A gifted, if understated playmaker, he makes those around him tick and was central to France’s Grand Slam success. Scotland’s Finn Russell is never too far from the conversation surrounding the best modern fly-halves. There is never a dull moment when the Racing 92 man is around but he was not quite at his best towards the end of last season and was rested for the summer tour of Argentina. Depending on the direction England head coach Jones chooses to take, Owen Farrell could find himself at the outside-half position again and has earnt the right to be considered among the best names on this list.