Rugby Union

Ten players who stepped up for the first World Cup matches

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The Rugby World Cup kicked off last week but has already been creating shockwaves across the sporting world. With shock results, stunning trys and the use of technology we are set for a very memorable tournament.

Here are a few players who particularly stood out after the first round of games.

10. Schalk Burger: The South African flanker was a defensive demon and a fierce attacker in the loss to Japan. In a side that looked tired and indifferent Burger was a leading light. Indiscipline and dirty tactics still turn up in his game which will divide opinions of him but he was the only real force South Africa had.


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9. Mansa Saulo: The Fijian tighthead made Friday’s World Cup opener a tough evening for Joe Marler and Mako Vunipola giving them a real tussle at the set piece and working hard in open play. The Fijian front row also managed to maintain discipline, which has been a concern for them in recent times

8. Joaquin Tuculet: Argentina gave New Zealand a run for their money in a close game. The whole team went well but Tuculat stood out for me, unflappable under the high ball, strong in defence and razor sharp on the counter-attack. A key man for Argentina in the RWC.

7. Mamuka Gorgodze: Georgia’s Captain and number eight was inspirational in their historic defeat of Tonga. Leading by example and managing to crash over for a try, Godzilla as he is nicknamed led a team of Georgians who took the game to Tonga and came away the better team.

6. Sonny Bill Williams: Many New Zealanders will be feeling relieved that Williams has found his way back to form. Subbed on for Nonu soon after half time Williams brought his fierce running and skilful offloading into the game which gave the All Blacks the rapier edge they needed to win against a tough Argentinian side.

5. Luke Fitzgerald: Another one back to his very best against Canada, the Leinster man slotted in to plug the gap left by the injured Robbie Henshaw will aplomb considering he is more usually used at outside centre, wing or fullback. Linked well in attack with Payne and Sexton as well as being lightning in defence giving his opposite number no time to operate.

4. Scott Williams: was pivotal in making trys for his centre partner Allan and the rest of the back line. Broke the Uruguay line at will and didn’t give an inch defensively, the Scarlets man is going to be key to Wales World Cup ambitions.

3. Richard Wigglesworth: Did wonders for England when he came on against Fiji, he linked well with the backline and sped up the service of the ball significantly. So often the bridesmaid on the bench Wigglesworth proved he should be the starting man for England.

2. Tim Nanai-Williams played an excellent game of Rugby against the USA. He linked perfectly with fly-half Tusi Pisi for several moves and played a fluid and fast game. Rightfully named the man of the match at the end of the game.

1. The entire Japan 23 that played South Africa in Brighton. I could pick out one of several Japanese players who stood out for this slot. Kensuke Hatakeyama routed the South African beast Tendai Mtawarira, Ayumu Goromaru who kicked well to keep Japan in touch and finished a great team try, Amanaki Lelei Mafi came on to make a huge impact and inspirational leader Michael Leitch was also in amazing form.

But the cohesive team play, never say die attitude, intelligent game plan and final death or glory decision to go for the try and the win rather than the draw say everything about the whole team who deserved everything they got.

Honourable mention- Wayne Barnes must be mentioned as well for sending Richie McCaw to the bin for only the third time in his career. Outstandingly refereed the Argentina vs New Zealand match.

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