The World Cup is on the horizon, the Six Nations is around the corner. All players involved over the coming weeks will be desperate to stake their claim for a place in their respective country’s squad for the World Cup. Below is a list of five players, slightly under the radar at the moment, who could impact this year’s tournament hugely:
Usurping Mike Phillips is no easy task but that is exactly what Webb managed to do in the Autumn Internationals. Phillips had been Wales’ go-to man for half a decade and had become a two-time British and Irish Lion in that period. Webb’s irresistible form for the Ospreys was enough to merit his inclusion in Gatland’s mind. It was an extremely wise choice as Webb converted that club form to the international stage with a string of eye-catching performances. He is extremely sharp around the breakdown, darting through gaps around the ruck to set his team on the front foot, teams will have to be on full alert in order to stop this rising star.
After THAT try against the All Blacks, you would be forgiven for thinking May is anything but under the radar. However, the English public continue to underestimate the enormous talent that is the Gloucester winger. The reason why he is underestimated? Because he ‘runs a bit weird’ and doesn’t play like a conventional winger. If you are in the camp that shares that view, I kindly request you to look at a highlights reel of the man himself. May’s pace is electric, he has the creativity to make defences look a bit embarrassed and he scores more than his fair share of tries. Only Christian Wade would be able to lay claim to being in the same league as May in terms of creativity. With that in mind, and considering how often England are criticised for lacking spark, expect May to feature heavily in this year’s tournament.
The younger Gray has been touted for a number of years largely thanks to his elder brother, Richie. The duo were fantastic in Jonny’s starting debut alongside his brother against the Pumas, with both of the siblings crossing the whitewash. Despite being only 20 years of age, Jonny Gray shows maturity beyond his years, his temperament on the field is excellent and his rugby brain is remarkable given his age. Older brother Richie has even been on record to say “Jonny is the boss. He tells me where to go. I just shut up and listen.” Certainly, this tournament could see Gray junior step up to the already high bar his brother has set for Scottish second-rows. Both brothers will hope to establish a solid partnership to continue into the World Cup.
Anyone who follows the French national side or the domestic Top 14 will already know what a threat Thomas is. The 21 year-old winger from Racing Metro made an instant impact upon his debut against Fiji, scoring a hat-trick before following that up with a sensational score against Australia in his second test. Thomas has dazzling feet, making any defence quiver at the sight of him with ball in hand and in space. The French flyer will be a particular threat to teams who do not get their kick-chase accurate because if he is allowed space to counter attack, he will do so with aplomb. Despite only having two caps, Thomas will be a core piece to the French starting XV; it is time for him to bring his talents to the Six Nations.
Despite having injury concerns that may or may not sideline him for the Italy opener, Irish Centre Henshaw is primed to develop into a world-class player for Ireland. Inevitably as Brian O’Driscoll’s supposed successor, there will be much media scrutiny on the 21 year-old that plays his club rugby for Irish province Connacht. He already has five caps for the Irish national team, including starts in the Autumn in wins against Australia and South Africa. Undoubtedly, Henshaw has immense talent and he will show it if given the opportunity. The question will remain though for a substantial amount of time as to whether he can succeed the great BOD.
Oli Davisbookmark me