Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby World Cup: Ten mighty minnows

Alesana Tuilagi of Samoa. Photo / Getty Images
Alesana Tuilagi of Samoa. Photo / Getty Images

Gregor Paul looks at 10 players from the 12 teams eliminated in World Cup pool play who he'd like to see in Super Rugby.

Alesana Tuilagi
Samoa
Age:
30; Weight: 120kg;
Height: 1.94m; Club: Leicester;
Position: Wing.

It sounds like Tuilagi may be interested in playing Super Rugby in the not too distant future with his brother and agent having already held talks with a number of teams.

Listed in the official programmes as 111kg, Tuilagi is in fact 120kg and at full speed is quite a sight. His top end pace isn't amazing but is surprising for a man his size and he was usually determined to run the shortest route.

He has the ability to drop his shoulder and smash men out the way, a bit like Jonah Lomu. When he gets going his knees pick up and defenders don't really stand much a of a chance of being able to put him down.

He is capable of playing on either wing and had a good appetite for working off his flank and looking for the ball in midfield.

He seemed reasonably solid on defence and relatively comfortable under a high ball and the only shame is that Samoa weren't able to create better opportunities for him to exploit.

Mamuka Gorgodze
Georgia

Age: 28; Weight: 118kg;
Height: 1.96m; Club: Montpellier;
Position: No 8/Flanker.

There isn't much in the way of subtlety about Gorgodze. He has this innate desire to seek and destroy and, at nearly 120kg, he's pretty useful at smashing big holes in even the most staunch defences.

Gorgodze is a folk hero at Montpellier, who made the Top 14 final this year. He's a brute, but a brute with a growing understanding of how the game works and the need to be technically proficient.

England had real issues dealing with him, and Super Rugby would be all the better for mongrel that comes in the dimensions he offers.

He brings power in the carry and a physicality few can match. Even in France, he stands out as particularly willing to throw punches. He has a range of nicknames: 'Gorgodzilla', 'Gulliver' and 'Georgian Animal' and French newspaper L'Equipe voted him the best foreigner in the 2010-11 Top 14.

Phil Mackenzie
Canada
Age:
24; Weight: 91kg;
Height: 1.85m; Club: Esher [England];
Position: Wing/Centre.

He was hard to miss with his beach-blond hair and searing pace.

Capable of playing centre or wing, he showed himself to be a genuine finisher.

The try he scored against Japan was only possible because of his timing and pace to get outside the defence when he took the ball on the wrap-around. It was a try that not many wings in New Zealand would have been able to score and a try that marked Mackenzie out as someone with considerable potential.

He was rugged on defence as well and chose some clever angles whenever he had the ball. He was even willing to help out when the forwards worked it up the middle with some repeated pick and go.

The 24-year-old would no doubt relish the ball in hand game favoured down here and would thrive given the quality that would be around him.

Marius Tincu
Romania
Age:
33; Weight: 116kg;
Height: 1..84m; Club: Perpignan;
Position: Hooker.

Tincu is an infectious player; someone blessed with a sense of mischief that is hard not to admire.

His performance against Scotland was probably the best by an individual in the pool rounds. He was incredible in the way he could get over the tackled player and stay strong as he tried to pinch the ball.

The Scots didn't have the power to knock him over, nor to deal with him in the scrum. Tincu gave an impressive Romanian set piece a destructive edge and had the Scots in all sorts of trouble.

It was his obvious love of the contest that endeared him to everyone, though. He wanted to be involved in everything. He wanted to lead his country by example and he wanted to win.

Jacques Burger
Namibia
Age
: 28; Weight: 102kg;
Height: 1.88m; Club: Saracens;
Position: Flanker.

Burger would have to be one of the toughest men at the World Cup.

His tackle count was enormous and there will have been a few players left sore by running into Burger.

It is little wonder he has such a major reputation in English club rugby. His relentless aggression and commitment are what is required to win club titles.

Burger is the kind of player who can be relied on to front every week.

Super Rugby would surely be his thing. The pace and physicality of the game would suit him.

