Rugby World Cup 2019: Toner, Franks and the stars not touching down in Japan

By Sports Desk September 17, 2019

The world's best are converging on Japan for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, where New Zealand will hope to again defend their title.

But with only 31 players able to be selected by each team, a number of notable names have not made the cut this year.

We take a look at five who might count themselves unfortunate not to be involved in the sport's biggest event.


Devin Toner (Ireland)

Ireland have not quite hit the same heights this year as in 2018 when they won the Six Nations Grand Slam and defeated the All Blacks, yet they have no shortage of options. The inclusion of Jean Kleyn, recently eligible due to the residency rule, has seen Devin Toner miss out.

Remarkably, that law and Joe Schmidt's decision resulted in criticism from World Rugby vice-president Agustin Pichot, who posted on Twitter: "I will be asking WR [World Rugby] for answers. I feel sorry for [Toner]."

Schmidt responded: "I think [Pichot] has a number of big opinions, but they're not ones that are relevant for us. Considering he is involved in World Rugby, he could have a look at what the rules were and not have so many things to say because for us it is tough enough to do our job and tough enough for me to have a conversation as I did with Dev."


Ben Te'o (England)

With some key men fit again and available, experienced centre Ben Te'o paid the price.

Head coach Eddie Jones was understandably questioned on the decision and explained: "I'm not going to go into reasons why he wasn't selected. We've had conversations; he understands it. Whether he agrees with it is another matter. We've had that discussion with him and he's just not in our top 31 players at the moment."

Te'o will instead be plying his trade with Toulon during the tournament, having been called in as cover for their World Cup stars.


Owen Franks (New Zealand)

Not many teams have the luxury of leaving out a 31-year-old with 108 Tests to his name. But not many teams have the depth of New Zealand, unfortunately for Owen Franks.

Franks had started each of the past two World Cup finals, playing the full 80 minutes in the 2011 triumph over France, but will not feature in the All Blacks' latest title defence.

Steve Hansen, who also left out Ngani Laumape, said: "[Franks] is one of the great All Blacks, he's played over 100 Tests. But unfortunately we believe the game requires us to have big, mobile ones and threes and, in this case, we think the other guys are more so. It was a tough decision."


Mathieu Bastareaud (France)

France named their initial World Cup squad in June and, while there were changes before the final selection was confirmed, Mathieu Bastareaud was not given the opportunity to force his way back into the side.

Bastareaud was Les Bleus' vice-captain as recently as the Six Nations, but his role in an underwhelming campaign appeared to count against him when coach Jacques Brunel named a youthful group.

Morgan Parra and Teddy Thomas missed out, too, although Brunel insisted Fabien Galthie, who will take over as coach following the tournament, had no role in the decisions.


Rob Evans (Wales)

Loosehead prop Rob Evans was one of the stars of Wales' Six Nations Grand Slam campaign this year but, along with Samson Lee, did not do enough to make Warren Gatland's 31-man squad.

It appears injury issues counted against Scarlets star Evans, who has played 36 Tests, although he is fit again following a shoulder operation at the end of last season.

Gatland explained Wales were preferring more "durable" options, saying: "Rob hasn't trained a lot in the lead up to the warm-up matches. He came in with a shoulder injury, then he's picked up a neck injury and a couple of back issues. Rob hadn't played a lot."

Related items

  • Mings handed debut as Southgate rings changes for Bulgaria v England Mings handed debut as Southgate rings changes for Bulgaria v England

    Tyrone Mings will make his international debut in England's Euro 2020 qualifier against Bulgaria in Sofia.

    The Aston Villa centre-back has been selected ahead of Everton's Michael Keane, with England boss Gareth Southgate ringing the changes after Friday's surprise 2-1 loss to the Czech Republic.

    Ben Chilwell comes in at left-back for the suspended Danny Rose, whose Tottenham team-mate Harry Winks will operate at the base of the midfield as Declan Rice drops to the bench.

    Southgate has turned to two relatively more experienced heads in the form of Ross Barkley and Marcus Rashford, who replace Mason Mount and Jadon Sancho respectively.

  • F1 Raceweek: The joy of six - how Mercedes broke constructors' record F1 Raceweek: The joy of six - how Mercedes broke constructors' record

    It was only a matter of time before Mercedes broke Ferrari's record by sealing a sixth consecutive Formula One constructors' titles.

    The Silver Arrows were celebrating yet again after achieving that feat at the Japanese Grand Prix, where Valtteri Bottas took the chequered flag ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton finished third.

    Mercedes have held the title since dethroning Red Bull in 2014, dominating the sport with Hamilton winning four titles during that time and standing on the brink of another this season.

