Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 16 October 2019

Rugby World Cup 2019: lumberjacks, ice chippers and a player's surname that begins with !

The weird and wonderful that will contest the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan

The final squads for Rugby World Cup 2019 duly landed with a thud at the beginning of this month. The document might as well have been called Here Be Giants.

More than 600 will ride into the valley of death of glory in Japan. This is surely the only theatre on the planet in which you will find a combatant called Belgium Tuatagaloa.

Details on his life are sketchy, but he played in the All Blacks Sevens – alongside Israel Dagg for an uncommon alliance of nations – before reverting to his ancestral Samoa. Time will tell if he has a brother called Luxembourg.

Samoa also have on view the grass-crushing brothers James and Jordan Lay. They play for Bristol Bears as bookend props, and are naturally known as the Lay Brethren.

Japan often have some intriguing cuckoos in the nest, and Blue Samurai captain Michael Leitch will have alongside him in the pack James Moore, Luke Thompson, Lappies Labuschagne and the first sighting for many of Wimpie van der Walt. Shiggy Konno, the former Japan manager who was a failed Kamikaze pilot, would probably turn in his grave.

Russia has lock Evgeny Elgin, who has been known to lose his marbles, and who has just about the shortest trip to Japan from his club in Siberia. Fellow ice chipper Vasily Dorofeev plays scrum-half.

In the same group, it’s always good to check out the lumberjack beards of Canada’s front row, which includes saxophone-playing enforcer Djustice Sears-Duru, known as DJ.

This will be the last we’ll see on the world stage of the veteran Italy pack triumvirate of Sergio Parisse, Leonardo Ghiraldini and Alessandro Zanni, who have 105 years and 354 caps between them – the biggest three-man career haul in any team. Mascots gazing up at them

could well invoke the name of the relatively new Azzurri hooker, Luca Bigi.

Namibia, who might well open with their 20th defeat in 20 Rugby World Cup ties, are often more of a guttural test than even South Africa, so flanker Prince Rivaldo Gino !Gaoseb – that’s right, his surname begins with an exclamation mark in case his regal moniker doesn’t seize enough attention – is one to watch.

Prepare to enjoy also a back move employing Cliven Loubser, Johann Tromp and Chad Plato, who may have to be philosophical about Namibia’s chances.

Tonga also provide a cultural curiosity in the shape of Siegfried Fisi’ihoi.

The United States offers the usual melting pot, with newcomer Chance Wenglewski joining fellow front-rowers Olive Kilifi and Titi Lamositele, whose first names alone could well fill a table in Sex In The City.

Uruguay’s bruisers always bring evidence that being brought up in the corned beef republics of South America rarely leaves one short of muscle, though the economically named Juan Cat hints at some feline skills at fly-half.

And if it all kicks off, Australia’s Jack Dempsey could be handy in a scrap.

Updated: September 17, 2019 03:39 PM

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