Along came a spider

From falling down the stairs to high tackles, Rugby World Cup 2023 has thrown up myriad ways to get injured but Namibia's Johan Retief's reason for missing Wednesday's Pool A match against Uruguay is more unusual than most.

"Johan Retief is quite a weird one. He has developed an abscess close to his pectoral area which means the wound has been open," head coach Allister Coetzee said cryptically at Monday's team announcement.

But on Tuesday, backs coach Chrysander Botha seemed to confirm that it was indeed a spider bite that ruled the back-row forward out.

“You can’t plan for something like that to happen but we’ll miss him,” Botha said. Ouch.

Mum's the word for Azzurri's Allan

Italy fly-half and kicking machine Tommaso Allan is part of a remarkable rugby dynasty, with three members of his immediate family having played to an elite level, two of whom represented three nations between them. But there is no doubt in his mind where he gets his speed, nimble footwork and soft hands from. 

"I am sure she was quick and elusive like me, 100 per cent," Allan said of his mother, a winger who received cap No.2 for the Italian women's team, having played in the side that drew 3-3 with France in their first ever international. "It’s awesome for her to be in history for Italian rugby."

His uncle John Allan played for Scotland and South Africa, and his father was a top-level club player in Italy and South Africa. Both were hookers. 

"My dad did try to help me when I was younger with my goal-kicking," Tommaso recalled. "I remember us going early, when I was 14, 15 and he was trying to give me some insights – even though he probably didn’t know what he was talking about too much."

Willemse's route to Les Bleus

Paul Willemse always dreamed of playing international rugby but not via such a circuitous route. He played U18s for Namibia but at U20s switched to South Africa, the country of his birth.

"I was on track [to be a Springbok] in 2015," the giant second-row told the Official Rugby World Cup podcast. "They had made a massive preparation squad. I had played two Super Rugby seasons and two Currie Cup seasons, then I wasn't even in that massive group. Then [centre] Jean de Villiers got injured and they pulled up a young lock. In my opinion, I was better than that guy."

He then received an offer to play for Grenoble, took it and settled into life in France. "Then I had my first son... so I'm going to stay - still hoping South Africa was going to come calling but they never did.

"I was forced to make a decision. Am I going to wait around or am I going to take things into my own hands? I said I'm going to go for it, I want to play international rugby and I was going to go for France. They were happy to receive me."

Now with Montpellier, Willemse has won 30 caps for Les Bleus before injury ruled him out of RWC 2023.

Côte d'Ivoire looking unbeatable in the lineout

At more than 10ft tall, the (front) five pictured might make the Côte d'Ivoire a force to be reckoned with - on their own throw, or indeed the opposition's. The group, largely new to rugby, are in France to entertain the crowds pouring into the OL Stadium in Lyon.

Dancing to a DJ set featuring tunes from all 20 nations competing at Rugby World Cup 2023, the giant marionettes have proved a huge hit. The leader of the troupe, coming from a football-obsessed country, loved his first introduction to the sport and mixing with the passionate fans.