Rugby union is a game built on contact and physicality, making the longevity of the greatest players that much more impressive.
With that in mind, Planet Rugby takes a closer look at the top 21 most-capped Test players in the history of the game.
One of Ireland’s greatest ever hookers and a player who performed in the top flight for 14 years in his country’s trademark green.
Despite going on several tours he would never earn an official Test cap with the British & Irish Lions. Best would retire in 2019 as Ireland’s most capped forward at that time.
Arguably one of Ireland’s greatest products, Sexton recently hung up his boots after 14 years at Test level. The country’s top points scorer of all-time turned into a talismanic skipper towards the end of his career, leading his team to several accolades including a Grand Slam in 2023.
The 2018 World Rugby Player of the Year earned six caps for the Lions, taking his grand total to 124 in what was an impressive career littered with trophies and achievements.
The Springbok remains the most prolific tier-one try scorer in history with a record 67 crossings in green and gold. The lightning-fast Habana represented his country at Test level for 12 years, winning a variety of trophies including the Tri-Nations and the 2007 Rugby World Cup – the same year he was crowned World Rugby Player of the Year.
Habana, who was recently inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame, equalled two World Cup records with Jonah Lomu as having the most tries in total (15) and the most tries in a single tournament (eight).
The first active player on our list and one who has been a stalwart for Ireland since making his Test debut in 2009. His time playing for his country has been successful with four Six Nations titles including Grand Slam wins in 2018 and 2023.
Ireland’s most capped forward interestingly did not earn a Test cap with the British & Irish Lions despite touring with the famous side to Australia in 2013.
An outstanding leader and flanker, Hooper played consistently for the Wallabies after debuting in 2012 as he shot to 100 Test caps, becoming the youngest player in history to do so.
His work-rate and leadership handed him the captain’s armband early in his career which he carried brilliantly, eventually taking him past George Gregan as the most-capped Wallabies skipper of all time.
Right up there with one of the best passers of the ball in history, Smith set the standard for scrum-halves since he debuted in 2012.
He was part of one of the most successful teams in history, winning a World Cup in 2015 to add to his plethora of Rugby Championships. Smith hung up his boots after falling agonisingly short of winning his second World Cup after losing by one point in the 2023 final.
The Springboks’ most-capped player and one of the greatest exponents of the line-out the game has ever seen. Matfield played in two stints for his country after coming out of retirement during Heyneke Meyer’s reign in 2014.
Matfield was highly successful and a key player in the 2007 Rugby World Cup to add to his two Tri-Nations wins and 2009 Lions series victory.
A colossus. The great number eight had the difficult task of taking over from Richie McCaw as All Blacks captain but did it in his stride, leading the team magnificently on 52 occasions.
Read won two World Cups along with several Tri-Nations and Rugby Championships which earned him the 2013 World Rugby Player of the Year award.
A symbol of longevity in Wallabies history, Moore is the only Australian hooker to reach a century of caps.
His influence on the game was massive as he led his country 24 times, including in the 2015 World Cup final against rivals New Zealand.
The only tier-two player on the list and the greatest Romanian player in history as both the most-capped and top points scorer for his country with more than 1,000 points.
The most capped Red Rose of all time and a legendary scrum-half who has been a consistent feature in the England squad between 2010 and 2023, after which he hung up his boots.
He scored an impressive 20 tries during his Test career which included two caps for the Lions in 2013.
One of rugby’s greatest minds and a masterful tactician both as a player and now as a coach. O’Gara is an icon of Irish rugby having played 13 years of Test rugby.
He was the country’s top points scorer for an extended period before being passed by Sexton in 2023. Interestingly the former fly-half only has two Lions caps.
A robust and powerful All Black hooker who debuted in 2002, embarking on a glittering career that included back-to-back World Cups in 2011 and 2015.
He captained his country on occasion, underlining his impressive leadership. Mealamu was a winner throughout his career with several Tri-Nations and Rugby Championships.
A beast of a scrummager and a Welsh icon with a whopping 14 years at the highest level including five Lions caps from three different tours.
Jenkins was a mainstay in Warren Gatland’s transformed Wales side, captaining them in several games along the way.
A masterful scrummager who is comfortable at both loosehead and tighthead. Slipper has impressed since his debut in 2010, notching up a healthy number of caps over the years.
He also led Australia on several occasions with some key contributions in the 2023 team, albeit in vain after a painful World Cup experience.
One of the game’s most notable skippers. Fearless and tenacious, Gregan was the early standard for scrum-halves around the turn of the century.
He debuted in 1994 and quickly became a key figure who went on to win the 1999 World Cup amongst several Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cups – a trophy last held by Australia during Gregan’s career.
The Rolls Royce of centres and a giant in both the green of Ireland and the red of the Lions. When he was not busting through the line or scoring lovely tries he was leading admirably, as he did for his country on a whopping 83 occasions.
He is the Six Nations’ all-time top try-scorer with 26 tries and won two titles including a 2009 Grand Slam.
Longevity personified by an incredible 17 years in Test rugby. Parisse is undoubtedly the greatest Italian player ever and up there with the best the game has seen.
Driven by passion and precision, the great number eight pioneered his way through the Test scene with the Azzurri on his back. An outstanding player in the history of the game.
The most successful skipper of all time, leading his team to back-to-back World Cup titles. His ability to inspire those around him by setting a bold example was magnificent whilst his influence at the breakdown was game-changing.
One of the greatest ever and the player with the most wins in history with a ridiculous 131.
Rivals Matfield for the best line-out forward of all-time, Whitelock had a glittering career where he very nearly became the first player to win three World Cups but fell short in the 2023 edition.
He won everything there was to win and led his country on several occasions. An icon in every sense of the word.
The number of caps speaks for itself. No player has displayed the longevity of the great Jones. The second-row was a consistent performer from the get-go and matured into an inspirational leader as the figurehead of the Gatland era.
His presence in the game grew and grew through his Six Nations and Grand Slam titles, so much so that he became only the fourth player to play for the Lions on four different tours, notching up 12 caps in the time.
The iconic man hung up his boots in 2023 as one of the greatest to grace our beautiful sport.