Newbies of the Year

Date published: December 17 2015

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Getting your shot in the first-team is part of the ongoing battle for many rugby hopefuls, but in 2015 these starlets were given their chance and took it with both hands.

Their sterling efforts have not gone unnoticed by us here at Planet Rugby and we have consequently cobbled together a XV that although lacks in caps, it makes up for in quality.

Here we go then…

Newbies of the Year

15 Nehe Milner-Skudder (Hurricanes and New Zealand): An outstanding breakthrough year at the 'Canes which led to him making his All Black debut against Australia in August. Milner-Skudder hot stepped, literally, his way to global superstardom in 2015 and was a lethal attacking weapon for franchise and country. Six RWC tries helped him claim the World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year award.

14 Waisake Naholo (Highlanders and New Zealand): Although he made two appearances for the Blues in 2013, 2015 was the year Naholo announced himself to the world. He ran in a whopping 13 Super Rugby tries for the Highlanders which helped them to the trophy while he made his All Black debut against Argentina before injury struck. He somehow recovered for the World Cup and shone there too.

13 Jesse Kriel (Bulls and South Africa): What a year from the Cape Town-born youngster, who played full-back for the Bulls before enjoying a solid stint at outside centre for the Springboks. He made plenty of running metres from the back in Pretoria in Super Rugby 2015 before former Bok coach Heyneke Meyer thrust him forward to number 13 where he impressed for his country. An excellent season.

12 Stuart McCloskey (Ulster): First off a mention for Matías Moroni who played both centre and on the wing for the Pumas in Rugby World Cup 2015 and immediately caught the eye with his running game. However for a consistent year in the PRO12 for Ulster, 23-year-old McCloskey gets in. A hefty figure at 12 who offers more than just grunt, surely it's a matter of time before he dons the green jersey.

11 Josua Tuisova (Toulon): Another tough decision as we were considering moving Taqele Naiyaravoro to our number 11 jersey after a powerful 12 months for both the Waratahs and Glasgow. However, 21-year-old Tuisova has terrified defences in the Top 14 with his dynamism and power with ball in hand, making many carries in 2015 for Toulon. He will only improve, possibly leading to a French call-up.

10 AJ MacGinty (USA): The Rugby World Cup is a shop window for many players from the so-called Tier 2 nations and MacGinty certainly was front and centre for the Eagles. He showed a complete game from number 10 and seems to have all the tools to become a high quality playmaker. Pat Lam was clearly impressed with what he witnessed from the Dublin-born man and duly offered him a shot at Connacht.

9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh and Scotland): It's been a great year for Scotland in terms of talent knocking on the door, with depth clearly no longer a problem for the international side. Vern Cotter has Greig Laidlaw, Henry Pyrgos and Hidalgo-Clyne as his options at the base and with a decent boot off the tee, the latter has impressed. A mention also goes to electric Chiefs nine Brad Weber.

8 Amanaki Mafi (Japan): How he was only playing second division university rugby in Japan two years ago is a mystery. After five Top League games he was called into the Japan side that impressed at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Mafi was one the stars of their three wins as he carried strongly throughout the Brave Blossoms' pool campaign, with big-spending clubs subsequently circling for his services.

7 James Davies (Scarlets): An outstanding year from the former Wales Sevens player, who has matured into a superb openside flanker for the Scarlets. He won turnover after turnover, carried and defended well and is unfortunate to have Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric ahead of him in the international reckoning. Otherwise he would surely be very much in the thinking of Warren Gatland right now.

6 Akira Ioane (Blues): With back-row forwards either retiring or getting on in years for the All Blacks, Ioane could well be a permanent fixture in the Test line-up when the 2019 Rugby World Cup rolls around. He scored some scintillating tries for the Blues this year and is a unique talent. Mentions also go to Sean McMahon at the Rebels and Vaea Fifita of Wellington, who was superb in the ITM Cup.

5 Guido Petti (Argentina): The 21-year-old who plays for San Isidro Club in his home country announced himself to the masses during the Rugby World Cup as another top class forward off Argentina's conveyer belt. Powerful and intelligent, many more caps await him.

4 Paul Jedrasiak (Clermont): Jedrasiak was handed his first start in the Top 14 for Clermont in December 2014 and has since gone from strength to strength. Such a carrying force at the still young age of 22, the second-row is set for big things in French rugby.

3 Tomas Francis (Exeter and Wales): Signed by the Chiefs from London Scottish, where he made a reputation for himself as a solid scrummager. Since that move his stock has risen sharply as he was wanted by both England and Wales after strong showings at Exeter. He chose Wales and made his debut in August before enjoying a decent World Cup. Kieran Brookes is another tighthead who improved greatly during 2015.

2 Julian Montoya (Argentina): Somewhat of an unknown before 2015 when he made his debut for the Pumas in August. He went on to impress during the Rugby World Cup, making concerns about life after Agustín Creevy ease slightly. At 22, he will be peaking by 2019 and looks a decent long-term option for Argentina.

1 Kyle McCall (Ulster): What a finish to 2015 for McCall. He only played four times for Ulster before the 2014/15 campaign but since making his first start, in November against the Dragons, and his debut in Europe against Oyonnax, he has not looked back. His form earned him the Player of the Month gong at Ulster in December as the 23-year-old now looks to improve with more minutes for the province.

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