These youngsters have enjoyed breakthrough seasons this year and are set to stay at the top for a long time. I look at three breakthrough stars making a name for themselves:
19-year old Ospreys Openside, Sam Underhill, has had an outstanding season at the Liberty. The former England Under 18 skipper made two appearances for Gloucester last season, crossed the border to study economics at Cardiff University last year and was picked up by the Ospreys.
He was sent to Ospreys feeder club the Bridgend Ravens who play in the Semi-pro Welsh Premiership before being fast tracked into the Ospreys squad where his powerful tackling, outstanding work at the breakdown and terrier like harrying of opposition 10’s, have made him an instant hit.
The US-born star outplayed Ireland’s Sean O’Brien during Ospreys’ Pro 12 clash against Leinster and was excellent in their 21-13 European Champions Cup triumph over Clermont Auvergne.
Such is his talent, that England coach Eddie Jones has been in touch and according to the Daily Mail, the RFU were apparently willing to invoke the ‘exceptional circumstances’ rule for the first time in order to pick him for England’s summer tour to Australia.
Nevertheless, The Telegraph have claimed Premiership clubs may try to block this clause being invoked unless Underhill gives an indication that his long-term future lies in his homeland.
Irrespective, Underhill may be the answer to England’s search for an out and out openside.
2. Paul Hill
German-born Hill has enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame since moving from Yorkshire Carnegie to Northampton last April. The 6ft 2in, 18st 4lbs tight-head only made his top-flight debut in October for Northampton, but his excellent form and massive potential saw him named in Eddie Jones’ Six Nations Grand Slam winning squad after only nine Premiership appearances.
After being an unused sub for England’s opener against Scotland, the then 20 year-old made his test debut off the bench in England’s 40-9 win over Italy. A decent scrummager who is deceptively quick, the ex-Yorkshire Carnegie Academy product is a powerful ball carrier who is a destructive presence at the breakdown.
The English literature student came through the age grade groups, representing England A at U16, England U17’s and 18’s and contested two U20 World Cup finals with the Red Rose, including their dramatic 21-20 win over South Africa in 2014.
A keen chess player and cook, the 21 year-old should cap off a dream season with a summer tour to Australia. Hill has a big future in the game.
3. Jean-Luc Du Plessis
The 21 year-old Stormers fly-half has been making waves in Super rugby after making his debut in this year’s tournament. Starting the campaign as third choice 10, injuries to first and second choice fly halves Robert Du Preez and Kurt Coleman, have allowed the youngster showcase his undoubted talents.
The son of ex-Springbok wing and coach Carel Du Plessis, Jean-Luc is a natural playmaker. Blessed with good distribution skills, an accurate kicking game, intelligent game management skills, and a maturity beyond his years, Du Plessis is a future springbok in the making.
A thirty three point haul including a fantastic try on his starting debut against the Sunwolves and a personal haul of seventy points in the four games he has started, serve notice to the undoubted talent the youngster has.
The Stormers’ expansive game plan has suited the former Sharks academy player down to a tee, and has allowed him to play his natural attacking game.
Expect to see a lot more of this rising young star.
Keep your eyes out for these outstanding young talents who are set to continue making a big impact in pro rugby.
Hefin Jones, Pundit Arena
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