"Overlooked" - 5 Best Rugby Players That NEVER Played at the Rugby World Cup - Ruck

“Overlooked” – 5 Best Rugby Players That NEVER Played at the Rugby World Cup

Many of the best rugby players throughout history have had their defining moments at the Rugby World Cups. From Jonny Wilkinson’s immortalised drop goal, to Jonah Lomu running roughshod over England in 95, the all-time greats have always shone on the Rugby World Cup stage.

However, throughout Rugby World Cup history there have been some noticeable anomalies, in fantastic players that have never appeared at the competition. Be it a case of untimely injuries, unexpected bans or being ‘born in the wrong generation’ these top talents never made it to the bright lights of the Rugby World Cup.

Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, 7 caps) during England Rugby training session at The Lensbury Hotel, Teddington, London on 28 Sept 2021. Photo: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

There are plenty of honourable mentions to consider for this list, especially those who departed England for overseas adventures. The likes of Steffon Armitage and soon to be Montpellier star Sam Simmonds, have all gone without World Cup caps due to signing deals in France. Also, additional honourable mentions go out to all of the stars of the early amateur era.

It could be considered a slight cop-out to fill this list with the likes of Wales’ greatest ever player Gareth Edwards, Ireland’s leading lock Willie John McBride or legendary England captain Bill Beaumont, as these stars of yester-year all graced the pitch before the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987.

So, with all that considered here are RUCK’s picks for the Top Five Rugby Players to never play a match at the Rugby World Cup.

1. Danny Cipriani – England

Danny Cipriani of Bath Rugby during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Match between Bath Rugby and Saracens at the Recreation Ground on 17 Oct. Photo: Steve Haag/PPAUK

Narrowly missing out on three Rugby World Cups, Danny Cipriani is one player who England fans believed should have achieved more caps for his country. 16 appearances for his country is not a bad international record, yet Cipriani was undoubtedly overlooked throughout his career which stretched for decade.

At just 20-years-old, Cipriani had exploded onto the Premiership stage with Wasps. A calm and collected fly-half, despite being a Premiership ‘rookie’, Cipriani could read the top-level game like a veteran and soon caught the attention of the England coaching staff. The versatile back was called up for the Wider training squad ahead of the 2007 Rugby World Cup, yet missed the grade when the squad was cut down.

Danny Cipriani of Gloucester Rugby during the Gallagher Premiership Match between Saracens and Gloucester Rugby at Allianz Park, London on September 23. – PHOTO: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

The heroes of 2003 were favoured, with a young Cipriani unable to budge Jonny Wilkinson at fly half, or Jason Robinson who had been moved to fullback. This Wilkinson glass ceiling remained for Cipriani for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, with the veteran halfback preferred once again, alongside Toby Flood. Cipriani was not given the opportunity to showcase his talents at fullback, with Ben Foden selected as the only ‘out-and-out’ number 15.

Momentum started to swing in Cipriani’s favour ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, as he shone on the previous year’s England tour to New Zealand. He was additionally included for the 2015 Six Nations, making his mark with an off-the-bench try against Italy. However, He was overlooked once again when it came to selection, and missed out on the 2015 Rugby World Cup on home soil.