Rugby World Cup: Players you may recognise

Former St Bede's student Josh Navidi spent two years in Christchurch and came close to signing a contract with Canterbury.
Former St Bede's student Josh Navidi spent two years in Christchurch and came close to signing a contract with Canterbury. Photo: Getty
When the Rugby World Cup kicks off on September 20 there will be a strong Canterbury presence at the tournament – and not just with the All Blacks. Sports reporter Gordon Findlater takes a look at the players from and with links to here who are set to turn out for other nations in Japan.

Scotland
•Sean Maitland – Maitland made 54 appearances for the Crusaders between 2008 and 2012. His best season came on the wing in 2011. He scored nine tries to help the Crusaders to the final before falling to the Reds. Maitland played 45 games for Canterbury before joining Glasgow. Now at Saracens, he is coming off a club season to remember, winning the European Cup and Premiership. He made his Scotland debut in 2013 and has 30 caps.
•Simon Berghan – Born in Christchurch, Berghan played for the Shirley Boys’ High first XV and the Sydenham premier side. The tight-head prop was part of the Crusaders development squad before shifting to Scotland and joining Edinburgh in 2014. He made his Scotland debut in 2017.
•Other notables – Finn Russell, Grant Gilchrist and Johnny Gray were all in the Canterbury international high performance unit as part of Scotland’s John Macphail Scholarship, which sent emerging players to Christchurch from 2005-2017.

Sean Maitland will be a key attacking option for Scotland. Photo: Getty
Sean Maitland will be a key attacking option for Scotland. Photo: Getty
Tonga
•Siua Maile – The Shirley hooker grew up in Tonga. He moved to New Zealand in 2014 and took a scholarship at Timaru Boys’ High, where he played as a loose forward in the first XV. The Christchurch roofer was instrumental in helping Shirley reach the premier metro competition semi-final.
•Paul Ngauamo – The 29-year-old hooker was in the Christchurch Boys’ High first XV. He was also part of the New Zealand under-20 side which won the 2010 Junior World Championship. Ngauamo played for Sydenham and made 11 appearances for Canterbury from 2010-2011. In 2014 he moved to France to play professionally.
•Nasi Manu – Another CBHS product, Manu’s incredible size and power saw him dominate first XV rugby. The No 8 was part of the New Zealand under-20 side which won the 2008 Junior World Championship. The 31-year-old played 76 games for Canterbury from 2007-2014. He also played 16 games for the Crusaders, but is best remembered in Super Rugby for his time at the Highlanders, which saw him make 65 appearances and captain them to the 2015 title. Manu moved to Europe following the title. Last year he was diagnosed with testicular cancer while in Italy playing for Benetton Treviso. He found out he was cancer-free in June.

Japan
•Luke Thompson – The lock is set to appear in his fourth Rugby World Cup for Japan at the age of 38. Growing up in Christchurch, Thompson played for the St Bede’s College first XV in the late 1990s and went on to play two games for Canterbury in 2003. However, with no shortage of locks in Canterbury at the time, Thompson took his talents to the Sanyo Wild Knights in 2004. In 2007, he qualified for Japan through residency and has since gone on to play more than 60 games. He is the brother of former Silver Ferns and Tactix player Anna Thompson.
•Michael Leitch – The Japanese captain grew up in Christchurch and played for Belfast and St Bede’s. The loose forward moved to Japan at 15. In 2008, he captained them at the Junior World Championship and became a Japanese citizen in 2013. Leitch has gone on to play more than 50 games for the national side. He was appointed captain by Eddie Jones in April 2014.

Uruguay
•Alejandro Nieta-Serra – The prop attended the St Bede’s international rugby programme as a back-rower. He played a number of games for the second XV in 2006 and made one appearance for the first XV. This will be Nieta-Serra’s second World Cup with Uruguay.

Former New Brighton and Crusaders midfielder Kieron Fonotia will make his World Cup debut with Samoa. Photo: Getty
Former New Brighton and Crusaders midfielder Kieron Fonotia will make his World Cup debut with Samoa. Photo: Getty

 

Wales
•Josh Navidi – The loose forward was part of the St Bede’s first XV for two years while at its international rugby programme. Navidi helped the side win the Press Cup in 2008 and recently revealed he came close to signing a contract with the Canterbury academy. He recently captained Wales against Ireland and was Welsh player of the year in 2017.
Samoa
•Kieron Fonotia – The former Shirley Boys’ High and New Brighton midfielder played 30 games for the Crusaders from 2014-2016 before joining Welsh club Ospreys. Fonotia is eligible to play for the Manu through his grandfather, who was born in Samoa. He made his Samoa debut in 2017 and has become a regular selection.
•Michael Ala’alatoa – Since moving to Christchurch in 2016, the Sydney-born prop has gone on to play 61 games for the Crusaders and play a role in their three-peat of Super Rugby titles. The 28-year-old is the brother of Wallabies prop Allan Ala’alatoa. Their father Vili played for Samoa at the 1991 World Cup.

England
•Willi Heinz – The former Crusaders halfback is best remembered here for his decision to make two consecutive box kicks – one of which went out on the full outside of his own 22 – in the last stages of the 2014 Super Rugby final. They all but handed the Waratahs the title. Heinz played 58 games for the Crusaders from 2010-2015 and 52 for Canterbury. The 32-year-old moved to Gloucester in 2015 and recently made his England debut.

Fiji
•Ben Volavola – The first-five/fullback signed with the Crusaders following the departure of Dan Carter after the 2015 World Cup. Volavola played seven games for the Crusaders and as many for Canterbury, but was unable to live up to his hype in red and black. The Sydney-born 28-year-old is now ironically once again filling a void left by Carter at Racing 92 in France.

 

 

 

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