The trump card for Burger would be the firm grounds that would give him the chance to play with the ball more. We saw what he could do without it - something all Namibians probably have to get used to - but would have liked to have seen him in possession more to see if he can run as hard as he tackles.

Atsushi Hiwasa
Japan
Age:
24; Weight: 70kg;
Height: 1.66m; Club: Suntory;
Position: Halfback.

New Zealand is not flush with quality halfbacks at the moment. Atsushi Hiwasa would be an intriguing option.

When he played against the All Blacks, he was all class. His passing was clean, crisp and accurate. He's a tiny man, so he was razor sharp when it came to digging the ball out and getting away.

Unlike his Kiwi opponents, he didn't stand at the back of rucks directing traffic and taking an age to get the ball moving.

He made one searing break in Hamilton against the All Blacks, who struggled to get to him. When they did catch him, Hiwasa was surprisingly difficult to put down - strong and agile, he rode the big hits.

He was good enough to keep George Gregan on the bench in the recent Japanese Top 14 championship and Blossoms coach John Kirwan talked glowingly about Hiwasa's potential.

Mihaita Alexandru Lazar
Romania
Age
: 25; Weight: 116kg;
Height: 1.89m; Club: Aix-En-Provence;
Position: Prop.


A scrummaging revelation who was exactly the sort of prop one would expect from Romania.

He was strong, held great body position and was athletic as well as being technically adept. Hmm. . . sounds a bit like former All Black Steve McDowall, which is probably because he's been coached by McDowall.

Lazar was Tincu's shadow for much of the World Cup and appears to have inherited his captain's energy and zest for the contest. His close driving work was world class - he was low and dynamic.

There was no doubt that Lazar saw his priorities as this: keep the scrum steady first . . . and anything else is a bonus. Super Rugby needs a few more props with the same mindset.

Adam Kleeberger
Canada
Age:
27; Weight: 98kg;
Height: 1.85m; Club: BC Bears;
Position: Flanker.

The big hair and beard won him an old school nod of approval but what really sold him to the Kiwi public was his ability to play good rugby.

He's abrasive and durable and had that critical skill for a loose forward of being able to come more into the game the longer it went on.

He seemed to enjoy every aspect of the game with no obvious weakness. When he needed to get his hands on the ball and run with it, he would.

He was hard to put down, too. When he needed to make big tackles, he made them. And usually they were full on - shoulders involved and the man was buried.

He was mobile and agile around the field to make his presence felt at the breakdown and he won a fair bit of lineout ball, too. He could easily skip into a Super Rugby side here and add some crunch.

Maurie Fa'asavalu
Samoa
Age:
31; Weight: 112kg;
Height: 1.94m; Club: Harlequins;
Position: Flanker.

The Welsh were concerned about the threat of 30-year-old openside Fa'asavalu and spent plenty of time working out ways to shut him down.

Fa'asavalu was a non-stop all-action No 7 who covered an enormous amount of ground for Samoa.

His best attribute was his ball carrying. At 112kg, he's one of the bigger opensides in world rugby and yet he seemed one of the quickest and fittest.

Whenever Samoa needed hard yards, he provided them. His tackling was destructive as well and he was the man who regularly allowed the Samoans to turn defence into attack.

Having been with the Harlequins in the UK, Fa'asavalu has plenty of big game experience and a good understanding of running lines.

Nico Esterhuyse
Namibia
Age:
27; Weight: 110kg;
Height: 2.05m; Club: Keetmanshoop RC;
Position: Lock.

There's been a lament in Super Rugby, certainly from a New Zealand perspective, that too many locks are really just tall loose forwards.

There is no real desire for locks to actually be locks and tick off the core jobs of winning lineout ball and pushing in scrums.

Esterhuyse was definitely a lock who wanted to be a lock.

At 2.05m, he maybe didn't have much choice but his aerial skills were impressive, as was his work rate and desire to shift bodies at the breakdown.

With some exposure to top level football, he has the raw frame and basic skills to be confident he could quickly become a significant addition to the professional landscape

- NZ Herald

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