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Rugby World Cup: Players to Watch

The 10th edition of the Rugby World Cup is edging ever nearer and the competing nations are putting the finishing touches on their preparations.

Injuries look to have robbed some of the game's superstars of their chance to compete at the global showpiece, but there are still some sensational specimens set to be on show.

Here are six players we have picked out to keep an eye on. Some are household names, but the World Cup always produces breakout stars and there could be at least a couple on our list.

WhatRugby Union World Cup
WhereFrance
WhenFriday 8th September - Saturday 28th October 2023
How to watchITV
OddsNew Zealand 5/2, France 3/1, South Africa 9/2, Ireland 9/2, Australia 10/1

Antoine Dupont - France

An obvious one to start with, but France captain Antoine Dupont is widely regarded as the best player on the planet.

The scrum-half fizzes his passes, kicks majestically off both feet and carries like a back-rower.
Speaking of which, his defence is so good he could probably play in the forwards, while Romain Ntamack's injury has also prompted talk of a possible move to fly-half.

Dupont's leadership skills make him the perfect captain as while brooding with intensity, his calm demeanour also ensures his team remain in control.

The 26-year-old took over the captaincy from Charles Ollivon at the start of 2022 and, with France 3/1, it would be no surprise to see him lifting the Webb Ellis Cup in Paris on Saturday 28th October.

Will Jordan - New Zealand

New Zealand have shrugged off a couple of shaky years under Ian Foster and now look to be flying, with Will Jordan often there to finish their free-flowing attacks.

Likely to start on the right wing, but also capable of playing at full-back, Jordan made his full international debut in 2020 and, after overcoming some injury issues, is now a guaranteed starter when fit.

The 25-year-old has scored 23 tries in his 24 international appearances, including two in the recent Rugby Championship where he was part of Foster's rotation system.

Concussion issues have led to his appearances being managed, but he seems certain to face France in the tournament opener and at 7/1 has a real chance of becoming the eighth Kiwi to top the tournament try-scoring charts.

Caelan Doris - Ireland

Capable of playing in all three back-row positions, Caelan Doris is likely to switch between the number six and eight shirts depending on how Ireland coach Andy Farrell chooses to use Peter O'Mahony and Jack Conan.

The 25-year-old and reigning Men's World Player of the Year Josh van der Flier play together for both Leinster and the national team and dovetail incredibly, scavenging on the floor, carrying in the loose and adding an option in the line-out.

Doris was arguably the standout player as Ireland swept to the Six Nations Grand Slam in the spring and his emergence has helped carry them to the top of the world rankings.

It is no secret that Ireland have never made it beyond the quarter-finals and their Pool B draw alongside Scotland and South Africa makes life tough, with either New Zealand or France then lurking in the last eight.

However, with the former Blackrock College back-rower at his rampaging best, they have every chance of breaking their hoodoo and are 11/8 to reach the last four.

Mark Nawaqanitawase - Australia

Anyone who has been following Australia's build-up to the World Cup will be aware that, from the outside at least, they look to be in turmoil.

Head coach Eddie Jones has jettisoned several of the more experienced players at his disposal and is set to put his faith in youth, with Mark Nawaqanitawase a player who could shine.

The Waratahs winger shot to fame by scoring twice as the Wallabies beat Wales in Cardiff last autumn and combines a 6ft 4in frame with a graceful stride and sharp handling.

Nawaqanitawase is 22/1 to be crowned the tournament's top try-scorer and will need to hit the ground running if Australia are to emerge from a competitive Pool C which also features Wales, Georgia and Fiji.

Jac Morgan - Wales

It will be a similar story for Jac Morgan, who looks set to emulate Sam Warburton by being parachuted in as a relative rookie to captain Wales from openside flanker at a World Cup.

Morgan looks like something of a throw-back, with his powerful stocky figure reminiscent of the great opensides of old, but he punches above his weight when carrying and is also useful in the line-out.

Like Nawaqanitawase, Morgan also scored a brace of tries in that defeat to Australia and seems at his best when the chips are down, having done the same in Wales' shock defeat to Georgia earlier in November 2022.

With Fiji and the Wallabies waiting, Warren Gatland's new-look side have their work cut out in France, but Morgan's presence helps their 5/2 chances of winning Pool C.

Rodrigo Fernandez - Chile

Finally, a left-field choice, but Rodrigo Fernandez has perhaps only been prevented from prominence due to his country opting to keep their players together ahead of the World Cup rather than allowing them to move to Europe.

Comfortable at both fly-half and full-back, the 27-year-old won the award for the Men's World Rugby Try of the Year in 2022 for his touchdown in Chile's qualifying win against the United States last July.

Fernandez combines pace, balance and creativity, attributes Chile will need if he is to spark anything behind a pack that is likely to be going backwards against the likes of England, Argentina and Samoa in Pool D.

World Cups often uncover rough diamonds from the smaller nations and the Selknam star might well be hot property come the end of this tournament.

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