Eight players to watch in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals

first_img0Shares0000Fly-half George Ford has shone for England so far at the World Cup © AFP / CHARLY TRIBALLEAUTOKYO, Japan, Oct 15 – Eight stand-out players from the Rugby World Cup quarter-finalists, ahead of this weekend’s games:– England: George Ford – For a time in his Test career and even as recently as this year’s Six Nations, it seemed Ford was set to be cast as back-up fly-half to his childhood friend Owen Farrell.But the World Cup has seen England coach Eddie Jones revert to the double playmaker pairing of Ford at fly-half and Farrell at inside centre, with Manu Tuilagi holding the defensive line outside the England captain when not driving forward in attack.Ford, a sound distributor if not a spectacular passer, is more than just a member of a trio, however.He also has an excellent kicking game, used to good effect to keep England on the front foot in their pool win over Argentina after the Pumas had Tomas Lavanini sent off.And that aspect of Ford’s play was also in evidence when, with Farrell starting on the bench, he captained England to an earlier pool victory over the United States.– Australia: Samu Kerevi –Samu Kerevi against Manu Tuilagi could just be one of those key match-ups that decides next week’s World Cup quarter-final between England and Australia.Australia centre Samu Kerevi is a serious threat with his ball-carrying © AFP / William WESTWhile the Wallabies pack attempts to get to grips with a monstrous England eight, Wallabies inside centre Kerevi has the explosiveness to cause the men in white real concern.The battering-ram midfielder has already raised the stakes by dismissing England’s six-game winning run against the Aussies, which dates back four years.While some would question the wisdom of riling up bitter rivals England, Wallabies vice-captain Kerevi carries a serious threat with his powerful ball-carrying.Australia’s famed ‘Super Pooper’ combo of Michael Hooper and David Pocock will be pivotal to Australia’s hopes in Oita of course.But fuelled by a sense of injustice after being penalised for a raised elbow in the loss to Wales — after which he accused rugby of “going soft” — Kerevi could prove to be Australia’s danger man.– New Zealand: Beauden Barrett –There was much talk before the World Cup about Barrett’s move to fullback, to accommodate a double playmaker partnership with Richie Mo’unga, but it hasn’t been working too badly so far.New Zealand’s Beauden Barrett has switched seamlessly from fly-half to fullback © AFP / GABRIEL BOUYSDespite being shifted from his familiar position at fly-half, the two-time World Player of the Year remains the key cog for the All Blacks, moving at will between the two positions to ensure a maximum contribution in both attack and defence.Barrett was a threat with ball in hand and tenacious in defence as they combined seamlessly for New Zealand’s impressive 23-13 win over South Africa, which re-established the defending champions as favourites in Japan.However, New Zealand were barely tested in run-outs against Canada and Namibia, and their last pool match against Italy was cancelled because of Typhoon Hagibis, leaving them slightly under-done ahead of Saturday’s game against Ireland.Barrett, like his brothers and fellow squad members Scott and Jordie, will, however, have to play the Irish just days after the funeral of their grandfather Ted, who passed away unexpectedly at the weekend.– Ireland: Jonny Sexton –The current World Rugby player of the year scored a brace of tries as Ireland overcame Samoa 47-5 in their final match of a tight Pool A that saw Japan top after victory over Scotland.Johnny Sexton is the key man for Ireland © AFP / CHRISTOPHE SIMONSexton has had his injury problems this year but he will need to be back to his very best against the All Blacks come the weekend. In his prime, the 34-year-old is the consummate playmaker, working with half-back partner Conor Murray to dictate a game.An adept kicker from the hand or at goal, Sexton might have lost a yard or two in pace, but more than makes up for that in his nous around the park, something Ireland will be desperate for when they take on the defending champions in Tokyo.– Wales: Gareth Davies –Scrum-half Davies has been a significant factor in Wales’ perfect four-from-four record at the World Cup so far, and will play a vital role if they are to go deeper in the competition.Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies is a major threat with ball in hand © AFP / CHRISTOPHE SIMONAs well as his kicking game and sharp work behind the forwards, Davies presents a major try threat with his pace and eye for a chance — as his scoring record shows.The 29-year-old totted up five tries at the 2015 World Cup, just one off Shane Williams’ Welsh record set in 2007 and third in the tournament’s try-scoring list behind New Zealand’s Julian Savea and Nehe Milner-Skudder.He has been at it again in Japan, crossing twice so far including his 60-metre interception try in Wales’s 29-25 victory over Australia in Pool D, when he was named man of the match. Davies also scored late in Wales’ 35-13 win over Uruguay to take his World Cup tally to seven in nine games.– France: Virimi Vakatawa –After a year of Test exile, Vakatawa was only called into the World Cup squad when Geoffrey Doumayrou was ruled out with injury, but the 27-year-old Fiji-born centre has made his presence felt at Japan 2019.Centre Virimi Vakatawa has been recalled by France after a year of Test exile © AFP / CHRISTOPHE SIMONHe made some strong runs as well as displaying fine footwork to set up Gael Fickou for a try in a tense 23-21 win over Argentina that saw France avoid a morale-shattering defeat in their opening pool match.He then got on the scoresheet himself with a try as France beat Tonga by the same scoreline.Originally a wing, Vakatawa was converted to a centre by Laurent Labit, his coach at Paris-based Racing 92.While his pace and power are typical of a Pacific island player, what sets the try-scoring midfielder apart is his ability to link up with his support players.– Japan: Michael Leitch –It’s hard to overstate how much Japan would have missed captain Michael Leitch had he not recovered from a groin injury in time for the World Cup.Michael Leitch has led Japan from the front © AFP / Adrian DENNISA one-man wrecking crew, the rampaging flanker has been the inspiration as the hosts made history by topping Pool A to reach the quarter-finals for the first time.Japan coach Jamie Joseph actually dropped Leitch to the bench for the Ireland game in a canny ploy that — as planned — sent his talismanic leader into a rage.It was no coincidence the Brave Blossoms stormed back to pull off an upset 19-12 win after he came off the bench on the half-hour mark hell-bent on proving a point.In last weekend’s crunch decider against Scotland, Leitch again led by example — smashing into opponents, barking orders to team-mates and all the while exuding calm as Japan hung on for a famous win.Worth his weight in gold.– South Africa: RG Snyman –With his shaggy hair and unkempt beard, South African lock RG Snyman is instantly recognisable but there seemed to be three of him at times in his man-of-the-match run against Canada.RG Snyman (C) has been described as a ‘lock-cum-centre’ in the South African press © AFP / Filippo MONTEFORTEHe made an astonishing 17 tackles and was a handful with his carries, one rampaging run in the second half leading to a stunning Springbok try.Standing 6ft 10in (206 cm) and weighing more than 18 stones (117 kilos), he was imperious in the line-out and displayed athleticism and handling skills that belied his physical stature, being hailed in the South African press as a “lock-cum-centre”.He faces stiff competition for a place in the Springbok starting XV from Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert but would make a ferocious impact off the bench as a substitute.Known as the “lumberjack” for his backwoodsman appearance, Snyman said he had hugely enjoyed getting the ball in some space but denied he had suffered physically.Asked how his legs were at the man-of-match presentation, Snyman joked: “I’m still pretty fresh. I think I’m going to get on the bike now.”0Shares0000(Visited 17 times, 1 visits today)last_img read more

