Thu, Sep 17, 2015 - Page 20 News List

Rugby World Cup stage set for rising stars to shine

AFP, LONDON

England’s Jonathan Joseph, right, is tackled by Ireland’s Jamie Heaslip during their World Cup warm-up match at Twickenham in London on Sept. 5.

Photo: AFP

With the Rugby World Cup kicking off at Twickenham in London tomorrow when hosts England play Fiji, here is a look at five players who could turn out to be the headline-grabbing stars of the tournament:

ISRAEL FOLAU (AUSTRALIA)

The 26-year-old has enjoyed a meteoric rise since switching from rugby league and Australian Rules, and is now considered one of the world’s best fullbacks.

Since his debut against the British and Irish Lions in 2013, Folau has scored 17 tries in 30 internationals and become a lynchpin of the Wallabies’ backline. So much so that he became only the third Wallaby to win the prestigious John Eales award for a second time when it was voted on by his peers last month.

Dangerous ball-runner, sensational under the high ball, dependable defender, Folau, who is of Tongan descent, is destined to have a big impact at the World Cup.

ROBBIE HENSHAW (IRELAND)

Anyone worried about the post Brian O’Driscoll/Gordon D’Arcy era in terms of Irish centers are likely to have had their fears allayed as the 21-year-old — well supported by New Zealand-born Jared Payne — has been outstanding since being give the nod by coach Joe Schmidt.

Fearless in the tackle, real bone-crunchers to boot, he used his Gaelic Games background as a schoolboy to good effect when climbing higher than Alex Goode to score the Irish try in the left-hand corner in their win over England in their Six Nations clash earlier this year.

The World Cup is to be a bigger test of his nerve and ability, but he looks a dazzling prospect for the years to come.

JESSE KRIEL (SOUTH AFRICA)

Young Jesse Kriel was the South African “find” of the World Cup warm-ups, becoming a certainty for inclusion in the 31-man squad long before it was announced.

The tall, physically-imposing 21-year-old native of Cape Townplayed fullback for the Northern Bulls in this year’s Super XV season.

However, Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer deployed Kriel at outside center in all five warm-ups, and had his faith rewarded with tries by Kriel against Australia and world champions New Zealand.

The versatility of Kriel was a huge factor in him getting the nod for England as he can play fullback, right wing, outside center or flyhalf.

While a constant threat in attack, the young Springbok must work on his defense, which was brutally exposed by three-try Juan Imhoff during a stunning win for Argentina in Durban last month.

JONATHAN JOSEPH (ENGLAND)

At the age of 24 and with five tries in 13 Tests under his belt, the center is on the brink of becoming a major force in the world game.

Blessed with the priceless ability to find space where seemingly none exists, when Joseph receives the ball, he creates a sense of excitement among fans that, arguably, has not been generated by an England midfielder since the heyday of his brilliant Bath predecessor Jeremy Guscott in the early 1990s.

Joseph was one of England’s stars during the last Six Nations, with four tries in five matches and now he is relishing the challenge of playing at a World Cup.

He began his career at London Irish, but a move to Bath has seen him playing alongside England flyhalf George Ford as well as fellow center Kyle Eastmond, who many felt was unlucky not to be included in the Red Rose World Cup squad.

WAISAKE NAHOLO (NEW ZEALAND)

Once Waisake Naholo’s leg fracture healed he was always going to the World Cup, with New Zealand coach Steve Hansen saying that he could not afford to be without the try-scoring machine.

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