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5 Irish rugby players to watch out for in 2018

There are some seriously talented players at each of the four provinces.
Dec 28th 2017, 3:22 PM 22,756 57

WITH THE 2019 World Cup coming into sharp focus, Joe Schmidt used the November internationals to explore the depth of his squad as the likes of Jacob Stockdale broke through and excelled at international level.

Here, we look at five young players to watch out for over the course of the next 12 months both for their province and, potentially, in the green of Ireland.

Nick Timoney (Ulster)

Nick Timoney scores his second try Source: James Crombie/INPHO

A Leinster Senior Schools Cup winner with Blackrock College, back-row forward Nick Timoney made the move north to Ulster in July 2015 after being overlooked for a place in the Leinster academy.

His talent has been nurtured and developed at the northern province and this season made his first senior start against the Dragons at Kingspan Stadium, marking the occasion with a man-of-the-match performance.

With injuries to Jean Deysel and Marcell Coetzee, Timoney — a former Ireland U20 international — has made eight Pro14 appearances this season and is demonstrating all the potential we saw during his time captaining Blackrock to school’s glory in 2014.

Jordan Larmour (Leinster)

Leinster’s Jordan Larmour Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Jordan Larmour needs no introduction at this stage. Arguably the most exciting prospect in the country, the 20-year-old has enjoyed a meteoric rise over recent months and it has even been suggested he could be a surprise inclusion in Joe Schmidt’s Six Nations squad.

A player with remarkable footwork, balance and speed, Larmour, still in his second year of Leinster’s academy programme, has caught the eye with a string of mature and assured performances.

The former St Andrew’s College student provided a glimpse of what was to come during a second-half cameo against Gloucester in pre-season and Larmour has gone on to make 11 appearances for Leinster this term, including six starts and a Champions Cup debut.

Most strikingly, however, has been his ability to tear opposition defences apart, as seen on St Stephen’s Day when Larmour produced a moment of individual brilliance to settle a frenzied inter-pro in his side’s favour.

Big things have always been expected of Larmour, and his potential knows no bounds.

Alex Wootton (Munster)

Alex Wootton Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Another young player who has seized his chance this season, Alex Wootton continues to grow in stature with each passing week on the Munster wing.

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Plucked from the Northampton Saints academy in 2013, the 23-year-old has had to bide his time with the southern province but when the door opened in pre-season, Wootton was determined to burst through.

He was highly-rated by Rassie Erasmus and his impressive form has seen him cement his position under Johann van Graan during Keith Earls’ injury lay-off. Seven tries this term — including four against the Cheetahs — is an indication of his impact.

Just as impressively, Wootton has shown to possess a fine set of all-round skills and against Leinster racked up 114 metres while also being a threat in the air.

Tom Farrell (Connacht)

Tom Farrell Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Tom Farrell has been a revelation for Connacht this season after the western province brought him home from English Championship club Bedford Blues last January.

The 24-year-old centre has really developed his game in Galway and was last week rewarded with a new contract by Connacht.

A near ever-present in Kieran Keane’s midfield, the former Leinster centre has proved to be a shrewd acquisition by Connacht and scored the match-winning try against Munster back in October.

Calvin Nash (Munster)

Calvin Nash Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Ireland U20 international Nash has been in or around the Munster squad for the last number of weeks and although he’s fulfilled the 24th man duties of late, his performances in the B&I Cup show just how close he is to a breakthrough.

The centre/wing has made two senior appearances this season, both off the bench, and scored his first senior try against Zebre back in November.

With the likes of Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Chris Farrell and Rory Scannell all ahead of him in the pecking order, Nash may have to bide his time further but he is one of the rising stars at Thomond Park and is being tipped for a big future.

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