Rugby World Cup – players to watch from the lesser-known nations

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With the 2019 Rugby World Cup now underway, which players from the lesser-known nations involved could set the tournament alight?

D. T. H. van der Merwe (Canada)

The serial Pro14 try-scorer is certainly one to watch in Japan. He has the third-most tries in the history of the Celtic League across spells with Glasgow Warriors and Scarlets, and won a title with each.

He was on the end of one of the tries of the tournament in the last World Cup, a move straight off the kick-off against Italy, and his low centre of gravity coupled with lethal sidestep make him someone you don’t want to have to tackle one on one.

Tyler Ardron (Canada)

The Canadian captain is a mainstay for the Waikato Chiefs in Super Rugby, and can cover the second and back row.

A classy lineout operator with a great skillset in the loose, Ardron could be very effective in Japanese conditions that will likely lead to open games with plenty of broken play, where he can put his carrying and offloading skills to use.

Telusa Veainu (Tonga)

Leicester Tigers’ fullback is certainly a runner to be reckoned with, especially when he’s running back a deep kick. The Tongan has a lethal sidestep, ferocious pace and has a decent try-scoring record with 29 in 67 appearances for Leicester.

He’s previously played in Super Rugby for the Melbourne Rebels and Crusaders and represented New Zealand at U20 level.

Paul Lasike (USA)

The Harlequins and USA centre is a hard-running centre to match Manu Tuilagi for physicality. Lasike started his sports career as an American footballer and played fullback (a running back but typically larger) for the Chicago Bears.

In 2018 he made his debut for the Eagles, less than a year after his switch to Union. At 113kg he is one of the largest backs on the international circuit and is a fearsome sight for any midfield to line up against.

Mamuka Gorgodze (Georgia)

‘Gorgodzilla’ is a fearsome lock/back row for Toulon and Georgia who has come out of international retirement to have one last crack at a World Cup with Georgia.

At 6’5” and 118kg he is a fearsome player and a ruthless operator. He gained his nickname ‘Gorgodzilla’ from his fearsome rampaging running style and uncompromising style of play.

He joined Toulon in 2014 and has been there ever since, winning one European Cup and reaching two Top 14 finals.

Ben Tameifuna (Tonga)

The heaviest man in test rugby, weighing 153kg, is a fearsome prospect to pack down against in the front row.

A regular for Racing 92 in the Top 14 and European Cup, Tameifuna has regular experience packing down against the best props in the world, including the likes of Mako Vunipola, Cian Healy and Rahab Slimani, and will make sure the Tongan scrum doesn’t give an inch.

Image by Quist via Creative Commons

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