Rugby World Cup: Five players to watch in Japan
The Rugby World Cup gets underway this weekend in Japan - and it's a chance for the world's best players to showcase their talents on the biggest stage.
With plenty of teams in the mix to lift the Webb Ellis Cup, teams will be looking to their playmakers to make the difference, particularly once they get to the knockout stage.
The fiercly competitive tournament is sure to provide plenty of excitement, with the sport arguably never seeing a more attacking brand of rugby played widely across the globe.
With a perfect platform to see the best the sport has to offer, here's a look at five players to watch in Japan.
Cheslin Kolbe (South Africa)
He is 5’6 and relatively new to the Test arena, but this man has serious wheels and razor-sharp footwork. There are many backs to admire here in Japan, Fiji’s Semi Radradra being an obvious example.
There’s the New Zealand trio of Rieko Ioane, Sevu Reece and George Bridge and Six Nations duo Jacob Stockdale and George North. But few have greater potential to get you off your seat than this 25-year-old star of Toulouse.
Damian Penaud (France)
Who knows what France will bring to the party (answer: no-one), but what we can be pretty certain about is that this man will be involved in the best of their work.
The son of former Saracens fly-half Alain has pace to burn and the physicality to make yards in the heaviest of traffic. He doesn’t just hang around waiting to finish moves either, hunting infield for opportunities.
France may be awful. But with the likes of Penaud they have huge potential not to be.
Jonny May (England)
Hard to believe this guy was known for crabbing across the field when he first came into the England side. It took him eight Tests to score his first try.
Since then he has upgraded his radar and now runs straight and hard and can’t stop scoring. He is a completely different player, the epitome of athleticism.
He has 14 tries in his last 17 Tests (24 in all) and, providing England keep winning, must be a good bet to finish leading try scorer.
Liam Williams (Wales)
If you need water turning to wine this is the bloke to call. This year at least.
Since the start of 2019 he has won a Grand Slam with Wales, been part of a national record run of wins and helped them, albeit briefly, to No.1 in the world.
That’s not even his day job. Back at Saracens he has won the European Cup and Premiership. A lethal finisher he also boasts arguably the world’s best aerial game.
Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
Two-time World Rugby Player of the Year, Barrett comes to the World Cup not exactly out of form but certainly out of position.
In order for boss Steve Hansen to find a place in the starting team for Richie Mo'unga and deal with the loss to injury of fullback Damian McKenzie, he has switched Barrett to 15 and handed Mo’unga the fly-half berth.
Barrett, let’s be clear, is a wonderful footballer, if an average goal kicker. Expect his counter-attacking to be one of the features of the tournament.
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