The Rugby World Cup will showcase the best talent the globe has to offer but a growing number of players will be unavailable due to eligibility rules or are unlikely to be picked for a trip to Japan.
With that in mind, RugbyPass has compiled the best of the World Cup-rejects that could make a deep run in Japan if pulled together to create a ‘World XV’ for the showpiece event.
15. Charles Piutau (New Zealand)
The world’s highest paid player would be a lock for the 15-jersey. Unable to make a switch of allegiance to Tonga ahead of the World Cup, Piutau would be one of the first picked here. At 27-years-old, the former All Black is the prime of his career and deserves the chance to shine on the big stage.
14. Simon Zebo (Ireland)
Racing’s Irish import is in scintillating form in Paris, notching 12 tries in 20 appearances for his new club. However, with Ireland adopting a hard stance on eligibility for overseas players, Zebo’s phone hasn’t been ringing. His electric play would fit nicely on the end of this ‘World XV’ backline.
13. Malakai Fekitoa (New Zealand)
Another ex-All Black currently plying his trade in Toulon, Fekitoa would be a boom pick to fill the 13 jersey of this team. His aggressive defence would cause opposition fits and his undoubted attacking firepower would ignite this star-studded backline. At 26-years-old, the former Highlander would surely be on the radar of Steve Hansen’s World Cup squad had he remained in New Zealand, but unfortunately, we won’t be seeing him in Japan.
12. Jan Serfontein (South Africa)
The former Springbok midfielder would bring trademark ‘Bok’ physicality for our midfield and offer outside support for the 10 channel in defence. The 2012 World Rugby Junior Player of the Year has been exiled in France since 2017 when he joined Montpellier and despite Rassie Erasmus relaxing the rules of overseas-based players, the former Blue Bull hasn’t been involved with the Springboks yet. He will be an unlikely omission but could join this side.
11. James O’Connor (Australia)
The youngest ever debutant in Super Rugby doesn’t quite have the same explosive agility as he did in his younger days, but James O’Connor still possesses experience at the highest level and a desire to one day play internationally again. The former Wallaby with 44-caps was at one stage one of the best wingers in the world, and is now playing for Sale Sharks in the Premiership as a utility back. With Castle not keen to relax the Giteau-law, O’Connor won’t be flying Qantas to Japan with the Wallabies squad. Santiago Cordero (Argentina) would also be in the squad to cover the wing position.
10. Danny Cipriani (England)
The form flyhalf of the Premiership in recent years, Gloucester’s Danny Cipriani is on the outer of Eddie’s World Cup plans. The mercurial playmaker made a return on the tour of South Africa but hasn’t been seen since. With six months to go until England’s opening match, unless injury strikes we probably won’t be seeing ‘golden wrists’ in the land of the rising sun. With a backline full of weapons, Cipriani is the best 10 to set them free. Former All Black Lima Sopoaga could back-up Cipriani and get the call-up if Cipriani gets the call-up.
9. Nic White (Australia)
The former Brumbies halfback is plying his trade at Exeter Chiefs, and like O’Connor doesn’t have enough caps to be called upon by Michael Cheika. That doesn’t mean the former Wallaby isn’t in form though, with White himself saying he’s found his best form of his career in the North. With Cipriani offering playmaking, a halfback like White can handle the exit kicks with his accurate box-kicking. We would also take Bryn Hall of the Crusaders who doesn’t seem to be in the All Blacks plans.
8. Steven Luatua (New Zealand)
Another Bristol Kiwi ex-pat, former All Black Steven Luatua is a diverse loose forward that can play blindside or at the back at 8. When he is on form, Luatua possesses great skills along with strong carrying making him a dynamic pick for this World XV pack.
7. Liam Gill (Australia)
A few rate Liam Gill as the best openside in Australia, even more rate him as the second best. Gill is a seven who is brilliant over the ball in a fetcher role and can provide a lineout jumping option, as well as having good hands and passing skills. If required he could even offer a drop goal option in tight games. At 26, he is in his career prime but never made a debut for the Wallabies. We would also give Sam Warburton a call and tell him he wouldn’t have to captain to sweeten the deal.
6. Sean McMahon (Australia)
One of the more damaging ball carriers you will find in World Rugby. The 24-year-old was just hitting his straps at the Rebels before shocking all and signing with Suntory in the Top League. His decision to stay on and sign with the Sunwolves all but ruled out his chances of playing in the World Cup and is now dealing with a long injury lay-off. If he is fit in time, he is a definite pick at 6.
5. Jonny Hill (England)
The young Exeter lock will probably play at the World Cup at some stage, potentially in 2023 for England. At 24-years-old he is old enough to play with the big boys, despite not making an international debut yet. He was picked in Eddie Jones’ squad for the South Africa tour last year but with Courtney Lawes, Joe Launchbury, George Kruis and Maro Itoje all ahead of Hill in the pecking order, it is unlikely he will be there in 2019. If Jones won’t use him, we will.
4. Will Skelton (Wallabies)
The former Waratah and now pin-up boy for weight-loss through rugby, Will Skelton is in fine form for Saracens in the Premiership. His reduced body size has added mobility and work rate to his game, while he still has the ability to do everything he did before, just more of it. He won’t be picked by Cheika due to the Giteau-law so Skelton is a great fit for our World XV second row.
3. Joe Marler (England)
The Harlequins prop has retired from international rugby which means he won’t be playing in Japan. He qualifies for this team on that basis, so if we can convince him to join the World XV, Marler will play prop for us.
2. Bismark Du Plessis (South Africa)
The 34-year-old Springbok with 79-caps has all the experience needed to anchor this pack. He also brings World Cup-winning experience to our team, having won in 2007 and knows what it takes to beat the All Blacks. The hooker is still currently playing with Montpellier in the Top 14 but doesn’t seem to be in Rassie’s plans. He was named in his squad last year but withdrew mysteriously with injury. He last played for the Boks at the 2015 World Cup.
1. Etienne Falgoux (France)
The Clermont prop is an underrated asset that has performed well in the Top 14. The 26-year-old recently won his first French cap coming off the bench against Scotland. Given that France will continue to do French things, who knows whether he will get another one anytime soon. If Falgoux does indeed make the French squad, we will call on his club teammate, the ‘Tongan Bear’ Loni Uhila, the former Hurricane.
Coach – Previous World Cup-winners Jake White/Graham Henry or for a younger option without international experience yet, Dave Rennie or Scott Robertson who both have two Super Rugby titles.
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