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11 rugby players we barely knew before 2013

The past 12 months has seen the emergence of some exciting rugby talent.

IRISH RUGBY HAS been swept with a new generation of talented, confident players that should give the country a fighting chance of going deep into the 2015 World Cup.

While each of the four provinces have given youth its head this year, Ireland is not alone in embracing the motto of ‘If you’re good enough, you’re old enough’. Here are 11 players that emerged in 2013 as ones to watch for the future.

Jack McGrath (Leinster and Ireland)

The looshead prop made his Leinster debut at the end of the 2009/10 season but became a household name this year after deputising for Cian Healy for club and country. Was named Ireland’s man-of-the-match against Samoa in November [his third cap of the year].

YouTube credit: RaboDirect PRO12

Ardie Savea (Hurricanes)

The younger brother of All Blacks flyer Julian Savea, Ardie has impressed with the Baby Blacks and his country’s Sevens team. Impressed on his Super Rugby appearances with the Hurricanes this year and was called into the New Zealand squad as an intern, of sorts, on their end-of-season tour. Some gas for a back-row:

YouTube credit: NZAUTV Rugby Union

James Hart (Grenoble)

image

The former Clontarf scrum-half was deemed surplus to requirements with Leinster but earned a trial with Grenoble and, following a spell t their academy, is now a permanent fixture in their starting XV. His kicking abilities and general play have contributed to league wins over Toulouse and Racing Metro. Watched closely by the Irish management team.

Stuart Olding (Ulster and Ireland)

Was given his chance by Mark Anscombe after injuries to Paddy Wallace and Luke Marshall. The versatile back shone at inside centre and scored a number of crucial tries as Ulster made it to the Pro12 final. Called up for Ireland during the summer and made his debut against the US Eagles. Trialled well at fullback this season [see offload below] but a cruciate injury has ruled him out of the remainder of the season.

YouTube credit: RaboDirect PRO12

Israel Folau (Waratahs and Australia)

Rugby League fans would have been well aware of the Australian’s devastating pace and power. The switch to union came last December and it has been a hell of a year. The fullback was exceptional in his outings with the Waratahs but, somehow, saved his best for Test rugby. He was one of the stars of the Lions vs. Australia series, scored two tries on debut and dotted down 10 times in his first season as a Wallaby.

imageFolau in action for the Wallabies this summer. INPHO/Billy Stickland

Matt Healy (Connacht)

imageRobbie Henshaw, Danie Poolman and Dan Parks celebrate with Healy after his try against Zebre. INPHO/James Crombie

Eric Elwood signed the talented winger up at the beginning of the 2012/13 season but Healy’s appearances were fleeting. He has made amends this year. The former Lansdowne back was Connacht’s best player in pre-season and has taken his try-scoring form into the Pro12. Started back-to-back Heineken Cup ties with Toulouse earlier this month.

Charles Piutau (Blues and New Zealand)

Salesi Tu’ipulotu ‘Charles’ Piutau made his Super Rugby debut with the Auckland Blues last season but was given a heap of starts by coach, and fan, John Kirwan this year. The former Tongan U20 international come to prominence with the New Zealand Sevens and made his Test debut in June of this year. The 22-year-old already has 10 caps to his name and scored this beauty [thanks to Kieran Read] against France in November:

YouTube credit: rugby1234love

Marty Moore (Leinster)

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt mentioned McGrath and Martin Moore so much in his final months at Leinster that one felt he was trying to take as much credit before he moved to his new D4 address. The New Zealander often raved about Moore’s scrummaging potential and, this season, he has been given ample time to show off.

imageMartin Moore awaits his time with the media at a Leinster training session. INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Called up to Ireland’s November Series squad, following strong Heineken Cup outings against Ospreys and Castres, Moore is now on the priority list for an IRFU contract.

Pablo Matera (Leicester and Argentina)

Signed by Leicester Tigers from Pampas XV, the 20-year-old back-row has really made a name for himself in his first year with Argentina. Matera was pitched into battle in the sink-or-swim Rugby Championship and had fine games away to New Zealand [see below] and at home to South Africa. Early comparisons to Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe do not seem wide of the mark.

YouTube credit: Lizardo Lizardos

James Cronin (Munster)

The 23-year-old prop made his Munster debut against Leinster in April of this year and is already edging close to his 20th provincial cap. He has crossed for three Pro12 tries this season.

imageCronin goes on the charge against Perpignan at Thomond Park. INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Dave Kilcoyne featured so prominently for the province last season that poker-faced Rob Penney wanted him in the Lions squad. This season, the Cork loosehead has provided ample back-up for ‘Killer’ and, this month, earned his first Heineken Cup start — the trifling matter of Perpignan at Stade Aime Giral.

Santiago Cordero (Pampas XV and Argentina)

Another Argentine makes the list but with ample reason. The fullback, who occasionally plays out-half, has pace to burn and is a massive fan of the high-speed side-step [see video below]. Made his Test debut on the wing against England, started out left against Wales and came on at fullbak in the end-of-season win over Italy.

YouTube credit: LasGarzas11

Israel Folau strikes again with brilliant 70-yard sprint for try

Marty Moore delighted to avenge 43-0 hammering at Franklin’s Gardens

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About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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