Rugby World Cup: Players to watch at Japan 2019

By Ben Morse, for CNN

Updated 0954 GMT (1754 HKT) September 13, 2019
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Since making his debut in 2008, Zimbabwe-born Tendai Mtawarira -- nicknamed "The Beast" -- has been an ever-present for South Africa. He's racked up 110 caps, becoming the most capped prop in South African rugby history. Now 34, the Rugby World Cup could be the perfect swansong for Mtawarira. Gallo Images/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Coles had to supplant long-serving All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu for a spot in the starting XV, but when the opportunity came, he grabbed it with both hands. He was a nominee for the World Rugby Player of the Year in 2016 and after missing over a year due to a ruptured ACL, Coles will play a leading role for his country if New Zealand is to win a third consecutive World Cup title. Phil Walter/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Furlong has enjoyed a remarkable rise in recent years. Having burst onto the scene as a 22-year-old for Leinster, he made his senior Ireland debut at just 23, started all three of the British and Irish Lions' games against New Zealand in 2017 and was part of Ireland's Six Nations grand slam in 2018. With excellent handling skills, he redefined the expectations of a modern tighthead prop. David Rogers/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
At 6 feet 8 inches tall, Etzebeth is a man-mountain who will need little introduction for seasoned rugby fans. The lock became the youngest South African player ever to reach the 50-cap milestone, being only 24 at the time. Following the World Cup, Etzebeth will move to French side Toulon for the 2019/20 season. Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
Since making his England debut in 2016, Itoje has fast become one of head coach Eddie Jones' key players. He was part of England's Six Nations grand slam that year and its title defense in 2017. Itoje was the youngest player named in the 41-man British and Irish Lions squad and appeared in all three tests against the All Blacks. Henry Browne/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Dubbed "the Energizer Bunny of world rugby," Hooper is an all-action player. Having broken through into the Wallabies team aged just 20, the flanker has been a mainstay in head coach Michael Cheika's side, featuring in the 2015 World Cup that finished as runner-up. Enjoy watching him while you can -- the 2019 World Cup will be his final act as an international. Cameron Spencer/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
A former sevens player, Savea enjoyed a breakthrough 2018 which saw him become an integral part of New Zealand's dominance. The athletic flanker is an excellent ball-carrier and dangerous in open play. Cameron Spencer/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
The New Zealand-born Leitch burst into the public's conscience at the 2015 World Cup when he captained Japan to victory over two-time champion South Africa, a result that's considered the biggest shock in Rugby World Cup history. Mike Hewitt/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Davies has cemented his position as Warren Gatland's first choice nine over the past few years. His acceleration and ability to fly through gaps in opposition defenses will make him an attacking threat in Japan. Dan Mullan/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Lealiifano's story is one of the most inspiring of those playing at the World Cup. He was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2016 and earlier this year made his return to Australia's starting lineup. In Japan, he will lead an exciting Wallaby backline. Cameron Spencer/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
With dancing feet and explosive speed, Kolbe is arguably the most potent attacking threat in rugby. At only 5 feet 6 inches tall, the wing is proof that size doesn't always matter. He was a key part of the Springboks' squad that recently won the Rugby Championship. Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
As an international in both rugby league, union and sevens, Williams is unique. The center was a World Cup winner in 2011 and 2015 and will no doubt play a vital role if the All Blacks hope to achieve a historic treble. MARTY MELVILLE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Tuilagi is never far away from the headlines. One of England's most dynamic players, he attracted unwanted attention at the 2011 World Cup when he was arrested for jumping into Auckland harbor following England's exit from the tournament. On the field, Tuilagi has been sidelined with a number of injuries but appears back to his rampaging best ahead of the World Cup. Dan Mullan/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Tuisova's highlight reel is quite something, an endless stream of clips showcasing his power and speed. He won Olympic gold with Fiji Sevens at Rio 2016 and, like many of his Fijian teammates, can light up a game with an array of skills ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
It's impossible to have a team of "Players to Watch" and not include Barrett. He is a back-to-back World Rugby player of the year and was part of the 2015 World Cup-winning side. Primarily a fly-half, Barrett has been featuring at full-back for the All Blacks in recent games. Hannah Peters/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images