10 players to watch in 2016

Date published: December 19 2015

Owen Farrell Saracens Aviva Premiership 2015

With the year drawing to a close we thought it worth looking ahead to 2016 and ten players to watch out for in both fifteens and sevens.

It will be another busy twelve months and as always after Rugby World Cups, holes need filling, which gives players such as these a shot.

Ryan Crotty (New Zealand): No Ma'a Nonu or Conrad Smith, there's a gaping hole to fill in midfield for the All Blacks this year. Crotty is certainly up there challenging for the 12 jersey, and after proving time and again for Canterbury and the Crusaders his qualities – he's also never let New Zealand down – we expect him to start alongside Malakai Fekitoa as the world champions kick off 2016.

Pio Tuwai (Fiji Sevens): Ben Ryan recently said Tuwai was the best Sevens player he has ever coached which is praise indeed when you consider who he has worked with. Tuwai has everything; power, deceptive pace, confidence and above all an ability to do something out of the blue that can turn a game. Stopping him must be some ask and even if you do an offload won't be far away. Key to Fiji in 2016.

Matías Moroni (Jaguares and Argentina): Broke onto the international scene with the Pumas at the Rugby World Cup and we'll see a whole lot more of him in Super Rugby this year for new franchise the Jaguares. Moroni's expected to start alongside either Jerónimo de la Fuente or Juan Martín Hernández and those combinations will blend nicely and surprise many in the competition. A promising talent.

Jaco Kriel (Lions and South Africa): Such a threat in the back-row for the Golden Lions and Lions over the last few seasons of Currie Cup and Super Rugby, Kriel could be set for a breakthrough year for the Springboks. At 26 he is in the prime of his career and with a new coach set to come in, one would hope his talent is recognised. If it isn't, he will still make plenty of noise in Super Rugby.

Cornell du Preez (Edinburgh and Scotland): Eligible to pull on the Scotland shirt when he fulfils the three-year residency rule in October 2016, Du Preez has been a huge success since making the move from Port Elizabeth to Edinburgh. He stood out for the Kings in their Super Rugby year a few seasons back and has kicked on in the PRO12. An immense carrier who chips in with plenty of tries as well.

CJ Stander (Munster and Ireland): Now eligible for Ireland, Stander can definitely do a job for his adopted country during the Six Nations and beyond. A powerhouse back-row who initially struggled to nail down a starting spot at Munster until finally his form was rewarded, so much so that he's since been handed the captaincy. What an impact he would bring off the Irish bench for Jamie Heaslip.

Owen Farrell (Saracens and England): Will Greenwood stated recently that Farrell is starting to "own pitches" and it was a point we would go along with. He looks to be maturing as a player and leader at Saracens and that can only be a good thing for England in 2016. With George Ford not in the greatest form, Farrell surely has to be in pole position to get the nod from Eddie Jones. Watch him go.

Sonny Bill Williams (New Zealand Sevens): Won't be in Super Rugby this season due to the next challenge on the personal hit list for Williams, the Olympic Games. The two-time World Cup winner is looking to impress on the Sevens circuit this season and will make his debut in the Wellington showpiece in late January. His skills, power and offloading ability should give New Zealand a boost they need.

Bryan Habana (Toulon and South Africa Sevens): Another player looking to try his hand at the Sevens game in 2016 – when we don't yet know – his arrival to the Blitzbok fold will surely create a lot of headlines. We are not convinced it will be a major success though as one wonders how a 32-year-old Habana will cope in this tough environment. Succeed or struggle, it'll be worth a watch for sure.

Paul Jedrasiak (Clermont and France): We mentioned him in our Newbies of the Year but such is his form and France's need for new blood, Jedrasiak made this list. The all-action second-row must surely be in Guy Novès' thinking for the Six Nations after impressing for Clermont of late. Jedrasiak would add real dynamism to the les Bleus forwards and at 22 years of age he has a bright future ahead of him.

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