If you thought Schalk Brits was the oldest player at the World Cup, you would be wrong.
By exactly one month, that distinction belongs to Japanese lock Luke Thompson, a New Zealander who was born on April 16, 1981, with Brits joining this mortal coil on May 16 of the same year.
Not far behind these “geriatrics” is one of Thompson’s adversaries in that epic match against Ireland, 37-year-old captain Rory Best, who is six months younger than Brits and also a hooker.
Thompson, incidentally, heroically showed that “age ain’t nothing but a number” by putting in a staggering 19 tackles on the Irish.
The youngest player at the tournament in Japan is exactly half the age of Thompson and Brits in Georgia hooker Vano Karkadze, who turned 19 in June.
Data visualisation company Zegami has reviewed player data from every Rugby World Cup since 1987 to this year’s tournament to uncover the heaviest, tallest, youngest and highest scoring players to watch.
The company’s data confirms what we see on our TV screens when highlights of the inaugural 1987 World Cup are shown – today’s players are monsters in comparison to the skinny players of that era.
Back in the 1980s, players had day jobs and gym was optional. Modern players live in the gym and are fed a cocktail of muscle-enhancing supplements.
The forwards at the 2019 World Cup are on average 13kg heavier than their 1987 counterparts. That is a massive difference. Incidentally the heaviest player in Japan is Tongan prop Ben Tameifuna, who is a whopping 151kg.
Also, the modern backline players are in many cases heavier than the forwards at the first World Cup. The stats show that it is common place for backline players to weigh in around 105kgs.
Fijian wing Nemani Nadolo is the tournament’s heaviest ever back at 130kg when he took the field in 2015. By contrast the heaviest winger in the 1987 tournament was Wales’ Adrian Hadley who at 98kgs was way off Nadolo. Handley was also 22kg lighter than England winger Joe Cokanisiga who is competing for the trophy this year.
Encouragingly for the Springbok line-out, three Bok locks feature in the top tallest players in Japan.
Lood de Jager, so impressive against Namibia last week, towers above them all at 2.05m and just below him are three players on 2.03m: Eben Etzebeth, RG Snyman and Australia’s Rory Arnold.
An inch below them are Adam Coleman (Australia) and Greg Petersen (USA).
But there is one record that still belongs to the old timers and will be in the sights of sharpshooters Handre Pollard and Co. The record number of points scored at a single tournament is 126, scored by Grant Fox at the 1987 World Cup in New Zealand.
Three players hold the highest number of tries scored at a single tournament, which stands at eight, scored by Jonah Lomu, Julian Savea and Bryan Habana.
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