By Christian Catley
The tournament kicks off on September 20th, with the opening game of Japan against Russia. There are many key players that will be important to teams, not only during the pool stage, but the finals as well. Here are some of my key players for each team. As I look at what value they bring to their side in the World Cup.
Ireland: Johnny Sexton (Flyhalf)
Johnny Sexton is the current World Rugby Player of the year. He brings a heap of experience to the Irish team, is a sharp goal kicker and great tactical player. This maybe his last chance of guiding Ireland to their first World Cup crown as he’s into the back end of his career. He has previously represented the British and Irish Lions in both 2013 and 2017 and has scored over 700 points in his international career, making him one of the highest points scorers still currently playing. Sexton has a long list of achievements, including being a four time European Champions Cup.
Club: Leicester (Pro 14)
England: Maro Itoje (Second Row)
Brings strength, speed and agility as a second rower. He’s represented England in U18s, and captain England in the U20s championship. Also featured in the starting British and Lions 2017 team to NZ in three tests. Not only a star of the future, but a big star right now.
Club: Saracens (Gallagher Premiership)
Japan: Michael Leitch (Flanker)
Born in New Zealand but moved to Japan when he was 15 years old. Was a huge part of Japan’s famous upset win over South Africa at the 2015 World Cup in England. Named Captain in 2014, his leadership is very valuable to the Japanese side. He is not only great in open play but an expert around the breakdown. He’s even scored tries against South Africa and England. His career has taken him from the Toshiba Brave Lupus in Japan’s Top League to the Chiefs in New Zealand.
Club: Sunwolves (Super Rugby)
New Zealand: Beauden Barrett, Fullback/Flyhalf
Beauden Barrett is a two time World Rugby Player of the Year (2016-17). Came off the bench for to score a match winning try against Australia in the 2015 World Cup Final. Beauden’s skill level is first class, a major weapon is his electric pace. This year the All Blacks have shifted him to fullback with Mounga moving in at flyhalf, but whatever position he starts in he will provide plenty of headaches for opposition teams.
Club: Blues (Super Rugby)
Wales: Alun Wyn Jones (Lock)
Captain fantastic, a player who can lead a squad to the ends of the earth. Has really pressed on in his later years of his career to become a world class second row commander. Wales will certainly be relying on leadership and lift he brings his team mates.
Club: Ospreys (Pro 14)
Scotland: Greg Laidlaw (Scrumhalf)
A brilliant player for Scotland. Covers the goal kicking and is a very intelligent thinker on the field when guiding his team around the park. His reliability will be key for Scotland if they are to progress from their pool.
Club: Clermont Auvergne (Top 14)
South Africa: Siya Kolisi (Flanker)
It will be his first World Cup as captain of the South African team. He’s very valuable in terms of bringing that psychical preference on the field. The ability to steal opponents ball at the breakdown and is a heroic leader.
Club: Stormers (Super Rugby)
France: Louis Picamoles (Number 8)
The giant man has been around international rugby for 11 years now. Louis brings a tonne of experience to this French Side. He’s hard working at hunting down the breakdowns and protecting his scrum-half. He is never afraid to face up to the toughest of physical challenges.
Club: Montpellier (Top 14)
Argentina: Agustin Creevy (Hooker)
Agustin Creevy is a hard working and passionate player for the Pumas. The veteran has experienced rugby around the world, having spent some time at the French club Montpellier, but returned to play for the Jaguares in Super Rugby. Solid player in the scrums and lineouts, but will likely be his last Rugby World Cup. Can he guide Argentina to the promise land?
Club: Jaguares (Super Rugby)
Australia: Samu Kerevi (Centre)
In a Wallabies side which has often lack the go forward to consistently play at the very top, Samu Kerevi is a crucial key to making sure they have that ability. Extremely strong carrier of the ball, breaking tackles at will and demands multiple defenders when charging at defences. Samu has had a fantastic 2019 so far and could make the difference for the Wallabies.
Club: Reds (Super Rugby)
Fiji: Semi Radradra (Winger)
A former Rugby League player, Semi made his International Test Rugby Debut against Georgia in 2018. He brings electric pace and power on the wing for the Fijian side. If given any room from defenders, Semi will bring plenty of threat to opposition teams.
Clubs: Bordeaux Begles (Top 14)
Special thanks to Christian Catley for putting this piece together. If you enjoyed reading what Christian has to say, leave a like and/or comment on the page to let me know and hopefully you will see more from Christian soon. Thanks for stopping off Behind The Posts!