Rugby World Cup 2015: Ten players who could light it up – Toby Robson
5 of the ten players who could light up the cup
On rugby’s biggest stage the cream will rise to the top – here are 10 of the likely-sweetest players.
Stuff.co.nz rugby writer Toby Robson identifies 10 players who could light up the Rugby World Cup.
All Blacks hooker Dane Coles.
1 – Dane Coles (New Zealand)
Is it a wing? Is it a centre? No, it’s a super hooker. Coles is in the midst of redefining the role of the hooker in international rugby.
The 28-year-old has rare pace and athleticism for a tight forward. His core work is good, but it’s the tries that have the rugby world buzzing. He’s only scored four tries in 30 tests, but you get the feeling he could add to that tally during his first World Cup.
Wallabies fullback Israel Folau.
2 – Israel Folau (Australia)
Watching the Wallabies fullback play is a treat. Few players possess such grace and athleticism and there are no more awe-inspiring sights in rugby than that of Folau’s 1.93-metre, 102-kilogram frame soaring through the sky to reel in a high kick.
The former rugby league star has the ability to beat defenders with strength or pace. He is undoubtedly Australia’s most lethal attacking threat, but it’s the space he creates for the players around him that is his greatest asset. Capable of great things at the World Cup if the Wallabies pack fronts.
Wallabies forward Will Skelton.
3 – Will Skelton (Australia)
It’s unfair to write the Wallabies lock off as simply a big lug. Skelton can run, he can off load and he’s got some bite to his defensive work too. Put simply, the 2.04m, 148kg New South Welshman is coach Michael Cheika not so secret weapon.
Wallaby packs haven’t always had the bite and size to intimidate, but with Skelton on the park they have it in spades. He’s changed the playing field for the Wallabies and if they go on to win the World Cup their big Kiwi-born lock will have been a major factor.
South Africa first-five Handre Pollard.
4 – Handre Pollard (South Africa)
For all the Springboks many issues leading into the World Cup, first five-eighth isn’t one of them. Pollard is a player of rare skill and character.
His unflappable composure and ability to take over a game came to light during the under 20 World Cup in New Zealand and he’s blossomed in Super Rugby and at international level since. Pollard takes the ball to the line without fear, kicks well, tackles everything and is mature way beyond his years.
All Blacks wing Nehe Milner-Skudder.
5 – Nehe Milner-Skudder (New Zealand)
The last time the All Blacks had a player with a side step like this might have been when Christian Cullen was in his pomp.
As world rugby gravitates toward power players in the backs, players who use footwork rather than bulk to break the line have become a scarce commodity. But the thing that sets Milner-Skudder apart is his ability to off load once he’s through the line.
Fiji wing Nemani Nadolo.
6 – Nemani Nadolo (Fiji)
It’s not a stretch to say the Crusaders Super Rugby star is one of the best players at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Nadolo is everything a back should be, quick, strong, savvy and skilful.
Hovering around 125-130kg, he’s a handful regardless of the situation, but when he can step, chip, grubber or simply put the foot down on the gas peddle, the Fijian star is a defender’s worst nightmare. And just for good measure he’s a prodigious goal kicker who can play anywhere from second five eighth to wing.
Gael Fickou of France looks to spark an attack.
7 – Gael Fickou (France)
When former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga was coaching at Toulon, he used to rave to his friends about a young centre called Gael Fickou. Perhaps Umaga saw a bit of himself in a player who at 1.91m and 100kg moves like a panther.
Fickou made his test debut at 18 and at just 21-years-old may be ready to assert himself on the world stage. His skill set and athleticism has compared to the All Black offloading king Sonny Bill Williams. With players like Wesley Fofana, Mathieu Bastareaud and Maxime Mermoz France are blessed with midfielders, but Fickou could be the one to watch in 2015.
England wing George Ford.
8 – George Ford (England)
England continue to debate whether Ford or Owen Farrell is their best option at No 10, but only one player has the running game to ignite a backline that doesn’t lack for pace or ability, but needs a create mind in the No 10 jersey to realise its potential.
Ford has deceptive pace and good balance. Leave him a hole and he can slice through at an alarming rate. Scored 25 points against France in March and if England get going he could repeat similar feats during the World Cup.
Samoa’s Alafoti Fa’osiliva.
9 – Alafoti Fa’osiliva (Samoa)
A former sevens star, the big blindside flanker is coming of age in perfect time for the 2015 Rugby World Cup. At 29-years-old Fa’osiliva’s career has included stints with Toulon in France and Bristol before he settled at Bath.
He’s been touted for big things since bursting onto the sevens stage as a teenager and he burst through the All Blacks defence to score an historic try at Apia Park in July.
Argentina midfielder Marcelo Bosch.
10 – Marcelo Bosch (Argentina)
Could be the Pumas midfield answer to Conrad Smith. At 31-years-old it would be easy to write Bosch off as being over the hill, but he’s far from it.
At his best Bosch is a beautiful player to watch, balanced and quick, while he is also capable of kicking goals like few others. New Zealanders will recall a 55 metre curving penalty during the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
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