Who has scored the most tries at the World Cup? We look over the top try scorers in men’s Rugby World Cup history since the competition began in 1987.
15 Tries: Jonah Lomu (New Zealand), Bryan Habana (South Africa)
Jonah Lomu changed rugby union forever. The All Blacks star’s bulldozing style of play on the wing had never been seen before and his raw pace and power saw him score 15 tries in just 11 World Cup appearances. Seven of those tries came in 1995 as New Zealand came up just short in the Rugby World Cup final in South Africa against the Springboks and eight came in 1999 as his side finished a disappointing fourth.
Five of Lomu’s tries came against the English, including four in a remarkable performance in the 1995 semi-final. He also scored against France (2), Ireland (2), Italy (2), Scotland (2) and Tonga (2), all formidable opponents. The one team he did struggle against was South Africa, failing to score across 180 minutes of action against them.
Lomu’s Rugby World Cup try-scoring record lasted until 2015 when South African superstar Bryan Habana duly equalled his haul of 15 tries. The winger notched up eight tries as the Boks romped to World Cup glory in 2007, before scoring two more in 2011 and then five in 2015. In that final tournament for Habana, he crossed for tries against Samoa (1), Scotland (1) and the USA (3) in the pool stage but then failed to cross again in three knockout games to take the outright record.
Unlike Lomu, Habana’s record did include a high proportion of tries against non-Tier-1 opponents, with 12 of his 15 tries coming against such sides. His only tries against Tier-1 sides came against Argentina (2) and Scotland (1), whilst he drew blanks in a combined 496 minutes against the Wallabies, England, Japan, New Zealand and Wales.
14 Tries: Drew Mitchell (Australia)
In that same 2015 RWC, Drew Mitchell was also on the hunt for Lomu’s record, with the Australian having scored 10 tries across the 2007 (7) and 2011 (3) editions. Braces against Uruguay and Scotland left Mitchell one shy of the record but like Habana he failed to score in two further matches, against Argentina and New Zealand, to leave him on 14 tries.
13 Tries: Doug Howlett (New Zealand)
Doug Howlett was a different kind of player to Lomu but almost equally as adept at crossing the whitewash, registering 13 tries in just 10 Rugby World Cup matches. The Kiwi scored seven in seven games in 2003 and followed that up with six in just three games (185 minutes) in 2007.
12 Tries: Adam Ashley-Cooper (Australia)
Adam Ashley-Cooper played in four different World Cups for Australia, scoring at least one try in each edition, two in 2007, five in 2011, four in 2015 and one in 2019. His total haul of 12 tries included two hat-tricks, one against USA in 2011 and another against Argentina in 2015, making him one of just five players to record multiple hat-tricks (before 2023) and the only Aussie to do so.
11 Tries: Rory Underwood (England), Chris Latham (Australia), Vincent Clerc (France), Joe Rokocoko (New Zealand)
The first players on this list who don’t play for one of the traditional Tri-Nations sides are England’s Rory Underwood and France’s Vincent Clerc. Both scored 11 tries in their Rugby World Cup careers, alongside Chris Latham and Joe Rokocoko.
The first non-Tier-1 player on the list is Samoa’s Brian Lima. More famed for his bone-shaking tackles, the ‘chiropractor’ also crossed for 10 tries across his five World Cup campaigns, level with Australia’s David Campese and Wales’ Shane Williams.
Who Could Break Into the Leading Try Scorers in 2023?
None of the players to reach double figures for Rugby World Cup tries are still playing so you have to dive a little deeper to find players that could shoot up the charts in 2023. Irish winger Keith Earls and Kiwi Julian Savea (both on eight tries) are the highest on the list, but both are unlikely to get much game time in 2023 if indeed they make the squad.
One behind them on seven tries is a trio of options. Juan Imhoff of Argentina is another in the twilight of his career, but Welsh duo Gareth Davies and Josh Adams could easily grab some five-pointers to shoot them up the rankings.
Further down you have Beauden Barrett, Kotaro Matsushima, Makazole Mapimpi and Julián Montoya all on six tries and all looking to add to their tally in 2023.
In Adams (7), Mapimpi (6) and Matsushima (5) you have the top three try scorers from the 2019 edition of the Rugby World Cup, so they’ll be the favourites to rise up the rankings this time around.