With international greats such as Thierry Dusautoir, Sergio Parisse and a host of World Cup winning Kiwis hanging up their boots, it leaves a door wide open for the next generation of youngsters to become the next set of rugby greats.
This XV is composed of young men who are just beginning to set the rugby world alight. Can they surpass the greatness of their predecessors? Only time will tell…
1. Ox Nché
Could we have the next South African cult hero on our hands? With ‘The Beast’ coming to the end of his illustrious career, it is time for ‘The Ox’ to take over the mantelpiece.
One look at YouTube and it is clear he is part of the next generation of props. A breed who can not only scrummage, but are dynamic around the park. Gone are the days of John Hayes and Jason Leonard.
Honourable mention: Lucas Nogueira Paz
2. Malcolm Marx
The stable of young world class hookers at the moment is ridiculous. Camille Chat, Julian Montoya, Jamie George all miss out for another freakish athlete in the form of Marx.
A reincarnation of Bismarck Du Plessis, Marx is lethal in the loose and hard to shift over the ball as France found out this summer. He has the potential to follow in the footsteps of greats such as John Smit, Bismarck Du Plessis and Adrian Strauss.
Honourable mention: Camille Chat
3. Zander Fagerson
At set piece Fagerson looked a little out of his depth in the Six Nations, especially scrummaging against the French. However, his bulldozing runs and mobility around the park for both club and country are a sign of the future.
At such a young age it is hard to get as much game time as he already has and he will benefit from the winning mentality that both Scotland and Glasgow have adopted. A Lion in waiting who will only get better with experience.
Honourable mention: Allan Alaalatoa
4. Marcos Kremer
In the past, the Argentinian tight five is fabled as being composed of gnarled old scrummaging veterans such as Albacete, Roncero or Ayerza. Yet Kramer comes into both the Jaguares and Argentina squads at only 19, a baptism of fire for any young player.
Early signs show that he is more than capable of providing back up for the well-settled trio of Lavananini, Alemano and Petti, but by 2019 he will have three years of top flight rugby under his belt. A frightening prospect.
Honourable mention: Ultan Dillane
5. Scott Barrett
Another Barrett? Yes, sorry. Surely he can’t be as good as the other two? Yup, sorry again. Whitelock and Retallick will need a successor when their incredible partnership finally comes to an end, and Barrett will be waiting.
An excellent workhorse in the Joe Launchbury mould, who can happily play 80 minutes at either lock or flanker. A huge Crusaders season behind him and a big Rugby Championship will put him in prime position for greatness.
Honourable Mention: Nick Isiekwe
6. Ned Hannigan
Australian rugby is in a bit of a pickle at the moment. They need new blood and fast. With David Pocock seemingly a thing of the past and Sean McMahon struggling with injuries, Michael Hooper needs another mad dog in the back row who is willing to throw his body around for the cause, step up Ned Hannigan.
A big man who continues the world rugby trend of locks playing on the side of the scrum. As a young, versatile forward he could be Australia’s answer to Maro Itoje or Pieter-Steph du Toit. Certain to be a wise old head come the World Cup.
Honourable Mention: Jean-Luc Du Preez
7. Tom Curry
Man-of-the-match in the Barbarians game and completely unfazed by a big, bruising Argentinian pack, is there anything the boy can’t do? A shining light for Sale in his breakthrough season and his technique over the ball could be priceless for Eddie Jones.
With Robshaw, Wood and Haskell getting on, it opens the door for a straight shootout between Curry and Sam Underhill so watch out for the breakdown battle between Bath and Sale next season. A great time for English supporters.
Honourable mention: Sam Underhill
8. Akira Ioane
Lions supporters already know what I’m talking about. Freakishly quick for a back row as well as being keen for a scrap at the breakdown. Bags of pace, a good line out option and at just 22, Akira looks like Read’s protégé in waiting if he can hold off competition from Jordan Taufua and Ardie Savea.
Plays a different brand of rugby to Read but perhaps the All Blacks will need a bit more fire power going forward once the old guard retire.
Honourable mention: James Chisholm
9. Baptiste Serin
Next in line to the throne of ‘le petit général,’ is Serin. Sumptuous flicks, elegant dinks and an impressive kicking game, he could be another French scrum half who dictates the style they constantly thrive to play.
The sniping and scurrying Dupont is snapping at his heels, however, as a combination, they could be perfect in the same way that Youngs and Care have managed to co-exist. Could they lead France to a new era of dominance?
Honourable mention: Antoine DuPont
10. Joey Carbery
A toss-up between the two future Lions: Carbery and Sam Davies. However, Carbery has that little extra dash of something special. Anyone who saw his man-of-the-match performance against Wasps in the Champions Cup can confirm exactly how dangerous he is and that was from full back.
Carbery has been given the opportunity to showcase his X-Factor with Sexton out injured during much of the Pro12 season and fans have not been disappointed. The Davies/Carbery debate will be in full swing come the next Lions tour.
Honourable mention: Sam Davies
11. Rieko Ioane
It doesn’t seem fair that the All Blacks can keep producing young talent like Ioane. Just after we thought Naholo and Milner-Skudder would be the end of it all, along comes Ioane at the age of 17 into the All Blacks Seven’s squad.
The Lions and Jack Nowell will be having nightmares about his fleet of foot and acceleration. An absolute certainty for the 2019 World Cup, where he is sure to light up the tournament.
Honourable mention: Adam Byrne
12. Ngani Laumape
The Hurricanes this year have become one long highlight reel with some critics believing this is down to the new partnership of Laumape and Vince Aso. He has similar attributes to Ma’a Nonu in that he combines pure physicality with explosive power.
There are still question marks over the future of the All Blacks midfield and his huge performances in the Super Rugby season could put Laumape i a position to become the next Kiwi legend.
Honourable Mention: Reece Hodge
13. Damian Penaud
If you watch the Top 14, then you will know Penaud. If not then you may have seen him score against the Springboks in his debut. Basically, the kid can play.
An impressive ball playing centre in a similar mould to Yannick Jauzion who seems to glide across the pitch with elegance. He will face stiff competition from Danty, Chavancy and Dumoulin, but a role in the Six Nations could propel him to stardom in the build up to Japan 2019.
Honourable mention: Jack Goodhue
14. Keelan Giles
Swift feet, jinking runs and a nasty side step set Giles apart. He may be small, but just as Shane Williams showed and as Santiago Cordero is showing, size isn’t everything.
The days of size and bulk of Cuthbert may be over and Giles could find himself as the next Welsh wing wizard.
Honourable mention: Emiliano Boffelli
15. Jordie Barrett
The only real standout at full back. Barrett has everything his brother has, who if you have been living under a rock, can pretty much do anything. He looks wise and assured beyond his years and his Hurricanes combination with his brother is seemingly telepathic.
The thought of Jordie hitting lines from full back will frighten any international side. Ben Smith has been near faultless in his All Black career and Hansen will expect nothing less than perfect from Jordie. Luckily, Jordie has been nothing other than perfect so far.
Honourable mention: Luca Sperandio
Max Hamid, Pundit Arena
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