Rugby World Cup 2023 missing players: Superstars absent from the tournament

While hundreds of the globe’s most talented and prestigious rugby players will descend on France over the coming month to compete, there will be a select unlucky few who will be forced to watch from home.

It is a curse that athletes in all sports pray does not befall them but sadly is an inevitable possibility. While routine injuries come and go, the timing of certain injuries can leave a bitter taste in the mouth, for the five men in this list, their injury could have not come at a worse time, they will miss what they have been training for for the last four years, or even their whole lives.

1. Romain Ntamack

Nation: France          Position: Fly Half

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Ntamack travelled to Japan for the 2019 Rugby World Cup as a fresh-faced 21-year-old, still carving out a name for himself on the global scene. He performed well, starting at ten throughout the tournament, including the narrow loss to Wales in the quarter-final. Over the next four years he grew exponentially into one of the best fly halves in the whole world, winning a Top 14 and European Champions Cup title with Toulouse and the Six Nations Grand Slam with his country in 2022.

The son of French legend, Emile, Romain was set to make a huge impact on a home World Cup and no doubt, if France were to go far in the tournament, or even win, he would have been a massive catalyst.

However, in a cruel twist of fate, Ntamack ruptured his ACL in France’s 30-27 victory over Scotland in their warmup, just two games out from the opening game of the tournament against New Zealand this Friday night.

2. Anthony Watson

Nation: England                 Position: Wing

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England’s premiere winger has scored 23 tries in 56 games over a nine year international career. With a rugby CV which includes four tries over two Rugby World Cups and two British and Irish Lions tours, Watson’s potential was one thing for England fans to be excited for at this World Cup.

England Head Coach Steve Borthwick went as far to convince the RFU to sign Watson to their first ever men’s central contract, as he is currently unattached after being released by Leicester Tigers.

Unfortunately, Watson injured his calf in England’s 29-10 warmup loss to Ireland, ruling him out the tournament and forcing Gloucester’s Jonny May to be called into the squad as a last minute replacement.

3. Lukhanyo Am

Nation: South Africa            Position: Centre

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For a period during this World Cup cycle, Am was widely regarded as one of the best players in the world, if not the best. Combining brute strength with imperial leadership and silky skills, Am is an untouchable player on his day and one of the Springboks’ most prized possessions.

After being an integral part of the South Africa team that won the World Cup in 2019 and who beat the Lions the following year, everyone in South Africa, and many from around the rest of the world, were devastated to hear that he injured his knee in the Rugby Championship match against Argentina and would be out of the World Cup.

The loss of Am is a huge blow to the Springboks’ hopes of winning back-to-back World Cups and will test their depth in the outside centre position, where Jesse Kriel will be the likely replacement.

4. Handre Pollard

Nation: South Africa           Position: Fly Half

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The man who scored 22 points in the 2019 World Cup Final to crush England and win the Boks their first world title since 2007. Pollard has been South Africa’s starting fly half for two consecutive World Cup’s and was set to make it three after finally beating an injury which halted the beginning of his Leicester Tigers career this past season.

However, it was announced that his calf injury had caught up to him when he was not named in South Africa’s 33-man World Cup squad with Head Coach Jacques Nienaber saying: “time ran out for him”.

As it stands, two young men in Damian Willemse and Manie Libbok will be tasked with wearing the number 10 shirt, however, with Pollard named as an official ‘standby’, there are rumours he may be added to the squad, with him likely to be fully fit in the later stages of the tournament.

5. Alun Wyn Jones

Nation: Wales             Position: Lock

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The only entry to this list who is not injured, the Welsh stalwart who played for his country for 17 long and incredible years announced his shock retirement from international rugby in May this year. Jones was set to go to his fifth Rugby World Cup, his second as Wales’ captain but shocked the whole world with a retirement decision seemingly from nowhere as, despite being 37-years-old, his hunger and endurance for the international game had not appeared to waver.

Now that Wales are without their most capped player ever, they have named Dewi Lake and Jac Morgan as their new co-captains and will likely have Racing 92’s Will Rowlands and the Exeter Chiefs’ Dafydd Jenkins as their starting locks.

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