As the Rugby World Cup heads towards the knockout stages, we’ve had a look at the players who have lit up Japan 2019 so far. Whether it’s through top tries or tough tackling, these five men have all had a big impact on rugby’s showpiece event, and many will hope to keep up that form when the quarter-finals get underway.
New Zealand’s Beauden Barrett has flourished at this World Cup, playing the All Blacks first three games at full-back rather than his familiar position of fly-half. This has allowed Barrett to play a more rampaging roll, and attack from deep rather than being right in the thick of it. The 28-year-old has been able to offer his creativity from a deeper position, and this has allowed Richie Mo’unga to flourish in the number 10 role.
Barrett put in a stellar performance in the All Blacks’ opening game against South Africa, helping the team to a vital 23-13 win, and he also grabbed a try in the 63-0 demolition of Canada. He was rested for the match against Namibia, and with New Zealand’s final pool match against Italy being cancelled because of typhoon forecasts, he’ll be extra fresh for the quarter-finals.
Although Argentina are now out of the competition, hookerJulián Montoya deserves some recognition. The 25-year-old scored four tries in four pool games, including a hat-trick against Tonga, proving the strength of the Argentinian forwards.
Defeat to France in their opening match was the key result for Argentina, a match in which Montoya scored to help Los Pumas fight back from behind, but sadly it wasn’t enough. On a personal level, Montoya can take a lot of credit from this World Cup.
Michael Leitch is host nation Japan’s inspirational captain and has shown great leadership helping the hosts win their first three pool matches. The New Zealand-born flanker has played a key role in Japan’s wins over Russia, Samoa, and Ireland, and has led by example in the scrum and at the breakdown. Against Ireland, Leitch was forced to settle for a place on the bench, but came on in the second half and helped turn the tide in Japan’s favour, proving the influence he has on the team.
Leitch has over 60 caps for Japan and has now played in three World Cups. He is a player who makes himself a nuisance and gets under the skin of the opposition, and he has proved this in Japan’s opening three games. He’ll be hoping to continue this good form and lead Japan to a first-ever quarter-final.
Alun Wyn Jones
Alun Wyn Jones has been at the forefront of Wales’ success over the last year or so. The 34-year-old captain led Wales to a Six Nations Grand Slam back in March and has helped the side win four out of four pool matches, including an impressive 29-25 victory over Australia.
The lock has a wealth of experience, with a little over 130 caps to his name. This experience and know-how was particularly important against Australia, where preventing the Wallabies from getting an attacking foothold was vitally important. With Jones and his side in top form, there’s no reason why Wales can’t be a decent outside bet to win the tournament –check out the latest odds here:www.betfair.com/sport/rugby-union
South African winger Makazole Mapimpi has been in good form so far at the World Cup and is key to the Springbok’s attacking prospects as they look ahead to the knockout stages. He scored two tries in the 57-3 win over Namibia and bagged another in the 49-3 victory against Italy. After a well-earned rest for the match against Canada, Mapimpi will be raring to go, come the quarter-finals.
Despite being 29 years old, Mapimpi is a relative newcomer to the Springboks side, having made his debut just last year. However, he has taken to international rugby like a duck to water and firmly established himself in South Africa’s winning Rugby Championship squad earlier this year. He has carried that form into the World Cup and is certainly one to watch for the rest of the tournament.Updated Date: 21 October 2019, 08:31