NEW YORK, NY – We have reviewed the performances of our 2015 USA, Canada and European Rugby prospects – and named those we’re expecting great things from in 2015. Now, we turn our attention to our 2016 European Rugby Players To Watch.
WOMEN: Arkya Ait Labib (Stade Rennais/France): The soft handed mobile prop has been a star at each level of the French women’s age grade system. Labib was part of France’s university sevens team in 2013 at the World University games. An impressive feat that speaks to her power and speed. The University games appearance led to her playing for the U-20s but being shifted to prop to take advantage of here dynamic athleticism. She succeed there and this year will get her first full caps for France during the 6 Nations. At only 20 she is a star in the making.
ENGLAND: Josh Beaumont (Sale): Being the son of Bill Beaumont is not easy. Bill was captain of England’s 1980 Grand Slam side, has the winners trophy of the English County Championship named after him, is Vice-chairman for World Rugby and is Chairman of the Rugby Football Union, not to mention has been awarded a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by the Queen. Young Josh could have avoided rugby but at 6’7″ with pace, England is glad he didn’t. Josh began making a name for himself at Durham university where he was captain and they never lost a single game when he was on the pitch in his 3 years at that school. At only 23 he is the team captain for Sale, he represented England in 2015 Summer international against Barbarians and was recently selected by new England coach Eddie Jones to part of the 6N training squad. He can play lock or 8man and he will doing that for England in proper test for the next few years, we assure you.
FRANCE: Virimi Vakatawa (France 7s): The scouting and recruitment of Fijian talent by France is very volatile debate. topic. However, there are some great Fijians playing in France and even playing for France. One of those is Vakatawa and his performance for the France 7s side has been impressive, check out this video. They have been so impressive that Vakatawa was named in the France squad for the 6 Nations by new coach Guy Noves, even though he is not currently contracted to a team in the 15 man format. This was a rare move by a French coach because french coaches rarely pick national team squad members directly from Pro D2 let alone their 7’s team. The other odd thing is that when Vakatawa was playing French club rugby for Racing 92 he was not as impressive so we will see he goes on the international stage.
IRELAND: Stuart McCloskey (Ulster): The future of Ireland at 12 has arrived. Currently it is class of 2013 member Robbie Henshaw. However Henshaw, has the versatility to move to outside center to make room for McCloskey and that is what will happen. McCloskey brings size at 6’4 along with great speed and handling. He represented Ireland throughout the age grades and He played for Emerging Ireland (effectively the third XV of the Irish rugby team) at the 2014 IRB Nations Cup. He has been selected for Ireland’s 2016 6 Nations squad and expect for him to get some major playing time and push his case. He is the most complete player in his position currently in Ireland and it is only a matter time before that title says “in Europe.”
ITALY: Giulio Bisegni (Zebre): Italy is desperately seeking talented backline players. It is what is truly limiting them from every becoming a force in Europe. They have some hope at flyhalf and now they have one at center. Bisegni presents a threat in the centers to combine with the right 10 and a solid 13. He has the ability to break tackles and make good passes. He got a taste of the Test arena last year coming off the bench in 6 Nations. Expect him to become a regular squad member this year as he moves to claim the 12 jersey.
SCOTLAND: Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh): Last season we gave you Scotland’s flyhalf of the future, this year meet his halfback partner for years to come . Born of a Scottish dad and a Spanish mom (hence the Hidalgo), Clyne is a talented versatile footballer that can play fly-half, fullback and wing along with scrum-half. However at 5’9″ with a fantastic pass and a great rugby brain he seems tailor-made for the scrumhalf position. He has represented Edinburgh for the past few season when has wasn’t representing Scotland’s U-20 side or Scotland 7s. He has to push past Grieg Laidlaw, the current first choice Scotland scrumhalf and captain but that is a case of when not if, so expect Clyne to be the next great Scotland scrumhalf.
WALES: Tyler Morgan (Newport-Gwent Dragons): It is tough to find a hidden gem on the Wales radar since the 2015 Rugby World Cup injury crisis pushed a lot of players to the forefront and the roster seems very clearly defined at all levels. However, one of the players to get capped, three times, at the RWC was Morgan. It was only the minnows but it was an opportunity for him to show his talent. He is currently number four on the center depth chart for Wales but he is also the youngest center at 20 years of age. That gives him plenty of time and opportunity to make his case and as he showed during the World Cup, he is more than ready to step up and fill the void.
6N (Six Nations) B
GEORGIA: Vasil Lobzhanidze (RC Armazi Tbilisi):This young man turned heads at the RWC with his impressive performance at scrumhalf as he helped Georgia upset Tonga. At 19 years old he was one of the youngest players at the RWC but the fact that he was first choice surprised some people. However, Vasil is part of a new breed of Georgia backs with skill and ability that are being developed to go along with the always formidable forwards. Currently playing locally it is likely that in the next couple of years he will move to one of the top 3 leagues bring his talents to a bigger stage.
ROMANIA: Jody Rose (Timisoara Saracens): One of South Africa‘s many naturally gifted players, Rose has the ability to turn games around with clever skill and great game sense. A Springbok at age-group level, Rose moved to Johannesburg at the end of the 2005 season having represented Western Province at both Under-19 and Under- 21 level. Unfortunately for Rose his career stalled at Province and thus he joined the long list of South Africans that sign a contract overseas and play for money and playtime. Rose seized an opportunity came to play in Romania for one of its most prominent clubs, Timisoara about 3 years ago. Fast forward 3 years and Rose has been one of the best players in Romania, particularly at fly-half, now meeting the IRB requirment for playing for national teams different than their place of birth. Rose looks set to play fly-half for Romania for the foreseeable future beginning with this years European Nations Cup (ENC).
Russia: German Godlyuk (Slava Moscow): The diminutive scrum-half has made a name for himself at age grade level. Some may remember him being a key member and deadly goal kicker for the Russia team that defeated the USA in the Junior (U-20) World Trophy match in 2011. He has finally broken through to the senior ranks at the age of 23 and has been named as part of the Russia side for the ENC. When he does get in expect to see him make smart decisions and marshal the forwards impeccably.
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And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.