The Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan has begun in earnest and while results thus far seem to have gone pretty much according to the form book, there’s still been plenty for neutral fans or those new to the game to get excited about.
Whether it’s the physical approach of the Tongans, some mesmerising offloads and running lines from the Fijians or the simple fact that the hosts got off to a winning start, always a necessary supplement to a big tournament. The chances of us seeing too many major upsets, however, looks less likely than ever.
The Tier 1 nations look prepped and primed with deep squads, and mix of youth and experience. The Pacific Islanders always so easy on the eye and full of naive enthusiasm coupled with abrasive physicality, don’t thus far look like turning over one of the giants of the game.
What we can rely on and look forward to, however, is some individual brilliance, dogged determination and players from all nations throwing life and limb on the line, in a quest to lift that fabled trophy.
And, as with the world in general, these guys are just getting bigger and bigger. The new tackle laws are muddy waters right now, and presumably, things will iron themselves out as we get deeper into the tournament.
But, the ferocity and physicality of the game have not been unduly affected, and with some serious units out there expect to see some huge hits and acts of heroism, that has largely been lost in the world of modern sport.
With that in mind, we thought we’d highlight some of the biggest and baddest beasts that’ll be on display over the coming weeks. Here’s our guide to the RWC 2019 biggest hitters.
Josua Tuisova (Fiji)
If there is to be an upset to the established order, it’ll likely come at the hands of Fiji and this man Josua Tuisova. It really underlines how far the game has come, when the kind of destructive running that was the hallmark of Jonah Lomu back in 1995, has now become commonplace.
Like the big legend, Tusiova just runs over people and woe betide anyone who tries to repay the compliment. A big round ball of muscle with legs like tree trunks, expect to see some scattered bodies when this guy’s got ball in hand. Apparently he wears tennis socks because he can’t get the standard ones over his calves. He doesn’t skip leg day, he stands on it.
Sebastien Vahaamahina (France)
Giant French lock Sebastien Vahaamahina has the opportunity to assert himself on the big stage in an exciting looking French squad full of youthful exuberance. A colossus of a man who’ll be huge in both senses for France assuming he can drag his 19 stone 6’7″ frame around the pitch.
It’ll be interesting to see how he copes with England’s formidable second-row unit, during their encounter, but for sheer size and physicality, Vahaamahina is as big as they come.
Mamuka Gorgodze (Georgia)
Georgian legend and a true great of the game, Mamuka Gorgodze has come out of retirement to take part in his fourth World Cup, after nearly two years away from the international scene.
Nicknamed Gorgodzilla for his destructive approach to anything that gets in his way and the subject of a huge number of celebratory YouTube tribute videos (see below), although Gorgodze is getting on and will be plying his skills in the second row, expect him to take a few names in his brief contribution to the tournament.
Not the kind of dude you’d want to bump into down a dark alley. Probably spent the extra time he had while away from the international game, building a log cabin, in the woods, with his bare hands.
Zane Kapeli (Tonga)
Those that tuned into England’s opening game against Tonga will already be aware of the destructive threat posed by Zane Kapeli. His shuddering hit on Billy Vunipola was akin to the kind tackle you see in Rugby League, a sport he’s played, but, regardless, the fact he managed to put the normally immovable Billy Vunipola on his backside tells you everything.
He didn’t stop there, making tackle after tackle, and at 20 plus stone hidden in an athletic frame, Argentina better watch out. One reporter noted they hadn’t seen Vunipola hit like that before, Kapeli’s response? “That’s because I don’t play in England.”
Courtney Lawes (England)
Probably England’s most ferocious and physical tackler, which is saying something of a squad that contains, Curry, Underhill, Wilson etc. But, in Lawes England have a man who relishes big collisions, and for a man of his size, that usually results in carnage.
His technique is near perfection and when the timing is spot on he can leave even the heaviest opponents in a crumpled mess. For references please Jules Plisson.
Ben Tameifuna (Tonga)
Another conspicuous presence on the pitch at the weekend was Kapeli’s teammate Ben Tameifuna. Big Ben as he shall be known, is the heaviest player at the tournament weighing in at a whopping 24 stone. And at a time when the world makes less sense than ever, he’s surprisingly nimble and fleet-footed all things considered.
To tackle Tameifuna would be like trying to wrap your arms around a large queue of people, who were running at you, in a straight line!
Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
If Ireland go deep in this tournament or even go on to win it then the battering ram that is Tadhg Furlong – a simple farmer from Wexford as his captain Rory Best described him – will need to be at his best. At the top of his game Furlong is an unstoppable force, a beast with and without the ball. In fact, it’s hard to say whether tackling or being tackled would be preferable.
Neither if this fella’s in the mood, he just flattens ginormous blokes that lie in his path, like rabbits in the headlights.
Pablo Matera (Argentina)
Madcap Argentine flanker Pablo Matera takes the law into his own hands at times, the result of which is a less than stellar disciplinary record. The former Leicester man is integral to Argentina’s hopes with his enormous work rate, with both bulldozing carries and a high tackle count.
Expect him to be at the central to Argentina’s hopes of squeezing their way out of a tight looking group that includes England and France.
Manu Tuilagi (England)
Rumour has it Manu Tuilagi doesn’t squat anymore, the problem, when he does, is, his legs get too big! Opposition players might be left scratching their heads, while grateful all the same because trying to stop Manu Tulagi in full flow is like stepping into the road to stop a speeding car – it doesn’t end well.
He’s equally ferocious in defence, something England fans have missed maybe even forgotten. Anyhow, he’s back and will be hurting people during the tournament.
Kirill Gotovtsev (Russia)
32-year-old Gotovtsev only started playing rugby five years ago. The eighteen and a half stone loosehead prop is sure to cause all sorts of problems for the opposition in the scrum during his likely brief World Cup foray.
A former heavyweight wrestler, winning freestyle bronze in the Russian Championship, he also represented his country in the two-man bobsleigh. Expect speed, power, and a few sore bodies after encountering this beast.
Eben Etzebeth (South Africa)
Hmmm, Eben Etzebeth. To say Eben Etzebeth is a big fella, would be like saying Brexit has divided parliament. This is a man, folklore fans, who had to have his own set of dumbbells made, because the standard maximum weight on offer, was too light. Old Eben, he prefers dumbbells that weigh 75 kgs, custom made.
England fly-half George Ford weighs 84 kgs, you see where we’re going with this? Etzebeth is a ridiculously big man, who likes the physical stuff, whether he’ll find anyone to play with or not is another question.
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