As we move into the top 40 of The Roar’s greatest Rugby World Cup players countdown, we come across a group who were individually brilliant on the game’s biggest stage but rarely tasted the ultimate triumph.
These five players only have a single winner’s medal between them, although they still produced some of the most memorable performances at the World Cup. And, in the case of this next man, some of the biggest hits ever seen on a rugby field.
Nicknamed ‘The Chiropractor’ due to his penchant for delivering bone-cracking hits, Brian Lima is the best player ever to come out of the tiny island nation of Samoa.
A member of the World Rugby Hall of Fame, Lima represented Samoa at five Rugby World Cups over an incredible 16-year span.
Lima played in the 1991 tournament at just 19 years of age and featured in Samoa’s historic victory over Wales at Cardiff Arms Park which ensured their progression to the quarter-finals.
In 1995, Lima scored twice in Samoa’s opening win over Italy as they once again progressed to the quarters before falling to eventual winners South Africa, and they repeated their historic triumph over Wales in Cardiff in the 1999 edition, winning 38-32 at the new Millenium Stadium.
While they did not make it out of the group stage in 2003 or 2007, one of the highlights of the former was Lima’s crunching hit on South Africa’s Derick Hougaard at Suncorp Stadium.
This list is composed of the top performers in Rugby World Cups, and any such list has to include Christophe Lamaison.
Not remembered as one of the all-time greats, a man who played just 37 Test matches over a five-year period, and generally not even considered the first-choice flyhalf for the French team, Lamaison enjoyed a magic afternoon in 1999 which steered his side to the final.
He barely featured in the group stage as France recorded unconvincing wins over Canada, Namibia and Fiji. But handed the reins at flyhalf for the semi-final against unbackable favourites New Zealand, Lamaison scored a try and kicked four conversions, three penalties and two drop goals as France shocked the All Blacks in arguably the greatest Rugby World Cup upset ever and made it through to the final to face Australia.
David Pocock will be remembered as one of the greatest openside flankers to play the game, however he will be desperate to lift the Webb Ellis Cup when he plays his third and final World Cup in Japan.
Semi-finalist in 2011, finalist in 2015, the 2019 World Cup will be Pocock’s last hurrah in the Wallabies jersey, such is the physically demanding nature of his position and his willingness to place himself in the line of fire at the breakdown in order to secure a turnover for his side.
Pocock was outstanding in Australia’s run to the final in 2015, and scored a try in the decider, however it will be the 15-6 win over Wales – where Australia defended heroically while down to 13 men – which was his iconic moment of the tournament.
Standing at just 1.74m tall, Chester Williams will be remembered as a giant of the game in South Africa.
A star of the 1995 Cup-winning side, when he scored four tries in the quarter-final against Samoa, Williams’ brilliance on the wing coincided with a shift in attitudes towards players of colour in the Springbok side.
The first black player selected for the Boks in almost a decade, Williams lined up for the national team alongside players who had previously racially abused him in the domestic competition.
He became a hero to African children during the 1995 tournament as the home side went all the way to final where they defeated the All Blacks to be crowned world champions.
Williams sadly passed away just last week, the outpouring of tributes to him evidence of his impact on the game in South Africa and across the world.
Originally picked for the World Cup in Australia as a back-up scrumhalf, a backline reshuffle would see Shane Williams picked on the wing in Wales’ final pool game of the 2003 tournament. It would prove to be a masterstroke that the team would benefit from for years to come.
Williams scored a try in that game and his electric pace almost saw Wales upset heavy favourites England a week later in the quarter-final.
An established winger and a key member of the Welsh side four years later, Williams scored four tries at the 2007 tournament and added three more to his Rugby World Cup tally at the 2011 edition – including one in the quarter-final against Ireland which saw Wales advance to their only semi-final appearance to date.
The Roar’s 50 greatest players in Rugby World Cup history
50. Jannie de Beer (South Africa)
49. David Kirk (New Zealand)
48. Zinzan Brooke (New Zealand)
47. Richard Hill (England)
46. Jason Robinson (England)
45. Sam Whitelock (New Zealand)
44. Sean Fitzpatrick (New Zealand)
43. Andrew Mehrtens (New Zealand)
42. Jason Little (Australia)
41. Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)
40. Brian Lima (Samoa)
39. Christophe Lamaison (France)
38. David Pocock (Australia)
37. Chester Williams (South Africa)
36. Shane Williams (Wales)