Samoan Chiropractor heads list of top tacklers
A list of the top eight rugby ‘hitmen’ from the Pacific Islands featuring some of the game’s most fearsome tacklers is dominated by Samoans.
With no live rugby fixtures to watch, Pacific Rugby Players’ Welfare have curated the list of rugby’s toughest tacklers, which is headlined by none other than Manu Samoa legend Muliagatele Brian Lima.
1. Brian Lima (Samoa)
Bearing the nickname ‘the Chiropractor’ for his tendency to rearrange the spines of those he tackled, Muliagatele played a record 65 tests for Samoa during his 17-year international career.
After coming up with St Joseph’s College and Marist he went to the first of five Rugby World Cups in 1991, before moving to New Zealand to play for Auckland.
When Super Rugby started in 1996 Muliagatele joined the Highlanders for their inaugural season, then moved to the Blues for two years before playing his final domestic campaign with the Highlanders in 1999.
The winger-turned-midfielder then had club stints in France, Wales, Japan, Ireland and England before retiring in 2007 after the Rugby World Cup.
2. Chris Hala’ufia (Tonga)
Loose forward Chris Hala’ufia played 24 tests for Tonga between 2000 and 2009.
He spent eight years playing in England’s Premiership Rugby for Harlequins then London Irish.
3. Trevor Leota (Samoa)
The hard-hitting hooker played 30 tests for the Manu between 1997 and 2005, including the 1999 Rugby World Cup.
He spent those same years at English club Wasps, where he won two European and three English Premiership titles.
Leota was recently interviewed by Pacific Rugby Players’ Welfare for their Oceans Apart series, where he credited his uncles for teaching him his uncompromising playstyle:
“They’d take me outside and make me run it straight at them and I’d get smashed.
“My grandfather always said to me; if you don’t care about your body in rugby, you’ll go a long way.
“It’s just the way I love the game, play it hard.”
4. Jerry Collins (New Zealand/Samoa)
Born in Samoa but raised in New Zealand, loose forward Jerry Collins playing 48 tests for the All Blacks including the 2003 and 2007 Rugby World Cups.
A Wellington and Hurricanes legend, Collins moved to Toulon in France in 2008 before stints in Wales and Japan.
He died in a car crash in 2015 in France, where he had been playing for Narbonne in the second division.
Porirua Park Stadium in Wellington was named Jerry Collins Stadium the next year in tribute.
Collins set the standard for the modern All Blacks blindside flanker, playing the enforcer role in a way unmatched since the departure of another Samoan, Jerome Kaino, from New Zealand rugby.
5. Sonny Bill Williams (New Zealand/Samoa)
An icon in both codes of rugby, Sonny Bill Williams began his third stint in the 13-man game with the Toronto Wolfpack in the 2020 English Super League.
He has achieved unparalleled success in union and league, winning NRL Premierships with the Canterbury Bulldogs and Sydney Roosters in 2004 and 2013 along with Rugby World Cups in 2011 and 2015 with the All Blacks.
Williams first shot to fame thanks to his brutal shoulder charges in rugby league, and he was able to translate that power to become a feared defender in rugby union as well.
6. Henry Tuilagi (Samoa)
The second-eldest of the six Tuilagi brothers to play international rugby won 10 caps for the Manu between 2002 and 2009, including the 2003 and 2007 Rugby World Cups.
A loose forward by trade, Henry Tuilagi played for Parma in Italy before joining his brothers at Leceister Tigers, where he won the English Premiership in 2007.
England flanker James Haskell rated Tuilagi as the one player he was always wary of on the field when asked which player he was scared of during his career on Joe UK’s House of Rugby podcast last year:
"He would batter some people. He would absolutely kill people, and he'd do it with a smile on his face, and would repeatedly do it."
7. Sam Tuitupou (New Zealand/Tonga)
The second-five eighth won New Zealand domestic titles and nine caps for the All Blacks before moving to play in England in 2007.
Tuitupou finished his playing career last year, and now works as a player agent.
8. David Halaifonua (Tonga)
Outside back Halaifonua first played for Tonga in 2009 before making their Rugby World Cup squad in both 2015 and 2019.
He played four years in England’s Premiership with Gloucester before signing for second-tier Coventry in 2018.