    We look back on the level of dominance the Brackley-based team have enjoyed.

     

    2014 - A sign of things to come

    Red Bull had taken the title for four years in a row before Mercedes ended that sequence in 2014.

    Hamilton claimed his second world title - and his first for the team - ahead of colleague Nico Rosberg and the Silver Arrows duo amassed 701 points to win by a margin of 296.

    They won 16 races and secured 31 podium finishes in a dominant season which was the sign of things to come.

     

    2015 - More of the same with a marginal gain

    Mercedes bettered their tally for the season by two points as Hamilton retained his title, Rosberg once again runner-up.

    They matched the number of victories secured in 2014, as well as the incredible total of 18 poles for the campaign.

    There was an additional podium finish for the back-to-back constructors' champions by 275 points ahead of Ferrari as rivals were left trailing in their wake.

     

    2016 - Rosberg reigns as Mercedes move to another level

    The Silver arrows took their dominance to another level in 2016, winning 19 of 21 races. 

    While Mercedes were never in danger of losing their constructors' title, finishing 297 points better off than Red Bull, Hamilton and Rosberg fought it out in an enthralling battle for the drivers' crown.

    It was Rosberg who came out on top on this occasion by just five points and the German retired after a season that saw Mercedes fail to secure pole only once and amass 33 podiums.

     

    2017 - New line-up, no let-up

    A new driver line-up did not stop Mercedes from adding another constructors' title to their haul two years ago.

    Normal service was resumed as Hamilton regained the title, denying Vettel by 46 points with Bottas third in the standings after taking Rosberg's seat.

    There were 12 wins, 15 poles and 26 podium finishes for Mercedes in 2017 as Ferrari were more competitive, although the Scuderia were still as many as 146 points adrift of the constructors' champions.

     

    2018 - Ferrari close the gap, but Mercedes clean up again

    A promising start for Vettel and Ferrari last season proved to be a false down as Hamilton claimed his fifth world title.

    Ferrari finished with 84 points fewer than Mercedes as Hamilton and Bottas took the chequered flag 11 times between them.

    Mercedes were not quite as prolific in qualifying, taking pole 13 times as their points tally was down at 655 from 668 12 months earlier.

     

    2019 - Six of the best

    With four races remaining Mercedes already have one title in the bag, with Hamilton closing in on another.

    A win for Bottas in Suzuka and Hamilton's third place has the champions on 612 to Ferrari's 433.

    Mercedes have only failed to win five of 17 races, which makes for grim reading for their rivals.

  • Rugby World Cup 2019: Hansen 'quite happy' All Blacks avoided in-form Japan Rugby World Cup 2019: Hansen 'quite happy' All Blacks avoided in-form Japan

    Steve Hansen is "quite happy" to see Japan on the opposite side of the draw to New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup - but knows Ireland will be a tough test in the quarter-finals.

    Tournament hosts Japan qualified for the knockout stages for the first time in their history, Sunday's hard-fought victory over Scotland also seeing them finish top of Pool A.

    The 28-21 result means the Brave Blossoms next face South Africa, who were second in Pool B, rather than New Zealand, with the two-time reigning champions instead going up against Ireland. 

    Pleased to avoid one of the in-form teams still left standing, Hansen praised the way Japan's players had lifted their nation after the devastation caused by Typhoon Hagibis.

    "Without a doubt they'd have to be considered like they are playing and performing like a Tier One nation," the All Blacks head coach told the media. 

    "They're now in the top eight in the world on performance and they're playing quality rugby, so I think Japan should be very, very proud of them.

    "What a marvellous thing for the tournament, you know they've given the game a boost I think, they've given Japan Rugby a boost, and they've given the Japan people a boost after what was a pretty horrific weekend.

    "People have said, 'Who do you want to play?' Well, they're the on-form team, so I'm quite happy they're on the other side of the draw."

    New Zealand hardly have it easy in the last eight, though, as they go up against opponents who topped the world rankings prior to the World Cup.

    Ireland have also won two of the three previous meetings between the teams, including a 16-9 triumph in Dublin when they met in November 2018.

    "Obviously we're facing Ireland so we know that, that's the best part, we know who we're playing," Hansen said. "They're a quality side, they've been number one this year.

    "I think their last three results are loss-win-loss [for New Zealand] - there won't be any complacency in their camp, so it's pretty exciting. We're right where we want to be.

    "We enjoy playing them and that doesn't change because they've beaten us a couple of times.

    "A lot of people are getting caught up in the past, it's about what's going to happen on Saturday that is going to matter, anything that's happened prior to that is irrelevant."

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.