There’s an incredible amount of talent at the World Cup that I find it hard to narrow it down to just five players, but these are the players I think could have big tournaments.
1. Mike Brown – England
With Israel Dagg out injured, Mike Brown () and Israel Folau are the two best full-backs on display in the World Cup. I know how hard he works with the coaches and what his mindset is like. His will can’t be broken and he showed that against Fiji when England were under pressure. He picked them up off the floor and led by example.
It’s an opportunity for Browny to cement himself as one of the best full-backs in the world. His decision making is incredible. You know that when there’s an offload he’ll give it, if there’s a run on he’ll do it, if there’s a support run he’ll make it. We saw it in the opening game against Fiji and if he keeps that up, he can give England the edge in tight games.
2. Anthony Watson – England
Through what I’ve seen in training and getting to know him in training, Anthony Watson () is a fantastic player. As an athlete he could do anything. If he wanted to go into the NFL like Jarryd Haynes he could. He’s very quick, light on his feet, has amazing footwork and he’s very strong.
He’s still young and will only get better, but he’s very mature. He’s thriving under the management of Stuart Lancaster and this World Cup could single him out on the world stage.
3. Israel Folau – Australia
Folau ()was brilliant in the Lions tour when he made his debut for the Wallabies. Every time he puts on the Australian shirt on everyone sees how much of a threat he is. His try in the first Test proved that. His aerial abilities are incredible and and his kicking is underrated. He spent time in the AFL and it’s a big threat to the opposition. He looks so comfortable with the ball in hand and when you combine that with his speed and movement, you got something very special.
4. Nehe Milner-Skudder – New Zealand
YouTube this guy and look up his highlight reel. Milner-Skudder () is only 24 years old and he’s a bit of a latecomer to the game. He only started Super Rugby this year and his ability to draw in a man, commit a defender, take the line on and his great speed make him a major threat for opposing teams. As if the All-Blacks needed another threat. He’ll bring some excitement to the World Cup.
5. Johnny Leota – Samoa
I play with him at Sale and I know how good he is. He’s very physical and I know how proud he’ll be to represent his country on the highest stage. It’s an opportunity for him to drive that team and playing in England so he know’s what it’ll be like. As with saw with Japan against South Africa, the gap between the world’s elite and the next tier of nations may not be as big as some people assumed, so there is the potential for more upsets. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was instrumental on causing one.