Watching talent emerge is one of the most exciting past times for a rugby fan. But when that talent is wasted or not used to its potential, the pursuit becomes infuriating.
Here is a XV selection featuring many superb contemporary players that are yet to maximise their potential and, at this stage, many have already missed their chance.
Joe Marler: The England prop has had plenty of disciplinary troubles over the past year but even before that, his form was a concern. At 6ft and 114 kg, the squat Harlequin has an almost perfect physique with which to scrummage and win turnovers. However, he rarely imposes himself at the set piece or has an impact at the breakdown.
Tom Youngs: The converted centre is industrious, speedy and committed. His scrummaging is reasonable, but the recurring challenge has been the lineout. Throwing is hardly an innate art – surely he could have been coached into respectability in this key discipline? Had he been, he could have been a fine hooker.
Martin Castrogiovanni: The tighthead is rightly regarded as one of the best-ever Italian rugby players, but he could have been one of the best in the world had on, and latterly, off-field discipline not plagued his long career.
Donncha O’Callaghan: He may have 94 caps for Ireland but, outside of the lineout, what has the Munsterman done? His best work was shared with the legendary Paul O’Connell, and for quite an athletic lock, we saw remarkably little of him in the loose.
Courtney Lawes: The England lock is in danger of having a career remembered only for a pretty highlights reel of big hits on fly-halves.
Sam Burgess: Not entirely his fault, perhaps, but despite the fanfare and the money, one of the best players in league lasted less than a year in union.
Yannick Nyanga: In 2006, a young Toulouse flanker was threatening to become the best in Europe. Not Thierry Dusautoir, but Yannick Nyanga. Athletic to match his great hands, Nyanga has all the raw attributes to succeed. For whatever reason, he hasn’t.
Pierre Spies: In 2006, South Africa’s Blue Bulls had a phenomenal emerging loose forward on their hands, one of the most naturally potent runners in world rugby. He kept his form up for a handful of seasons, but eventually sank into obscurity. This video highlights how good he was.
Will Genia: The 28-year-old Australia No. 9 is now nearing his 2011 best; however, during what ought to have been his peak years between then and this Super Rugby season, the sniping scrum-half was only a sporadic influence. Genia could still become one of the great Wallaby half-backs, but he passed up some crucial seasons to cement his case.
James O’Connor: The biggest waste of talent of them all. So naturally gifted that he has played top level rugby in every position in the backline except for scrum-half. His array of gifts is only matched by his off-field problems. At 26, he has time on his side, but the odds are against him making good his extraordinary ability.
Joe Rokocoko: Still only 33, the former All Black should have added to his impressive test strike rate of 46 in 68. He moved to Europe too early and the motivation to keep his New Zealand place was lost. With it went a star of the game.
Shane Geraghty: Here was an intelligent, footballing inside centre that excelled with London Irish in the mid-2000s. Seemingly the answer to England’s midfield problems, Geraghty wasn’t able to convince coaches of his defensive abilities.
Rene Ranger: A talented player in XVs and sevens who has just turned 30, Ranger has made several poor career decisions. Most notable was moving to France in 2013, thereby disqualifying him from All Black selection when he was at his peak.
Keith Earls: A great outside break and sidestep and power to call upon when required, but when did Earls really stamp his authority on a big game for Ireland?
Clement Poitrenaud: A languorous, skilful full-back with an eye for a gap, but equally prone to daydreaming in defence and letting the game pass him by from his back-field vantage point.
Daniel Rey, Pundit Arena
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