Not sure about this egg-chasing lark? Give it a chance. The 2015 Rugby World Cup is almost upon us – it starts this Friday – and it’s going to be ruddy brilliant. Well, I hope so anyway. There are 48 matches to take in and enjoy between now and Halloween.
Ahead of the big kick off no one can be sure who’ll be the last XV standing, and that uncertainty makes it exciting.
England as hosts, and led by an astute coach in Stuart Lancaster, have a realistic shot at glory. They’re in the ‘Group of Death’ with Australia, Wales and Fiji, but should they progress, a place in the final isn’t beyond them.
Six Nations champs Ireland, World Cup specialists France, and Southern Hemisphere giants South Africa and Australia will all be justifiably picturing themselves with the Webb Ellis Trophy too. But the team to beat (as they always are) will be defending champions New Zealand. The mighty All Blacks are a fearsome bunch.
If you fancy impressing your friends and family with a spot of rugby-related knowledge, feel free to steal the following titbits and use them in conversation. Here are five explosive individual talents capable of taking the tournament by storm…
Israel Folau (Australia)
During the 2007 World Cup, Folau was a rookie star in professional Rugby League. Four years ago at the last tournament he was plying his trade as an Australian Rules footballer. Now, just three years after switching to Union, he’s regarded as the Wallabies’ prize asset. He’s quite the all-rounder! Recently voted Australia’s best player by his teammates (for the 2nd year running) the full back will relish this big stage. He’s unpredictable, but capable of extreme brilliance, and I think he could be the standout player on show.
Nehe Milner-Skudder (New Zealand)
He’s small by All Black standards (just 5ft 11inches) and he only has two caps to his name, but the 24-year-old full-back/right winger is a sensational prospect. Nicknamed ‘The Stepper’ for his ability to skip past opponents in the blink of a twinkled-toed eye, Milner-Skudder is a gifted individual that loves to get fans out of their seats. On a sparkling debut last month the speedy youngster grounded two tries against Australia, and the legendary Jonah Lomu, has since described him as ‘lightning in a jar’. Newcomers don’t come any more dazzling. Remember the name.
Jesse Kriel (South Africa)
Springboks coach Heyneke Mayer rates Kriel so highly that he’s already tipped him to become ‘one of the greats’. That’s some statement to make about a 21-year-old with just four Test caps. At club level he plays at full back, but he’ll be at outside centre for South Africa in the coming weeks. Watch out for his incredible acceleration. Wherever he is on the field, Kriel loves to rev up his engine and sprint towards the line. He’s a talent with X-factor, and the ability to entertain.
Yoann Huget (France)
A barbarous stamp in club rugby should have seen Huget banned for the World Cup, but having got off scot-free, the Frenchman is now his nation’s best hope of getting to the business end. Solidly built at 16-stone, the winger is a wrecking ball that can either bulldoze his way to the line, or skip his way through with surprisingly nimble feet. Huget doesn’t look especially fancy, but he glides past opponents with ease. He’s a destructive try-scoring talent well worth keeping your eye on.
Jonathan Joseph (England)
Dubbed the ‘new Jeremy Guscott’ the 24-year-old was the star of the show for England during their Six Nations’ campaign. Extremely quick, he also shares a near telepathic understanding with Bath teammate George Ford, and those two could run riot in midfield if they get their timings right. Although an excellent defender without the ball, when it’s in England’s hands they now have a more variable threat thanks to Joseph’s silky skills. By the time November comes around, the Derbyshire-born man could be a household name.