Premier League injury round up: Who’s back and who will be missing this weekend

first_img 1. Manchester City’s David Silva – read the latest injury update, below, then click the arrow above to find out more Premier League injury news, post-international break – Silva has been side-lined since the beginning of October after suffering an ankle injury while on international duty in Spain’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Luxembourg. According to reports, the attacking midfielder is one of two players targeting a return to action for the Citizens’ clash with Liverpool this weekend – which is live on talkSPORT. While Manuel Pellegrini’s men have still picked up the points in the absence of Silva, maintaining their position at the top of the Premier League table, his return will no doubt lift the club’s mood even further. 8. Jordan Amavi – Aston Villa – The Claret and Blue defender is sadly set to miss the remainder of the season with a cruciate knee ligament injury suffered while playing for France’s Under-21s. Amavi has made 12 appearances for the Lions this term, and will have given new manager Rémi Garde a real selection headache. His absence could force the club into signing a new left-back in January. 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 3. Sergio Aguero – Manchester City – In what has become a far too familiar picture for Citizens supporters, Aguero limped off the pitch holding his left hamstring in Argentina’s 2-0 defeat to Ecuador in the previous international break. The striker, therefore, has not kicked a ball in the Premier League since he scored five goals in the 6-1 demolition of Newcastle United at the beginning of October. However, there is good news, as, like David Silva, the 27-year-old is targeting a return in City’s next game versus Liverpool. And his return is one that the top flight’s top four contenders will be fearful of – particularly if he can continue where he left off. 8 2. Daniel Sturridge – Liverpool – It was hugely disappointing for Liverpool supporters when Sturridge was ruled out through injury in Jurgen Klopp’s first game in charge against Tottenham Hotspur almost one month ago. He hasn’t yet featured under the German, but that could all change this weekend. The England international returned to full training on Tuesday afternoon, and could therefore feature against Manchester City on Saturday evening. From Sergio Aguero to Daniel Sturridge, the Premier League has seen a number of top players fall to injury this season.And there are plenty of absentees who could have very well have had an influence on positioning at the top – and bottom – of the table. With the international break having now passed, talkSPORT has provided an update on eight players from England’s top flight who have received contrasting news.Read an update, and more, on their recovery progress by clicking the yellow arrow above, right. 4. Jordan Henderson – Liverpool – Henderson got the new season off to a nightmare start, limping off with a foot problem in the victory over AFC Bournemouth in the Reds’ second game of the campaign. A further setback in training two months’ ago, in which he broke his fifth metatarsal, has seen him sidelined ever since. As with teammate Daniel Sturridge, Henderson could be back in action when the Premier League returns this weekend – in what will be music to the ears of Jurgen Klopp. Liverpool have missed their captain in the centre of the park, and it will be interesting to see how he slots into Klopp’s midfield. 7. Anthony Martial – Manchester United – In another blow for the Red Devils, Martial left Wembley Stadium on crutches after hobbling off towards the end of France’s defeat to England. It’s likely that this will have been only as a precaution, but he is a doubt for United’s clash with Watford on Saturday afternoon. With limited options in attack for Louis van Gaal, the 19-year-old could be sorely missed and supporters will hope that his injury is not serious. 5. Leighton Baines – Everton – The Toffees left-back has spent the past six months in the recovering room following two separate ankle operations, but is closing in on his return having played 90 minutes in a behind-closed-doors friendly victory over Preston last week. This is excellent news for both Roberto Martinez and, in particular, Roy Hodgson. With it difficult to predict Luke Shaw’s return to fitness after breaking his leg, left-back has become a problematic position for Hodgson ahead of next summer’s Euro 2016 competition. However, Brendan Galloway has excelled in his absence on Merseyside, and Baines has a fight on his hands to push the 19-year-old out of Martinez’s starting line up. 6. Michael Carrick – Manchester United – The England midfielder was stretchered off in the Three Lions’ defeat to Spain after twisting his right ankle, which will have immensely frustrated Louis van Gaal. Carrick, however, is said to have avoided a lengthy lay-off and he could be back in a few weeks’ time. last_img read more