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Dublin: 15 °C Thursday 13 August, 2020

The breakout stars set to take the Rugby World Cup by storm

Here are the fresh faces you’ll be seeing a whole lot more of in September.

Updated 1 September

RUGBY IS A global game. There are a growing number of supporters who kick-start the weekend by gorging on Super Rugby and the tournament formally known as the Tri-Nations. Then, move on to a Premiership, Pro12 and Top14 game just to give the day a nice round ovally edge.

If that sounds like you, don’t read any further. These are the young stars who have already established themselves at a high level of the game, but are primed to go one step further on the biggest stage of all, in prime time at The Rugby World Cup.

Will Skelton

You know that old cliche about the Wallabies having a weak pack? Make sure 23-year-old, 6’8″, 148kg second row Will Skelton isn’t nearby when you trot out that old chestnut.

The New Zealand-born giant moved to Sydney when he was 10 and since breaking on to the scene with the Waratahs two years ago, he’s been difficult to miss.

big will

Skelton is mobile enough to use his weight and frame to devastating effect, and more often than not he is willing to use his quick hands to pop passes off to support runners who benefit from the attention he draws from tacklers.

Robbie Henshaw

You all know Robbie, right? He’s  the 22-year-old Ireland international who was ear-marked by Brian O’Driscoll as his natural heir in the centre.

Source: RBS 6 Nations/YouTube

Henshaw hasn’t quite stepped straight in to O’Driscoll’s shoes. Instead, Joe Schmidt uses him as a powerful option at inside centre where he offers a rock solid carrying option that has given Ireland real steel in midfield.

His athleticism, aided by a lot of time at fullback with Connacht, brought him a game-winning try against England. Be on the look-out for similar versions of that move whenever Ireland are awarded a penalty advantage in England.

Nehe Milner-Skudder

He’s not small, but New Zealand’s freshest talent is a decent antidote for those who fear that modern rugby demands wingers to be 6’4″ supercharged flankers.

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The 24-year-old only won his debut in the deciding fixture of the Rugby Championship in early August, but his scintillating Super Rugby form for the Hurricanes has left rugby fans everywhere salivating for more.

Step NMS impressed on his debut v Australia. Source: NZAUTV

Blessed not only with searing acceleration and an eye for space, Milner-Skudder’s footwork and offloading ability really set him apart as the ultimate wildcard. 17 line breaks in a season is impressive enough for an individual, but time and again he shows that even when caught the danger isn’t over.

His uncanny ability to find a team-mate with near-impossible offloads

Jesse Kriel

A large portion of South African rugby circles spent the summer and autumn (our winter and spring) sweating on the fitness of ex-Munster man Jean de Villiers. Head coach Heyneke Meyer, however, knew he had a gem on the way.

21-year-old Kriel has already been a revelation in the Springboks’ Rugby Championship campaign, assisting and scoring a try in the narrow defeat to New Zealand – the latter was this scything line through the game’s most experienced centre pairing, Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu.

kriel try

In one of the toughest places to defend on a rugby field, a kid who was playing under 20s last season already looks a cut above.

Originally published 26 August

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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