Power Rankings – Our top five Northern Hemisphere scrum-halves

Domestic club rugby is finally here, with the Top 14 officially underway over the weekend and just four days to go until the English Premiership kicks off.

Domestic club rugby is finally here, with the Top 14 officially underway over the weekend and just four days to go until the English Premiership kicks off.

The opening week of the United Rugby Championship is not far behind and it won’t be long until attention turns towards the 2023 Guinness Six Nations.

As ever, the scrum-halves will be front and centre of every team’s attack across each competition.

Top no.9s need to have excellent tactical awareness, phenomenal technique and electric pace to cover ground and orchestrate play.

With that in mind, here are our five picks for the best current scrum-halves from the Northern Hemisphere.

Antoine Dupont (France)

A contender not just for the best scrum-half on the continent, but for the greatest player in the world, Antoine Dupont is simply a sensation.

He was the standout player for Les Bleus as they won their first Guinness Six Nations title and Grand Slam for 12 years and took Toulouse to a famous European double the season before.

Individual accolades clutter his mantlepiece, including two Player of the Tournament and a World Rugby Player of the Year in 2021.

The diminutive Frenchman has everything you could wish for in a no.9, just as impressive at zipping passes as he is exploiting gaps with lightning-quick feet.

As former Scotland scrum-half Rory Lawson said: “He just doesn’t have any weaknesses. There’s no flaw in any part of his game.”

Jamison Gibson-Park (Ireland)

Ireland’s historic series win over New Zealand had a special added significance for Jamison Gibson-Park.

The New Zealand-born half-back grew up dreaming of representing the All Blacks but switched allegiances after moving to Leinster in 2016.

He has since established himself as the pre-eminent choice at scrum-half for Andy Farrell’s men and called their triumph in Wellington the best moment of his career.

The 30-year-old had a mammoth job on his hands to displace Conor Murray from the starting line-up, but his form on the way to the Champions Cup final in May only cemented his position further.

A stirring 40-17 semi-final win over Dupont’s Toulouse saw Gibson-Park make 89 passes in just 67 minutes, exemplifying his metronomic influence for club and country.

Ali Price (Scotland)

Many expected Ali Price to play second fiddle to captain Conor Murray on the British & Irish Lions Tour of South Africa.

But after impressing in the warm-up games, Price started both the opener and decider, and hasn’t looked back since.

The Norfolk-born no.9 turned in a superlative performance in his 50th appearance for Scotland, involved in four of five tries as the Scots took maximum points from the Stadio Olimpico in March.

And even though the Glasgow Warriors half-back endured a difficult summer with his country, narrowly losing the series in Argentina, Price’s reputation as an exceptional scrum-half has not been dented.

Kieran Hardy (Wales)

Kieran Hardy announced himself on the international stage in only his fourth cap for Wales in the 2021 Guinness Six Nations.

The Scarlets man caught England completely off guard by taking a quick tap penalty to dart through a sluggish defence and dive over the whitewash.

The ingenious move earned him the Try of Round 3 award and he was back on the scoresheet against England the following year, coming off the bench to earn Wales a losing bonus point.

The 26-year-old has been pushing hard to become Wales’ first choice nine and got his chance to prove his credentials in an admirable loss to Grand Slam winners France a week later.

And Hardy has kicked on over the summer, starting all three Test matches on Wales’ tour to South Africa.

He’s certainly come a long way from training for free as a youngster at Scarlets’ academy.

Jack van Poortvliet (England)

There is plenty of competition for the no.9 jersey in the England ranks.

But 21-year-old Jack van Poortvliet looks to have muscled his way to the front of the queue this summer and could be Eddie Jones’ first choice for the World Cup next year.

The Leicester scrum-half finds himself behind Ben Youngs in the pecking order at Leicester Tigers but with Youngs omitted from the summer tour for family reasons, van Poortvliet took his chance in Australia.

He was outstanding in his first start for his country as England levelled the series against Australia, a week after scoring off the bench on his international debut.

Honourable mentions: Ben Youngs deserves a mention after leading Leicester Tigers to the Gallagher Premiership title, starting both the semi-final and final after becoming England’s most capped international player in February.

Lions captain Conor Murray is also an exceptional scrum-half in his own right and only misses out because of Gibson-Park’s outstanding Guinness Six Nations and summer tour performances.

And finally, Alessandro Fusco, great-grandson of Italian legend Elio, is only 22 but looks to have a bright future ahead of him, scoring the opening try of their victory over Portugal in the summer after making his international bow in the Six Nations against England.