To say the the Rugby World Cup has kicked off with a bang is an understatement. Tries aplenty, some massive hits, and the game’s biggest stars were all show in the first couple games, but the action has just begun, so we’ve picked five key players that you should keep your eye on for Week 2:
Wesley Fofana (France)
Louis Picamoles was absolutely immense against Italy in Week 1 of the tournament, causing all kinds of havoc for the Italians, but we have to go with the mercurial Wesley Fofana this week. France will be playing Romania, ranked 17th in the world. France are undoubted favourites to win the match and its a chance for French coach Phillipe Saint-Andre to give some players returning from injury a good run. Wesley Fofana will be playing in the No. 12 jersey and will be a pivotal strike-weapon for Les Bleus. His brilliant footwork and strong fend should be on show as Fofana pushes for a starting XV position against Canada and Ireland in France’s next two pool games following Romania.
Israel Folau (Australia)
Australia’s shining fullback Israel Folau has risen the ranks of the Wallabies in three short years since making his debut. He will be playing his first World Cup match this week against Fiji – a challenge he’ll be eager to thrive against. Fiji are a team who won’t necessarily kick down Folau’s throat for him to counter-attack, but he should get a lot of turnover ball to pounce and will be desperately needed as a last line of defence against the dangerous Fijian backline. England fullback Mike Brown proved to have a great game against Fiji, and Folau will be looking to top that come Wednesday night.
Nikola Matawalu (Fiji)
Fiji’s elusive scrumhalf Nikola Matawalu was one the most exciting players in Fiji’s opener against England in Week 1, despite his yellow card misdemeanour. His incredible break down the right wing off the back of a scrum showed his lightning pace, and although the try was disallowed due to a last-second knock-on, Matawalu showed exactly how dangerous he can be. His match-up against Australia’s Will Genia will be something to enjoy and we can’t wait to see some magic from Mr. Matawalu.
Sonny Bill Williams (New Zealand)
The All Blacks’ side is jam-packed with big-name stars, but it was Sonny Bill Williams who stood out in their tough win over Argentina in Week 1. Williams came on relatively early in the second half and made massive contribution, and there’s no doubt he will cause trouble for Nambia’s defence this week. The big centre is paired with Beauden Barrett at flyhalf and Malakai Fekitoa at outside centre, so expect some outrageous offloads being delivered from SBW to some dangerous strike runners out wide.
Dave Denton (Scotland)
Big number eight Dave Denton will be fronting up against Japan in Scotland’s first World Cup encounter. Schalk Burger, the Springboks’ big ball carrier, was cut down to size by the effective Japanese defence, so Denton has a big task at hand to shine and get over the advantage line for his side and not fall into the same trap Burger did. Denton has also improved dramatically with his work at the breakdown and will be a feisty competitor at the breakdown. Keep on eye on the deceptively strong and fast Scotland No. 8 this week.
Damien de Allende (South Africa)
The Springbok team hasn’t been announced (at the time of writing), but given the result against Japan and threat that Samoa poses, a shake-up is necessary and Damien de Allende has to be considered. The big and elusive Stormers centre will be up for the furiously physical contest against Samoa. The No 12 was a force at the gainline in the recent Rugby Championship and the Boks could certainly do with an inside centre who asks questions of the opposition defence, given that the current pairing of De Villiers and Kriel struggled to click. De Allende will likely start or play off the bench to have a strong influence on the game at Villa Park on Saturday.
Ofisa Treviranus (Samoa)
Sneaky fullback Tim Nanai-Williams was immense against the USA in Week 1, but Samoan captain Ofisa Treviranus was the real stalwart who got his team on the go-forward. The big loose forward will be a forced to be reckoned with against the Springboks and will not back down from their physical challenge. His powerful pick-ups from the back of the scrum and his relentless defence are key attributes in his game, and the Springboks will need to be weary of the Samoan leader.