The Fantastic Four
August 25, 2011
Argentina's Mario Ledesma will be playing in his fourth World Cup come September © Getty Images
The forthcoming Rugby World Cup will herald in the latest group of players to have played in four of the sport's showpiece tournaments.
It has been a rather exclusive club up until now but that is set to change next month with a whole host of international veterans set to add their names to the list. However, they all have some way to go before matching Brian Lima who made an incredible five World Cup appearances for Samoa.
To celebrate their achievements, Scrum Sevens honours those individuals who will go into the World Cup looking to improve, emulate or even re-write history.
Contepomi's finest hour in international rugby came during the 2007 World Cup. The Pumas impressed fans around the world with their enthralling brand of attacking rugby which saw them progress to the semi-finals where they were undone by the eventual winners South Africa.
Playing largely at inside centre, Contepomi's connection with scrum-half Agustin Pichot and mesmeric fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez put the frighteners up France in the first match of the tournament with the Pumas upsetting the hosts 17-12. Contepomi starred in midfield and with the boot, but could also tackle - just ask Sebastien Chabal.
The 34-year-old's World Cup debut came in the 1999 tournament when the then young fly-half came off the bench in their 33-12 win over Japan. And in 2003 he played three matches as the Argentineans failed to progress from their group which included Ireland and hosts Australia. Contepomi will go into the 2011 event hoping to recreate the glory of 2007 but they will have to do it without two thirds of the three musketeers - the now retired Pichot and the injured Hernandez.
Jones is perilously close to taking the all-time cap record for Wales caps - poised on 100 - and despite injury worries going into his fourth World Cup, looks set to add to his tally. Jones established himself on the international scene as deputy to Neil Jenkins before making the fly-half berth his own in 2002.
His first appearance for Wales came in the 1999 World Cup as a second-half substitute in their 64-15 thrashing of Japan. Jones was present in their following two campaigns with their quarter-final appearance in 2003 the clear highlight. With the likes of Rhys Priestland snapping at his ageing heels, Jones will have to be in the same sort of form which saw him finish off Wales' wonder try against England eight years ago.
Alongside fellow front-row Martin Scelzo, Ledesma will be playing in his fourth World Cup come September having made his World Cup bow in the Pumas' narrow loss to Wales in 1999. The ferocious hooker is a passionate and well-respected figure in the game and with 79 caps to his name, will provide a wealth of experience to Argentina's latest campaign.
A central figure for French side Clermont Auvergne since 2005, where he has even seen off the threat of Springboks' World Cup winning captain John Smit, Ledesma has announced that the 2011 competition will be his swansong but do not expect him to go into retirement quietly.
Little played a key role in the Flying Fijians' famous win over Wales in the 2007 tournament. Kicking 18 points during the match, Little left the field on a stretcher with a knee injury in one of the most iconic scenes the battle for William Webb Ellis Cup has ever witnessed.
Little, now 34, has enjoyed plying his trade in Italy and England, most notably with Saracens and Bath, and looks set to spearhead the Fijians' latest World Cup assault. He graced the tournament for the first time in 1999 as a replacement in Fiji's pool victory over Namibia. He was rewarded with a start in the next match against Canada kicking 18 points in the process but was a bit-part player just four years later. It looked as if his international days were numbered come 2009 but back in form and fitness, he regained the Fiji No.10 shirt earlier this year.
BOD, or even God in the eyes of some supporters, is Ireland's talismanic outside centre and made his World Cup debut in 1999 playing in all four of their games in the tournament and scoring a try in the process against the USA. O'Driscoll will go into the 2011 tournament hoping to put to bed the ghosts of 2007 which saw Ireland unable to progress from a group which included hosts France and tournament surprise package Argentina, though he did manage a spectacular solo effort against Namibia.
A three-time British & Irish Lions tourist, O'Driscoll has the ability to turn a match on its head and having struggled with injuries in recent times, Ireland will hope their inspirational leader can make it through the tournament unscathed.
Paterson's boot is the stuff of legend having not missed a single kick in the 2007 World Cup. He made his debut for Scotland in the 1999 tournament where he started at fullback against Spain. The versatile playmaker then played at both fly-half and wing for the national side in all five of their matches during the 2003 tournament - crossing the try line three times in the process.
His ability to play at fullback, wing and fly-half makes him a valuable addition to the Scotland side and it is yet to be seen where Andy Robinson will utilise the Test centurion in the forthcoming tournament. However, one thing is for certain, and that is if Paterson is presented with a kickable penalty, you can bet your mortgage on him nailing it.
There is not much about England's golden boy that has not already been written since his drop-goal against Australia on November 22, 2003. The iconic image of Wilkinson's right boot following through the ball after Matt Dawson's pass is the stuff of legend.
He made his World Cup debut in 1999 against Italy and ended the match with a haul of 32 points. Aged just 20, he showed the maturity and calmness under pressure which is still associated with the Toulon stand-off to this day. Wilkinson goes into the 2011 showpiece looking to improve on the 2007 campaign which saw England finish runners-up to South Africa. However, the 32-year old's place in the side is not guaranteed with Toby Flood also vying for the fly-half berth.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.