Owain Jones takes a look at some of the oldest and youngest players to ever play in the tournament
Who Are The Oldest And Youngest Rugby World Cup Players?
The greatest players ever have played in the Rugby World Cup but who holds the record for being the oldest and youngest? Owain Jones charts some golden oldies and teenage kicks…
Diego Ormaechea (Uruguay) 40 years 13 days
At an age when most players were putting their trotters up on the sofa and watching rugby from afar, Diego Ormaechea, Los Lelos’ inspirational captain, was throwing himself with gusto into tackle after tackle at the 1999 World Cup. The No 8 powered over for a try against Spain in the tournament and, as Uruguay’s most capped player with 73 caps, is often hailed as their greatest-ever player, helping them to qualify for the 2003 tournament as coach.
Victor Matfield (South Africa) 38 years 190 days
World Cup winner Matfield had already retired the Springbok No 5 shirt but the lure of his country was too much and he dusted off his boots to take part in his fourth World Cup in England in 2015. He helped South Africa shake off their ignominious start in the competition to guide them to the semi-finals, where they narrowly lost to eventual winners New Zealand.
Francis Haget (France) 37 years 239 days
Haget enjoyed a 13-year French career at lock and the denouement came at the inaugural 1987 Rugby World Cup with a game against Fiji, a just reward for his fine form, along with Jean Condom in the Grande Chelem-winning side under coach Jacques Fouroux that year. He had a distinguished club career with Agen and Biarritz, where his elegance in the air was much admired but he could mix it with the bruisers of the Top 14 when he had to and his endurance was testament to his preference for training over long lunches.
Phil Orr (Ireland) 36 years 162 days
To newer Irish rugby fans, Phil Orr was the esteemed IRFU president, serving with distinction in 2017 and 2018 as a fine administrator. But to those of an older vintage Orr was a teak-tough loosehead, who packed down in green for over a decade of sterling service, often when on the back foot, and making a record 49 consecutive appearances. He won a Test cap for the 1977 British & Irish Lions in New Zealand.
Vasil Lobzhanidze (Georgia) 18 years 340 days
When Lobzhanidze crossed the whitewash against Tonga in the 2015 World Cup he became the tournament’s youngest-ever participant, going on to shine in the game against eventual champions New Zealand. The jet-heeled scrum-half, who plays his club rugby in France’s D2 with Brive, has already amassed 37 caps for his country and at 22, will be expecting to carry his considerable experience to Japan.
Thretton Palamo (USA) 19 years 63 days
Palamo was, for eight years, the youngest player to have tasted World Cup duty when facing the might of South Africa, having not long celebrated his 19th birthday. The powerful midfielder of Samoan heritage went on to have spells at Biarritz, Saracens, Bristol and the Dragons but was unable to make a lasting impression, being released by the Bears at the end of the 2017-18 season. He has enjoyed more success in the shortened format, regularly turning out for the USA Sevens team.
George North (Wales) 19 years 166 days
North had made his debut for Wales nine months earlier, when scoring a brace against South Africa, so his involvement in the 2011 tournament was no surprise. Yet he still made an impression, scoring three tries, and he has since gone on to star for the Lions and become one of the world’s leading try-scorers.
And the youngest player to play in a World Cup final… Jonah Lomu (New Zealand) 20 years 41 days
Regularly cited as the greatest World Cup player of all time, Lomu became a worldwide superstar in the 1995 tournament, bulldozing opponents at will. Along with Bryan Habana, he holds the record for most World Cup tries with 15. With kidney issues from a young age, the rugby world was shocked and saddened when Lomu passed away at just 40 in 2015 a month after the World Cup final.
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