Rugby World Cup 2019: Five breakthrough talents to watch in Japan

By Sports Desk September 16, 2019

The Rugby World Cup is the greatest stage in the sport and offers an incredible chance for players to make a name for themselves.

Hosts Japan and Russia will get the action underway on Friday and 24 hours later spectators will have also been treated to Australia v Fiji, France v Argentina and New Zealand v South Africa.

It promises to be a hugely entertaining tournament and we have taken a look at the young talents set to light up the competition.

 

Sevu Reece (22, New Zealand)

He only made his Crusaders debut as an injury replacement against the Chiefs in March, but Reece has already established himself as one of the most exciting wings in the world.

Reece's incredible pace and clinical finishing saw him top the Super Rugby try-scoring charts with 15 as the Crusaders won the title for the third straight year and he has touched down twice in his three appearances for the All Blacks.

Tom Curry (21, England)

Eddie Jones has long been an admirer of flanker Curry, making him the youngest player to start for England in 90 years during the tour to Argentina in 2017.

That came at the end of his breakthrough season at Sale Sharks and the back-rower has gone from strength to strength, starting all of England's Six Nations matches this year.

Romain Ntamack (20, France)

Ntamack can play at inside centre of fly-half and comes from good stock: his father Emile won 46 caps for France and was part of the side that won the Five Nations Grand Slam in 1997 and reached the World Cup final two years later.

But Romain has proved himself a promising player in his own right, winning the Six Nations and World Cup at Under-20 level in 2018 and helping Toulouse end a seven-year wait for Top 14 success last season.

Herschel Jantjies (23, South Africa)

Stormers scrum-half Jantjies wasted no time in making his mark for the Springboks, scoring a debut double against Australia in July.

Jantjies then touched down in the 80th minute to help earn a 16-16 draw against the All Blacks in his second cap - a result that proved crucial to South Africa winning the Rugby Championship for the first time in 10 years.

Rhys Carre (21, Wales)

The 6ft 3in, 20-stone prop was included in Warren Gatland's squad for Japan having only made his international debut against Ireland on August 31.

Towering front-rower Carre was in April snapped up by Premiership champions Saracens and will likely have a big impact in the breakdown, set-piece and when carrying the ball.

Related items

  • Angry Henderson slams Bulgaria boss' racism denial Angry Henderson slams Bulgaria boss' racism denial

    Jordan Henderson demanded an apology from Krasimir Balakov after the Bulgaria head coach did not offer outright condemnation of the racist abuse directed towards England players during their 6-0 Euro 2020 qualifying win in Sofia.

    Play was stopped twice before half-time during a comfortable victory for Gareth Southgate's men on Monday, with an address over the Vasil Levski National Stadium urging an end to racist chanting before a number of Bulgaria fans were removed from the ground.

    England players informed the match officials of the discriminatory behaviour and an abandonment looked possible at one stage, although Harry Kane would ultimately round out an emphatic scoreline set in motion by Marcus Rashford's blistering opener and embellished by braces from Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley.

    Henderson exchanged words with Balakov during one of the breaks in play and was aghast when he heard the 53-year-old had stated after the game that the allegations of racism must be "proven", choosing instead to criticise the behaviour of England supporters and a pre-match focus upon a potential for racist incidents.

    "I had a few words with the manager. It wasn't acceptable – something needs to be done," the Liverpool captain told Sky Sports News.

    "He needs to apologise now, really, on behalf of the team and the fans. He knows what was going on. He was asking me what the problem was.

    "When I told him he knew what was going on, it was baffling how he didn't, really. Hopefully he looks back and apologises because anyone watching that game would be disgusted really."

    England discussed whether they should resume the match at half-time and Henderson, angered by what had transpired, took pride in their unanimous response in the face of adversity.

    "I felt angry," he said. "They're my team-mates, my friends who I've known for a long time and I share a dressing room with.

    "It was shocking to see. I was so angry at one point but the game goes on, you've got to switch the focus to the football.

    "At half-time we spoke about it, we wanted to carry on. If one person said they didn't want to go out then we wouldn't have done and that would have been it.

    "But everybody's message was we wanted to make them suffer and not make them win. I felt we did that brilliantly."

