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  • Writer's pictureRugbyInsideLine

Five Scrum Halves to Watch This World Cup

Antoine Dupont

The French captain is already being touted as one of the greatest players of all time. He has been described as 'rugby's Messi'. Antoine Dupont will be the face of his home World Cup. His profile off the pitch is almost as strong as his on-field performances in France. Few can forget his photo shoot adorning a yellow dressing gown in France's GQ. This public stature was aided when Dupont was named World Player of the Year in 2021 and three Six Nations Player of the Year awards in 2020, 2022 and 2023.

Dupont has the full skillset. The scrum half is ambipedal meaning he can kick off both feet. A scrum half who can kick off just his left foot is highly sought after due to the problems this can cause for opposing defensive coverage. A scrum half who can kick off both is like finding a needle in a haystack. If playing at scrum half wasn't enough for Dupont, he has also been known to slot in at fly half! As well as his kicking accomplishments, Dupont is one of the most dangerous players in attack. He has the most metres and carries per 80 out of all of the scrum halves in the world. Dupont is also the third scrum half for gainline success per game. However, it's not just the flashy stuff where he has a Midas touch. Dupont will get his hands dirty and take on players twice his size in defence and attack. He'll normally win that battle too!

Santiago Arata

If you made the decision to wake up on the early hours of the 25th September 2019 to watch Fiji vs Uruguay at the last World Cup, you'll need no introduction. In the 14th minute of that match, Arata made clear that Uruguay were not going to be trampled into the dirt by the Fijian giants. The 5ft 7in, 22-year old (at the time), scampered past three Fijian defenders with his quick feet and went in under the posts. Uruguay went onto record their greatest World Cup win with a 27-30 victory over the Fijians.

This moment secured a move for Arata to Castres in the Top 14. Arata then played a pivotal role guiding Castres to the top of the table and to the Top 14 Final in 2021/22. The case of Arata is a perfect example of the opportunities that a World Cup can provide for tier 2 players. It is a shop window to the big leagues. Arata will be looking to replicate his 2019 antics as a major player of this Uruguayan squad this time round.

Faf de Klerk

Sebastian Chabal, Martin Castrogiovanni, Adam Jones, Percy Montgomery and now Faf de Klerk. The are just some of the players who have enhanced their global profile with their big hair. Faf's long locks meant he stood out from other players right from the start. Faf's follicular effort is matched on the field with his work rate. The little scrum half is like a terrier. Faf will frequently launch himself at the largest forwards to bring them down and will often be seen shooting out of the line to exert pressure on opposition attacks. The pressure typically forces errors for South Africa to monopolise.

In attack, it's de Klerk's boot which is of most use to the Springboks. De Klerk guides his pack into the right parts of the field where they can put their wave after wave of physical carries to good use. The scrum half brings an electric energy to his side and is an irritant to the opposition in equal measure. Faf knows the exact moment to put the needles in to spark a reaction from his opponents. De Klerk will be the heartbeat for South Africa this World Cup.

Aaron Smith / Cam Roigard

Aaron Smith is an All Blacks stalwart. With 119 caps and one World Cup final to his name, he is one of the most experienced scrum halves out there. No scrum half can match his pass speed and accuracy. He zips the ball away from any breakdown at the speed of light. There is no player in the world who had a higher number of assists per game than Aaron Smith last season. His ability to pick the right player close to the line is truly world class.

Smith turns 35 this November and therefore this will be his last World Cup. He will want to end on a triumph after falling short in 2019. Smith will likely start for the All Blacks and will try to control the game early on. This could make for a fascinating partnership with his understudy, Cam Roigard, who will be adding tempo from the bench. Roigard was first out of scrum halves for defenders beaten per game, second for offloads and clean breaks per game and third for tries scored. These two should combine well at this World Cup as the apprentice looks to learn from the master.

Jamison Gibson-Park

Gibson-Park arrived in Ireland from New Zealand back in 2016. With no sign of international caps coming, he made the move to Leinster. Four years later, the former Maori All Black was now qualified to play for Ireland. Gibson-Park has seized his chance with his adopted country. Since Gibson-Park has been at Ireland and Leinster, Ireland have risen to number one in the world and Leinster have made four Champions Cup Finals. Gibson-Park has been a key part of this.

The nippy nine is lethal around the fringes and needs no second invitation when a gap emerges. Gibson-Park frequently burrows himself over the line. This is combined with great vision where he is frequently seen whipping the ball out wide to his wingers who are left with an open try line. Gibson-Park has developed a sixth sense with club mate Johnny Sexton outside him at fly half. Expect to see these two working in tandem as they try to take Ireland to the semi finals for the first time.


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