The dust will settle, the longing will subside and eventually we’ll get over the fact that international rugby, played at its very best, won’t be constantly at our fingertips every week.
While those who failed in England are already plotting ahead to 2019 in Japan, here is a team of players who have graced this (and previous) World Cup that will never take centre stage at rugby’s global gathering ever again.
15. Matt Giteau (Australia)
The ‘Giteau Rule’ may have been implemented in order to accommodate the Toulon based playmaker and reintegrate him into the international fold, but it’s likely we have seen the last of the 33 year old in a Wallaby jersey. Australia needed Giteau on board if they were to win this World Cup, but they will most likely proceed with a younger brigade of centres outside the improved Bernard Foley. Despite a four year international exile, Giteau has racked up 102 caps, 30 tries and 698 total points since his debut as 20 year old in 2002.
14. Adam Ashley Cooper (Australia)
One of Australia’s most underrated backs, the door isn’t closed on Ashley-Cooper’s international career thanks to the aforementioned rule, but at 31 it’s unlikely he’ll see another World Cup. After 10 years and 114 caps, the winger is moving to Bordeaux and a new European adventure. Only two players have scored more than his 37 tries for the Green and Gold and his potency will be missed. He scored four tries at this World Cup, and has registered 11 tries in 17 World Cup appearances across three tournaments.
13. Conrad Smith (New Zealand)
Smith clearly wasn’t as his penetrative best throughout this tournament, and was outshone in the centre stakes by his long-time partner Ma’a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams. Never the less he produced his best performance of the tournament at just the right time, showcasing his vast array of talents as he helped the All Blacks into a 16-3 half time lead over Australia before being replaced. Having debuted in 2004, the 34 year old now heads to France with Pau, departing the international scene with 94 caps and 26 tries to his name, while he has two World Cup winners medals in his back pocket.
12. Ma’a Nonu (New Zealand)
Nonu has come a long way since his 2003 debut, morphing from the much maligned Tana Umaga impersonator into one of the most well rounded and destructive centres of his generation. Gone is the inconsistency and the eye liner, replaced by regular power and precision in his play. Nonu will join the ever expanding “galacticos” of the club rugby world at Toulon, leaving behind an All Black career that ends with 103 caps, 31 tries and a brace of World Cup winners medals.
11. Bryan Habana (South Africa)
There may be a pang of regret in Bryan Habana’s heart as he exits the World Cup stage after three tournaments. The 32 year old crossed the whitewash five this time around to bring him level with Jonah Lomu’s record of 15 tries. The lightening quick winger returns to Toulon and while he hasn’t announced his retirement from the international scene that has brought 64 tries in 117 outings, he has admitted that he won’t be around for the next World Cup to try and add to his try tally or medal from 2007.
10. Dan Carter (New Zealand)
And finally the cloud was lifted. Carter may have been awarded a winners medal at the 2011 World Cup, but the greatest fly half of his generation was left feeling hollow having missed the knock out stages of that tournament. At his fourth World Cup, the 33 year old was a man on a mission as he steered the All Blacks through this competition and to his second medal. With more international points (1,598) in his 112 cap career than any other player, the newly appointed World Player of the Year takes his leave of the international scene and is decamping to Racing 92 for a two year stint.
9. Fourie du Preez (South Africa)
The thinking man’s rugby player. du Preez’s third World Cup didn’t hit the heights of his previous two, or add to his medal from 2007, but the scrum half was still central to a Springbok recovery that saw them lose their first game to Japan before winning the Bronze medal match. The 33 year old has enjoyed the relative ease of the Japanese league for the past four years which has helped him make it to this tournament and after debuting in 2004, he has gone on to claim 76 caps and score 16 tries for the ‘Boks.
8. Schalk Burger (South Africa)
There was a cult following for internet memes of “Chuck Norris Facts” in the middle of the last decade which resulted in the actor being famed for over exaggerated feats off strength, courage and toughness. With Burger there is no need to embellish the truth to prove his toughness. The 32 year old was literally on his death bed in 2013 having contracted viral meningitis. The back-rower overcame the illness however and has produced some of the best performances of his career in the past 12 months. He leaves the Springbok jersey behind with 86 caps and a winners medal.
7. Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
Few words can do justice to the player Richie McCaw has become since he first donned the All Black jersey in 2001. The man is a walking records book. In 148 caps (131 as captain), the 34 year old has been on the losing side just 17 times. He has seen 132 players make their New Zealand debuts since he did and is the only captain to lift back to back Rugby World Cups. He has the joint most appearances at the World Cup (22 across 4 tournaments), has only lost to four nations and has incredibly been part of 32% of the All Blacks victories in history.
6. Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (Argentina)
One of the few remaining Pumas who knows what it was like on the outside of world rugby looking in. The 33 year old made his debut in 2004, and has forged a fantastic career for himself in Europe ever since. Part of the Pumas side that rocked the world in 2007 by making the bronze medal match before gaining Rugby Championship inclusion in 2012. He brought ferocity and passion with each of his 71 caps and will end his career at Toulon with Argentinian rugby in a far better place than when he started.
5. Paul O’Connell (Ireland)
Yet another ageing giant of the game relocating to Toulon. The Irish captains’ international swan-song was cruelly cut short in the pool stage against France when he suffered a tournament ending hamstring injury. The 36 year old is facing into an eight month recovery period but will attack it with the same gusto that he has attacked every lineout and ruck throughout his 108 cap career in green. There was some speculation the lock might have made himself available for the Lions in 2017, but he has rejected that notion and won’t be adding to his three tours and seven caps in red either.
4. Victor Matfield (South Africa)
He may have been the oldest man at the tournament at 38, but with the flowing black locks and energy exuded when on the field, the second row didn’t look his age. Matfield has already retired once from rugby after the 2011 World Cup, only to return in 2013. He has represented the Springboks 18 times across 4 World Cups, and 127 times total, including leading them to victory in 2007. While his time in a South African jersey is complete, he isn’t waving goodbye to the game just yet having agreed to join Northampton for the 2015/16 season.
3. Nicolas Mas (France)
A proud member of the once fearsome stable of French props, Mas was held largely in reserve at this, his third World Cup. The Montpellier player featured five times, all from the bench as France made little impact on the competition. With 85 caps to his name and a new coach set to take the reins it’s unlikely we’ll see the 35 year old add to his tally for Les Bleus.
2. Keven Mealamu (New Zealand)
Another on the list who has competed in four World Cups, the 36 year old may have filled the backup role here but his experience and nous was an important tool for the All Blacks to utilise off the bench. He featured in six games at this tournament (20 in total at World Cups), and sits in second place as the most capped Kiwi of all time with 132. Made his debut a week after Richie McCaw in 2002 and is retiring from game entirely rather than taking up a lucrative contract in the Northern Hemisphere. Another with two medals.
1. Tony Woodcock (New Zealand)
The next time an All Black squad meets up there will be a staggering 589 caps missing from the 23 that partook in last weekend’s final, that’s before mentioning the 118 belonging to Woodcock whose 2015 tournament, and career, was prematurely ended by injury. The 34 year old may not have been present to the very end of this competition but will still a receive a second medal to compliment the one from 2011, a game in which he scored the only try of the game in an 8-7 victory.
Ozer McMahon, Pundit Arena.
Read More About: adam ashley-cooper, bryan habana, conrad smith, dan carter, Fourie du Preez, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Kevin Mealamu, legends, ma'a nonu, matt giteau, nicolas mas, paul o'connell, Retirement, richie mccaw, Rugby, rugby world cup, schalk burger, Tony Woodcock, Top Story, victor matfield, World Cup