While the Rugby World Cup gives a handful of nations the opportunity to prove they're the world's best, for the minnows it's about getting the opportunity to play on the biggest stage in the sport. Christopher Reive highlights five off-the-radar players to look out for.
Valery Morozov – loosehead prop – Russia
Morozov grew up playing volleyball, but transitioned into rugby as he saw more career opportunities in the sport. Starting out as a No 8, Morozov has developed into a skilful loosehead prop that now does his work for the Sale Sharks in the English Premiership.
The 24-year-old made his debut for Russia in 2016 and has 18 test caps to his credit. He's a big, physical player who gets stuck into the breakdown and is a strong scrummager, and his ability with ball in hand makes him a player to keep an eye on.
Helarius (TC) Kisting – half – Namibia
Kisting will play an important role for Namibia, with his versatility expected to be well utilised. The 25-year-old can move from first five-eighth to halfback at a pinch. An excellent distributor of the ball, Kisting can also explode when he puts his foot down, uses his footwork to good effect, has good vision and a strong kicking game.
With matches against New Zealand and South Africa on the agenda, it's hard to see Kisting getting much of a chance to impact those two fixtures. However, with matches against No 14 Italy and No 22 Canada, Kisting will have the opportunity to be one of the tournaments diamonds in the rough.
Paul Lasike – centre – United States of America
Paul Lasike has taken quite the scenic route to his first Rugby World Cup selection. The 29-year-old set out from Auckland to take up a scholarship to play rugby at Brigham Young University in the United States. He ended up turning his attention to American Football. Working as a running back and fullback, Lasike spent time with the Arizona Cardinals and Chicago Bears in the NFL.
After being cut by the Bears in 2016, he returned to rugby with an offer from the Utah Warriors in Major League Rugby. It didn't take him long to find his feet and he went on to sign with English club Harlequins.
Nicknamed 'the missile', Lasike has made a name for himself as a hard-running midfielder who thrives with the ball in his hands. Since making his debut for the USA in 2018, Lasike has played in 16 tests and has scored five tries.
Vano Karkadze – hooker – Georgia
The youngest player in the tournament, Vano Karkadze provides what could be some much needed mobility to a big Georgian pack. Making his national team debut earlier this year at the age of 18, Karkadze has three test caps to his name.
Likely to feature from the bench, the now 19-year-old is an accurate lineout thrower – practicing his craft by throwing against the goal posts from various distances - and is constantly active in the gritty areas of the game. He's strong and defensively solid, showing plenty of potential for Georgian fans to be excited about when he gets his chance.
Gaston Mieres – fullback – Uruguay
When he gets the football in his hands, Mieres thrives. His great speed is complemented by his footwork and he is a decent playmaking option. The 29-year-old has earned 67 test caps, making his debut back in 2010. He has performed for his country in both the 15-man game and in sevens, and has played at the professional level in England, Italy and Canada.
This will be his second Rugby World Cup campaign, after starring in Uruguay's 2015 campaign, in which he ranked third in the tournament for offloads, tied with All Blacks midfielder Sonny Bill Williams with seven.
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