The stars of world rugby gather in France for the World Cup tournament of 2023. Some of the big names will excel again and be game breakers for their teams, but it’s also the opportunity for new heroes to step forward. It is impossible to single out every star player, but here are some of the players to watch during this tournament:
Damian Penaud (France): He is referred to as the prince of wings. He scored 21 tries in his 20 tests. Don’t be surprised if he adds a few more in this tournament. He always looks dangerous when he runs with the ball.
Antoine Dupont (France): Some rugby experts believe he is the closest rugby has to football’s Lionel Messi. It is a huge responsibility that he carries as scrumhalf and captain of the home team. He is extremely reliable under pressure and is probably his team’s main playmaker. She plays with flyhalf Matthieu Jalibert must inspire the French flair that everyone gets so excited about.
Thomas Ramos (France): Vlok Cilliers, the French kicking coach, has already referred to him as their Morné Steyn. He is an extremely reliable kicker to the posts. Don’t be surprised if this full-back is one of the tournament’s top scorers.
Kazuki Himeno (Japan): He was also in the team in Japan’s excellent tournament in 2019. The eighth man is the Brave Blossoms’ captain and will hope to inspire them to the same heights of four years ago.
Ardie Savea (New Zealand): He is more inspirational than the All Blacks captain, Sam Cane. As an eighth man, he is a power giant when he gets a chance to run with the ball. If the All Blacks want to stand a chance of winning this tournament, Savea will have to be one of the standouts. His smashes also stop other teams’ attacks.
Ange Capuozzo (Italy): This “little” fullback is his country’s own Cheslin Kolbe. It is rugby heaven to see him run with the ball if you only give him half a chance. He is more slippery than Jacob Zuma.
Richard Hardwick (Namibia): He hails from the Melbourne Rebels and played twice for Australia in 2019. This eight man, who also plays on the flank, can be worth gold to his team at the breakdown points.
Joe McCarthy (Ireland): This 22-year-old lock from Leinster stands six-foot-six in his boots and is a powerhouse for his team. He is having an excellent season and it will be interesting to see him in action against Eben Etzebeth.
Rory Darge (Scotland): This Glasgow Warriors flanker is excellent at the breakdown points. He can also make things difficult for opponents with his power runs.
Pita Ahki (Tonga): This center played rugby sevens for New Zealand and also ran for New Zealand at under-20 level. Now he plays for Toulouse and had an excellent season. His team is one to watch, especially as there are other former All Blacks in the squad.
Will Skelton (Australia): Coach Eddie Jones threw this lock in at the deep end by making him captain. Keep an eye on Skelton – if the Wallabies are to make any impact at the tournament, he’s going to have to be at his best.
Davit Niniashvili (Georgia): There is a lot of talk about this full-back from Lyon. His country’s forwards look more formidable than before and this will give the dangerous backs, such as Niniashvili, a chance to run.
Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales): He is only 22 years old, but is already considered one of the best wings in the world. The question is whether Wales’ pack of forwards can ensure quality ball possession for the speedster.
Pablo Matera (Argentina): The Cougars’ flank is an important driving force in the pack of forwards. The Argentines have the chance to progress as far as the semi-finals and Matera will play a key role in that.
Theo Dan (England): He is a rookie for England, but has already shown that there is a lot of talent. He likes to run with the ball and has the side step of a fullback.
Ollie Chessum (England): He is a 22-year-old lock who played excellently in the Six Nations. He was injured afterwards and is now ready to show what he is capable of.
Malcolm Marx (South Africa): He is a stalwart and never plays a bad game for the Springboks. Marx is definitely going to score a three or seven if the Boks’ rampage gets underway.
Damian Willemse (South Africa): He is extremely dangerous when he runs. His consistency under the high ball will also be of utmost importance for the Boks.
Eben Etzebeth (South Africa): He is one of the keys to the Springbok pack’s success. His discipline is also much better in recent times and this will be especially important at the breakdown points in the tournament.
Manie Libbok (South Africa): He was not the first-choice flyhalf before the tournament, but apart from a few missed kicks to the posts, he was a stalwart in the number 10 jersey. Libbok is also dangerous on the attack and can give the dangerous South African wings the running chance that any team can beat.