Ones to watch: Six young guns ready to fire

They may or may not be given a decent chance in this year’s Six Nations but the sextet we’ve selected here all look like they are on the verge of making a real breakthrough in the international game


Jonny Gray (lock)

Age: 19. Height: 6’ 6ins.
Weight: 119kg (262 lbs)
Club: Glasgow

Who is he?
He’s the younger brother of Richie, who also plays for Scotland and there is the possibility the two locks could play together. Last year he was offered a full time contract for three years and is the youngest forward to play for Scotland since Hamish English in 1951. Glasgow coach Scott Johnson said he won’t answer questions about the Grays because they are two different players.

What is his background?
He joined Glasgow in the summer of 2012 on the back of standout displays for Hamilton and Scotland under-20s. He started his first game for the national under-20 side at age just 17 and was selected as Scotland under-20s’ captain for the 2013 Six Nations. Named as one of the recipients of the 2012 John Macphail Scholarship and spent three months developing his rugby in New Zealand.

Why is he in the squad?
He was always being groomed to play for Scotland and actually started playing rugby before his older brother. He’s probably stronger than his brother was at the same age and was brought into the Scotland squad for last November’s series. Like Richie he is an athletic secondrow, not as tall but moves well.

How has his season been?
So far very good indeed and has been impressive with Glasgow. Johnson handed the teenager his first Test cap against South Africa last autumn when he and Richie became the 47th set of brothers to play for Scotland. Johnson picked him on form and he came off the bench to replace Richie.

He said: “Just to get on the pitch was great but coming on for Richie and shaking his hand made it even more special. It’s nice to know your name goes into the history books.” - On his first cap.
They said: “Obviously, he is my brother but, at the end of the day, we’re both professional rugby players and in the same position, and so there are challenges there.” - His brother Richie

Tommaso Allan (outhalf)

Age: 20. Height: 6’2’’
Weight: 87kg (191 lbs) Club: Perpignan

Who is he?
Allan finally settled with Italy after Scotland tried to halt his move as he played under age rugby with them. Fluent in Italian, French and English with some Afrikaans, he also spent time with Western Province. He can play centre and fullback and is a work in process but could be the answer to Italy’s problems at number 10.

What is his back ground?
Born in Italy to a Scottish father and an Italian mother, Paola. His dad played a bit but his uncle Tommy won nine caps for Scotland before playing 13 times for South Africa, following their reintroduction to the international fold. It was with the Scottish under-18s that he began to flourish at outhalf.
Why is he in the squad?
Choosing Italy over Scotland, he was named by Italian coach, Jacques Brunel, in Italy’s 35-man training squad for last Autumn’s Test matches, which lead to Scotland seeking clarity on his eligibility. He made his debut coming off the bench to score against Australia and it looks like Brunel will stick with him until the 2015 World Cup.

How has his season been?
It has been his breakthrough season in Europe after bagging an Espoir contract in France. Called in to play Racing Metro, he flourished and caught the eye of Brunel, who acted quickly. Italy have struggled at 10 since Diego Dominguez retired.

He said: “It was awesome to play against Johnny Sexton,” for Perpignan against Racing Metro.

They said: “An old pro.” - Marc Delpoux, the Perpignan coach.

Jordi Murphy (backrow)

Age: 22. Height: 6’2’’
Weight: 106kg (234lbs)
Club: Leinster

Who is he?
He’s the Leinster player who has benefitted more than anyone from Seán O’Brien’s injury at openside. Although the media have a tendency to lionise players prematurely, Murphy has been outstanding in the games over the last few weeks. A dynamic runner with ball in hand he won back-to-back man of the match awards for Leinster prior to their Heineken Cup pool match against Castres.
What is his back ground?
Murphy came through the Irish school system and the IRFU underage teams at under 18, 19 and 20. He played in all of Emerging Ireland matches last summer as well as captaining Leinster ‘A’ to the British and Irish Cup. In the last few months he’s come out of the shadows, the stage is set to see if he can take another step up.

Why is he in the squad?
He’s moved ahead of Dominic Ryan at openside but can play eight too, a route one carrier in first phase possession. He has a physical aspect to his game that can stand up at this level. There’s no doubt O’Brien would be in if fit but it’s always about seizing opportunity and a good Six Nations will make Joe Schmidt’s job even more interesting.

How has his season been?
It’s been a breakout season for Murphy. While he had been improving under the radar recent exposure has allowed him play more and better rugby. Less crashing in to players to make an impact, he has very quickly become the darling flanker of Ballsbridge.

He said: “Every player loves to get their hands on the ball, but it’s not the be-all and end-all.”

They said: “Jordi carries the ball very well for us. He has a very broad skill set so he can play across the backrow.” - Leinster coach Matt O’Connor.

