SA Rugby magazine identifies the players to watch at the global showpiece in France.
Marcus Smith (England)
Flyhalf Smith is an instinctively brilliant attacker whose vision, ability to kick the ball well out of hand and distribute with aplomb makes him a threat for any defensive line. The 24-year-old also has a deceptive turn of pace, and has shown composure and game management for England that belies his years. Owen Farrell is a sound option at flyhalf, but one cannot ignore the excitement around a free-flowing Smith in the No 10 jersey. The inclusion of Smith’s Harlequins assistant coach, Nick Evans, in the England backroom staff could help extract the best from the young playmaker.
Emiliano Boffelli (Argentina)
The ultimate all-rounder, Boffelli lined up on the wing and at fullback for the Pumas in 2022 and was the only tier-one player to pass the 100-point mark (146) in 12 Tests by way of four tries, 21 conversions and 28 penalties, including 25 points in the 30-29 victory against England in London. The long-range marksmanship of Boffelli will see rewards for any infringement within 50m – he kicked seven out of seven against the All Blacks in Christchurch – and his pedigree has noticeably lifted since joining Edinburgh in 2021 after a forgettable spell in France with Racing 92.
Michael Leitch (Japan)
New Zealand-born Leitch remains the driving force behind the Brave Blossoms, gearing up for his fourth World Cup appearance. A fearless loose forward, the 34-year-old former Japan captain was an influential force for the Chiefs and Sunwolves in Super Rugby, before joining the Toshiba Brave Lupus in Japan.
– Read the full Pool D team previews in the 164-page World Cup special edition of SA Rugby magazine