Five youngsters to watch at the Rugby World Cup

South Africa's centre Canan Moodie warms up ahead of the pre-World Cup Rugby Union match between New Zealand and South Africa at Twickenham Stadium in west London, on August 25, 2023. PHOTO / AFP

What you need to know:

  • In four years the flanker has moved to the Ospreys, made his Test debut and last month was named co-captain of his country.

From in-form wingers to a generational Georgian talent and a co-captain with just 11 caps to his name, AFP Sports looks at five players aged 23 or younger who could grab the headlines at the World Cup which starts in France on Friday:

Canan Moodie (South Africa) 
The 20-year-old is a rare member of holders South Africa’s squad who was not part of the side to lift the Webb Ellis trophy four years ago. The Bulls flyer made his first senior start at centre in August’s record win over New Zealand, after only featuring on the wing.

He will compete with the likes of Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi for a spot in Jacques Nienaber’s side and could cause a lot of damage to tired defences if introduced off the bench late in games.

Argentina's Los Pumas N8 Juan Martin Gonzalez Samso

Juan Martin Gonzalez (Argentina)
The Argentina back-rower only turns 23 in November but he has already played 24 Tests, scoring seven tries in the process. He will join Saracens after the World Cup and joins a long line of abrasive Argentine back-rowers.

With the Pumas' impressive form, we could see Gonzalez, who often plays with his socks rolled down, get a chance to stand out in the knockout stages.

Davit Niniashvili (Georgia)
Arguably one of the most exciting backs to ever come from Georgia, the 21-year-old scored nine tries for his French club Lyon and country last season.

He announced himself to the world during 2022's Challenge Cup final win with a fearsome tackle on then Toulon lock, South Africa's Eben Etzebeth, who has more than 30kg of an advantage on the full-back on the scales.

The Lelos have traditionally produced powerful, heavyweight forwards but Niniasvhili bucks that trend with a more athletic build and could be the missing ingredient as they eye a first quarter-final spot.

Georgian national rugby team player Davit Niniashvili

Jac Morgan (Wales)
As Wales reached the 2019 World Cup semi-finals, 23-year-old Morgan had yet to make his senior debut for then region the Scarlets.

In four years the flanker has moved to the Ospreys, made his Test debut and last month was named co-captain of his country.

His ability at the breakdown has drawn comparisons to Justin Tipuric and his abrasive ball carrying is similar to Sam Warburton.

The fluent Welsh speaker is a leading light of Wales' new generation and the heir to Tipuric and Warburton's No. 7 shirt.

Jac Morgan

Mark Nawaqanitawase (Australia)
The Australia winger celebrates his 23rd birthday days before a potential quarter-final and with his impressive form of four tries in seven matches he could be key for the Wallabies in reaching the last eight.

The fleet-footed Waratahs three-quarter has been a clear positive since Eddie Jones replaced Dave Rennie as head coach and offers good balance to his side on the opposite wing from Marika Korobeite.

Australia's Mark Nawaqanitawase