Rugby Union

Rugby World Cup: underperforming players

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There is no doubt that this World Cup has unearthed plenty of new stars already. Casual rugby fans may not have been aware of DTH Van De Merwe or Leone Nakarawa...or the entire Japanese squad for that matter.

However, it has also been the case that some of the nations, and some of their big names from years gone by, have not reached their high standards. Here are the guys that are used to finding themselves on the Player of the Year list, but will likely not be there based on the World Cup so far.

Given the class of these names, the ones who will feature in the knockout stages still have plenty of time to rise to the occasion.


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Kieran Read

Read has suffered from the same symptoms as the All Blacks in general. Perhaps that is testament to the impact of his role within the side. He hasn't necessarily been dreadful, but neither has New Zealand, but both of those entities are far from the height of their powers.

Read has been redefining the role of the Number Eight with his amazing playmaking capacity and skills around the park. He is infamous for loping out on the wing and opening up short side defences with quick hands and mercurial offloads.

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But we haven't seen that very much in 2015. He has been guilty of the Kiwi epidemic of handling errors as much as anyone. He, like the rest of the team, has looked ponderous rather than full of the intense accuracy that usually pervades the squad.

He is one of the big leaders within the group, so his example will need to pick up before the All Blacks can truly hit their stride.

Willie Le Roux

South Africa have often been criticised in the past for having a less than expansive game. They have never been short of big ball runners, but their subtle talents have been less frequently displayed.

That is not the case with this man who has had two stellar seasons of creating rugby magic from the back. He has made the 15 shirt his own entirely with the balance and options he brings to the Springbok's backline.

Since his inclusion players like Handre Pollard have also burst onto the scene to complement the perennial power with a full array of skills.

Fans of his work will be disappointed with his lack of impact so far. South Africa are another big side that has stuttered in the group stages which doesn't help players like Le Roux operate effectively from the back. As they regain their pomp, which seems to be in progress, don't be surprised when the class of the Cheetah comes to the fore.

He is one of those rare players that can change the complexion of a match in the blink of an eye, and I hope for the neutrals they get a chance to see that this tournament.

Chris Robshaw

This one is hardly a secret. The England captain has been under national scrutiny for far longer than the World Cup campaign. He has been accused of not having the skill set to be a world-class seven, and unfortunately, this tournament has not done him any favours in dispelling that notion.

But he has been England Captain for so long for a reason. Just when the pressure starts mounting from the media and the public, he has put in one of his trademark shifts. His game is based less on miraculous turnovers a lá David Pocock, but on a relentless work rate that suffocates other teams.

Some of his performances for the Red Rose have been truly phenomenal and his impact upon England's highlight moments, like beating New Zealand, cannot be overstated.

Ever since entering the World Cup camp, however, he has looked lethargic and lost on the field. Whether it has been an issue with fitness, confidence, or pressure we will never know, but he has not been his formidable self. That has been the case for many of the England squad, which reflects poorly upon his leadership once again.

It has been easy to apportion blame onto Robshaw given the circumstances, but to underestimate his value as a player at his best is a fallacy. Unfortunately, he will have no more chances to change anyone's mind in 2015.

Will Genia

Genia is the only name on this list who is playing within a team that is in top form. Australia have rarely looked stronger with their set piece, defence, backline balance, and goal kicking. They are the complete side at this moment in time, but there is still one area in question which is Scrum Half.

For so long it looked like Genia would become this generation's George Gregan; owning the shirt imperiously for the foreseeable future. But as Fly Half choices chopped and changed, Genia lost his status as the clear best in the world. His Super Rugby side, the Reds also started to struggle.

And since then he has never regained that dominant form. He is still firmly entrenched in the Wallaby set up, and that is because everyone who has seen him play knows he has that talent. He has had to reside in the shadow of the Nicks: White and Phipps; sometimes on the bench, sometimes out of the squad.

But so far in the World Cup he has been trusted to start the big matches. While he hasn't been poor by any stretch, he is still a long way from where he once was. Australia are capable of winning the World Cup without him at his best. But if he fulfills his considerable potential sooner rather than later, they might not be capable of losing.

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South Africa Rugby
Rugby Union
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IRB Rugby World Cup

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