TRU & PureVPN have picked out the stand-out players in Rugby World Cup 2019 so far from the Pool stages.
Joe Marler (England) - Restored to the England team following a year in ‘retirement’, Marler’s return to international rugby, must have felt like a baptism of fire at times. Having played in each of England’s pool games, Marler has stood in for Mako Vunipola admirably, having been a rock in defence and completing 95% of his tackles.
Shota Horie (Japan) - Regularly playing over 70 minutes in each pool game, Horie was incredibly impressive for Jamie Joseph’s Japan. Incredibly athletic at the age of 33, Horie has never stopped running, consistently carrying the ball and hitting rucks. It was amazing to see someone with so much energy at all times and he will be the man to watch late on Sunday morning.
Jiwon Koo (Japan) - Tighthead prop Koo, has played in each of Japan’s pool games and has impressed on each occasion. Handling the likes of Cian Healy, Allan Dell and Valery Mozorov extremely well at scrum time, the prop has also defended well, making 89% of his tackles and broken the gainline when carrying the ball in attack.
Scott Barrett (New Zealand) - Whilst all three of the Barrett brothers have shone in Japan, it is Scott that has impressed most. Stepping in for the mercurial Brodie Rettalick, Barrett has scored two tries for Steve Hansen’s team in this tournament and has been solid in all aspects of his play.
Rory Arnold (Australia) - Playing in three of Australia’s games in this tournament so far, Arnold has been one of the more effective lock’s so far this tournament. Whilst Australia have had problems with discipline, Arnold has remained consistent and completed 94% of his tackles. Athletic too, Arnold has operated well at the lineout too, helping to establish Australia’s power game that has served them so well in this tournament.
Ardie Savea (New Zealand) - Having made history by wearing goggles, due to a decrease of vision in one of his eyes, Savea’s best performance was against the Springboks. So difficult to bring down, Savea consistently finds space to attack, whilst also being a dominant force in defence by completing 91% of his tackles.
Jake Polledri (Italy) - Only 23 years old, Polledri burst onto the scene at the World Cup in impressive fashion. Most effective in attack, Polledri has beaten a remarkable 27 players when carrying the ball forward for Conor O’Shea’s team. Scoring a try too, Polledri, alongside the likes of Seb Negri and Callum Braley, have proven that the future of Italian rugby is bright.
Kazuki Himeno (Japan) - Having made over 200 meters with ball in hand, Himeno has been one of the stars in this Japan side. Amanaki Mafi was Japan’s star at number eight in England four years ago, but Himeno has outshone his teammate. At the age of 25, Himeno’s performances have made you want to see more of the number eight in Europe following the conclusion of his Rugby World Cup campaign.
Gareth Davies (Wales) - Possibly only Wales’ starting scrumhalf thanks to Rhy Webb’s exclusion due to playing abroad, Gareth Davies is really making the most of his times in a Wales shirt. Scoring two tries in his four appearances, Davies has read the game well and made an astonishing 260 meters having only carried the ball 19 times.
George Ford (England) - Coming into the tournament there was a massive uncertainty about where George Ford stood in Eddie Jones’ plans. Having started in each of England’s pool games, Ford played extremely well and will feel hard done by not to start this weekend against Australia. Scoring two tries, beating ten opposition defenders, it is Ford’s kicking from hand that has impressed most, putting England in some fantastic positions to launch attacks.
Cheslin Kolbe (South Africa) - Despite playing only two games for South Africa so far this tournament, Kolbe has impressed on the world stage, much like everyone hoped that he would. A former sevens player, much like Ardie Savea, Kolbe always managed to scramble his way through onrushing defenders and making 218 meters despite having only carried the ball 15 times.
Siale Piutau (Tonga) - Tonga’s captain and leader, Siale Piutau bowed out from international rugby this autumn in Japan. Heading back to England for another season with Bristol, Piutau was monumental for Tonga this tournament. Ill-disciplined in the lead up to the tournament, Piutau did all the basics well. Defending well and being effective in attack, Piutau scored a try and bowed out from his international duties by kicking a conversion against the USA last weekend.
Semi Radradra (Fiji) - Deployed on the wing for much of this tournament, Radradra was fairly ineffective against Australia and in the loss to Uruguay, Radradra exploded against Georgia, scoring two tries and setting two up. Playing well against Wales too, the Bordeaux man finishes his campaign with 400 meters made with the ball in hand and will be missed for the rest of the tournament.
Kotaro Matsushima (Japan) - A former Currie Cup opponent of Cheslin Kolbe, Kotaro Masushima has already got five tries in this tournament and has been one of the best players to watch so far this autumn. Beating 22 defenders on his way to making 350 meters when in attack. With electric pace and smart finishing, Matsushima will be relishing the opportunity to take on the country of his birth this Sunday.
Vasily Artemyev (Russia) - Whilst Russia didn’t have the best of times on the pitch, Vasily Artemyev’s attitude to the game has been extremely well received, earning the fullback cult status amongst rugby fans. Educated in Dublin and has previously played professionally for Northampton, Artemyev displayed a well-rounded skill set, carrying the ball effectively and having been unafraid to throw himself into contact.