With the current Autumn International series currently in full swing Dave Nicoll, Scott Fessey and Debbie Knight take a look at some of the players who are well worth keeping an eye on;
Ones to watch – Tonga
Club – Perpignan
Sione Piukala joined Perpignan in the 2012 season in order to compete in the Top 14 and the Amlin Cup he plays at Inside Centre for his club. He scored twice against the USA in June of this year. The islanders play a strong style of rugby and have physical players in most positions; I tip Piukala to be a battering ram of a centre and to be on the score sheet for his country.
Ones to watch – South Africa
Eben Etzebeth – 2nd Row
Club – Stormers
At a mere 21 years old Eben Etzebeth has already made his mark in the South African second row; he looks to be a man to be scared of! He made his debut for the Springboks against England in June 2012. He stands at a mighty 6ft 7 in English money and steps away from no man, yet another legend of a South African forward in the making will be a very interesting watch in the Autumn Internationals!
Ones to watch – Wales
Scott Williams – Inside Centre
Club – Llanelli Scarlets
Now this was a hard pick between two Scarlets players; the other being fly half Rhodri Williams – I’m not too sure how much game time he’ll get and he may be one for the future. I went to watch Harlequins play Scarlets in the Heineken Cup and was expecting to see Jon Davies take the ‘centre’ stage. However it was his centre partner Scott Williams who ran the show, he is only 23 years old and with Jamie Roberts injured for the Autumn Internationals should get his chance to shine.
Tomasso Allan may not be a household name but if he gets an opportunity to play for Italy he may well be. He has a rich pedigree which has seen him play for Scotland at U17, 18 & 20s but has an Italian Mum. He has been called into the Italian side and looks like that’s where his allegiance now
He has also played for Western Province in the Currie Cup, winning the U19 tournament in 2012, but his most recent move saw him sign for Perpignan in the Top 14 where he has started at fly-half and moved captain James Hook to full-back.
Ireland – Luke Marshall
If Luke Marshall can stay fit (and not get a head injury) I think he will add to his 3 caps and has the potential to go on to be a great centre for Ireland. He is an ex fly half so has all the necessary skills and vision to fill the role and the bulk to play centre, and dare I say it replace O’Driscoll! (Once he has learned from the master that is).
Samoa – Alafoti Faosiliva
I have been a massive fan of Faosiliva from watching him playing 7s for Samoa and palying for Bristol RFC. He is in the mold of Lomu with a low centre of gravity. I hope he gets to have some game time with Francois Louw at Bath as I think he can learn from him. A great open field runner, big strong a deceptively quick. IRB 7s player of the year 3 years ago.
France – Gaël Fickou
At just 19 years of age young Toulouse centre Gaël Fickou is already looking the real deal. His pace and elusive running style has seen him regularly cross the whitewash for the French giants. In a short cameo at the end of the of France’s loss to the All Blacks displayed what an exciting talent he has. If Fickou and Fofana are given time to develop as a centre combination they could be truly devastating for France.
The Sarries cross-coder has had a solid if unspectacular Autumn series so far for England. Whilst he has been fairly sound defensively he has failed to spark in attack. If England can get the ball in his hands against the All Blacks his off-loading game could help to really spark something out wide for Stuart Lancaster’s men.
Scotland – Tommy Seymour
At 25 years of age Scotland winger Tommy Seymour has finally got his chance to make a mark on the international scene. With two tries last weekend against Japan he looks like a class finisher who is aptly able to deputise for the injured Tim Visser. With a bit more experience in the starting line-up it’s easy to imagine him pushing the likes of Visser and Maitland for a starting spot in next year’s Six Nations.
Argentina – Pablo Matera
The young Leicester Tigers back-row forward looks set to develop into a truly great talent for both club and country. Widely hailed by Leicester Director of Rugby Richard Cockerill as one of the most exciting back-row talents in World rugby, Matera’s power and pace make him a powerful force on the rugby field.
The young Bordeaux full-back is one of only a handful of youngsters in an experienced Fijian side. His 38 points in 28 games for his club only paint half the picture of an extremely talented full-back. His ability to play right across the backline makes him a useful player to have in the squad whilst his kicking adds an extra dimension to his game.
Australia – Chris Feauai-Sautia
The Reds flying winger looks set to comfortably step into the shoes of recently departed Digby Ioane for both club and country. His pace and power have made him a dangerous player in Super Rugby this season and if he is able to replicate this form on the international stage it is easy to see him becoming a regular in Ewan Mackenzie’s side.