The U20 Six Nations starts today, and there are a lot of future internationals about to showcase their talents.
Here are six of the best players on show this tournament, one from each country.
Geoffrey Cros (Bordeaux and France)
Geoffrey Cros is a throwback to the Gerry Thornley era of French rugby. If you want ooh-la-la’s, Cros, the Bordeaux fullback playing on the wing for France, will provide a lot of that this Six Nations.
The 20-year-old showcased his flair in three Champions Cup games – starting against Ulster and Exeter.
Like most of the French flair players, he can make some catastrophic errors, but his play is very similar to Brice Dulin, although at 6’1”, he is a taller version of the Racing fullback.
This will be his first (and last) season of U20 rugby.
Marco Riccioni (Italy and Calvisano)
Riccioni has the potential to be the next Martin Castrogiovanni. He was the captain of the Italian U20 team last year from tighthead, and is highly likely to repeat this year.
Extremely powerful in the scrum, which when coupled with his impressive technique turns the Italian scrum into a weapon. He has some Challenge Cup experience with Calvasiano, but it’s only a matter of time before Riccioni graduates to the PRO12, and then onto senior Italian honours.
Robbie Nairn (Scotland and Harlequins)
Every year, Scotland U20s have one outstanding player in their ranks. This time they are stuck for choice, with a number of returning players – most notably in the forwards.
But Nairn, in his third season at U20s – is a standout on the wing. Built like a sprinter, and runs like one too – Nairn is fast and powerful – obviously
Nairn has left the Edinburgh academy and is playing with Harlequins, playing for the now defunct London Welsh this season.
He has impressive finishing ability to pair with his speed and power, but that’s not all. He can shut down opposition wingers, and is strong in defense – both in the tackle and positionally.
His aerial skills are excellent, and while his kicking game needs work – that’s a lot of things to watch out for.
Reuben Morgan-Williams (Ospreys and Wales)
When you google most prospects, you might get their wikipedia page, maybe an article or two about them signing for a team.
When you google ‘Reuben Morgan Williams’, you get articles about an 18-year-old ready to conquer the rugby world.
The scrumhalf has already been dominating the Welsh premiership for the last year, and was one of Wales best players in last year’s U20 campaign, which featured a grand slam.
Fringe defenses will need to be on high-alert when he’s at the base of a ruck – Morgan-Williams loves to snipe at gaps. He plays like a veteran the way he bosses his pack around the pitch, and his passing is crisp.
Tom Curry (Sale Sharks and England)
It’s hard to pick out just one standout English player this year. With Ben required with Sale, his twin, Tom Curry is one to watch out for.
The pair are extremely physical and very versatile across the back row. They both have Premiership and Champions Cup experience, on either flank. Tom has more caps, five to Ben’s two – and Tom holds the record of being Sale’s youngest ever player in the top tier of European rugby.
Colm Hogan (Munster and Ireland)
In an Irish class blessed with attacking outside back talent, Hogan is my favourite.
I’ve already waxed lyrical about his running style, so graceful across the pitch. He stands out with his magic. He’s better at fullback where he can have an impact on a game, creating – but there is a little bit of Ben Smith about his play. When he’s at 15, he turns creator – on the wing, he can finish.
He’s possibly a tad fortunate to be starting with Calvin Nash and Rob Lyttle unavailable, but that says more about their abilities than any knock on Hogan’s. I’m backing Hogan to dazzle with his opportunity.