Once were warriors

(Rugby News Service) Sunday 23 October 2011
Once were warriors
Brian O'Driscoll exchanges a Maori greeting at the start of RWC 2011

AUCKLAND, 23 Oct. - They graced the rugby fields of the world for years with power, pace and panache.

Now a magnificent seven have played in their last Rugby World Cup. No more will the tournament see the strength of Victor Matfield and Nathan Sharpe, the flair of Shane Williams, the imagination of Brian O'Driscoll, the doggedness of Mario Ledesma, the talent of Mils Muliaina and Nicky Little.

These titans of the sport provided supporters the world over with many magical moments during their memorable RWC careers and they will surely be missed.

But they would be the first to admit that more players like themselves will come along and eventually carve their names into the hearts and minds of rugby fans.

O'Driscoll won 117 caps for Ireland, South Africa's Matfield 110, Wallaby Sharpe 100, All Black Muliaina 100, Wales's Williams 86, Argentine Ledesma 84 and Fiji's Little 71.

Here are some parting shots of the seven lighting up RWC 2011.

Leaning tower: Giant South Africa second row Victor Matfield braces himself for a challenge from Wallaby Adam Ashley-Cooper

Strife of Brian: Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll is caught in a pincer movement by Australian pair Kurtley Beale and Ben McCalman

The Sharpe end: Second row Nathan Sharpe of the Wallabies runs out to win his 100th cap and finish his Rugby World Cup career in the Bronze Final against Wales

Through the Mils: Jebb Sinclair of Canada tries but fails to prevent All Black full back Mils Muliaina breaking clear

Enter the Dragon: Shane Williams dives over to score a try to put Wales into the lead against the Wallabies in the Bronze Final but the advantage was only temporary

Super Mario: Argentina's Mario Ledesma played his heart out and tackles Jerome Kaino in his final Rugby World Cup match

Little Little and large Little: Fiji's Nicky Little makes it a family affair after bidding farewell to the RWC in the Pool D match against Wales

RNS rm/mr