The Best Players Never To Appear In A Rugby World Cup

Out of favour, injured, exiled - they'd make many a team but they never played on the biggest stage of all.
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A look at some of the best ever players in the history of rugby, who all unfortunately never tested their skills on the grandest scale at the World Cup.

15. Matthew Ridge - The Kiwi was all set to fill John Gallagher's spot after the World Cup winner's transfer to rugby league. But with union still technically amateur and Ridge keen to cash in on his talents, he signed up with the Manly Sea Eagles before he played test rugby for the All Blacks.

14. Eric Rush - One of the world's greatest sevens player, the appropriately named Rush started out as a flanker before switching to the wing at the behest of the North Harbour coaching staff. Won just nine, non-World Cup caps for New Zealand before making way for someone called Jonah Lomu.

13. Sonny Boy Williams - Amongst this generation's top league players, Kiwi Williams shook up the world when he quit the NRL to join Jonny Wilkinson at Toulon - a decision that made him both rich and illegible for the All Blacks. Might yet play representative union for New Zealand. Then again, might not.

12. Danie Gerber - There are great centres and then there's Danie Gerber, the man with the physique of a flanker and the pace of a piqued white rhino. Like fellow Springbok legend Naas Botha, Gerber missed out on the 1987 and 1991 tournaments on account of South Africa's apartheid blacklisting.

11. Jon Bentley - The unlikely star of the 1997 Lions tour, the barnstorming winger was a league player in 1995 and out in the cold come 1999. Still you can't help thinking his big personality might have galvanised an England team still getting used to professionalism and Clive Woodward.

10. Stuart Barnes - Whenever southern hemisphere sides toured England in the 1980s and early '90s, they could never understand why the 'Bath Barrel' was passed over for the patient and reliable Rob Andrew. Can now be heared enjoying the sound of his own voice on Sky Sports' rugby coverage.

9. Nigel Melville - England skipper aged just 23, we mightn't have heard of 'Captain Carling' had Melville been less injury prone. Capped just 13 times, he was still playing incredible rugby in his early thirties but by then his was fourth choice scrum-half behind Richard Hill, Dewi Morris and Steve Bates.

8. Aran Pene - A bruising loose forward gifted in those special All Black skills of stamping, standing offside and 'lazy running', there was nothing pretty about Pene's play but he was incredibly effective. Unfortunate to be around at the same time as the great Zinzan Brooke, known to his friends as 'Zinnie'.

7. Andy Robinson - Openside flanker Robinson was the star of England's near-miss 1988-89 season. Seemingly set for a lengthy international career, the Bath star was brushed aside when Peter Winterbottom hit top form. Robinson currently coaches the Scottish national side. The poor bastard.

6. Radike Samo - A victim of Australia and New Zealand's policy of raiding their island neighbours, blindside Samo was just a stopgap for the Wallabies. Had he remained in Fiji, there's little doubt his physicality and ball-carrying would have made him a hugely influential forward.

Radike Samo: 'Talk to the hand'



5. Keith Robinson - He leapt like a stag but moved around the pitch like Michael Jones. Yep, with rare gifts like this, it's little wonder the New Zealand board stuck with Robinson throughout his various injury crises. Alas, like Melville, an inability to stay fit denied the game a rare talent.

4. Brad Mika - One of countless 'Baby Blacks' who impressed on the 2002 Autumn tour of Europe, Auckland regular Mika made up in bulk (he weighed in at 21 stone) what he lacked in height (6' 3''). Still, the son of Samoan parents found it hard to blossom in the dual shadow of Ali Williams and Chris Jack.

3. Rodney Blake - The Tongan-born, Kiwi-raised 'Rodzilla' initially seemed the answer to the Wallabies' scrummaging woes. Despite consistently strong performances for both Australia and Queensland, Blake found himself without a Super 14s contract in 2009 and so headed off to Aviron Bayonnais and international ineligibility.

2. Andy Dalton - For some, a serious rival to Sean Fitzpatrick as the greatest ever All Black hooker, Dalton was due to captain New Zealand in the inaugural Rugby World Cup but had to withdraw through injury. Spent the whole tournament sat on the bench sporting his headguard and a sour expression.

1. Bull Allen - Known to his mother as Mark, the 'Taranaki Bull' was a cult favourite who could never unseat old warhorses like Richard Loe, Craig Dowd and Olo Brown. His last test - and first start - in an All Black jersey was against England in 1997, a justly famous 26-all draw.


i) David Bishop - The true pretender to Gareth Edwards' crown, the inspired Bishop was marginalised by poor selection and 'colourful' off-field behaviour. Capped by his home country after signing with Wakefield Trinity, rugby league's gain was definitely union's loss.

ii) Pat Howard - One of those annoying Aussie bastards who's able to do anything, the only problem Howard has was convincing the Wallaby selectors he had more to offer than fellow centres Tim Horan and Jason Little. Wound up becoming a big wheel at Leicester Tigers.

iii) Andrew Walker - Another league convert, Walker's speed and goal-kicking should have made him a Wallaby mainstay. But talk of drinking and going AWOL damaged his reputation and, when combined with his Aboriginal heritage, led to tasteful headlines about his having gone 'walker-bout'

iv) Deacon Manu - A hulking Fijian front-rower, Manu played representative rugby for the junior All Blacks and the New Zealand Maori. Although he made himself available for Fiji's 2007 RWC squad, he's since been rejected by both the islanders and the Kiwis. Manu now plies his trade in Llanelli.

v) Vincent Moscato - Looking not unlike a glandular Telly Savalas, the 'Beast of Begles-Bordeaux' was infamously sent off against England in 1992 for head-butting Jeff Probyn. A flamboyant, histrionic character, it's no surprise he became an actor once his playing days were over.

vi) Mike Brewer - Maori Brewer is maybe best known for his involvement in the NZ-Ireland Haka 'face-off' of 1989. Considered something of a stand-in for Michael 'Never On A Sunday' Jones, Brewer, though able, was left trailing in the Samoan's wake.

vii) Scott Gourley - Blessed with a flanker's pace and the height of a lock, Aussie Scott burst on the scene in 1989. At the time, he seemed to represent a new breed of second-row forward. But in reality, he was but one of many Wallabies to switch codes in the years between World Cups I and II.

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