Uncapped XV: Ready to make the leap

Date published: November 9 2016

With the November Tests now well underway and international rugby front and centre of everyone’s minds, we look at the best players from around the world who are yet to make their Test bows.

Whether just on the cusp of making the grade or a promising star ready to set alight the rugby world in the coming years, we have compiled what we believe to be the best uncapped XV currently playing.

A few of these players will make their Test debuts at some point during this month, but most will have to wait until 2017 or possibly even later before they are called upon.

15 Melani Nanai (Blues and Samoa)

Honourable MentionsKarmichael Hunt, Lolagi Visinia, Mike Haley

A number of exciting full-backs have been capped in the past year but stocks at the position seem to be as healthy as ever. Nanai gets the nod here for his impactful contributions to the Blues in Super Rugby, but it is no guarantee he will get a look in with the All Blacks, who already have Ben Smith, Israel Dagg and Damian McKenzie at their disposal, and a future Test career with his native Samoa could well beckon.

14 Rieko Ioane (Blues and New Zealand)

Honourable Mentions – Johnny McNicholl, Sergeal Petersen, Bryce Heem

Ioane may well make his All Blacks debut over the coming weeks and the ability he has displayed thus far, at both Super Rugby level and with the New Zealand Sevens team, is made all the more impressive by the fact he is still just 19 years of age. It won’t be long before Ioane is being talked about in the same breath as Julian Savea, Waisake Naholo and Nehe Milner-Skudder.

13 Bundee Aki (Connacht and New Zealand)

Honourable Mentions – Garry Ringrose, Francois Venter, Joe Marchant

Having just extended his contract in Galway, Aki will presumably be wiped from this XV as soon as he qualifies for Ireland on residency (in 2017). He played a key role in delivering Connacht’s first PRO12 title last season and caught the eye with his ability to break the gain line and keep attacking plays alive with his offloading.

12 Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors and England)

Honourable Mentions – Willis Halaholo, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Kyle Godwin

The Australian-born back has had quite the rugby journey – across both the 13 and 15-man codes – and is now on the verge of making his Test debut. Powerful, quick and with subtle hands, Te’o is a man to watch this month.

11 Josua Tuisova (Toulon and Fiji)

Honourable Mentions – David Smith, James Lowe

Tuisova has been tormenting defences in the Top 14 and Champions Cup for a couple of years now, as well as making an impact in the Sevens arena with his native Fiji. He is yet to make his international bow in the 15-a-side format, something which the international game is certainly the worse for.

10 Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders and New Zealand)

Honourable Mentions – Sam Davies, Patricio Fernández, Alex Lozowski

Every step in Mo’unga’s career has seemed to come easily to the talented fly-half, moving from New Zealand U20s to the Mitre 10 Cup seamlessly, and then taking to Super Rugby like a duck to water. If it were not for the incredibly impressive cadre of fly-halves currently in and around the All Blacks – Beauden Barrett, Aaron Cruden and Lima Sopoaga – then Mo’unga would be a certainty for a cap over the next 12 months.

9 Nic Stirzaker (Melbourne Rebels and Australia)

Honourable Mentions – Jamison Gibson-Park, Dan Robson, Will Chudley

Scrum-half pools are somewhat shallow the world over right now but there is something very odd about the fact that Stirzaker cannot get a cap for the Wallabies. The Rebels’ nine has been a key part of their improvement as a franchise and delivers all the tempo, tactical kicking control and precise distribution you could want from a scrum-half.

8 Akira Ioane (Blues and New Zealand)

Honourable Mentions – Jack O’Donoghue, Fritz Lee, Nathan Hughes

Ioane will have a chance to make an international impact with New Zealand Maori this month and press his claims for inclusion with the All Blacks in 2017. With Read at eight and Jerome Kaino at six, Ioane may have to be patient, but when he does he get his opportunity, there’s no doubt he will take it with both hands and will be on the fast-track to global acclaim.

7 James Davies (Scarlets and Wales)

Honourable Mentions – Sam Jones, Brendon O’Connor, Luke Wallace

The silver medal-winning openside is unlucky to play for a country who has two so talented players as Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric in his position. He is robust enough to deal with the physical demands of fetching at Test level, but may have to continue to bide his time with Wales’ back row options currently in good shape.

6 Jordan Taufua (Crusaders and New Zealand)

Honourable Mentions – Sekou Macalou, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Jackson Wray

Taufua is another Kiwi who would walk into many other international teams but who must be patient and wait for his opportunity with the All Blacks. He consistently delivers for the Crusaders, complementing Kieran Read and Matt Todd in their back-row, and certainly has the ability to be a Test player.

5 Jacques du Plessis (Montpellier and South Africa)

Honourable Mentions – Paul Willemse, Graham Kitchener, Charlie Ewels

Scott Barrett was pencilled in here until his debut for the All Blacks on the weekend, but that opens the door for the man nicknamed ‘Sheep’. The former Blue Bulls forward has been an integral part of Jake White’s radically transformed Montpellier side and impresses equally with his physical style, work rate and set-piece ability.

4 Ed Slater (Leicester Tigers and England)

Honourable Mentions – RG Snyman, Vaea Fifita, Matt Symons

It’s quite hard to get your head around the fact Slater has yet to win a Test cap. It’s a testament to the number of quality English second-rows currently plying their trade, as well as a frustrating history of injuries coming at the most unfortunate times for the Leicester lock.

3 Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins and England)

Honourable Mentions – John Ryan, Paul Alo-Emile, Ben Tameifuna

Sinckler will make his Test debut this weekend, with Dan Cole the only other tighthead prop in the England squad. Sinckler has always had the skills in the loose to be an effective international player but with his scrummaging coming on leaps and bounds over the last year, he is now ready to deliver on both fronts in international rugby.

2 Scarra Ntubeni (Stormers and South Africa)

Honourable Mentions – Akker van der Merwe, George McGuigan, Niall Annett

Hooker is another position where several talented young stars have made their Test bows of late, including Tommy Taylor and Malcolm Marx. Despite not having the best year in 2016, Ntubeni has showcased his abilities in the seasons previous and there’s every chance he returns to form in 2017 and puts his name in the mix for the two jersey in the Springboks’ post-Adriaan Strauss era.

1 Thomas du Toit (Sharks and South Africa)

Honourable Mentions – Denis Buckley, Ox Nche, Alex Waller

For all the frustrations that Du Toit’s moves to and from tighthead have created, he is still a potentially dominant loosehead at Test level. If he can stay put on the left of the scrum at the Sharks, he could be the long-term successor to Tendai Mtawarira at both franchise and Test levels.

by Alex Shaw