TOKYO, 14 Oct - The eight quarter-finalists have been decided. But the knockout stages will be poorer for the absence of these five departing stars.
Semi Radradra (Fiji)
"What a player that Semi Radradra is," said England coach Eddie Jones after the winger’s Player of the Match performance against Wales. "Just to be at the World Cup is a humbling experience to see him play with such, power, pace and guile. It was one of the best displays I have seen - and I am talking as a fan."
Now we're all fans of Radradra, pictured above, arguably the standout performer in the pool stages, who has only a few months left on his contract at Bordeaux. The rugby league convert, nicknamed Semi-trailer, won another Player of the Match award, ran for 400m, made eight clean breaks and beat 29 defenders in his four games. Unstoppable.
Tagir Gadzhiev (Russia)
"You need to have a backbone if you’re to make something of yourself in Dagestan," says this son of the turbulent Russian republic. The martial artist-turned-flanker set the tone for his team in the opening game against Japan with an all-action display, made 18 tackles against Ireland and was a nuisance at the breakdown.
The 25-year-old openside was even granted an audience with one of his heroes, Sonny Bill Williams, a fellow Muslim, at the New Zealand camp after a four-hour drive to meet him.
#RWC2019: Before returning home from Japan, one of our tournament standouts Tagir Gadzhiev meet with All Blacks @SonnyBWilliams and @TuungafasiO. The players exchanged shirts and a traditional Dagestani Papakha pic.twitter.com/UlNRSDgAf7— Rugby Union Russia (@russiarugby) October 14, 2019
Jake Polledri (Italy)
Sergio Parisse's Italy farewell may have been ruined by Typhoon Hagibis, but the legendary number eight seems to have a worthy successor in the Azzurri back row. Polledri, born in England to Italian grandparents, was in barnstorming form, including in record-breaking performance against Canada in Fukuoka, where he beat 14 defenders, more than any forward in a single match in Rugby World Cup’s 32-year-history.
The 23-year-old made 161m in three matches, and his strength and aggression drew comparisons with All Blacks back-row wrecking ball Ardie Savea.
Felipe Berchesi (Uruguay)
When Berchesi stood over a 75th-minute penalty that would give Uruguay the finest win in their history, he was the calmest man in Kamaishi. "I thought of it as a kick in a training match," he said, sweetly striking Los Teros to a 30-27 victory against Fiji.
The youngest, lightest and smallest squad at RWC 2019 needed the France-based fly-half to give them direction to go with their undoubted passion and he duly delivered. The 28-year-old missed just one kick out of seven, made 12 tackles and forced three turnovers against Fiji. He ended the pool stages as the tournament’s second-highest points scorer.
Zane Kapeli (Tonga)
Sometimes, it takes just one moment to announce yourself on the world stage. Kapeli’s came in the 12th minute of Tonga’s opening match of RWC 2019, when England’s Billy Vunipola met the oncoming Zane the Train. "I just saw him running at me, put my head down and hoped,” said the Bay of Plenty flanker of a tackle that might have registered on the Richter scale, putting one of the world's most destructive ball-carriers on his backside. "What’s Newton’s Law? Every action has an equal and opposite reaction."
Kapeli proved to be more than just a one-hit wonder, making 16 more tackles in that match, then scoring a late try to give France the jitters in their last pool game. Remember the name.