Bardem's front-row seat to semi-final blockbuster

From actor Gerard Butler to golf star Rory McIlroy: stars from across the entertainment spectrum have pitched up pitchside at Rugby World Cup 2023, but none bigger than Hollywood royalty Javier Bardem.

"Rugby is my passion," the Spanish star told RugbyPassTV before the New Zealand-Argentina semi-final. "I played for Spain. I started when I was nine years old and I played until I was 23. I loved it.

“My brother Carlos and I, we were called ‘los mendrugos’, which is the hard part of the bread. I was a prop, believe it or not, a small prop, number three.

"I’m always saying that playing rugby in Spain is like being a bullfighter in Japan. It didn’t make any sense back then but now, thank God, there is a lot of support in Spain for the rugby.

"It’s my favourite sport ... The quality of the matches in this world championship has been amazing." 

Catch up with Javier Bardem on The Big Jim Show on RugbyPass TV.

South America's fourth team

His country may not have made it to France 2023 but that didn't stop Carlos Tejada travelling to his first Rugby World Cup.

A centre for Colombia between 1996 and 2004, Tejada later coached Los Tucanes (The Toucans) at both sevens and 15-a-side.

He had first taken up the game when he the founding father of Colombian rugby, Hans Rausch, returned from USA with a ball presented to him by his university team-mates and put out a call in Medellín for "an adrenalin-filled new activity".

Former Colombia star Carlos Tejada pictured with his wife Manuela at Rugby World Cup 2023

“Being here is a dream come true," Tejada (pictured with his wife, also a former rugby player) said. "We planned the trip for over three years. I used to see the World Cups on television, but now being able to see the Haka, the French passion for the game, the support Los Pumas have, how humble Fiji was in defeat, has been an eye-opener.”

In fact, so inspired was he by his trip to France that Tejada, who caught up with mentor Rausch in Paris, is considering a return to rugby... "as a coach," he laughed, "as my knees can barely handle a touch game."

Game-changing ball-carrying

Zainab Alema is out to smash stereotypes in rugby. And in recognition of her services to the Muslim rugby community, the mother of three has been selected by Defender to carry the match ball out for the England v South Africa RWC2023 semi-final

Zainab plays prop for Richmond RFC while balancing life as a nurse and parent, and aspires to represent England Women at Rugby World Cup 2025.

She has reduced the barriers to entry into rugby for young female Muslim players, and inspired others to follow in her footsteps.

Barnes croqued ahead of the final

Should England reach the Rugby World Cup final, Wayne Barnes will again miss out on the pinnacle for any referee, but the Englishman reckons life could hardly be better after having a bap (filled roll) named after him.

The ‘Barnsy Bap’ is now on the menu at The Sandwich Co. For £5.50 customers can tuck into pastrami, slaw, pickles, American cheese, sticky Bourbon sauce and sweet BBQ mustard. And it all comes in an oval shaped bun.

“My life is now complete. A sandwich named after me. Thanks to everyone at the The Sandwich Co. for inventing the Barnsy Bap,” said Barnes on social media.

Although he might struggle to keep up with play after tucking into a few of those.