With the Japan Rugby World Cup less than a month away Robert Rees looks at the Tier Two nations’ players to see who you should keep an eye on. Here are the ten Tier Two players you must look out for.
Rugby World Cup – The Key Men
Japan – Michael Leitch
Japan’s leader. Their guts in the pack is led by one man, Leitch. Leitch has spent most of his playing career in Super Rugby at the Chiefs and Sunwolves following a spell at Toshiba Brave Lupus.
An experienced man, with nearly 70 caps to his name. His international debut came back in 2008 and he quickly established himself in the side. A man of the match performance against Tonga back in the 2011 World Cup sealing the approval.
Never afraid to carry or do the dirty work he very much goes about his business under the radar. It Could be his final World Cup outing, aged 30, but he’ll give his all even if Japan crash out of their own championship.
Russia – Vladimir Ostroushko
The powerful wing/centre has been at the heart of the Russian attacks for over a decade.
He has scored 25 tries in 47 tests, two of which came against Italy and Australia in New Zealand in 2011.
With plenty of experience under his belt he’ll lead by example and cause the so-called ‘smaller’ nations trouble, maybe even the top dogs too.
He’s played all his domestic rugby within Russia so he won’t have much scouting done on him and will add a cutting-edge thrill to the Russian attack.
Samoa – Johnny Vaili
Having represented his country on the Sevens circuit prior to his call-up to the full xv game, Vaili has made a name for himself as a potent finisher.
Within the top 10 try scorers on the Sevens circuit last season, he’ll no doubt prove a dangerous man to the opposition.
Despite his leanness for a man standing nearly two metres tall he maintains an agility and offloading game that’ll keep the Samoan attack going.
Canada – Tyler Ardron
Known to northern hemisphere fans for his spell at the Ospreys, his latest trade has been plied in Super Rugby with the Chiefs.
An uncompromising back row forward that loves to carry and does so capably. Breaking the gainline and outmuscling defenders is his forte.
His experience of playing at a World Cup will no doubt come in handy for a side who have never missed out on World Cup qualification.
Namibia – Johan Deysel
Namibia may fall short in the bookies at 7500/1 but they don’t fall short in power when it comes to Deysel.
Leading the attack at centre, he can be remembered for scoring their only try against the All Blacks in the 2015 World Cup.
He’s the spark in their attack and doesn’t mind if he has to go over or around a player.
Tonga – Sonatane Takalua
A livewire for Newcastle despite their relegation from the Gallagher Premiership. A direct scrum half who mixes it up. A quicker deliverer of the ball, equally at ease running it in close quarters as he is chipping it into space.
If he can get enough clean ball from his forwards then Tonga have a chance to pose a threat to USA, France and Argentina within their pool.
He’ll be one of the key Tongan players at the Japan Rugby World Cup.
USA – Joe Taufete’e
The 26-year old hooker came into the light of professional rugby when he signed for English side Worcester Warriors in 2016.
A mobile hooker who holds the US set piece together is definitely someone American fans will want to see have a good World Cup and remain fit throughout.
Known for his try scoring ability, he has 20 tries in just 22 tests, just four short of the national record. Despite his mobility he can also mix it up in the tight and isn’t afraid to get stuck in when the going gets tough.
Fiji – Semi Radradra
A former Fiji and Australia rugby league international Radradra has hosted his senior union career in France with Toulon and Bordeaux.
Famed for scoring within 62 seconds into his Toulon debut and was then selected for the Barbarians against England in 2018. His elongated muscular frame allows him to carry the ball seamlessly in one hand, drawing in multiple defenders to ensure the attack is nullified.
One of Fiji’s many dangermen but could prove the vital cog in the works when it gets to synchronising their attack.
Georgia – Mikheil Nariashvili
He didn’t appear in this year’s Rugby Europe Championship as the Georgian coaches elected to blood some youth into their squad, but rest assured this man is their starting loosehead.
With over 130 appearances for Montpellier in the French Top14 he has bags of experience and there’s a reason England called in Georgia for some scrum practice – because of men like Nariashvili.
A key man in the Georgian scrum that were number one back in 2015, he’ll be looking to emulate that feat once again at the Japan Rugby World Cup.
Uruguay – Santiago Arata
He’ll be 23 by the start of the World Cup but what a promising talent he’s already proven to be for Uruguay.
A pinpoint accurate pass, and darting run makes him one of the deadliest scrum halves in the southern hemisphere.
He’ll look to excite fans and trouble the opposition as Uruguay look to add to their two previous World Cup wins, in 11 previous encounters.
He can and will create something out of nothing, just ask Major League Rugby followers, where he plays for Houston SaberCats.
“Main photo credit”