DECLAN KIDNEY MAY have resisted the calls of many to flood his squad with young guns, but other coaches are quicker on the eject button and could make may for some exciting talent, new to the international scene.
Take Wales for instance, Warren Gatland has blooded so many new, exciting young players of late we couldn’t pick one in here because Sam Warburton, Toby Faletau George North and Rhys Priestland were all so damned good in the World Cup.
So Wales aside, here’s who we expect to be the best and brightest new kids on the block.
Owen Farrell (England)
There is an obvious pressure that come with performing while your father – Andy, a rugby league legend who won eight England caps after switching to union – works as a prominent coach at both club and country. Still only 20, Farrell is already a leading light for Saracens and adept at a number of positions.
His winning penalty in last season’s Aviva Premiership final showed ice-cool nerves which Ronan O’Gara himself would have been proud of. With Charlie Hodgson currently filling the number 10 jersey at Sarries (and possibly for England too), Farrell has found himself playing at outside centre, but retains the kicking tee and is currently third on the list of the Premiership’s top point scorers.
Wesley Fofana (France)
Far from the youngest player on this list, Fofana could well be the most exciting. The 24-year-old is the lighting rod for Clermont Auvergne’s backline, his pace off a standing start makes him an ideal attacker from inside centre but his best assets are undoubtedly his off-loads. When you get a tackle on him, the danger is just beginning.
While Maxine Mermoz held the jersey through the World Cup new coach, Phillipe Saint-Andre has shook up the midfield as a catalyst to the rest of his team and has awarded Fofana his first cap alongside his club-mate Aurelien Rougerie.
Peter O’Mahoney (Ireland)
If there is room for a new cap in Kidney’s squad it is most likely to come off the bench in the event of an injury. First on that list ought to be Munster’s in-form back rower. Whether playing on the open or blind side, O’Mahoney has yet to disappoint this season. His rise to prominence could not have been better timed for Munster as they count the cost of being without David Wallace, Niall Ronan and Denis Leamy.
Duncan Weir (Scotland)
It’s a fairly sad state of affairs that Dan Parks has owned the Scottish number 10 jersey for the best part of a decade. Last year a glimmer of hope appeared in the form of Ruaridh Jackson. Luck betrayed the Glasgow fly-half, hit by injury crucial times over the past 12 months. In his absence Weir has stepped up.
Watchers of Leinster will already be familiar with his bullish frame, a physique that makes him resemble Sean Cronin more than Jonathan Sexton. Inside that hulking exterior are the skills of a true footballer, literally in Weir’s case as he was once on the books of Glasgow Celtic before switching codes to the Warriors. At 20 years of age he is far from the complete package, but has enough of the raw material to usurp Parks if Andy Robinson is willing to take the risk.
Mike Brown (England)
As a fullback Brown is unfortunate to be vying againt the only immovable player in the Eangland line-up. However, the Harlequins 15 has been impressive in domestic and European competition this year. Currently the second top try scorer in the Premiership, he is the spearhead of Conor O’Shea’s exciting side.
At 26 he’s not likely to get much better than he is right now, but perhaps England could use more players half way through their career like he is. Brown would certainly eat up an opportunity to play along side Ben Foden rather than displace him. And, with Scotland at Murrayfield first up, Stuart Lancaster could be well served picking a second fullback to counteract any high balls raining down on his back three.