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Last Updated: Monday, 3 November, 2003, 09:01 GMT
World Cup's unlucky losers
15: Toru Kurihara (Jap)
14: Daisuke Ohata (Jap)
13: Sukanaivalu Hufanga (Ton)
12: Brian Lima (Sam)
11: Rupeni Caucau (Fiji)
10: Mike Hercus (USA)
9: Agustin Pichot (Arg)
1: Andrea Lo Cicero (Ita)
2: David Dadunashvili (Geo)
3: Roberto Grau (Arg)
4: Apenisa Naevo (Fiji)
5: Al Charron (Can)
6: Schalke vd Merwe (Nam)
7: Ovida Tonita (Rom)
8: Semo Sititi (Sam)

The end of the pool stages mark the end of the road for 12 teams at the World Cup.

Among the 360 players who have packed their bags, for every Mario Ledesma, the Argentine hooker who had a nightmare in the opening game, there is a David Dadunashvili.

The Gerogian hooker will return home a national hero having had the honour of scoring his country's first World Cup try.

BBC Sport selects a World Cup XV of unlucky losers, players who have stood out in a losing cause and could give this year's eventual world champions a run for their money.

15. Toru Kurihara
Full-back, Japan

Giving a winger a number 15 shirt is nothing new in the modern game, and Japan coach Shogo Mukai could soon be taking a leaf out of our book.

Kurihara excelled in defence against the USA and he celebrated his try-scoring tackle towards the end with as much enthusiasm as any of his 21 points in the match.

Pace in abundance and a good boot to boot, unless he's a nervous wreck under the high ball, Shogo should shift him.

Daisuke Ohata
14. Daisuke Ohata
Right wing, Japan

Ohata is a try-scoring machine, with a ratio to compare with the best in the business.

Hardly surprising when pre-World Cup he was playing the likes of Korea and running in eight tries.

But the diminuitive flyer, who has won his country's version of Superstars, showed he is up to the challenge of playing the best, finishing off fantastic scores against France and the USA that left burn marks on the pitch.

13. Sukanaivalu Hufanga
Outside centre, Tonga

He did not start the tournament, but finished it with a bang.

Overlooked for the opening game, the youngster improved with each match and added an extra dimension to the Tongan backline when called upon.

Hufanga injected speed and direction into an otherwise one-paced set of outside backs and will no doubt soon be refered to as a Tongan torpedo.

Brian Lima
12. Brian Lima
Inside centre, Samoa

Known as the chiropractor, because of his bone-crunching tackles, the former winger is a force to be reckoned with even in the autumn of his career.

His four outings at the tournament have given him what could prove a brief record of 16 consecutive World Cup matches.

Lima's undoubted moment of the tournament came in the second half against South Africa when he dumped Springbok fly-half Derick Hougaard with a thuddering tackle.

Rupeni Caucaunibuca
11. Rupeni Caucaunibuca
Left wing, Fiji

Caucaunibuca came into the tournament with a big reputation which he has only enhanced.

The Fijian flyer left the French defence for dead with a searing break from inside his own half to touch down under the posts but he ruined it by clocking Olivier Magne with a forearm jab which resulted in a two-match ban.

He was back to his best against the Scots with two further tries, but they were not enough to help Fiji into the quarter-finals.

Mike Hercus
10. Mike Hercus
Fly-half, USA

The former Australian Under-21 international returned down under and showed the Wallabies, and the world, his wares.

His performances were all the more remarkable given that he missed a last-minute conversion that would have given his country a memorable win over Fiji.

But he bounced back and grew in confidence as the tournament progressed, directing operations in the backline with a full array of handling skills and his ever-reliable boot.

Agustin Pichot
9. Agustin Pichot
Scrum-half, Argentina

Sililo Martens may keep Tonga ticking over, but Pichot is a class apart.

The Puma never quite lived up to his billing and, although the schedule and the "Pool of Death" hindered his impact, even at 75% he is a force to be reckoned with.

The best players in the world should be involved in the business end of a global tournament. Unlucky loser? That will be those watching from the sidelines.

Christo Bezuidenhout
1. Andrea Lo Cicero
Loose-head prop, Italy

Italy coach John Kirwan wanted his teams to play like their cars.

Lo Cicero would be the first to admit he is no Ferrari, more like the pick-up truck that tows the Prancing Horse when it goes lame.

Italy may have limped out of the tournament, but their number one prop has shown himself to be a reliable and rugged practitioner of the front row union.

David Dadunashvili
2. David Dadunashvili
Hooker, Georgia

The 21-year-old will return home a national hero.

On their World Cup debut Georgia scored only one try, and Dadunashvili was the man who got it against former world champions South Africa.

The hooker's story is the stuff of legend, not least because he scored after dislocating his shoulder earlier in the match. The pain was no doubt worth it.

Roberto Grau
3. Roberto Grau
Tight-head prop, Argentina

Grau's World Cup ended in disarray when he was banned for nine weeks for the illegal use of his hand on an opponent's face.

But prior to that the bulky Argentine was the cornerstone of the predictably awesome south American scrum.

He refused to be daunted even against Ireland and Australia's scrummagers before a moment of madness cost overshadowed his tournament.

Apenisa Naevo
4. Apenisa Naevo
Lock, Fiji

A lock's life is hardly exotic, sticking your head where the sun don't shine and getting speared into the air at line-outs every so often.

That is unless your Naevo, who is more kicking horse than workhorse.

The 6ft 6in giant's lolloping gait has got him on the end of some flowing Fijian moves for tries against France and Japan.

Al Charron
5. Al Charron
Lock, Canada

The oldest man in the tournament patched up his knees and proved his worth with some fine performances for the Cannucks.

He has had better days in the national jersey but when Canada played against Tonga, - a team at their level - he was head and shoulders above everyone else on the pitch.

That was until he took a head and shoulders tackle from Pierre Hola. He deserved better than to leave the World Cup on a stretcher.

Schalk van der Merwe
6. Schalke van der Merwe
Blind-side flanker, Namibia

For a man who head-butted a lion to get a baboon from its mouth, a game of rugby should be no problem.

A number of flankers stood out in the pool stages but, in Namibia's winless campaign, van der Merwe emerged with great credit.

His sweaty mop of hair appeared all over the park, one minute making try-saving tackles, the next launching a rare African attack. He was his country's mane man.

7. Ovida Tonita
Open-side flanker, Romania

Tonita may not have made the impact that other open-sides made in attacking quarters, but put him in a team going forward and he would doubtless be a revelation.

On the back foot the Romanian made an astounding 52 tackles in four matches, always willing and able to get up for more punishment.

He deserved better than to be on the end of some of the maulings his country took and their final win was reward for his efforts.

Semo Sititi
8. Semo Sititi
Number eight, Samoa

A host of number eights have shone at the tournament, including Italy's Sergio Parisse and Benhur Kivalu of Tonga.

But Sititi is the archetypal cliched captain leading from the front and no-one will feel Samoa's failure to beat South Africa more.

He scored a barnstorming try against Georgia and followed it up with another against England, but ran out of spunk against the Springboks.

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