Jules Plisson (outhalf)

Age: 22. Height: 6’
Weight: 92kg (202lbs)
Club: Stade Francais
Who is he?
Brought into the 30-man France squad by coach Phillippe Saint-Andre instead of Freddie Michalak and Francois Trinh-Duc. Michalak has not been playing for Toulon following injury while the uncapped Plisson has been keeping South Africa’s Morne Steyn out of the Stade Francais side, which adds to the opinion of a mature player and a sound head on young shoulders.

What is his background?
He came through the Stade Francais Academy (called the Espoirs) and came into the senior side in the 2010-11 season, where he played nine times for the club in the Top 14 and the Amlin Challenge. He played for France under-20s and over the last two years has been gaining more game time, last season playing in 22 matches for Stade, 12 of them as the starting outhalf.

Why is he in the squad?
He has been performing well for his Parisian club, which dove tails with the philosophy of Saint-Andre of picking players who are in form. That Stade have also crept up the Top 14 league table hasn’t hurt. His creative talent has never been in doubt but this season he has brought a far greater maturity to his game.

How has his season been?
Plisson isn’t your regular goal-kicking pivot although he is something of a drop goal specialist. Last season he dropped six for his club and he’s already banged over four this season – including three in a last-gasp win away at Perpignan. He appears to have grown into the position since the arrival as coach of former Argentinean international Gonzalo Quesada.

He said: “The strength of the Stade Francais stadium is it’s heart.” -
Yes he is poetic as well.

They said: “He has improved, he’s a young French player with great potential who plays a lot and we have faith in him,” said Saint-Andre.

Samson Lee (tighthead prop)

Age: 21. Height:5’11’’
Weight:115 (254 lbs)
Club: Scarlets

Who is he?
Lee came through Llanelli and joined the Scarlets at under 16 level before playing on the Wales under 20 side in the 2012 Six Nations and Junior World Cup in South Africa. Aptly named, he was recently described by George North as a “hard nut” and an “absolute monster” and a player he would never “mess” with.

What is his background?
From a Traveller family, he was brought into the Wales squad in 2012 as cover for the injured Adam Jones but made his Test debut last year against Argentina in the November series. Banned for two weeks playing with Scarlets in October when his boot struck Danny Care’s face in a reckless manner.

Why is he in the squad?
He was one of the players along with Rhodri Jones who was brought in by Warren Gatland for good regional form. Seen as a potentially strong tighthead, his body shape is good for the position and he’s massively physical and aggressive, although not very tall.

According to the Wales coaches his technique is excellent and he caused havoc in the Leinster scrum when the sides met in the Pro12.

How has his season been?
This has been his breakthrough season with the change in the scrum laws suiting the squat, barrel-chested Lee as a lot of the impact from the hit has been taken out of the set-piece. He was considered Wales’ best scrummager at the Junior World Cup, where Wales came third and he particularly caused problems for New Zealand.

He said: “All you can ask for is to get a chance and then it’s up to you.”

They said: “The new scrums really suit Samson, his shape, the way he scrummages he can hopefully use to his advantage.” - Scarlets forwards coach Danny Wilson

Anthony Watson (wing/fullback)

Age: 19. Height: 6’2’’
Weight: 92 kg (202lbs)
Club: Bath

Who is he?
A wing of real pace and grace and he can also cover at fullback. The Bath player hopes to take advantage of injury to Marland Yarde of London Irish and London Wasps’ Christian Wade and he’s perfectly capable of doing so. Was playing fullback but recently switched to right wing against Leicester, apparently on request from England coach Stuart Lancaster.

What is his background?
Ran 11.2 for 100 metres in school sports day, played soccer with the Wimbledon Academy and had a trial for Chelsea.

Then starred in rugby for England in the under 20s Six Nations at the age of 17 and finished as the tournament’s second top try scorer behind London Irish teammate, Marland Yarde. The two formed a lethal combination in the England back three. He made his debut against Newcastle and became the youngest player ever to appear for his first club, London Irish in a Premiership match.

Why is he in the squad?
Seen as a teenage prodigy, he’s a graceful player and has zip. His pedigree is also unquestionable and has come through the English system at under 16, under 18 and under 20.

He is also young enough to be available to England for the next two World Cups if he can make the break through in a highly contested position.

How has his season been?
The turbo-charged rookie is one of the inform backs playing in the Premiership. Back in the summer he was part of an England under 20 side that swept aside New Zealand’s ‘Baby Blacks’ before beating Wales to win the Junior World Cup. Watson scored an intercept try against the Kiwis in the historic semi-final, which launched him to a flying start with his new employers Bath.

He said: “I try to bring a bit of both to my game, work ethic and X-factor. I’d say speed and footwork are my main two characteristics.”

They said: “He’s got pace and evasion but the main thing is his attitude. He will keep his feet on the ground and be humble and come in next week and try to get better.” - Bath coach Mike Ford.

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