By Yasamin Asrari
THE AUTUMN Internationals start tomorrow, expect these players to make an impact in the coming weeks
As a straight-running crash ball centre on the fringes of the Leicester squad three years ago, Tom Youngs would never have expected to be starting an England Test in front of his younger brother, Ben, but that’s what is happening tomorrow. Now a mainstay in the Tigers front-row, his move from the backs to the front-row on Heyneke Meyer’s suggestion is nothing short of remarkable. What you get from Youngs is hard-running, an abrasive nature, and despite a relatively small stature, a powerful scrummager. It’s been said that his throwing-in is an area in need of improvement but expect half of Norfolk to be supporting him at Twickenham tomorrow.
Looking to earn his first cap for England off the bench tomorrow, Mako Vunipola has certainly caught the eye of England forwards coach Graham Rowntree who said he couldn’t find fault in his game. With that praise ringing in this ears, it will be interesting to see how he shapes up and handles responsibility at the coal face if Joe Marler makes way. A couple of pounds over 20st, Mako has a huge ball-carrying game and a decent pair of hands. Talent runs in the family too, his brother is Billy Vunipola, the Wasps No 8.
With Chris Ashton suspended for the Fiji game, it’s looks like a straight shoot-out between Charlie Sharples and Ugo Monye to retain a wing spot for the rest of the QBE internationals. The Hong Kong-born flyer narrowly missed out on a place in the World Cup squad, but he’s been a key player for the Cherry & Whites, showing his finishing instincts with an opportunist’s try against Leicester a fortnight ago.
On the other flank, the bombastic Ugo Monye is back after a 30-month hiatus from Test rugby. He came close back in the summer in England’s game against the SA Barbarians, but left the field in a daze after getting knocked out in Potchefstroom. A hugely popular fixture at The Stoop, Monye has been in fine form for the Premiership leaders and his nifty footwork, eye for a gap and straight-line power have seen commentators wondering if Ugo is peaking just in time for the Lions Tour, which made him a star in 2009.
Fiji – Vereniki Goneva
Fiji have 16 uncapped players in their squad, so experienced old-heads will be expected to step up. Step-forward Leicester Tigers Vereniki Goneva. If proof was needed of Goneva’s ability, you only have to look at the reception he gets at one of the toughest crowds in rugby, Welford Road. The fans have taken to powerful wing since he moved from Tarbes in France the close-season. A typical South Sea islander, Goneva has all the skills; raw pace, a neat offload and a devastating power-fend. Don’t expect him to need a second invitation to cross the whitewash.
South Africa – Raymond Rhule
England aren’t the only team to suffer a significant injury count. The Springboks are shorn of several key players, including Schalk Burger, Bismarck du Plessis and Bryan Habana. To offset Habana’s absence, Heyneke Mayer, the Springbok coach, called up is jet-heeled Baby Bok wing Raymond Rhule. While not the most physically imposing of specimens, at just 19 he is lightning-quick and already a key component for his club, the Toyota Free State Cheetahs. He also played an integral role South Africa’s inaugural IRB Junior World Championship win.
Australia – David Pocock
Recently recovered from a knee-injury, David Pocock may seem an obvious choice, but his importance to the Wallabies camp cannot be underestimated. With his prodigious work ethic, tackle count and strength over the breakdown, he will look to unsettle the English backrow. Although he’s been covered impressively by stand-in Michael Hooper, there is no-one better to win turn-over ball and make a nuisance of themselves. Although Nathan Sharpe will take the captain’s armband on his final tour, Pocock’s leadership qualities will be, oh so vital, to the young Wallabies.
New Zealand – Sam Cane
Picking one player in a side replete with so much quality and confidence is not easy, however on commencing the end-of-season tour Steve Hansen stated that every player on tour would get game time. With that in mind, and the fact that Richie McCaw is looking to take a sabbatical next year, heir apparent Sam Cane is sure to feature for the All Blacks. Irish fans will not have happy memories of Cane, he was a key architect in their 60-0 drubbing in the summer, and even dotting down for a try. Prodigiously talented, he’s inked to fill McCaw’s mythical No 7 jersey when the great man hangs up his boots.