NEW YORK , NY – After all the chitchat over our USA CLASS OF 2012, I was excited to get working on the Europe’s class of 2012. So, now that’s I’m back from the future and have little else to say, let’s get to it. Oh, and you can thank me later for helping you sound uber smart as an in-depth rugby know-it-all. But for now, he are the names of those in Europe whom will have a breakthrough season or who will be on the verge of a breakthrough year in Rugby 2012.
FRANCE – Jessy Tremoulière – France & Romangnat – This teenager – yes teenager – is only 19 & picked up the game at the age of 17. Prior to that, she was a pretty good soccer player with a decent future. Since picking up rugby, she’s been so impressive, she joined a top club in Romangnat and was selected for the French U20 team. From there she went to the starting line-up against Italy in 8 months. The girl is talented and has pace, with the ability to cover wing. You will be hearing of her for a while, even if England win the Women’s 6N again.
FRANCE – Wesley Fofana – Clermont – Young Wes can play inside, outside and wing. The Mali-born talent excels at playing inside center and has very quick feet, great hands and dishes out good tackles. He will start at 12 for France against Italy this weekend so keep your eye on him. Also take a look at Vincent Debaty, the starting loosehead prop. He is a naturalized French citizen by way of Beligum, not a poach, just great scouting. His size – mon dieu!. He is large for a french prop, especially a loosehead at 1m90 and 120 kgs (app. 6’4 and 255lbs. The French have a history of undersized, strong scrummagers, which is also Debaty’s weakness. He does however excel as ball carrier and support player.
ENGLAND – Billy Twelvetrees – Leicester Tigers – Billy has been given a few nicknames over the last few years. 12T, 36 (12×3) and The Kid. What he hasn’t been given is the proper playing time to showcase his talents. Blame that on his bull-headed manager Richard Cockerill. He has done great on loan spells and come back. Leicester has Class 2010 member Toby Flood at 10 (with 2013 member George Ford on loan) and 2011 member Manu Tualagi at 13. He could have long been their 12 with his canon of a boot for goal and in hand, vision and playmaking ability. He will finally be out of Leicester come the fall and be at Gloucester. He may be buried underbeneth the bench by then but expect to see him be in the full squad by the End-Of-Year Tours (EOYT).
IRELAND – Fergus McFadden – Leinster – Gus like Wes can play 12, 13 and wing. He is however best at 12 but has proven to be more than capable 13 during the HEC. With BOD gone for the 6N it looks like this might be his chance, especially with Darren Cave of Ulster also out. Up until then it was believed that it would be a tug of war for the 13 jersey after BOD retired.
SCOTLAND – Ruaridh Jackson – Edinburgh – He already has 11 caps but he has yet to make his club’s 1st team 1st choice 10. He is behind a guy that he is more talented than. However, young Ruaridh is just to young and inconsistent at this point but by this time next year he will be the 10 of the future for Scotland and their 10 come RWC 2015
WALES – Matthew Morgan – Neath-Swansea Ospreys– The kid is not even 20 and people are hailing him as the next great Welsh 10. He is small in stature and considering that the current Welsh 10 is 23, it is big talk. However, the young lad is more truth than hype. he has the footwork, speed and playm-aking ability. It remains to be seen if he will be overlooked because of his size, but there maybe a fan’s revolt if he doesn’t get into the full men’s side soon.
6N B– Jaba Bregvadze – Georgia and Stade Toulouse – Last week, I gave you Gorgodizilla, this week its Jaba. If you wanna make fun of him and call him Jaba The Hut, do so at your own peril. Jaba is strong and mobile. He is a solid scrummager, if not spectacular. He was signed on a training contract when Toulouse lost their older Georgian hooker. He soon got signed for the rest of the season. If he is not with Toulouse next year, I guarantee you he will be someone else in the T14 either starting of being second choice at worst.
Exeter Chiefs – England – Aviva Premiership – At this point in 2010, Exeter was in National Division 1. Now they are in Europe playing the Amlin challenge cup (2nd teir club comp to HEC). They won promotion in 2010, and where mid-table in their first season. With a berth for an extra English side in the Amlin Cup, the Chiefs have been able to show that though they are not the deepest squad they always produce a committed performance. With a new ground to play their rugby and consistent growth, they may be in the HEC next season and should do even better recruiting. They will be a top 4 side for years to come .
Bordeaux-Bègles – France – Top 14 – If you had to create a team of two teams in one city that hated each other, you could get no closer than Stade Bordelais and Club Athlétique Bordeaux-Bègles Gironde. With both teams so unwilling to yield you get this name. With finances tight and sponsorship at a premium and the blessing of each clubs legendary players, this new club was formed. They quickly won promotion to the T14 from Pro D2 and are in the Amlin Cup. They seem to be playing very good rugby and seem to be very prepared to be in the T14 for a long time.
RFU – I discussed the Challenges ahead for Ian Ritchie last week. They haven’t changed. For all of it though it can be summed up by the simple fact that the largest Rugby Union in the game is fought with Wales for the allegiance of an untested young 8-man. England should have talented players like that at the AP level.
Ireland RFU – To improve the development of players in Ireland, the IRFU has instituted a policy that will limit foreign players in Ireland. There will be a limit of 1 international player per position in the country in 2013. If Leinster have an International 15 the other 3 provinces must have a domestic 15. I expect shenanigans and the lawyers to be at it overtime before it is all said and done.
Scotland RFU – With a massive backroom shuffle last year, including finally hiring a marketing manager and getting a new director ( previous director didn’t see the point of marketing), the Scots are poised to move forward. Will they win a 6N title finally (yet to win one since the comp went from 5N to 6N), time will tell.
Conor O’Shea – London Harelequins – He has recently been retained by Harlequins as their Director of Rugby, Since taking over in March 2010, ‘Quins have continued to play good rugby mixing up enterprising play with no frills slugfest. He has also developed young player Jordan Turne-Hall and George Lowe. He will eventually be looked at for a National Head coach position, in England or Ireland (maybe a provincial one first though).
Fabien Galthie – Montpellier – Odd to see him here as he has been coaching since 2004. The thing is, it is easy to win with the George Steinbreener of french rugby as your owner with Stade Francias. However, when you make the T14 final with a team on a limited budget and few international at Montpellier, people start to think that you actually have talent as a coach. It is also redemption as he left Stade under a chorus of Boos.
Stuart Lancaster – England – Every coach with an Interim task main goal is to remove that tag. Lanny has a challenge as he has to improve the public image of the National team, play good and entertaining rugby, steal some wins, all without his two best backs. No pressure Stu, mate! you got this. He has made some good selections and freshened up the team. he is incredibly more experienced at coaching than his predecessor but we all know wins speak loudest. I think he will have a decent 6N and be retained through the EOYT’s where he will prove his real ability.
I hope you enjoyed and I always welcome debate from all corners. Next week, we do down south and do a Southern Hemisphere Class of 2012.