20 biggest names to miss World Cup cut

Date published: September 2 2015

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No squad at the Rugby World Cup has evaded the inevitable selection controversies. Injuries rule some out, but coaches must still leave others behind.

With only 31 players allowed in each team, there will always be plenty of close calls. We've picked out the 20 biggest stars that were available, but didn't get picked.

Charles Piutau (New Zealand): Arguably the best player not selected for the tournament, Piutau was desperately unlucky to miss out on the All Blacks squad. Their form winger in Tests this year, he also covers full-back and centre, but missed out to newcomers Nehe Milner-Skudder and Waisake Naholo. A move to Ulster next year likely counted against him.

Francois Trinh-Duc (France): Judging by the standing ovation he got from the opposition fans at Pau last weekend, the decision to omit Trinh-Duc wasn't unanimous in French circles. Arguably les Bleus' best fly-half, he was cut at the last minute, four years after lighting up the final from the bench.

Christian Lealiifano (Australia): Australia's best back in Super Rugby according to Wallabies assistant Stephen Larkham, but strangely Lealiifano didn't even get a chance to show what he can do. Not a huge name, but with his ability at 10 and 12, probably deserved a spot ahead of Quade Cooper.

Steffon Armitage (England): It's a tired argument but it seems a real waste that arguably England's best flank will be missing from the game's biggest tournament. A week after England were bullied at the breakdown against France in Paris, they would love to have Armitage's limpet-like ability on the deck.

Napolioni Nalaga (Fiji): Such is the depth Fiji have at wing that one of the best finishers in the European club game misses out. The former Clermont, now-Lyon powerhouse has finished three Top 14 seasons as the leading try scorer in the past. An injury suffered during the Pacific Nations Cup ruled him out of initial selection contention but he is fit enough to be amongst the players on standby.

Richard Hibbard (Wales): It was a shock to see Hibbard dropped from the Wales squad along with Mike Phillips and James Hook after the first warm-up game against Ireland. The Gloucester hooker was starting for Wales during the Six Nations, so missing Warren Gatland's 31 group represents a huge slide.  

Gordon D'Arcy (Ireland): Once a stalwart of Ireland's team as part of the record-setting midfield combination with Brian O'Driscoll, the 35-year-old's 82-cap international career looks to be over since he has already announced his retirement after the World Cup. His experience will be missed, but Ireland are not short on exciting centres.

Heinrich Brussow (South Africa): Having started South Africa's last three Tests, Brussow has every right to feel gutted. He played really well on his return to the side during the Rugby Championship and Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer admitted that he was very close to selection. The Boks have chosen to take just one specialist the openside flanker (Francois Louw) as Brussow misses out to the verstality of Schalk Burger and Siya Kolisi, who can both play across the back row.  

James Pritchard (Canada): Canada's leading points scorer will not feature at a fourth Rugby World Cup after being left out by head coach Kieran Crowley. Pritchard, while 36, is still competing at Championship level in England but the full-back has been overlooked for Matt Evans and Harry Jones.

Todd Clever (USA): Veteran USA flanker and captain Todd Clever was released from the national squad in July for "multiple conduct violations". Clever has won 63 caps and played in the last two World Cups but such is the feeling with the Eagles selectors, it looks like his Test career is over.

Sinoti Sinoti (Samoa): One of the best players in the 2014/15 Premiership season, the Newcastle Falcons finisher was given a taste of Rugby World Cup preparations but one didn't get the feeling he was going to make the cut. That proved to be the case as we won't see the deadly wing involved.

Nic White (Australia): Such a surprise to see White not on the Wallabies list after his exploits during the Rugby Championship. He inspired the Wallabies to victory over New Zealand and with it sealed the trophy but still he misses out, with two players out of form – Nick Phipps and Will Genia – preferred.

Manu Tuilagi (England): Unlike many others on this list, Tuilagi only has himself to blame after being arrested for assaulting a female police officer on a night out. Injuries mean that Tuilagi might not have been fit anyway, but England's best ball carrier would have been a shoo-in otherwise.

James Horwill (Australia): The former skipper enjoyed something of a renaissance this season in a misfiring Reds team, and did well when he had the chance for the Wallabies. It wasn't enough though, with Will Skelton and returning duo Dean Mumm and Kane Douglas preferred, as well as team-mate Rob Simmons.

Israel Dagg (New Zealand): The outside backs call was always going to be tough for Steve Hansen and Dagg was unlucky to miss out. In his favour was the 'what if Ben Smith got injured' argument but it appears Hansen has faith in Beauden Barrett, Colin Slade and Nehe Milner-Skudder to cover at fifteen.

Dylan Hartley (England): According to forwards coach Graham Rowntree, Hartley may yet be involved in the World Cup if there is an injury after his ban is complete. England had little choice but to leave him out though as starting the tournament without all their hookers available would have been a risk. 

Marcell Coetzee (South Africa): Another unlucky flanker to miss the flight to England after strong performances in the Rugby Championship. Tireless in the loose and often crossing for key tries, Coetzee suffered a recent injury and although he will be fit for the tournament, he is a victim of South Africa's unrivalled back-row depth.

Danny Cipriani (England): A special talent but too often held back by his actions off the field, the Sale Sharks playmaker made a real charge for the England squad, especially with a try-scoring performance off the bench for England in Paris. Many have questioned whether he was given a fair chance to show what he can do, but with no room for him to slot into the squad at fly-half or full-back, Cipriani has been left to wonder might have been. 

Andrew Trimble (Ireland): A surprise omission from Joe Schmidt's squad as Ireland's 2014 player of the year missed the 31-man cut, with Dave Kearney named ahead of him. The Ulster wing hasn't put a foot wrong for province and country over the past two years so on form his absence is a major shock, untimely injuries have probably cost him.

Scott Higginbotham (Australia): A key figure for the Wallabies in the past, Higginbotham missed out on playing in his second Rugby World Cup as head coach Michael Cheika opted to go with Wycliff Palu and Ben McCalman. Higginbotham has shown real leadership with the Rebels and scored a number of tries in Super Rugby in 2015, not to mention his abilities in the lineout. A tough call to make. 

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