We take a look at five of the brightest breakout stars of a disrupted 2020 rugby season.
Image Copyright – Steve Haag Sports
With the 2020 international rugby season having come to a close last weekend, it only seems fitting that we take a look at some of the breakthrough players who made their mark on what was a disrupted season.
National Team: New Zealand
Clarke had journalists waxing lyrical after his debut for the All Blacks, which was only a 20 odd minute cameo performance in their opening Bledisloe Cup game. So good was the young gun’s showing, that he became a staple fixture in the All Blacks starting XV that successfully defended the Bledisloe Cup and won the Tri-Nations.
In total, Clarke made five appearances and picked up more metres than Lewis Hamilton at Monza. While Clarke was only able to score one try, he was a constant thorn in the side of opposition defenders, who have struggled to deal with his explosive running.
While Clarke isn’t the finished article – he needs to work on his finishing as he did butcher a couple of tries, particularly one against Australia where he had the ball in the wrong hand while diving for the try line – he is well on his way to becoming an All Black everpresent.
National Team: Australia
Position: Number 8
Wilson was another player who shone during the Bledisloe Cup and Tri-Nations. The 21-year-old was a lynchpin for the Wallabies. Like Clarke, Wilson enjoyed a great debut in the 16-16 all draw in the Bledisloe opener and was then one of the fewer players to come out of Australia’s 27-7 Bledisloe 2 defeat with credit to their name.
While the Queensland Reds star was rather expansive for a number eight in the opening two Bledisloe Cup games – he linked play between the backs and forwards beautifully and was all over the place in open play – he proved he isn’t afraid to do the dirty work during Australia’s Tri-Nations games against Argentina, where he got stuck in and fronted up to a strong Los Pumas back row.
Like Clarke, Wilson still needs to work on aspects of his game. If he can iron out one or two flaws then he will make that number Wallaby number eight jersey his on for at least the next decade.
International Team: France
While Ntamack missed a lot of the Autumn Nations Cup due to club commitments and injury, his showings at the start of the year during the Six Nations are enough to bag him a place on this list.
The 21-year-old was in sensational touch for Les Bleus during the early parts of the Six Nations and played an absolute blinder during their 24-17 victory in France. He ran the English midfield ragged in that game. He also had some strong showings later in the tournament, particularly against Wales.
Believe the hype. Ntamack is a ready-made star and will just get better as he enters his third season of Test rugby in 2021.
International Team: New Zealand
The oldest man on the list. Ioane has been knocking on the All Black door for many years now but the 25-year-old may have just broken into the matchday 23 with his two performances in New Zealand’s final two Bledisloe Cup games.
Ioane has been an absolute wrecking ball at Super Rugby level for the past half-decade but it was always questioned about whether he was fit enough to cut it at international level. He answered those questions near the tail end of this year as he played a pivotal role in New Zealand’s 0-38 victory over Argentina, where he bullied the Pumas much touted back three.
The Blues man looks to have finally cracked this New Zealand squad and he could well be the answer to their issues on the blindside of the scrum. In Ioane and Ardie Savea, New Zealand have the strongest six and eight combinations going in world rugby at the minute.
International Team: New Zealand
Position: Utility Back
It’s insane to put a player on this list who only played about 12 minutes of international rugby this term but Jordan’s stellar showing that short amount of time makes me seem less of a madman.
Super Rugby viewers know just how prodigious a talent the Crusaders’ youngster is, but after his two tries – the first of which came from his first touch of the ball – against Argentina in the final Bledisloe Cup game, the world will have taken notice as well.
The utility back posses x-factor in spades. He’s a prodigious counter-attacker and is secure under the high ball as well. He will certainly give the Barrett brothers and Damien McKenzie a run for the All Blacks number 15 jumper in 2021.
Written by Darry Worthington.