With the 2015 Rugby World Cup only days old, there has already been more than one entertaining contest to set tongues wagging. Japan stunned the sporting world with their fabulous Pool B win over South Africa, while even favourites New Zealand struggled to exert their authority in a narrow win over Argentina at Wembley.
As the tournament heats up, we have chosen a few key players to keep an eye out for.
In previous World Cups the players who excelled most were either those with the highest technical ability, or those who through their leadership and dedication, brought the best out of their peers and pushed them towards victory.
Here Ticketbis profiles eight important men who could make the difference for their nation and it’s not just with the traditional powerhouses that great individual talent can thrive…
Chris Wyles, USA
As one of the best players for Saracens in the English Premiership, Wyles boasts 215 points in 177 appearances for the club. A defender with great technical ability he played a crucial role in the Premiership win in the 2010/11 season, leading in metres gained. For the US team he shoulders enormous responsibility as his nation’s highest ranked current player (48 caps, 212 points), following in the footsteps of legends such as Mike Hercus (48 caps, 465 points) and Paul Emerick (53 caps, 17 tries).
Chris Robshaw, England
Only six other men can comprehend the enormous responsibility this player has on his shoulders – the six former World Cup captains of England’s national team. Leading the team over the past four years, he is his country’s Admiral Nelson and embodies the motto of “England expects every man to perform his duty”. Robshaw will be relieved that his side made it over the first hurdle, securing a tough win over Fiji, but there are bigger obstacles further down the road in the shape of Wales and Australia.
Julian Savea, New Zealand
One of a kind and the heir of great wingers such as John Kirwan, Christian Cullen and the wonderful Jonah Lomu. Savea’s numbers are impressive. In 34 games, he’s registered a total of 30 tries, 150 points and has only suffered two losses. The constant threat he poses to defenders, his speed, and strength, which tends to be greater than his rival wingers’, sum up the skills which he can unleash at any time. Savea failed to make the scoresheet when the All Blacks edged out Argentina, but don’t bet against him making a huge impact as the Kiwis’ campaign picks up momentum.
Agustín Creevy, Argentina
If anyone can carry the Pumas towards an unlikely first World Cup title, Creevy is the man to do it. He puts his heart and soul into the game for his teammates and his country. The hooker’s tough character coupled with his speed, ability in the scrum, and modern playing style make him a key man to watch in this year's finals. Creevy was applauded by many pundits for his fearsome ball-carrying skills in the defeat to the All Blacks, and his rock-like presence is sure to help the Pumas try and recover from the loss.
Sergio Parisse, Italy
Currently out with leg injury but with a chance of making the latter stages of the tournament, Parisse is a real rugby legend and a true leader to his teammates. Italian rugby has been defined by the presence of this number eight during the past decade. Of Argentine origin, the will to win is ingrained in Parisse’s psyche. He holds a record number of caps for Italy, has often been nominated on the Six Nations Best Player shortlist and possesses one of the best passes in the sport. This will be Parisse’s fourth World Cup.
Ayumu Goromaru, Japan
Contributing 24 points to your country’s most famous ever victory is not a bad way to start the tournament. With great vision and a fine hand, Goromaru has wonderful technical defensive ability and an impeccable kick. Despite previously being dropped from the squad and not playing for 18 months, current coach Eddie Jones gave the player another chance and Goromaru certainly did not disappoint. He is the now the captain of his national team at 29, with 48 caps and the leading scorer with 505 points. Goromaru will be accompanied by leading Japanese players such as prop Kensuke Hatakeyama with 68 caps, arguably the best player ever from the Far East nation, and Hitoshi Ono, 37, with 88 caps, nicknamed Iron Man. A symbol of the internationalization of the sport, Japan will be the host of the World Cup in 2019 and they will have their own Japanese Super Rugby franchise next season. The national team has experience in playing teams from all over the world and has won six consecutive Asian Five Nations titles.
Ruan Pienaar, South Africa
The South African side is always one of the strongest and most powerful forces in international competitions. Not only does he kick well with both feet, Pienaar reads the game astutely and possesses more than enough experience in international competitions. His 82 caps and 135 points for his country highlight his pedigree. Despite not setting the world alight in South Africa’s embarrassing opening defeat to Japan, there is still plenty of time for Pienaar to show his quality.
David Pocock, Australia
Many still remember the match he played against the Springboks in the quarterfinals of the last World Cup, producing perhaps the best individual display of the competition, as he inspired the Wallabies to a backs-to-the-wall 11-9 victory. The heavily built flanker, who has been compared to Wallaby legend George Smith, will lead the Australian national team into the tournament. Pocock has been named one of the best number sevens in the sport and at the age of 27 he still has more to show the world.
It's not only the players, but fans will be flocking to England and Wales from all over the world to take in the action. When it comes to demand, Ticketbis have released data stating volume of sales for match tickets has been highest in the UK (30.5% of ticket sale volume), followed by France (13.5%), Japan (13.5%), Italy (8.3 %) and Argentina (5.0%). Fans will also be travelling from New Zealand, USA, Australia, South Africa, Uruguay, Canada and many other countries to watch the action.
The five games for which tickets have most been in demand through the Ticketbis platform are New Zealand vs Argentina, South Africa vs Scotland, South Africa vs Japan, France vs Italy and France vs Ireland.