2015 is set to be a huge year for rugby around the world with 20 nations focussing on the upcoming World Cup in England and how their teams might fair. Whilst most of the Worlds top sides will already have a pretty good idea of who their starting XV will be, there are a number of players who are just an injury or drop in form away from stepping onto the worlds biggest stage.
Below are our 10 players to watch out for this year. You may already be aware of some if not all of them, however as they are not fully established in their national set ups yet, they will definitely be ones to watch this year.
The Italian centre had a breakthrough 2014 after announcing his arrival on the international stage with two tries against Wales in Cardiff. He has since gone on to become a key part of the Italian midfield and looks to have all the makings of a truly top class centre. Italy will be hoping he’s firing over the next 10 months as they will need Campagnaro to be at his absolute best for the World Cup.
Having now pledged his allegiance to Samoa, Nanai-Williams (cousin of Sonny Bill) looks almost guaranteed to play at the World Cup. He showed his international class playing for the Barbarians at the end of 2014 and could prove to be something of an oversight by the All Blacks. He will add a certain X factor to a Samoan side that already has power in abundance.
Pollard started the 2014 end of year tests looking like the Springboks first choice fly half only to be dropped to the bench for the second two games. Despite this he looks to have shown enough throughout 2014 to be a serious contended for the Boks 10 shirt at the World Cup. He now needs a solid Super Rugby season and a break in the Rugby Championship to re-establish himself in the side.
McMahon was barely on the international radar until the very end of 2014 where injuries in the Wallabies back row gave him the opportunity to start. McMahon certainly didn’t disappoint in his appearances and now looks set to make a push for a regular starting place in the side. Whatever happens he’s likely to be a key squad man for the World Cup, but could be more if he goes well in Super Rugby in 2015.
Henshaw has been touted as the likely successor to Brian O’Driscoll in the Irish midfield, and so far he has looked up to the task. He may not currently quite up to the standards set by BOD but Henshaw has shown in his appearances so far he is a solid option. Against the experienced Jean de Villiers he put in an eye catching defensive display in 2014 and will be hoping to show more of his attacking talents in 2015.
Watson was finally given his chance with England during the end of year internationals and will be hoping to hold on to a starting shirt for the 2015 Six Nations. His versatility in being able to play either wing or full back will be seen as a big plus when it comes to selecting a World Cup squad whilst his pace and running lines will add some extra spark to a sometimes stagnant English back line.
Welsh tighthead Lee looks to have made the number three jersey his own after a series of standout performances in 2014. He still has some ways to go in his development, however if he can continue scrummaging as well as he has done in 2014 then he is likely to be key to Welsh hopes at the World Cup unless Adam Jones can re-find his form of several years ago.
Fekitoa was one of the breakout talents of Super Rugby in 2014 and was given his opportunity to represent the All Blacks during the Rugby Championship. He looks likely to be a key part of the All Blacks midfield after the World Cup when a number of key players are set to depart, however he will be hoping to force his way into the starting line-up before the World Cup.
Thomas could not have kicked off his international career with more of a bang, scoring four tries in two games before being suspended for his third potential match as part of an internal disciplinary. Despite his misdemeanour he looks likely to be a key player for France in 2015, as they will be desperately hoping he can continue his fantastic try scoring record through the World Cup.
Russell has been sublime for Glasgow over the last 12 months, and began to translate that form onto the international stage during the 2014 end of year internationals. Vern Cotter will be desperately hoping he can stay fit in 2015 as his style of play has perfectly complimented Scotland’s latest approach to the game. There’s no doubting he will be key to their World Cup hopes in 2015.
Which players do you think are set for a big 2015?