Golden Oldies at the Rugby World Cup

Date published: September 14 2015

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The Rugby World Cup is a birthplace for stars, a platform for greats in their prime and a final port of call for legends looking to sign off their careers on a high.

For veterans like South Africa's Victor Matfield, Ireland's Paul O'Connell, New Zealand's Kevan Mealamu and Italy's Mauro Bergamasco, this is likely to be their last appearance at the tournament before they retire.

Here is a list of some the oldest players to feature at a World Cup…

Diego Ormaechea (Uruguay) – RWC 1999
The Teros' number eight and captain was 40 years and 26 days old when he played against South Africa at the 1999 tournament; making him the oldest player in the competition's history. He scored in the 27-15 win over Spain and later coached Uruguay at the 2003 edition, where they beat Georgia 24-12.

Viacheslav Grachev (Russia) – RWC 2011
The Bears' back row and vice-captain played in three of Russia's four pool matches at the 2011 World Cup. He was 38 years and 162 days old (the oldest player at the 2011 edition) when he featured in their final pool match against Australia.

Mark Cardinal (Canada) – RWC 1999
Canadian hooker Cardinal represented the Canucks at three World Cups in 1987, 1995 and 1999. At the latter tournament, he played in two of his country's three group matches; including their record 72-11 win over Namibia at the age of 38 years and 162 days old.

Mario Ledesma (Argentina) – RWC 2011
The Argentine hooker was 38 years and 145 days old when he played his last game for los Pumas in their quarter-final loss to eventual champions New Zealand at the last World Cup. He was a leader in Argentina's formidable forward pack and a member of the side which came third in 2007.

Polutele Tu'ihalamaka (Tonga) – RWC 1987
The Tongan second row was 38 years and 143 days old when he started their opening pool match against Canada at the 1987 World Cup. After Polutele retired from playing, he took over as Tonga head coach and led them at the 1999 edition, where they beat Italy 28-25.

Mark Williams (United States) – RWC 1999
United States' centre Williams represented the Eagles at two World Cups in 1991 and 1999. He was his country's highest points scorer at the 1991 edition with 16 and, at 38 years and 98 days old, played his only game of the 1999 tournament against Ireland.

Simon Shaw (England) – RWC 2011
Nairobi-born Shaw was 38 years and 37 days old when he featured in the quarter-final defeat to France in 2011. At 6 ft 8 in, the lock is one of the tallest players to represent England and was a member of the squad which came runners-up to South Africa at the 2007 tournament.

Paul Rendall (England) – RWC 1991
Prop Rendall played three games at the 1987 World Cup and once in 1991, where England finished as runners-up to Australia. He came on as a substitute in the 36-6 win over Italy at the 1991 tournament aged 37 years and 230 days old.

Rod Snow & Al Charron (both Canada) – RWC 2007 & RWC 2003
Prop Rod was 37 years and 149 days old when he faced Australia in the final pool game at the 2007 World Cup, while flanker Al was 37 years and 94 days old when he played in the 24-7 win over Tonga in 2003.

Brad Thorn (New Zealand) & Brian Lima (Samoa) – RWC 2011 & RWC 2007
Thorn was 36 years and 262 days old when he played in the 2011 final and became the oldest player to win the World Cup. Lima, who is the only player to feature in five World Cups, was 36 years and 240 days old when he started against England in 2007.

Andrew Hore (New Zealand) & Mike Catt (England) – RWC 2011 & RWC 2007
Kiwi hooker Hore came on as a substitute against France in the 2011 final at 36 years and 40 days old. Utility back Catt, who played in England's victorious 2003 final, was 36 years and 33 days old when he started the 2007 final versus South Africa. 

By Aron Hegarty

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