Ruck focuses on Pool C by spotting the men expected to make the difference for their countries during the World Cup. Mark Siglioccolo investigates…
New Zealand: Julian Savea
Likened to the great Jonah Lomu, Julian Savea has pace to burn combined with instinctive feet that allow him to tear down the wing with ease. Although he may have a slighter build than Lomu, Savea has a solid frame and is as strong as he is quick. From 35 caps for the All Blacks he has scored 150 points, an average of just shy of a try per game. Now playing in his maiden World Cup, the 25-year-old is expected to be one of the stars of the tournament as New Zealand bid to become the first nation to successfully defend the Webb Ellis trophy.
Argentina: Nicolás Sánchez
Nicolás Sánchez had some big boots to fill when he finally replaced Argentina’s all time record points scorer Felipe Contepomi in 2013. The number 10 shirt had become synonymous with the legendary fly-half, but Sanchez faced healthy competition as the heir apparent from both Juan Martin Hernandez and Santiago González Iglesias. Sanchez is now first choice and currently finds himself fifth in the standings of leading points scorers. Naturally easy on the eye as seems to be a pre-requisite for Argentine number 10’s, Sanchez displays both poise and finesse from the boot and will be a huge factor in his nation’s fate.
Tonga: Fetu’u Vainikolo
This pacy wing is well journeyed in club rugby, having enjoyed spells in the Super 14 in New Zealand, playing for Connacht in Ireland and Exeter Chiefs in the AvivaPremiership. Now plying his trade in the Top 14 with French side Oyonnax, Vainikolo will be targeting the Georgia and Namibia games in particular to add to his one World Cup try from two appearances four years ago in New Zealand. The tall Tongan scored five tries in just 10 games for his new club so expect to see him rampaging down the line for the Pacific nation.
Georgia: Merab Kvirikashvili
Georgia’s all time leading points scorer may have been ousted by Lasha Malaghuradze as first choice fly-half, but his versatility now as a fullback perhaps makes him more dangerous than ever. Gracing his fourth World Cup, Kvirikashvili will be hoping to replicate his success from 2007 after coming under fire in 2011 for a lack of conviction from the tee. With 644 international points to his name, Kvirikashvili will not only look to add to that tally, but with one more cap he will also usurp Irakli Abuseridze as the most capped Georgian of all time.
Namibia: Jacques Burger
Inspirational Namibian captain Jacques Burger will lead his troops into battle as they pursue their first ever World Cup. This will be the African nation’s fifth consecutive appearance in the competition, and in Burger they have a fearless and experienced leader. The Saracens flanker collected a winners medal in this year’s Aviva Premiership final, but a single win will feel like a championship win should they achieve it. Burger leads by example and always fights tooth and nail with or without the ball, and Namibia will need every ounce of his experience to see them through.