While the household names will be arriving en masse from the Southern Hemisphere, there will be glut of newer, young bucks set to make a big impression...
By Alex Shaw
The southern hemisphere’s ‘Big Three’ have named their squads to tour Europe next month and amidst the array of global stars, there are several uncapped inclusions.
If you regularly watch Super Rugby or the World Rugby U20 Championship you are likely to be well-acquainted with most of these players but if you don’t, they are not players to sleep on when Europe’s finest host them next month.
We look at some of these danger men below, the threats they will pose and their chances of playing time with their respective sides.
There are two uncapped inclusions in the All Blacks squad, Rieko Ioane and Liam Coltman.
Ioane is a 19-year-old centre/wing who rose to prominence when he debuted for the New Zealand 7s team last year, as a then-17-year-old.
His star has continued to rise since then, becoming an integral part of Sir Gordon Tietjens’ side at the Olympics, shining for Auckland in the Mitre 10 Cup and making quite the impact at Super Rugby level with the Blues.
The All Blacks look as if they are only considering Ioane as a wing at this stage of his career and he will be deputising for Julian Savea and Waisake Naholo next month. There is something very special about Ioane, however, so do not be surprised if he sees action from the bench, with Steven Hansen keen to give the youngster experience at Test level.
New Zealand are the masters at gradually introducing young players and allowing them to accrue Test match experience so that when they are called upon to take prominent roles within the side, they are as ready as is possible.
As for Coltman, he is the third-choice hooker behind Dane Coles and Codie Taylor. He could see playing time against Italy but injuries aside, will probably not be involved against Ireland or France.
There is a little more of an unknown quality about the Springboks this year, with the uncapped quartet of Jean-Luc du Preez, Sergeal Petersen, Roelof Smit and Francois Venter all included for the tour.
Super Rugby watchers will know well the talents of du Preez, Petersen and Venter, but Smit may be coming in under the radar.
Smit has flitted in and out of the Bulls team at Super Rugby level but has been a force for the Pretoria-based team in this year’s Currie Cup, playing an integral role in their march to the final last week.
He led the competition in turnovers won – his 22 were eight more than his closest rival – and is a potential replacement for the injured Francois Louw should Allister Coetzee trust him to make the step up to Test rugby.
Wing Petersen has been one of the most consistent performers for the Cheetahs this year and has the archetypal size and speed to make himself a feared threat at Test level. His time is likely to be limited, however, with veterans Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen both included, as well as the recently fit-again Ruan Combrinck.
The duo of Venter and du Preez face similar battles to get past experienced teammates – Lionel Mapoe and Willem Alberts – but do have form on their side.
The tour may be a learning experience for du Preez but Venter has a real chance to feature, especially as the South African midfield has been a contentious issue this year, with no one combination standing out above the rest.
The Springboks’ game against Italy would be the most likely place to see all four in action but they do have the benefit of playing against the Barbarians to start the tour, something which could give them a platform to make their cases for selection against England and Wales, also.
After a poor June series against England and an only marginally better Rugby Championship, Michael Cheika has brought three uncapped men north, with hopes that they can reinvigorate the ailing Wallabies.
The most high-profile addition comes in the form of Rugby League wing Marika Koroibete, who can join a select group of Wallabies – including Matt Giteau – to have debuted in Test rugby before they made their bow in Super Rugby.
Koroibete impressed for the Melbourne Storm in the NRL this year and the Fijian has a good chance of seeing action on the tour, with Henry Speight and Sefanaia Naivalu – both also Fijian-born – the only other specialist wings in the squad.
It remains to be seen how he will deal with the defensive positioning and tactical kicking that is required of Test wings but there is no doubt he will be one of the more interesting players to watch over the next month.
The second member of the squad who could make his debut is former Western Force playmaker Kyle Godwin.
Godwin has flashed his ability at Super Rugby level for a few years now but has struggled to show it consistently in a poor Western Force side. He moves to the Brumbies for the 2017 season and he could be the solution to Cheika’s woes at inside centre.
Reece Hodge seems to have taken the driving seat for the jersey, but his versatility makes him a weapon wherever he is needed in the back line, 11 through 15, so Godwin could get an opportunity to make his claim for the jersey next month.
He is built in the mould of a secondary reciever who can pass and kick just as well as the man inside him, something which the Wallabies have historically favoured in their inside centres, but also has the size and footwork to be a danger as a ball-carrier.
The final uncapped player is Tolu Latu and he is less likely to see action, travelling as the third-choice hooker behind Stephen Moore and James Hanson.