With the IRB second tier Junior World Trophy already well underway in Chile, the big show kicks off in France today. Here are ten young prospects worth keeping tabs on.
Tomas Lavanini – Argentina – Second Row – 201cm 120kg
The Pumitas finished fourth in last year’s competition and after besting South Africa twice in warm up matches they could go even higher this year. Reports out of Argentina indicate that the forwards dominated their opposites and a name that has repeatedly popped up is that of a new giant from Hindu, the same club that has produced a myriad of international stars including legendary Puma hard man Alejandro Iachetti. With the eyes of both senior selectors and pro scouts firmly on him, this tournament could hail the coming of the next great Puma second row.
Oli Hoskins – Australia – Tighthead Prop – 191cm 125kg
With the memories of Andy Sheridan’s lessons in scrum power still fresh in the minds of many Australian fans, it will be warming to hear of another young powerhouse emerging from the junior ranks. Hoskins is a huge man with impressive athleticism who will be enjoying his second world championship as starting tighthead. Like Scott Sio and Paul Alo-Emile before him, expect to see him fast tracked through the Super Rugby ranks sooner than later.
Scott Wilson – England – Tighthead Prop – 188cm 121kg
Right about now England fans would have been expecting to see Kyle Sinckler starring at tighthead, but injury gives the opportunity to this promising Newcastle lad instead. A former Scottish age-grade hammer throw champion, Wilson could have been wearing a thistle but has opted for the rose instead. Oft compared to another Falcons graduate, his namesake David, this one has shown enough in senior club colours already to suggest that his future might be even brighter.
Sevanaia Galala – Fiji – Centre – 188cm 104kg
It’s not every day you see players switch from the front row to the backs, and indeed a certain Lions player might attest that the other way around is more like it, but that’s exactly what has happened with this powerful lad from Nadi. Signed by Brive as an 18 year old, his pace and power convinced them he should be causing havoc in the midfield rather than the middle of the front row. The move has paid dividends, as the talented youngster played a feature role in helping his club gain promotion to the Top 14. Expect to see him wearing a senior jumper soon.
Christopher Tolofua – France – Hooker – 183cm 120kg
There’s no need to convince the selectors of this specimen’s potential, he’s already been capped twice, giving him the distinction of being the only non-Argentine player in the tournament to have won senior caps. One of a growing number of Polynesian players in the French ranks, his robust play tends to leave much older players in a heap. Under the tutelage of William Servat at Toulouse, he needs only to improve the technical aspects of his play to become a regular in the test side.
Luke McGrath – Ireland – Scrumhalf – 175cm 84kg
The Emerald Isle has never been renowned for its halfbacks. Despite the reasonable success of blokes named Stringer, O’Leary, and Murray, none have been particularly highly regarded outside of their own circles but this lad looks as likely as any to change the status quo. He is very much in the mold of the classic halfback – quick on his feet, a snappy pass off both hands, an educated boot, and more than willing to let his forwards know what’s what. Leinster have a ready-made replacement for the aging duo of Boss and Reddan, and in fact appear to have found an upgrade.
Lolagi Visinia – New Zealand – Outside Back – 194cm 99kg
If there has been a more successful identifier of rugby talent than acclaimed New Zealand 7s coach Gordon Tietjens, well, let’s be honest there’s simply no way. If Titch says he’s up to it, you can bet your bank notes that he’ll do the job. Auckland-born but of Fijian heritage, the long-striding Visinia impressed enough on last year’s IRB circuit to be selected in John Kirwan’s Blues squad. His opportunities have been limited thus far, but with a relative dearth of high quality outside backs in All Blacks contention, expect that to change rapidly.
Mark Bennett – Scotland – Centre – 183cm 90kg
Almost as rare as the top-class Irish scrumhalf is the exceptional Scottish centre. Tom Philip was supposed to be the next great hope there, and before him Jamie Mayer, but injury robbed both of their pro careers at an early age and so here we are, hoping that this time one might make it out of adolescence. Bennett returned to Glasgow mid-season from a stint at Clermont Auvergne and immediately began making his mark for Gregor Townsend’s side. Blessed with pace, vision, and strength, the whole of Scotland is hoping that they’ve finally found their man.
Seabelo Senatla – South Africa – Wing – 184cm 84kg
Paul Treu has a habit of selecting speedy youngsters for his Blitzbokke 7s program, but that hasn’t really translated into XVs success for many players as of yet. Senatla looks like he might be an exception. Not the biggest player but powerfully built, greatest strength is his finishing ability. Serious pace, a deadly step, and a nose for the tryline make him a very dangerous opponent one-on-one. The question now seems to be will they give him the ball?
Cameron Falcon – United States – Hooker – 185cm 107kg
A vital cog in the side that won promotion from the second tier last year, Falcon has been playing with Tony Smeeth’s Trinity side in Dublin this season after spending much of the last being mentored by former Leinster rake Gavin Hickie. His combination of brains and brawn has the national selectors ticking all the boxes. About as blue chip a prospect as it gets in American rugby, this young fella from Louisiana looks set to be a long-term fixture in the Eagle front row after he graduates from his second stint with the u20s.