The Rugby World Cup starts on Friday with a blockbuster opening match pitting hosts France against three-time winners New Zealand.
Excitement is high as most of the traditional heavyweights, including New Zealand, England, and Australia, are not coming into the tournament as pre-favourites.
Instead, France and Ireland, the world’s top-ranked side, are favoured to lift the coveted Webb Ellis trophy at the end of October.
The tournament also offers a chance for rising stars to finally break out on the global stage and for seasoned campaigners to cement their legacies in the annals of history. But who is likely to do that?
Here are some players predicted to have a big impact at the tournament.
Antoine Dupont (France)
France will be without four key players for the match against New Zealand but, luckily, the hosts have captain Antoine Dupont fully fit and available. Dupont is not just France’s talisman, he gives the team an edge with his dynamic play style and appetite for scoring tries. His vision and distribution also make him an outstanding scrum-half. The 26-year-old enjoyed success at club level with French giants Toulouse but his status as one of the world’s best has been defined by his performances for France, whom he hopes to lead to the game’s biggest prize.
Siya Kolisi (South Africa)
Springboks fans are delighted their inspirational captain Siya Kolisi will play after safely navigating his return from a serious injury. Kolisi recovered from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in just four months. In addition to being a strong leader, Kolisi boasts strong carrying and handling abilities. Kolisi also brings outstanding physicality in his defending game and expertise at the breakdown, comfortably making him the Boks’ most valuable player.
Johnny Sexton (Ireland)
Ireland’s 38-year-old captain Johnny Sexton is already regarded as an all-time great who has won everything, except the Rugby World Cup. He is vital to Ireland as a leader and an all-rounded player, with his decisiveness, excellent kicking and passing abilities, and fierce defending skills. Sexton helped Ireland claim a fourth Six Nations Grand Slam earlier in the year and most pundits and fans believe this tournament is his best chance to finally lift the Webb Ellis trophy.
Will Jordan (New Zealand)
The All Blacks side is littered with talent in every position and any one of those players could be their MVP. However, Will Jordan catches the eye as the potential standout performer. Jordan has impressive pace and ability to go past defenders and boasts a spectacular try-scoring record (23 tries in 25 games).
Jac Morgan (Wales)
The former Wales U20 captain is a fast-rising star and, at just 23, was named co-captain for the World Cup by coach Warren Gatland. Morgan is capable of playing flanker and No 8. He has great awareness, is a threat at the breakdown and never gives up in defence. Morgan may not be the biggest player in his position but he more than compensates for it with his strength, ball-carrying skills and speed.