Rugby World Cup 2021 will officially get underway on Saturday when South Africa take on France at the iconic Eden Park.

That encounter will not only kick-off an intriguing opening matchday, but a pulsating six weekends as the 12 best teams on the planet bid to lift the trophy.

But who should you be keeping an eye on as you watch along?

We’ve scoured the 12 squads and selected a player from each who should set pulses racing between now and 12 November.

Emily Chancellor (Australia)

Chancellor has looked more and more comfortable in the number six jersey, having shifted across from openside flanker, as the year has worn on and will be among her country’s most important players on New Zealand’s North Island.

Chancellor will move to the English Premier 15s with Harlequins following RWC 2021 and she will hope to do so on the back of a successful tournament.

If the Wallaroos are to match their best Rugby World Cup and get to the semi-finals, then they will need Chancellor and her back-row colleagues to fire.

Sophie de Goede (Canada)

Considering both her parents, Hans de Goede and Stephanie White, captained Canada, it should come as little surprise that Sophie assumed that same responsibility three weeks short of her 23rd birthday.

De Goede junior has since led Canada to five wins in six matches, including victories against Pool B rivals the USA and Italy.

The Canada number eight is a try-scoring threat, having crossed the whitewash four times in 14 tests for her country, and a goal-kicking ace as well.

Sarah Bern (England)

England do not have a squad short on talent but few of the 32 players selected for RWC 2021 can set pulses racing as much as the prop with the feet of a centre.

An ever-present during the Grand Slam winning Women’s Six Nations 2022 campaign, in which she contributed five tries, Bern has crossed the whitewash nine times in her last eight tests.

With England expected to have the edge up front in many of their matches in New Zealand, you can expect her to add to that tally over the next five weeks.

Vitalina Naikore (Fiji)

Pool C defences can’t say they haven’t been warned about Naikore’s try-scoring ability ahead of RWC 2021.

The exciting winger-cum-centre has been in scintillating form this year, scoring a hat-trick in the Super W final to help Fijiana Drua lift the title, and claim Player of the Championship.

Naikore has transported that success onto the international stage, where she has scored hat-tricks against Tonga and the Wahine Māori in the build-up to the showpiece tournament. The 22-year-old is also reliable from the kicking tee.

Laure Sansus (France)

Les Bleues will need Scrum-half Sansus to carry her recent form into RWC 2021 if they are to win a first Rugby World Cup title in New Zealand.

Sansus was one of the players of the 2022 Women’s Six Nations, scoring six tries as her side fell just short, missing out on the Championship to Pool C rivals England.

A constant threat from the base of the scrum, the breakdown or in open play, fans are not advised to take their eyes off the number nine when she is on the pitch.

Michela Sillari (Italy)

Sillari’s centre partnership with Beatrice Rigoni has been crucial to Italy’s improvement over the past few years.

Nowhere was that truer than at the RWC 2021 Europe Qualifier in September 2021, when she scored two tries and 27 points to help the Azzurre book their flight to Auckland.

A try-scorer in Italy’s morale-boosting warm-up win against France last month, fans will want to keep an eye on her distinctive scrum cap over the next few weeks.

Mana Furuta (Japan)

Having made her test debut at 18 in 2016, the skilful centre has enjoyed a breakout season on the global stage six years on.

An ever-present on the encouraging, if winless, end-of-year tour of Europe last November, Furuta enjoyed a stunning debut Super W campaign in Australia, winning the Brumbies’ Player of the Year award.

She has since started six tests for Japan, including wins against Fiji, Australia, South Africa and Ireland.

Ayesha Leti-I’iga (New Zealand)

The Black Ferns are not exactly short of options out wide, but Leti-I’iga has undoubtedly been the form winger heading into RWC 2021.

In 2022 alone, the Wellington and Hurricanes star – a former sprinter – has crossed the whitewash seven times in only five tests.

That run includes a hat-trick against the USA in June and Leti-I’iga will want to replicate that form in October and November.

Emma Orr (Scotland)

Orr made her debut against Wales in the 2022 Women’s Six Nations in Cardiff, four days before her 19th birthday.

Scotland lost narrowly that day, 24-19, but the young centre showed more than enough quality to suggest she will be a mainstay in the team’s midfield for years to come.

The youngest member of the Scotland squad at RWC 2021, Orr will hope to add to her four caps over the next few weeks.

Libbie Janse van Rensburg (South Africa)

No woman in history has successfully converted more tries in a single match than Van Rensburg’s 14, during a 38-point haul against Namibia in June.

The fly-half followed that up with pivotal performances in the run of three consecutive wins that the Springbok Women pieced together heading into RWC 2021.

Van Rensburg is almost certain to start in the number 10 jersey against France this weekend, and with the prolific Ayanda Malinga outside her, who knows what could happen at Eden Park.

Hope Rogers (USA)

Another barnstorming prop for the list, Rogers joined Exeter Chiefs in the English Premier 15s in January and proceeded to score 12 tries in 13 matches.

Not quite as prolific on the test stage, the 29-year-old has crossed the whitewash four times in as many appearances in 2022, including a brace in the warm-up win against Scotland in Edinburgh.

Rogers will need to be at her best at scrum time as well as in open field if the USA are going to emerge from a tough Pool B, which also contains Canada, Italy and Japan.

Alisha Butchers (Wales)

Almost unplayable when Wales opened their 2022 Women’s Six Nations campaign with back-to-back victories against Ireland and Scotland, Butchers impressed even when her side’s form tailed off.

Butchers will want to replicate that early-year form when Wales open their RWC 2021 campaign against Scotland in Whangārei on Sunday.

If she can help inspire Ioan Cunningham’s side to a victory against their Six Nations rivals, then a place in the quarter-finals will be within their grasp.