15 World Cup Bolters

Date published: April 9 2015

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Time is running out for players to make a late push into respective World Cup squads. Here are fifteen bolters who could force their way in.

Of course, it all depends on how settled coaches are with less than six months remaining until the big kick-off in England, with Ireland boss Joe Schmidt, for example, not having many headaches.

However, that's not the case for many other nations. We pick out a team-sheet worth of possible call-ups.

15 World Cup Bolters

James Lowe (New Zealand) – With Charlie Piutau's decision to head overseas after the upcoming World Cup clearly not going down well with Steve Hansen, the door could be open to a back-three member. Lowe is surely the front-runner after an outstanding ITM Cup campaign has been backed up with quality Super Rugby performances on the wing. His left foot option is one of many strings to his bow while he's ran 598 metres, made 75 carries and twelve clean breaks to go with four tries already this season. If he keeps this form up, surely an All Black call isn't far away.

Nick Abendanon (England) – The question here is how brave England coach Stuart Lancaster is when it comes to making the big decision. We have all been subject to the Steffon Armitage debate but what about Abendanon, who has been excellent for Clermont all season? Anthony Watson is superb at full-back for Bath but looks set to be stuck at 14 for England so could Abendanon push out one of Mike Brown or Alex Goode..?

Nehe Milner-Skudder (New Zealand) – What a talent. The former rugby league player has taken Super Rugby by storm, getting over three times in his last two games for the Hurricanes. With his electric feet, the Wellington side is able to unlock defences in yet another way alongside the talents of TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett and Julian Savea. Israel Dagg and Ben Smith are also in form but he may sneak in.

Jesse Kriel (South Africa) – The young Bull is showing a great deal of promise during the early season and with no one really putting their hand up as Willie le Roux's back-up, there's more than a chance Kriel could be drafted into Heyneke Meyer's group. Fortunately for Kriel he can still force his way in and may get a shot in the Rugby Championship, with SP Marais another making the right noises in 2015.

Denis Buckley (Ireland) – The 24-year-old loosehead prop has been in excellent form for Connacht of late, with his performance against Munster in the PRO12 surely catching the eye of Joe Schmidt. While Cian Healy and Jack McGrath are outstanding options to have going into the World Cup, he may choose a fifth prop in his squad and judging from his recent showings, we feel that Buckley could get the call-up.

Pat Leafa (Australia) – Things got so desperate for Australia in the hooking department last year that 34-year-old Josh Mann-Rea earned two caps having made just three Super Rugby starts in his career. While Stephen Moore and Tatafu Polota-Nau look to be favourites for the top two spots with the Wallabies, the third hooker is up in the air, and Auckland-born Leafa is making quite a case. Eligible as of this year, the Rebels hooker has been phenomenal around the park for his side will push Nathan Charles hard for that final spot.

Henry Slade (England) – We feel that England need this youngster in their matchday 23. Concern over the form of Luther Burrell and Billy Twelvetrees must surely tip the scales in Slade's direction, and with his ability to cover fly-half and centre, it's a no-brainer isn't it? We wait to see if Lancaster sticks with his more familiar duo, Brad Barritt or Owen Farrell over this in-form Chief.

Vincent Koch (South Africa) – Tighthead has been a problem area for the Springboks in terms of depth but there's a 25-year-old playing at the Stormers who could be the answer. Koch has been solid at the scrum and industrious around the park and while former looseheads Coenie Oosthuizen and Trevor Nyakane are now wearing three at the Cheetahs and Bulls, maybe Koch could be a shock back-up to Jannie du Plessis.

Jordan Taufua (New Zealand) – Surely an international in waiting. Taufua's form has moved up another level this season as he's nailed down a starting jersey at the Crusaders. With Jerome Kaino playing predominantly at number eight for the Blues and Chief Liam Messam being steady if not spectacular, Taufua has arguably been the stand-out blindside in New Zealand thus far in 2015. Still just 23 years old.

Dan Baker (Wales) – The 22-year-old is a real talent who has bags of potential. In an area where Wales are light, the number eight is an ideal back-up to Taulupe Faletau and if fit, will surely make the World Cup squad. He has been involved with Warren Gatland's group before but due to injury has yet to nail down a spot in the 23. His recent try against Zebre showed just how devastating he can be.

Jonathan Danty (France) – Philippe Saint-André has used so many players in the last four years that it's hard to find any uncapped players, but Danty might just be the man to force his way into the reckoning. While the options in the centre are plentiful, Danty brings a combination of power and pace which is difficult to match. While many have likened him to his Stade Français predecessor Mathieu Bastareaud, he possesses the quick feet and necessary basic speed to survive at international level. He will flourish at Test level, it's just a matter of when.

Paul Alo-Emile (Australia) – A second player from the Melbourne Rebels on our list, Pat Leafa's front row teammate Alo-Emile might be a real left-field selection for Michael Cheika. Australia have tried a lot of different tightheads over recent seasons, and while Sekope Kepu is the man in possession, the hierarchy behind him isn't set in stone. The 23-year-old Alo-Emile has a chance in the absence of Laurie Weeks to really stake a claim, and he's been a more than pleasant surprise so far. While he is heading to Stade Français at the end of the season, don't bet against him arriving a little late after helping Australia in England.

Tomas Francis (Wales) – Virtually unheard of prior to the Six Nations, Francis would probably have made his Welsh debut but for an unfortunate injury just before the tournament. First-choice Samson Lee faces a battle to be fit in time for the World Cup, and behind him Aaron Jarvis and Scott Andrews are both major question marks in the set-piece. A huge prospect in the literal sense, 22-year-old Francis has made his name as a scrummager, and while he might not offer as much in the loose, Warren Gatland might just need someone who can lock up a scrum in the Group of Death.

Josh Strauss (Scotland) – A slightly different possibility, in that Strauss seems almost certain to go if fit. The South African-born number eight has been instrumental in Glasgow's rise over the last few seasons, and becomes eligible for Scotland just in time for the World Cup. With Johnnie Beattie struggling during the Six Nations, and David Denton not really kicking on since he burst onto the scene, there is very much a jersey up for grabs. Vern Cotter hasn't been afraid of throwing people in with little preparation, just ask Adam Ashe! So don't be surprised to see Strauss starting for the Scots when they kick off their World Cup campaign against Japan.

Matt Giteau (Australia) – Yes we've said it. Is there a better inside centre not playing international rugby? This is the longest of shots for policy reasons, but Giteau has been the best back in Europe for the best part of three seasons. While this year has been hampered by injury, it was he, not Jonny Wilkinson, who ran the show over the last two seasons in Toulon. Australia have some options, but an in-form Giteau offers that something extra be it at fly-half or inside centre. Just imagine the damage he could do with Tevita Kuridrani and Israel Folau outside him.

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