All Blacks social media stars Beauden Barrett & Sonny Bill Williams. Credits: Image Photosport, video Newshub
With an online generation finding new ways to follow current events, social media looms as an important tool to track the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Sports stars have been quick to embrace the worldwide web to promote their own brands, and often the best and quickest way of digesting news is straight from the horses mouth.
Twitter and Instagram have become popular outlets for the worlds top rugby players, who provide their own personal take on events, as well as providing insights into their behind-the-scenes preparations for the Japan tournament.
Many have transcended into the realms of online influencers, offering more than just commentary on rugby events, so you can be sure newsrooms around the planet will be monitoring their every tweet and post with interest.
Some of the most popular are current players, while others are retired, but maintain their profile through media roles. Theres even a referee among our top 20.
Three of the top 10 are All Blacks including the top two but while they command impressive fanbases, their online communities pale by comparison with the worlds most prolific poster Portugese football star Cristiano Ronaldo has more than 200 million followers.
The former Wales and Lions captain played 74 times for his country and retired last year. Warburton is now a rugby columnist and commentator, and has just released an autobiography, which will no doubt feature prominently over coming weeks.
His red card against France in the 2011 semi-finals probably cost Wales a title shot against the All Blacks.
Instagram (@beaudenbarrett): 456,000
Despite an anemic Twitter following only Nick Honey Badger Cummins is smaller among the top 30 the All Blacks first-five has been a big improver over recent months, as the World Cup approaches.
His Instagram account undoubtedly got a boost from his January wedding and worldwide honeymoon tour with new bride Hannah Laity, and his relationship with Red Bull.
The former 69-cap Ireland winger retired in 2017, after scoring 30 tries, and attending the 2011 and 2015 World Cups.
These days, hes a rugby presenter on EirSport, while driving his own clothing (XVKings) and shoe (Lloyd&Pryce) labels.
The former Springboks wing played 124 tests, scoring 67 tries, before retiring in 2016. He attended three World Cups, culminating in the loss to New Zealand in the 2015 semis.
Habana is an ambassador for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, adidas and FoodForward.
North will attend his third Rugby World Cup, after helping Wales to the 2011 semis. Hes played 86 times for his country, but tore a hamstring and was sent home early from the 2017 Lions tour of New Zealand.
Hes an ambassador for adidas, Land Rover, and MaxiMuscle and Nocco sports nutrition.
Instagram (@leighhalfpenny): 236,000
Wales matches New Zealands contingent inside the top 10, with Halfpenny topping their representation. Hes played 82 times for his country and missed a 47m penalty that would have carried them into the 2011 World Cup final against the All Blacks.
An ambassador for Under Armour and Land Rover, and a patron for breast cancer and sick-children charities.
The NZ-born Aussie that Kiwis love to hate, Cooper couldnt quite make the Wallabies again, after playing the last two World Cups. Hes in Japan though, so hes bound to have his own perspective on events.
Has the most balanced social-media portfolio across Twitter and Instagram accounts.
Instagram (@brianodriscoll): 307,000
Revered former Ireland and Lions captain played 133 times for his country, including at three World Cups. He was notoriously inured out of the 2005 Lions tour of New Zealand, after a spear tackle dislocated his shoulder.
ODriscoll is now a rugby commentator and owns his own rugby app, Ultimate Rugby. Has more Twitter followers than any other rugby player.
The former All Blacks first-five played 112 times for his country, including three World Cups, and is the leading pointscorer in test rugby. Nearing the end of his career with Kobelco Steelers in Japan.
Carter is the nearest thing to a rugby rock star, with a diverse range of celebrity friends, and has just released an autobiographical movie A Perfect 10. He leads rugby players in Instagram followers.
Instagram (@sonnybillwilliams): 771,000
Plays to a cross-code audience rugby, league and boxing while also winning followers with the religion card. Hes been the biggest improver among rugbys elite social media stars, after supporting the Christchurch mosque shooting victims.
SBW is attending his third Rugby World Cup and the world will be waiting with bated breath for news of his next career move after the tournament.
Paul OConnell (Ireland) 473,000
Instagram (@paul_o_connell5): 123,000
Instagram (@jamiehusroberts): 110,000
Join us for live updates of the 2019 Rugby World Cup from September 20
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