  • Kick It Out demands UEFA 'show leadership' after England players receive racial abuse in Bulgaria Kick It Out demands UEFA 'show leadership' after England players receive racial abuse in Bulgaria

    Anti-racism campaigners Kick It Out has slammed UEFA for its handling of England's Euro 2020 qualifier against Bulgaria, and its previous punishments for racial abuse.

    England's 6-0 win on Monday was halted twice in the first half, with the match seemingly set to be abandoned amid chants from sections of Bulgaria's support at Vasil Levski National Stadium, which was partially shut due to previous incidents of racist abuse from some home supporters.

    Gareth Southgate's England elected to come back out for the second half, with a group of Bulgaria fans ejected from the ground during the second stoppage.

    During the first stoppage, a message was read out over the public address system – following UEFA's three-step protocol for tackling incidents of abuse at games.

    However, Kick It Out has questioned why the protocol was not followed afterwards, while criticising UEFA's attempts at tackling racism.

    "We are sickened by the disgusting racist abuse directed at England men's team tonight by Bulgaria supporters – including TV footage which appeared to show Nazi salutes and monkey noises," Kick It Out stated.

    "We applaud Gareth Southgate, his staff and players for the actions taken in reporting the abhorrent abuse, and offer our full support to the entire squad, their families and anyone affected by those appalling scenes.

    "We are encouraged that the protocol was initially enforced by the match officials, but UEFA must explain why players weren't sent to the dressing room during Step Two, as is clearly stated in the rules.

    "TV footage also clearly shows that racist abuse continued in the second half, so it is unacceptable that Step Three was not enforced. This match should have been abandoned by the officials.

    "It's now time for UEFA to step up and show some leadership. For far too long, they have consistently failed to take effective action.

    "The fact Bulgaria are already hosting this game with a partial stadium closure for racist abuse shows that UEFA's sanctions are not fit for purpose.

    "There can be no more pitiful fines or short stadium bans. If UEFA care at all about tackling discrimination – and if the Equal Game campaign means anything – then points deductions and tournament expulsion must follow."

  • Bulgaria boss Balakov 'did not hear' racist chanting Bulgaria boss Balakov 'did not hear' racist chanting

    Bulgaria head coach Krasimir Balakov claimed not to have heard racist chanting during his team's 6-0 loss to England in Sofia and accused the travelling supporters of "unacceptable" behaviour.

    Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling each hit braces as Gareth Southgate's men bounced back from defeat to the Czech Republic in style, bringing qualification for Euro 2020 within touching distance.

    But the contest was sullied by abuse directed towards some of the travelling players, which was reported to the match officials and resulted in two delays to the action before half-time.

    Before the match, Balakov accused England of having a bigger problem with racism in football than his own country, and he once again sought to share the blame after the widely condemned scenes that stained Monday's match.

    "I personally did not hear the chanting that you are most probably referring to. I saw that the referee stopped the game," he told ITV.

    "But I also have to say that the unacceptable behaviour was not only on behalf of the Bulgaria fans but also the English fans, who were whistling and shouting during the Bulgarian national anthem.

    "During the second half they used words against our fans, which I find unacceptable."

    Balakov said he felt an increased focus upon the potential of racist incidents before the game made them more likely, while he called for the abuse to be "proven" despite audible monkey chants during the contest and the spectacle of some Bulgaria fans being ejected.

    "We've had this problem ever since England were about to come to Bulgaria. All I've heard for three weeks is people talking about anything else but football," said Balakov.

    "I don't think this was the proper manner to prepare and to play a football game. For three weeks, everyone was talking about one thing.

    "If this turns out to be true, we are truly sorry and we as the Bulgarian national team and the Bulgarian Football Union are working very hard.

    "Nobody wants to see this but let me tell you that this really has not happened in our games up until now. This happened now in the England game.

    "If something can be proven then we are sorry but we cannot speak on behalf of some fans here."

    Marcus Rashford opened the scoring for England and tweeted after the match to praise Bulgaria captain Ivelin Popov for remonstrating with supporters at half-time.

    Popov's move was widely interpreted as a call for discriminatory chants to stop but Balakov told a post-match news conference he felt the Rostov midfielder was responding to complaints over a poor performance.

    "I have no idea about this. If our captain spoke to the fans it is probably because they were unhappy about the way in which the team were performing," he added.

    "The whole topic in the build-up to the game – the fans are emotional. You want me to say this and I have to say this, if something happened I'm sure it really was a small group of people who really were out of their minds because this is unacceptable… if it happened, of course."

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