Rugby World Cup 2019 preview: ones to watch

By Sam Blitz, Willis Bennett, Rhys Noye-Allen and Jack Francklin
September 19 2019, 15.45

Jacob Stockdale (Ireland)

Ireland winger Jacob Stockdale (pictured above) has developed into one of the world’s top backs since his international debut in 2017. Holding the record for the highest number of tries (7) in a Six Nations tournament, which he set in 2018, the 23-year-old comes into this World Cup in red-hot form having registered two tries in the recent warm-up fixture against Wales. Stockdale can run at a top speed of 9.97 meters/second, outlining the devastating impact he can have on a game. 

Ellis Genge (England)

At 113kg, Leicester’s 24-year-old loosehead prop has been named in Eddie Jones’s 31-man squad despite England’s vast front-row depth and versatility. Genge has accumulated eight caps since his international debut in 2015 and his powerful ball-carrying ability is likely to be under-studied by England’s opponents. Considering Mako Vunipola’s recent hamstring injury, Genge’s performances, whether as a starter or from the bench, could be critical to England’s chances of clean, front-foot ball from which to launch their explosive backline.

George Bridge (New Zealand)

New Zealand’s final warm-up game saw them dispatch Tonga 92-7, with left winger George Bridge scoring four tries – drawing comparison with fellow countyman Marc Ellis who holds the record for the most tries in an international match with six – and running 236 metres in the process. His frightening and timely performance, backed up by his impressive display against the Wallabies in August earlier this year, all but secures his starting place for the Kiwis’ World Cup opener against South Africa this Saturday.

Michael Leitch (Japan)

Michael Leitch is one of Japan’s all-time greats despite not being a household name across England. The Japan captain was born in New Zealand and moved to Japan aged 15, making his debut five years later. Operating at number eight, Leitch has been integral to the Cherry Blossoms’ recent World Cup successes, with the 30-year-old’s finest moment coming at the 2015 World Cup, where he scored the opening try in a shock victory over South Africa.

Dan Biggar (Wales)

Despite playing a pivotal role in Wales’ journey to the quarterfinals in the 2015 World Cup, fly-half Dan Biggar has come under intense scrutiny for his performances ever since. His situation has not been helped by the fine form of fellow Welsh number 10s Gareth Anscombe and Rhys Patchell. Yet an injury to Anscombe which has ruled him out of the tournament means Biggar’s kicking could be crucial to Cyrmu’s chances once again. His man-of-the-match performance in Wales’ warm-up win over England shows exactly what the 29-year-old is capable of.

Feature image credit: Raymond Acheson.

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