Ranked: The 25 best players at the Rugby World Cup
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ANALYSIS: The Rugby World Cup kicks off with a clash between the All Blacks and France on Saturday morning (NZT).  

But, who are the players likely to take the tournament by storm?

Here is Stuff’s list of the best players at the tournament, counted down from 25 to No 1.

25 Cheslin Kolbe (South Africa): It says something about South Africa’s depth that Kolbe isn’t even guaranteed a start, but the electric winger pioneered the new wave of smaller players in the back three. Beat 10 Welsh defenders and ran for 137 metres the week before the All Blacks test at Twickenham.

24 Kazuki Himeno (Japan): The Brave Blossoms have struggled in recent years, but Himeno remains a force to be reckoned with.

23 Aaron Smith (New Zealand): At 34 years young, Smith remains at the top of his game. If he gets quick ball the All Blacks look like a million dollars because his pass selection is still brilliant.

22 Pieter-Steph du Toit (South Africa): The 2019 World Rugby player of the year has battled through some injury woes and is hitting some rich form at precisely the right time.

21 Charles Piutau (Tonga): Belatedly gets the chance to perform on the biggest stage. The 31-year-old fullback remains one of the game’s best counterattackers.

20 Hugo Keenan (Ireland): A beautifully balanced runner who is exceptional under the high ball. Ireland’s back three are all natural footballers, and Keenan also came through their improved Sevens program.

19 Pablo Matera (Argentina): There aren’t many players who can single-handedly drag their sides across line to big test wins, but Matera is in that category. Argentina are surely targeting a semifinal spot.

18 Cameron Woki (France): The hosts have some good options at lock, but no one as athletic as the 24-year who can also play as a flanker. A great jumper at the lineout, and real speed when he finds some open space.

17 Ange Capuozzo (Italy): The slightly built fullback is lightning quick, can change direction at full speed and a brilliant reader of the game. The All Blacks play Italy on September 30 (NZT). It’s not to be missed.

16 Gregory Alldritt (France): A coin toss between Alldritt and team-mate Charles Ollivon, but the big No 8 gets the vote. Huge engine, tough, skilful – and 115kg.

15 Semi Radradra (Fiji): He’s played in the NRL, France and England and he’s been dominant everywhere. Now a midfielder, Radradra will be giving Eddie Jones a few sleepless nights before the Fiji-Wallabies game in Pool C.

14 Caelan Doris (Ireland): Epitomises the new breed of Irish players: big, mobile, fit and skilful. For all of Ireland’s pretty attack play sometimes they need to just smash down the front door, and the No 8 plays that role for them.

13 Josh van der Flier (Ireland): The No 7 has been a big reason why Ireland have risen to No 1 in the rankings. It’s his attacking game that sets him part: he runs superb lines as part of Ireland’s elite back-row unit.

12 Levani Botia (Fiji): How many players can slot in at No 7 and No 12 at test level and have the same impact? That’s a remarkable achievement in itself, but Botia is an absolute warrior. Fiji probably have naturally more gifted players, but none as tough.

11 Ardie Savea (New Zealand): The All Blacks No 8 is carrying a big load in the back row with Shannon Frizell currently injured, but he enters the Rugby World Cup at the peak of his career at 29. So explosive and determined.

10 Will Jordan (New Zealand): Can see an opportunity quicker than most and has the tools to take advantage of it. If he has a big tournament, the All Blacks can go a very long way.

9 Finn Russell (Scotland): What a shame Scotland are in the same group as South Africa and Ireland, because Russell belongs on the big stage. His passing range is without peer, and has matured after a rocky spell with coach Gregor Townsend.

8 Jonathan Danty (France): The Ma’a Nonu of the French midfield, who also wins at least one big breakdown turnover per game. Danty is a serial winner with La Rochelle in France, and arguably only ranks behind Antoine Dupont as the player France can least afford to lose.

7 Johnny Sexton (Ireland): The 38-year-old has been serving a three-game ban for abusing referees, but the Irish will be delighted to have him back for the start of the Rugby World Cup. The focal point of Ireland’s sophisticated attack patterns.

6 Siya Kolisi (South Africa): The inspirational Springboks captain made a remarkable return from injury against Wales a few weeks ago and has lifted South Africa’s performances up a few gears. A weapon at the breakdown.

5 Richie Mo’unga (New Zealand): It took a while, but Mo’unga’s rise to world-class test No 10 has been clear to see this year. His defence has improved and his goalkicking is excellent – he’s at the top his game.

4 Eben Etzebeth (South Africa): He was won 113 caps, a Rugby World Cup, a British and Irish Lions series, and he’s still going strong. A giant of a man and a natural enforcer whose skill and athleticism is probably underrated.

3 Damian Penaud (France): The prince of wingers is well on his way to beating Serge Blanco’s record of 38 tries for his country – he has scored 21 tries in his 20 tests alone. Plays with a joie de vivre that is impossible to resist.

2 Malcolm Marx (South Africa): Already well on the way to Springboks legend status, and he’s only just turned 29. The hooker is probably the most physically imposing forward in world rugby – every time he plays he does something that very few can match, especially at the breakdown.

1 Antoine Dupont (France): The nearest thing rugby has to Lionel Messi. A superb attacker who can run, pass and kick off both feet, the French captain is also a rugged defender. The 26-year-old also has exceptional vision and rarely looks flustered.