Although all of the teams have a number of stars who they will be relying upon to make an impact this autumn, we have picked out some of our ‘ones to watch’, who we believe will be game-breakers if they play well. A mix of youth and experience, each brings something slightly different to the game, so well worth keeping an eye out for these lot! As always, I’m sure we’ll have a few stars to add to this list once November is over.
Remember - we'll also have some awesome experiential activity on Queen St, Cardiff on 25th November, where the fastest passes make it onto our leaderboard and the top 10 every hour can win some awesome prizes as well as the top 10 overall passes on the day. AND we're giving away tickets to the Wales x South Africa match on the 2nd! Finally, Under Armour are boosting their discount every weekend until Dec 2nd to celebrate each Wales match!
Key player – Rhys Webb (Wales)
The Lions scrum half has recently been linked with a big-money move to Toulon, but has been publicly distraught about potentially losing his right to play for Wales. When Webb is on form, he causes havoc around the fringes of the ruck, so Wales will be looking for him to make breaks and open spaces for their powerful backs.
Key player – ‘King’ Louis Picamoles (France)
Despite being 31 this year, is still talismanic for the French side, which was demonstrated by his big money buyout from Northampton Saints to bring him back to Montpellier at the end of last season. With his deft offloading game and low centre of gravity, Picamoles is the engine for France’s gain line success and will be vital this year with key contests against the All Blacks and South Africa.
Key player – Garry Ringrose (Ireland)
A tough one this as the Murray/Sexton axis has controlled Ireland’s success for a number of years now. However for me, the young Garry Ringrose is stepping into the 13 shirt and seeking to make it his own, and if he can bring his pace and guile then Ireland may start causing a number of problems for their opponents.
Key player - Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
After a Lions tour to forget (some argue), Stuart Hogg will be hoping to come back to the international scene and bring the pace and flair (and kicking ability) he is so well known for. As one of the more senior (in terms of caps) members of the squad, many of the newer players will be looking to Hogg for leadership.
Key player – Maro Itoje (England)
Touted by some as the heir apparent to be England captain, Maro’s athleticism, rugby brain and desire to win has won over almost every rugby fan on the planet. Whether he plays at 5 or 6, he will be integral to England’s success. In my personal view, he’s a better natural 5 because England need an additional ball carrying 6 to allow their lightning backs, Anthony Watson and Jonny May to make the most of front-foot ball.
Key player – Josua Tuisova (Fiji)
Tuisova has been devastating defences from the wing in the French league for Toulon, and with his raw athleticism being combined with the offloading skills of Vereniki Goneva, Fiji have a very dangerous back three.
Key player – TJ Ioane (Samoa)
After some barnstorming performances in the back row for Sale Sharks, expect TJ to make some holes in opposition defences.
Key player – Michael Leitch (Japan)
Leitch, with nearly 60 caps of experience and still playing in Super Rugby will be expected to hold the team together at 10.
Key player – Agustín Creevy (Argentina)
This guy is a wrecking ball of a man and has been dominant in the loose for Argentina over the past few years. As captain, he will need to lead from the front.
Key player – Bernard Foley (Australia)
When Australia are firing Foley is at the heart of it. A real speedster with excellent feet, Foley tormented England at the last World Cup and has secured his place in a talented Australian back line. If Foley plays well, Australia will be dangerous.
Key player - Eben Etzebeth (South Africa)
Known for the size of his enormous arms, unwillingness to back down and his forever improving carrying ability, Etzebeth will need to dominate in the loose and in the lineout to help South Africa put the last few months behind them.
Key player – Keiran Read(New Zealand)
Although Vaea Fifita’s pace and power has terrified defences for the summer, New Zealand at times have looked a little ‘loose’, and Read’s experienced head combined with his gain line prowess and handling skills will be integral to ensuring that the All Blacks deliver fully on their potential.
Key player – Sergio Parisse (Italy)
What more can I say? Consummate professional, power of a forward, hands of a back, the star man is still the influential Sergio Parisse.
Key player (Georgia) - Viktor Kolelishvili
Georgia will be expecting Clermont flanker Kolelishvili to step up and fill the void left by Mamuka’s retirement.
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