A lot of onus is placed on the pack and spine in rugby league. However, to do so is a disservice to the importance of outside backs.
Outside backs are often the best players to watch. They’re fast, dynamic and score amazing tries time and time again. More than that, it’s often their job to start sets well with tough carries.
With that in mind, we’re ranking the outside backs of every club to decide who has the verry best.
12. Leigh Centurions
It was immediately assumed that Leigh would last just one season back in the top flight. However, the Centurions have shown some good signs in the opening three rounds and their outside backs have reminded the world that they’re Super League quality. They’ve got major final experience in Matty Russell and Iain Thornley as well as a talented winger in the shape of Lewis Tierney. Recent signing Anthony Gelling is a real star and a Grand Final winner. However, they lack depth beyond their first-choice options.
11. Hull KR
The same can be said for the Rovers. Hull KR have real quality down the left edge in the shape of skipper and NRL winner Shaun Kenny-Dowall and six time Super League Champion Ryan Hall who looks set to become only the second player to reach 200 Super League tries. On the right is a dynamic duo in the shape of Ben Crooks and Greg Minikin. However, beyond their quality first choice options they haven’t got too much depth.
10. Salford Red Devils
Meanwhile, Salford have some solid depth when it comes to outside backs. When Joe Burgess returns to fitness they’ll have an array of quality wingers including Ken Sio and Krisnan Inu who can also play centre. Speaking of centres, they have three-time Super League champion Kallum Watkins and Dan Sarginson who can also play there. Meanwhile, Elliot Kear and Rhys Williams provide further depth and quality. Don’t forget the superb long-range try Williams scored at Wembley last year.
9. Wakefield Trinity
There’s an argument to be made that Wakefield belong higher on this list owing to the quality of their potent left-edge. Bill Tupou and Tom Johnstone are one of the finest left-sided partnerships in the league and can devastate any defence. I can see Johnstone making his way into Shaun Wane’s World Cup squad. Their right edge is also solid as are their other options including Liam Kay, Joe Arundel, Ryan Hampshire and others.
8. Castleford Tigers
Cas’ backs are a smart lot. These days they’re not as fast and dynamic as some of their rivals however they’re superb defensively and can be trusted in just about every facet of the game. In Derrell Oplherts they’ve found a hidden gem whilst Jordan Turner has taken to life on the wing like a duck to water. They have further options on the flank in the shape of Greg Eden and James Clare. Meanwhile, their first choice centres are a very complete duo. Michael Shenton has been one of Super League’s best players over the last decade whilst Peter Mata’utia is criminally underrated.
7. Catalans Dragons
It could be assumed that the departure of Israel Folau might leave Catalans with less quality in the backs. However, in Tom Davies they still have one of Super League’s top try scorers from last season and on the other flank they have the brilliant Fouad Yaha. Dean Whare has filled the void left by Folau and has outstanding pedigree having represented New Zealand. Samisoni Langi is also a brilliant centre as is youngster Mathieu Laguerre. That said, beyond them they haven’t got too many established options in their squad leaving them with little depth.
6. Huddersfield Giants
We’ve yet to see Huddersfield’s first choice backline come together this season however when we do, they’ll no doubt show their quality. In Jermaine McGillvary they have one of the best wingers in Super League history. He was Super League’s top scorer in 2015 and was the leading scorer in the 2017 World Cup. Joining him on the right is Jake Wardle – one of the best young centres in the game. On the left is the brilliant Ricky Leutele and the potent Darnell McIntosh. In Louis Senior they have a brilliant option when it comes to covering the wing-spots whilst Leroy Cudjoe provides depth at centre.
5. Warrington Wolves
On paper, Warrington have some of the finest outside backs in the game. They’ve not been in the greatest form of late however they’re still quality and could very well fire the Wire to silverware this year. Toby King is a future England centre and their first choice wingers have at times been Super League’s best. Of course, we can’t forget Greg Inglis who was once one of the best backs on the planet. If he rediscovers that form, he could be the league’s best centre. Meanwhile, Jake Mamo provides brilliant cover as does Matty Ashton. Even young Connor Wrench is a solid option at centre.
4. Hull FC
Hull have amazing size in the backs. Josh Griffin has been one of Super League’s most underrated players in recent years and is potent in both attack and defence. Meanwhile, Carlos Tuimavave is also a brilliant centre not given the appreciation he deserves. Mahe Fonua was the league’s best winger back in 2017 and offers great power. Meanwhile, Adam Swift’s resurgence is keeping international Bureta Faraimo out of the side. They also have a host of brilliant youngsters providing them with further depth.
3. Wigan Warriors
When fit, it’s hard to decide who Wigan’s best two wingers are. Jake Bibby has been a superb buy and scored in consecutive Grand Finals. However, injuries aside, Dominic Manfredi is one of the league’s best wingers as is Liam Marshall who scored one of the best tries you’ll ever see last year against Huddersfield. Their centres are also superb. Zak Hardaker may be better at fullback but his ability in attack and defence make him a fine centre whilst Oliver Gildart has already proven his quality on the international stage. They don’t have too many natural options in those positions beyond who I’ve mentioned aside from some impressive youngsters. Their lack of depth in the backs has been summed up recently by the appearances of Liam Farrell and Willie Isa at centre.
2. Leeds Rhinos
Although we’ve yet to see the Rhinos first choice backline this year – and such is the quality of their depth in the area I’m still unsure who belongs in their first choice three-quarters – it’s clear that it oozes class. In Konrad Hurrell and Ash Handley they have the league’s best left edge. The pair were named in the 2019 and 2020 Dream Teams and were vital to Leeds’ Challenge Cup triumph. Meanwhile, Handley was the competition’s top scorer last year having just missed out year before. On the right is Super League’s reigning Young Player of the Year in Harry Newman and the criminally underrated Tom Briscoe. That said, Liam Sutcliffe was superb at centre last year so it could be said he should feature in their first choice line-up. Meanwhile, his name sake Alex has also been outstanding at centre this year as has young Jack Broadbent whilst Luke Briscoe and exhilarating youngster Liam Tindall provide options on the wing.
1. St Helens
St Helens have strength throughout their squad but especially in their outside backs. They have arguably the world’s best winger in Tommy Makinson down the right and the mercurial Regan Grace down the left. Makinson, the 2018 Golden Boot Winner, is one of the best finishers Super League has ever seen and has just about everything whilst Grace is one of the most dynamic players in the league. Their first choice centres – Kevin Naiqama and Mark Percival – are simply brilliant as is back up Jack Welsby who scored the winner in last year’s Grand Final. Youngster Josh Simm has also impressed however such is their strength in the outside backs he’s been allowed to join Leigh on loan.