Out of the shadows
September 8, 2011
Tonga'uiha has been a sensation in the Premiership and looks set to shine in the World Cup © Getty Images
Much is expected at this year's Rugby World Cup from established names such as England's Jonny Wilkinson, New Zealand's Dan Carter, Australia's Quade Cooper and South Africa's Bryan Habana but with every showpiece tournament comes a group of players who emerge from the shadows to share in the spotlight.
The 2007 World Cup saw Argentina's Juan Martin Hernandez cementing himself as one of the standout players on the international stage while rugby aficionados will remember with fondness the moment a little known USA Eagles winger Tako Ngwenya took Habana on the outside and scored a sensational try. Bearing this in mind, this weeks' Scrum Sevens looks at a group of players from the less-fancied nations who look set to shine in the 'Land of the Long White Cloud.'
The Russian winger burst onto the international scene with three tries in the 2010 Churchill Cup but it was in Ireland where he cut his teeth playing for Leinster's youth sides. After playing for the University College Dublin side, Artemyev opted to move back to Moscow and joined VVA-Podmoskovye. It was here he caught the eye of the then national coach and now Sale boss Steve Diamond and he was thrust into the international reckoning with his first cap coming against Portugal in February 2009.
Prior to the 2011 Churchill Cup, Northampton Saints announced his signing and he followed it up with two tries during the final staging of the tournament. With 25 appearances to his name and nine tries, Artemyev looks set to shine for both club and country and with his broad Irish accent is likely that he will be remembered by everyone he meets on and off the field.
The Saracens flanker impressed during the 2007 World Cup but since then has pushed on to establish himself as one of the best opensides in the Aviva Premiership. He turned out for the Blue Bulls in the Currie Cup before earning himself a move to the English champions after Brendan Venter recruited him as a replacement for the outgoing Wikus van der Heerden.
With 14,000 acres awaiting him back in Namibia when he decides to hang up his boots, Burger's no holds bars attitude on the field is reinforced by his opposition. Harlequins' inside centre Jordan Turner-Hall paid tribute to the flanker saying: "'Every time I play you guys (Saracens) I spend my life looking around for that bloke with the curly hair, because I know he'll destroy us."
Burger will captain Namibia in the World Cup and although his side are the second least favoured side to lift 'Old Bill' come October 23, one thing's for certain - Burger will not give an inch while sporting his national side's shirt.
The Samoan scrum-half is relatively new to the international scene but has a wealth of experience for the Crusaders in Super Rugby. He first turned out for them in the 2008 campaign but playing understudy to All Blacks' half-back Andy Ellis, Fotuali'i has now decided to turn his back on the Canterbury franchise and instead will play in the newly coined RaboDirect PRO12 for the Ospreys as a replacement for the outgoing Mike Phillips.
The 29-year-old possesses pace to burn and a pass which can unleash the likes of Alesana Tuilagi and Seilala Mapusua in the backs. And having already help take the notable scalp of Australia earlier this year, Fotuali'i will hope to add to his five caps for the Islanders in the forthcoming World Cup.
The monster Georgian back-row was named the Top 14's best foreign player in 2011. With the third highest number of carries in the league and with more offloads than anyone else at his club, Gorgodze is arguably the best rugby player Georgia has ever produced.
'Gorgodzilla' took his international bow for the Lelos back in 2003 at the sprightly age of 18 and pushed on from there playing a key part in their qualification for the 2007 World Cup. Possessing an impressive turn of pace and deft hands, Gorgodze - who has an army of YouTube fans - has lit up the French league and will surely make a huge impact in New Zealand - though Jonny Wilkinson will be wary of the back-row when the two sides meet in Pool B after his >previous encounter with the 120kg Georgian.
Fans of English rugby will be all too familiar with the Tongan prop who has rampaged his way across the Premiership stage in recent seasons. A key part of the Northampton Saints side which reached the final of the 2011 Heineken Cup, Tonga'uiha is one third of the formidable front-row alongside England's Dylan Hartley and South Africa's Brian Mujati. And with Tonga facing tournament favourites New Zealand and the unpredictable yet mercurial French, Tonga'uiha will have to be at his bullish best.
After making headlines following him turning his back on a contract with Saracens, Saints supporters will be glad he is still pulling on the green and gold at Franklin's Gardens. But it could have been very different for the prop. He turned out for the New Zealand U19 and U21 side but failed to earn a Super Rugby contract despite playing for Auckland in the domestic cup. From there he journeyed to the Bedford Blues before joining the Saints. And on the international scene, Tonga'uiha is well established in the Tongan front-row having played in all four of their pool games in the 2007 World Cup.
A tally of 14 tries in 41 Test appearances is an impressive return for any player plying their trade at the international level, though for a hooker to achieve that feat is nothing short of sensational. Contributing 15 of Romania's measly 40 points at the 2007 World Cup, Tincu is a well known figure to watchers of the Top 14 having turned out for Perpignan since 2005.
However, his run in the Catalan side's first-team has been cut short of late due to the rise of French hooker Guilhem Guirado. But alongside fellow Perpignan team-mate Ovidiu Tonita, the pair will provide a Heineken Cup battle-hardened backbone to the Romanian side.
Having turned out for Canada in the 2010 Churchill Cup, O'Toole impressed winning two man-of-the-match awards out of Canada's three games. A move to development side RGC 1404 in North Wales followed where O'Toole learned the dark arts of the back-row. From there he had a brief stint with Glasgow where he turned out just one time for the Celtic league side before opting to return back to Canada to prepare for the World Cup.
And having earned the accolade of 'Man of the Tournament' following a series of inspiring performances for the Canucks during the 2011 Churchill Cup, O'Toole's signature was snapped up by the Ospreys meaning O'Toole can no longer be labelled the "best amateur in the world."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column
The latest Monday Maul looks at the hectic final weekend, the Lions hangover, the superb Mike Brown and the 'selfie'
"At the crux of this England team is a lack of fear, they are not afraid to throw playbooks out of the window." Tom Hamilton reports from Twickenham
"These little deft touches, the nuances O'Driscoll has perfected are what Ireland will miss most." Tom Hamilton on Brian O'Driscoll's final Test in Dublin