As a companion piece to the ‘The World’s Oldest XV‘ article, we take a look at the players who made their debuts in the Aviva Premiership, Pro 12, Top 14 or Super Rugby competitions at a very young age, with many of the players going on to become household names in the world of rugby.
There are some notable names in here, including current grand slam winners Joe Marler, Ben Youngs and George Ford. The youthful nature of England’s current squad is reflected by it containing some of the youngest players ever to make their debuts in professional rugby.
Moreover, ‘Pooper’ can also be found in this team. Two of the most talented back row players in world rugby, David Pocock and Michael Hooper took the globe by storm in last year’s edition of the Rugby World Cup. The fact that they made their debuts so young does suggest they have built up a bank of experiences on the field to make them unparalleled in their potency at the breakdown.
However, there are also names here that have yet to make a genuine impact at the top level, and some players who never really kicked on from the early promise they showed. James O’Connor has been blighted by issues off the pitch despite making his Super Rugby debut at the age of 17, and the likes of Kristian Phillips and Tom Ryder never quite achieved what some believed they could do.
Yet there is a pattern of players making their debuts at younger and younger ages. At the dawn of professionalism, it was a rarity to see players younger than 19 or 20 making their first starts or appearances in any top level domestic competition. Now it is happening with regularity.
The World’s Youngest XV
1) Joe Marler, Harlequins, 25 September 2010, 20 years (80 days)
2) Romain Ruffenach, Biarritz, 14 September 2013, 19 (10)
3) Daniel Muller, Lions, 28 April 2006, 18 (19)
4) Maro Itoje, Saracens, 10 May 2014, 19 (194)
5) Tom Ryder, Leicester Tigers, 21 September 2003, 18 (212)
6) Josh Afu, Queensland Reds, 1 May 2004, 17 (70)
7) Michael Hooper, Brumbies, 26 March 2010, 18 (149)
8) David Pocock, Western Force, 12 May 2006, 18 (19)
9) Ben Youngs, Leicester Tigers, 14 October 2007, 18 (39)
10) George Ford, Leicester Tigers, 3 Sept 2011, 18 (171)
11) Kristian Phillips, Ospreys, 9 May 2008, Ospreys, 17 (250)
12) Campbell Magnay, Queensland Reds, 14 Mar 2015, 18 (124)
13) Nick Tompkins, Saracens, 16 Feb 2013, 18 (1)
14) Jamie Elliott, Northampton Saints, 19 Nov 2010, 18 (80)
15) James O’Connor, Western Force, 2 May 2008, 17 (302)
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena
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