Only once every four years are we treated to seeing the best players in the world competing head-to-head – make sure you don’t miss out on watching the brightest stars shining in Japan this year.
Finn Russell – Scotland
Kobe Misaki Stadium, Kobe City (30th Sept vs Samoa)
Scotland will be relying heavily on mercurial playmaker Finn Russell to pull the strings of their attack in Japan this year. A player with so much natural talent and flair that defences (and oftentimes his own teammates) struggle to keep up with his quick thinking and dancing feet. Catch his unique talents in full-flow at the Kobe Misaki Stadium against Samoa – a team of heavy hitters that will give Russell plenty of opportunity to use his pace to exploit gaps in the defence and change the game.
Faf de Klerk – South Africa
Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, Shizuoka Prefecture (4th Oct vs Italy)
Faf de Klerk will be hoping to use the World Cup to lay down a marker and stake his claim to being the best scrum-half in world rugby. Equally effective in attack and defence, possessing a pin-point kicking game and an incredible eye for a gap, Faf de Klerk is the complete package from the base of the breakdown. When South Africa take to the field against Italy in the Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa they will be relying on de Klerk to pull the strings and exploit any holes around the fringes of the ruck.
Viliame Mata – Fiji
Oita Stadium, Oita Prefecture (9th Oct vs Wales)
Having already earnt an Olympic gold medal in the seven a side version of the game, there seems to be nothing that Viliame Mata can’t do on a rugby pitch. The powerful flanker hits hard in attack and defence, has deft hands for a man of his size, and his particular brand of hard running will strike fear into the heart of defences - including that of Wales who Mata goes up against at Oita Stadium. With Wales priding themselves on a rock-solid defence, Mata will have to play at his ferocious best.
Beauden Barrett – New Zealand
City of Toyota Stadium, Aichi Prefecture, Toyota City (12th Oct vs Italy)
What can you say about the 2016 and 2017 World Rugby Player of the Year that hasn’t already been said? Undoubtedly one of the greatest players to have ever graced the rugby pitch, Barrett has become talismanic to tournament favourites New Zealand. Barrett’s incredible rugby brain allows him to be equally comfortable playing at fly-half or fullback and, as you will see when he takes to the field against Italy at the City of Toyota Stadium, he is a player that can impact the game anytime, anywhere.
Manu Tuilagi – England
International Stadium Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Yokohama City (12th Oct vs France)
Nothing says rugby playing x-factor quite like an 18-stone mass of muscle and power that accelerates over 10 meters in only one and a half seconds. Players like this only come about once or twice a decade and Manu Tuilagi has all of the raw materials to prove himself as a generational talent. Whether he’s smashing gaps in defensive lines for others to exploit or dancing through bodies in broken field, Manu Tuilagi is the prototypical impact player. Now that his injury woes are behind him Tuilagi will need to be on top his game to help England beat France at the International Stadium in Yokohama and carry them through to the latter rounds.
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