YESTERDAY, WE BROUGHT you the ugly mugs who will decide who wins what at the World Cup next month. Here are the guys who’ll determine by how much (and make it enjoyable for the rest of us who don’t call the bottom of a ruck home).
With all due respect to Conor Murray and Ruan Pienaar, New Zealand’s diminutive distributor is the world’s best scrum-half at present.
Aaron Smith (we’ll get into the habit of calling him by his full name due to the three non-related Smiths likely to start in a black jersey) provides his back-line with service on a silver platter and gives his forwards plenty of respite with a clever and varied kicking game. But it’s his explosive pace that makes him a cut above other nines. That awesome acceleration ensures defensive pillars don’t get a moment’s piece..
Arguably the most powerful winger in international rugby, George North is a threat every team has to come up with a specialised plan for.
Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images
In 2011, he was just a 19-year-old setting a new record as youngest try-scorer at the World Cup. This year, after a troublesome six months, he is in his prime and itching to unleash his power, speed and athleticism on the rugby field.
Unfortunately, the concussion problems he has endured this season are still not fully behind North. The Northampton wing has yet to formally complete his return to play protocols and has been ruled out of Wales’ opening warm-up Test with Ireland. That said, the coaching staff have expressed hope that he will be fit for the return meeting in Dublin at the end of the month.
Willie Le Roux
While Bryan Habana remains a major factor in South Africa’s wide channels, his try-scoring threat and eye for an intercept are of lesser importance than Le Roux (who set up this try for the Toulon man against Wales in 2014).