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As the 10th edition of the Rugby World Cup draws ever nearer, eagerness is starting to build. The competition's latest section is sure to feature no lack of heroes and villains. New icons will join the likes of Francois Pienaar, Jonah Lomu, Jonny Wilkinson, Bryan Habana, Richie McCaw and Siya Kolisi in rugby folklore. Here, we give a shout-out to the unrewarded players who made their mark on this hallowed competition.

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Rugby World Cup 2023: Most admired, quirky and strange players in the history of RWC
Rugby World Cup 2023: Most admired, quirky and strange players in the history of RWC

Ayumu Goromaru from Japan Rugby World Cup side

The Miracle of Brighton is forever imprinted in RWC folklore. It was the day when an unfancied Japan taught by Eddie Jones sprang an epic upset on the Springboks in a memorable 2015 pool meet. And Ayumu Goromaru was chill personified at full-back for the Brave Blossoms, kicking 24 points in a notable 34-32 victory. He would go on to become a hero of Japan's World Cup campaign on English soil.

He was given a bronze statue upon his return to Japan and a giraffe was named after him at a Japanese zoo. Goromaru would go on to play for the Queensland Reds and Toulon but he would never hit the highs of 2015 again. He failed to make the cut for the 2019 Rugby World Cup squad on home soil and give up work in 2020 aged 35, with 57 caps to his name.

Rupeni Caucaunibuca from Fiji Rugby World Cup

Pure box office at the global centrepiece's 2003 edition in Australia, the Fijian entertainer lit up the competition in the RWC pool stages with stunning tries against France, and almost single-handedly caused a main upset against the Scots with a bright brace of tries. Part of an all-star cast at Auckland Blues alongside the likes of Carlos Spencer, Doug Howlett and Joe Rokocoko, ‘Caucau' was tipped for global fame.

He had everything: pace, power and composure. He ended up in Europe with Agen and Toulouse on big-money contracts, but off-field issues, indiscipline and weight problems hindered what should have been an extraordinary career. But Caucaunibuca will always be recalled for his brilliance at his one and only World Cup.

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Stirling Mortlock from Australia Rugby World Cup

Stirling Mortlock looked a bit like a Bond villain and he had the name to back it up. A teak-tough, hard-running midfielder, the Aussie centre was a straightforward operator with a cannon of a right boot. He could play a bit as well. Mortlock was part of a Wallabies side which made it to the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final on home soil. He would retire in 2012 with 80 Test caps for his nation, 29 as captain, and 489 global points.

He is lovingly remembered for his capture try in the semi-final shock win against the All Blacks when he pulled Carlos Spencer's 80-metre pass out of the sky and raced away from 80 metres out for a momentum-swinging score. Mortlock would head Australia at the next World Cup in France, but his side's drive was disrupted by England in Marseilles.

Brian Lima from Samoa Rugby World Cup

Known as the ‘The Chiropractor' during his playing days, Brian Lima was an institute of Samoan rugby, representing his country at a record five Rugby World Cups. The hard-hitting centre was a standout in the shock pool win against Wales in 1991, but he is possibly best recalled for a bone-shuddering tackle on South Africa out-half Derick Hougaard during a one-sided World Cup encounter in 2003.

The Springboks cruised to a 60-10 win against the Pacific Islanders but Lima's thunderous hit on Hougaard was an iconic moment. Lima, who had a short loan spell with Munster, would retire from the game in 2007 after a famous career. France Rugby World Cup fans from all over the world are called to book RWC 2023 tickets from our online platform WorldWideTicketsandHospitality.com Rugby fans can book RWC Tickets on our website at exclusively discounted prices.

Takudzwa Ngwenya from USA RWC side

Not many players have left Bryan Habana for dead on a rugby pitch. The flying Springboks wing once raced a cheetah, the fastest land creature on Earth for a publicity gig, it must be stated. Step forward, Takudzwa Ngwenya, the electric United States speedster. South Africa, en route to Rugby World Cup Final in 2007, was pitted against the US in a pool game. The Springboks met little resistance but Ngwenya had his moment in the attention.

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When the Americans went on a late counter-attack at the end of the field half in Montpellier, Ngwenya found himself one-on-one with Habana down the left flank. The Sevens star stood up his memorable opponent, took a step and then turned on the afterburners to score a notable try which had everyone on the ground on their feet. Ngwenya became an overnight sensation, with Saracens looking to lure him to Europe after the contest.

Stephen Donald from the New Zealand Rugby World Cup side

It was a tense night in Eden Park as New Zealand's dreams of landing the 2011 RWC on home soil were starting to look grim. Gripped by anxiety in front of the nation, the New Zealand rugby team were in danger of bottling it on the biggest stage with a French team widely written off as menacing to ruin the big party in Auckland. When the hosts needed a calm head during a nail-biting second half, Stephen Donald was jumped from the bench.

The Waikato out-half displayed nerves of steel to land a key penalty and duly guided his team to the tensest and narrow of victories. The journey Donald took to that instant was worthy of a Netflix drama. Indeed, ‘The Kick' is a reject-to-redemption fairy-tale that hit Kiwi TV screens in 2014 after Donald's heroics. Warmly known as ‘Beaver', Donald was a big character but not measured as an elite playmaker by many in his native land.

On the eve of the 2011 RWC, head coach Graham Henry left him out of his plans. Dan Carter, the golden boy of New Zealand rugby, would be sponsored by a pair of rookies instead, with Colin Slade and Aaron Cruden getting the call. Then, Carter notoriously pulled up with a tournament-ending injury during the pool stages. When Slade broke his jaw, a fresh-faced Cruden was compulsory into the fray.

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Mike Philips from Wales Rugby World Cup

Ireland fans, look away now! The most-capped Wales scrumhalf in history counted a crucial try in a 2011 RWC quarter-final clash with Ireland in Wellington. The knockout game was on a knife edge at Westpac Stadium when the rangy half-back marked a gap down the blindside. Philips, one of the leaders for big, physical scrum halves, duly shrugged off the tackles of Gordon D'Arcy and Tommy Bowe to score in the corner.

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