Here are my picks for the players to watch in the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Will Jordan (New Zealand)
I don’t think anyone in the rugby world should be surprised to see this man on this list. Will Jordan is one of the most electric players in the sport right now. From his electric pace and ability under the high ball, to his tackling and immaculate timing, he is arguably a true freak of rugby nature in the best possible way. Jordan has been a little under the radar this year with his migraine related issues which have kept him off the field for the first six months, but he has shown recently why he is a game changer particularly in the match against the Springboks in Auckland. He popped up everywhere all over the park and couldn’t be contained. He had a quieter game at Twickenham, but expect Will Jordan to again torment opposition teams with his freakish ball skills and running game.
Carter Gordon (Australia)
Carter Gordon started off this year off the radar with no massive expectations on him as a young first five-eighth with the Melbourne Rebels. He showed his abilities and promise as a young player in 2018 while participating in the Queensland and Australian Schoolboy’s programmes. This season he was one of the Rebel’s best players showing flashes of brilliance in both rugby IQ and kicking ability. Australian coach Eddie Jones has had to defend his young pivot as the Wallabies have faltered in their warm up games, but Carter Gordon seems made of stern stuff and won’t be affected. He has the backing of his coach, and his team-mates and the ability. He will be the starting number 10 and is poised to show the world he is more than just a future project.
Kurt-Lee Arendse (South Africa)
When Cheslin Kolbe went down with a sprained ankle playing for his French rugby club Toulon, the Springboks feared the worst for their standout winger from their magical 2019 World Cup run. In steps Arendse who hasn’t had many opportunities to play in the green jersey of South Africa. But when he has, it’s like Kolbe never left on the wing. In only 10 Test caps for the Boks he has scored 55 points by himself. With Kolbe slowly returning to play, Arendse is going to have to keep this pace on if he wants to remain the starting wing.
James Lowe (Ireland)
James Lowe has always been a solid wing in rugby, starting his career for Tasman Mako where Lowe contributed eight tries in 12 games as Tasman reached the Premiership final in 2014. Despite defeat in the final that year, Lowe was a standout. Lowe joined the Chiefs a few seasons later scoring tries and winning over the team's supporters. He made 15 starts in 2016 and scored seven tries, which was a career high. Then he went off-shore, joining Ireland, and making his debut in November 2020, scoring a try. Since then, he has competed for Ireland in the Six Nations, and he was a member of the 2023 Grand Slam-winning squad. The rise of James Lowe is a result of his unique skill as a winger, his adaptability, and his capacity to have an influence on the game. He has established himself as a game breaker for Ireland. He is placed well to be a breakout star at this tournament and could be the ace in the pack for Ireland come play-off time.
Finn Russell (Scotland)
The newest hero of Scotland rugby has a name, and that is Finn Russell. Russell has been playing out of his mind over the last few years where he has really come into his own. Debuting back in 2014, Russell has been adding various aspects to his game. The talismanic Russell was selected for the 2021 British & Irish Lions team and he went on to win his maiden cap for the Lions in the third Test match against South Africa, scoring 11 points in their close, series-defining loss to the world champions. Russell continued to play well and has even moved up to fourth place on Scotland's all-time points chart in 2023 . Russell is a reliable presence off the tee to go along with his swashbuckling inventiveness and Scotland is going to need his skillsets if they’re going to make the playoffs.
Tate McDermott (Australia)
Another young buck of the Australian side going to the world cup, Tate McDermott had a solid Super Rugby Pacific campaign leading the Queensland Reds not only to the quarter finals, but even being the only team other than the Crusaders to beat the Chiefs, handing them their one and only loss during the regular season. McDermott was big part of this team’s success, with an uncanny ability to read the game and make defenders look silly. Although he most likely won’t be the Wallabies Captain during the Rugby World Cup, Tate will make an impact in whatever role he plays.
These six players are just scratching the surface of the many players at this tournament who could stand up on the big stage and show the world their full talent.
Antoine Dupont (France, Halfback)
Leicester Fainga'anuku (All Blacks, Wing/mid-field)
Emoni Narawa (All Blacks, Wing)
Lima Sopoaga (Samoa, First Five-Eighth)
Selestino Ravutaumada (Fiji, Fullback)
Tornike Kakhoidze (Georgia, Centre)