RUCK’s 10 European Champions Cup players to watch in Round Three, including Telusa Veainu, Thomas Waldrom and Nathan Hughes
Jamie George is a future England Captain who has not been mentioned in the running
Ma’a Nonu is a two-time Rugby World Cup winner, but can he deliver for Toulon?
Anthony Watson and George North have gone under the radar since the RWC and are in need of a good performance
This weekend marks round three of the European Champions Cup and with that we profile the ten players we are expecting big things from.
There is going to be plenty of exciting talent to watch but some players will stand out more than others so, without further ado, here are the top ten players to watch this weekend…
1. Jamie George (25, Hooker, Saracens/England)
The Saracens hooker has excelled so far this season, operating as a crucial cog in the London-based club’s incredible 11-match winning run through his solid lineout throwing and relentless scrummaging.
George was skipper for Saracens’ latest match in the Aviva Premiership last Sunday, which saw the north London club leave Kingston Park with an emphatic 38-3 victory against the Newcastle Falcons. He will likely play a significant role for the reigning Premiership champions Sarries as they look to make it three wins out of three in the Champions Cup against Oyonnax on Sunday.
It’s unusual his name hasn’t been mentioned in the discussion for the England captaincy as he has the potential to be an international regular for many years to come.
2.Telusa Veainu (24, Wing, Leicester Tigers/Tonga)
Utility back Telusa Veainu has made an immediate impact after linking up late with his new teammates at Leicester Tigers following the Rugby World Cup – making a round-high 150 metres over the gain line at Sixways during round six of the Aviva Premiership last weekend.
Leicester faces a trip to Thomond Park this Saturday, before welcoming Munster to Welford Road the following weekend. This doubleheader looks likely to determine the outcome of Pool 4 of the European Champions Cup.
The Irish province will need to be wary about Veainu’s threat as his burst of pace and brilliant footwork makes him one of the most unpredictable speedsters in European rugby today.
3. George North (23, Wing, Northampton/Wales)
Northampton’s pack has been nothing short of spectacular in recent weeks, meaning it’s time that their backs start chipping in help with more of the work, beginning with an arduous trip to Dan Carter and Racing 92 this weekend.
The most famous name, George North, has not really found his form following his Rugby World Cup campaign with Wales.
The winger has got some swagger, and while he has scored 23 tries in 45 games for Saints, he needs to start delivering again on the biggest stage if Northampton are going to achieve anything significant this season.
4. Thomas Waldrom (32, Number 8, Exeter Chiefs/England)
At the Ricoh Arena last weekend Thomas Waldrom, last season’s top try-scorer in the Premiership, opened his 2014/15 account by becoming the first ever Exeter Chiefs player to score a hat-trick in a Premiership match.
Waldrom was one of the major absentees from Stuart Lancaster’s World Cup squad but has continued to show his superstar attributes so far this season for Chiefs.
The powerful back-rower will need to continue that form this weekend when Exeter welcome Clermont to Sandy Park would severely dampen Exeter’s chances of progression.
5. James Davies (25, Flanker, Scarlets)
The younger brother of Welsh international Jonathan Davies, James is well on his way to stardom himself after being handed a professional contract by Scarlets.
A constant force for Wales Sevens, he is yet to make the step up to senior international rugby but with his impressive power at the breakdown and every-improving handling skills he should be on Warren Gatland’s radar.
He can become a favourite for sure at Scarlets and a big performance away to Glasgow this weekend would take him a step closer to that.
6. Nathan Hughes (24, Number 8, Wasps)
Wasps have a number of stars these days, but No.8 Nathan Hughes’ impressive run of form saw him named as the Aviva Premiership player-of-the-month for November.
His ability to consistently breach the gain line has been one of the defining features of Wasps’ stellar month, during which the club recorded European Cup wins over Toulon and Leinster in addition to beating domestic rivals Gloucester and London Irish.
7. Ma’a Nonu (33, Centre, Toulon/New Zealand)
Former All Black star Ma’a Nonu made a winning debut in French rugby for Toulon in his first game since the Rugby World Cup final last weekend.
In what will likely be his European Champions Cup debut against Leinster on Sunday, we expect him to show what an exquisite technical midfielder he is when performing at his peak.
Toulon, as always, have lots of bodies competing for places in the centre, but when he plays, can he be the World Cup winning All Black talisman he once was? We might find out to an extent this weekend.
8. Anthony Watson (21, Wing/Fullback, Bath/England)
Bath winger Anthony Watson revealed last month that the squad believe they can win the European Rugby Champions Cup – but right now it looks like it will be an uphill battle for them to escape the Pool with Toulon, Wasps and Leinster battling them to reach the knockout rounds.
This weekend Bath travel to the Ricoh Arena following a narrow home loss to Saints and although Watson is only aged 21 you expect his performance could be key to Bath maybe coming away with a positive result.
He is quick and direct and, as always, we are looking forward to seeing him in action.
9. Jonathan Sexton (30, Fly-Half, Leinster/Ireland)
Fly-half Jonathan Sexton exploded onto the scene with Ireland six years ago and it’s now obvious that the emerald green number 10 is one of the finest players to play for Leinster and his nation.
Leinster have made the worst possible start to their Champions Cup campaign with back-to-back defeats in the competition with consecutive games against reigning champions Toulon.
If anybody among those Leinster players can turn it around the for the Irish Province, it would be their iconic goalkicker Sexton.
10. Stuart Hogg (23, Fullback, Glasgow Warriors/Scotland)
Hogg has impressed enough all-around to catapult himself to being one of the stars of Northern Hemisphere rugby.
He, alongside other Scotland stars Jonny Gray and Finn Russell, have continued to develop and improve so far this season for the Warriors and he is, without doubt, a player to keep an eye on this weekend.
After a disappointing defeat at home to Northampton in round two, Glasgow really must win.