Planet Rugby

Newbies of the Year

27th December 2012 12:31

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Brodie Retallick under posts

Growing up fast: Brodie Retallick

Getting your shot in the first-team is part of the ongoing battle for rugby hopefuls, but in 2012 this group of starlets were given their chance.

Their fine efforts have not gone unnoticed by us here at Planet Rugby and we have consequently cobbled together a XV that although is lacking in caps, it makes up for in fearless exuberance.

As always, remember that those included in our recent senior Team of the Year are subsequently ineligible for this selection. Rules are rules.

Newbies of the Year

15 Andrew Horrell (Chiefs) - It was a close call with Brumbies full-back Jesse Mogg who, after a season of rugby league, made such a big impact in Canberra. Mogg has so much potential but in the end there was a number 15 in Waikato making all the right noises, with Horrell's try against the Cheetahs illustrating his running game while his rugby intelligence was apparent all season. The Chiefs have a real gem who is capable of filling in at centre.

14 Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues) - Alex Cuthbert made a significant step up for both Cardiff Blues and Wales after originally coming to Test prominence in December last year. While a certain Ulster finisher, Craig Gilroy, was excellent, he had started to make noise in 2010 so Cuthbert took this jersey hands down. It's a boost that he recently re-signed and we can now expect a strong 2013 from a player who started all of Wales' end-of-year internationals.

13 Paul Jordaan (Sharks) - Leaving North Harbour and Blues youngster Francis Saili in the cold was tough but the form of Jordaan needed recognising. If the JWC star had not missed a spell due to injury, his year could have been even better. Jordaan has big potential.

12 Gael Fickou (Toulouse) - Came into the spotlight in this season's Heineken Cup but will struggle to get regular starts for Toulouse ahead of Florian Fritz et al. There is no question he has the temperament and ability to put pressure on Fritz and maybe Wesley Fofana in the future but for now Fickou knows there is a great deal more improving to be done. Other young centres worthy of applause are Luke Marshall (Ulster) and Tom Casson (Quins).

11 Willie le Roux (Cheetahs) - Simply superb in Bloemfontein this year. The wing or full-back who has past experience playing at 10 gave the Cheetahs so much going forward in Super Rugby. He also backed that up with a strong Currie Cup at Griquas, as his ability to mix creativity with beating a man made him a special player who is expected to shine when the new Super Rugby season rolls around. Mentions for Eli Walker and Johnny McNicholl.

10 Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes) - The 2010 U20 IRB World Championship winner was handed the fly-half reins in Wellington this season and did not disappoint. He scored 197 points for Mark Hammett's side as his running and kicking game entertained the masses, with one of many excellent performances coming against the Blues when he provided the match-winning try for Conrad Smith. Was rewarded with a NZ end-of-year tour squad place.

9 TJ Perenara (Hurricanes) - New Zealand is certainly blessed in the 9 department, with Aaron Smith, Piri Weepu, TJ Perenara and Kerr-Barlow knocking on the door. Smith was ineligible due to PR's full team honours so it was a shoot-out between the Hurricane and Chief, which was eventually won by Perenara after moments such as his inside ball against the Rebels seeing him make it. Can count himself unlucky not to make NZ's touring squad.

8 Billy Vunipola (London Wasps) - At 20, Vunipola has become a hot property in England, with Wasps director of rugby Dai Young already backing his number eight for an England call-up. Rightly so in our eyes as the brother of Saracens loosehead prop Mako has been improving with each game in 2012 and we expect that to continue next year. Two players also set to improve - after a strong ITM Cup and Top 14 - are Ardie Savea and Edwin Maka.

7 Michael Hooper (Brumbies) - If this call was made mid-year, I would have immediately written the name Marcell Coetzee after his outstanding early-season form for the Sharks. His bruising, all-action showings alongside Keegan Daniel and Willem Alberts immediately screamed "future Bok" and that is what he became. But for year-round efforts, Hooper gets in and is a worthy inclusion after consistently exceptional showings throughout 2012.

6 Iain Henderson (Ulster) - What a year it has been for Henderson. His form in the Junior World Championship in South Africa saw him receive plenty of praise before matches for Ulster in the Heineken Cup - due to the injury absence of Stephen Ferris - meant he was firmly on the Test radar for Ireland. Able to play lock, could he be a bolter for the Lions?

5 Samu Manoa (Northampton) - Manoa has been one of the finds of the year from the Saints due the American's size, power and pace. He arrived at Franklin's Gardens from San Francisco Golden Gate RFC and was an instant hit at the club, earning a fresh three-year contract as his reward. A mention also for Melbourne Rebels lock forward Cadeyrn Neville.

4 Brodie Retallick (Chiefs) - After losing Brad Thorn, the All Blacks needed a new grafting second-row under new coach Steve Hansen. Up stepped a 21-year-old from Rangiora who went on to win a Super Rugby winner's medal, the Rugby Championship and many plaudits along the way. Retallick was a real workhorse and sees off the impressive Joe Launchbury.

3 Ben Tameifuna (Chiefs) - From one new Chief to another, young but sizeable Tameifuna has been excellent for the tournament champions in 2012. Weighing in at 140kg, the 21-year-old formed a strong front-row unit with Sona Taumalolo and Mahonri Schwalger and it was intelligent of All Black selectors to get him involved in some training. Samson Lee has impressed for the Scarlets and is a very good prospect to be eased into the Welsh setup.

2 Tom Youngs (Leicester) - The converted centre edges Toulouse's Christopher Tolofua after taking his chance when the likes of Dylan Hartley and Rob Webber - originally ahead of him the pecking order - fell to injuries. He is still a work in progress but so far so good.

1 Mako Vunipola (Saracens) - Two starts, two man-of-the-matches is good by anyone's standards but for a prop it is quite a way to announce yourself. Vunipola is now a full England international and beats Stormers prop Steven Kitshoff to the final newbie jersey.

By Adam Kyriacou
@PlanetRugbyAK

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