Getting your shot in the first-team is part of the ongoing battle for rugby hopefuls, but in 2013 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 Israel Folau (Waratahs) - He just missed out for Planet Rugby's senior call-up which made him available and of course a shoo-in for this spot. Folau, in the nicest possible way, is a freak of nature as he excels in every sport he plays. Union was his latest adventure and he stood out for the Waratahs in Super Rugby before shining for Australia in June, the Rugby Championship and also the Lions series. A mention for Santiago Cordero.
14 Jack Nowell (Exeter) - It has been an outstanding year for the Chiefs wing as his performances in the Junior World Championship peaked with a try in the final against Wales. From there he was called up by the England Saxons and has consistently shone for Exeter on the wing. Nowell may continue his meteoric rise if Stuart Lancaster gambles on him in the Six Nations. A mention for Frank Halai, who scored ten tries in Super Rugby.
13 Tevita Kuridrani (Brumbies) - Another player to grab his opportunity when given it in 2013. Kuridrani cemented his position as outside centre for the Brumbies and that led to international recognition. The 22-year-old starred alongside Christian Lealiifano and Matt Toomua for both franchise and country and sees off Cardiff Blues centre Cory Allen. He though has been excellent for Cardiff and impressed Warren Gatland and us for Wales.
12 Jan Serfontein (Bulls) - Mentions firstly for Francis Saili and Bundee Aki who excelled for the Blues and Chiefs respectively. Saili was rewarded for his form when he received an international call-up while Aki stepped up for the Super Rugby champions, making Sonny Bill Williams' departure largely seamless. However, there is a bright present and future for our chosen man Serfontein, who is a ready-made replacement for Jean de Villiers once the Bok captain hangs up his boots. He was impressive for the Bulls whilst also looked like he was born for international rugby when blooded. Many more caps await this youngster.
11 Charlie Piutau (Blues) - Harsh on impressive 24-year-old Sofiane Guitoune after a strong campaign at new club Perpignan? Maybe. But we simply had to find a spot for Piutau, who has shown back-three versatility over the past twelve months. The Blues full-back made 199 carries, 24 clean breaks, beat 60 defenders and made 1395 metres in a stellar Super Rugby season and backed that up with excellent showings for the All Blacks. A few mentions to add are Cheslin Kolbe, James Lowe and Canterbury wing Milford Keresoma.
10 Rhys Patchell (Cardiff Blues) - Very much a northern hemisphere flavour to this debate as Sam Davies and Patchell were the front-runners, with Ihaia West, Henry Slade and JJ Hanrahan also pushing. West is a special talent whose lack of a Super Rugby contract makes the mind boggle, but in all honesty Patchell was out in front for this jersey. The 20-year-old shows week by week the attacking weapons in his arsenal and is a useful option for the Welsh should they choose to use him, not least that he can also play in the inside centre role. It's refreshing to see he's not afraid to try things in pressure-filled games.
9 Niko Matawalu (Glasgow Warriors) - What a find this Fijian has been at Scotstoun Stadium. Signed in July 2012, he made a huge impact in the Heineken Cup and RaboDirect PRO12, with his attacking brilliance seeing him cause many teams problems. Matawalu is also incredibly versatile and has played in many positions across the backline. Mentions for Jonathan Pélissié (misses out due to four years at Grenoble) and also Kieron Marmion.
8 Cornell du Preez (Kings/Edinburgh) - Those who watched this year's Super Rugby season couldn't have helped but be impressed by the Kings back-row of Jacques Engelbrecht, Wimpie van der Walt and Du Preez. Du Preez moved on after their relegation, following Alan Solomons north to Edinburgh where he's settled in very nicely indeed. Abrasive and quick at eight, he sees off Gillian Galan, Luke Whitelock and Liam Squire.
7 Pablo Matera (Argentina) - As mentioned, Van der Walt was impressive in Port Elizabeth while Sam Jones is a promising prospect, but in truth Matera was the nailed on candidate for our number seven jersey. Since impressing for Argentina U20s, Matera has shot up the ranks for the Pumas and enjoyed ample game time in the Rugby Championship. Leicester Tigers were so intrigued by Matera's form that they moved to capture his signature.
6 Steven Luatua (Blues) - It seems Sir John Kirwan has himself some gems at the Blues who are set to shine once again in 2014. Luatua, like full-back Piutau and centre Saili, was one of those who starred this year and got his recognition with an All Black call-up. He seems to have settled into playing at the highest level with ease and is an able understudy to Liam Messam. Luke Wallace was next in line after a great year for Harlequins.
5 Pieter-Steph Du Toit (Sharks) - Last season it was Eben Etzebeth making noise from South Africa's ever-impressive lock conveyor belt. 2013 has seen Du Toit enjoy a rapid rise up the ranks, standing out with his workrate and skills in Durban. The youngster was soon spotted by Springbok head coach Heyneke Meyer and has been with the group to help nurture his promising future. Also a mention for Dominic Bird who has quietly impressed.
4 Sébastien Vahaamahina (Perpignan) - Lood de Jager deserves a pat on the back for his eye-catching displays for the Free State Cheetahs, as does David Bulbring at the Kings. However, there is a 22-year-old standing at over two metres tall and tipping the scales at 126kg who turned our heads. Recognition for his form came with a debut for France in November 2012. Clermont were that impressed they snapped him up from next season.
3 Rhodri Jones (Scarlets) - Not only has Jones jumped above one of last year's newbie contenders, Samson Lee, at the Scarlets, he has also stood in admirably in the Welsh jersey for Adam Jones. That's some feat for a 21-year-old, especially in such a specialist position as this. Our other three props pushing for this shirt were 20-year-old Argentinian Matias Diaz, Canterbury's Nepo Laulala and the ever-improving Springbok Frans Malherbe.
2 Liam Coltman (Otago) - Sweeping statement maybe but I see this youngster as a future All Black. He has all the tools required and also received praise from a pundit who knows what he's talking about, Sean Fitzpatrick. With Andrew Hore having hung up his boots at the Highlanders, Coltman has the ideal platform to kick on in 2014 and sees off England U20 star Luke Cowan-Dickie and fellow New Zealander Rhys Marshall for our hooking spot.
1 Jack McGrath (Leinster) - Prop depth has for a long time been a concern for Ireland on the international scene but this year it seems loosehead is becoming rather fruitful. In Cian Healy they have one of the best in the business and now young McGrath is progressing very nicely indeed as understudy for province and country. David Kilcoyne is next in line for Ireland but in this newbie vote, Cardiff Blues' leader Sam Hobbs was our number two.
Newbies of 2012: 15 Andrew Horrell (Chiefs), 14 Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), 13 Paul Jordaan (Sharks), 12 Gael Fickou (Toulouse), 11 Willie le Roux (Cheetahs), 10 Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes), 9 TJ Perenara (Hurricanes), 8 Billy Vunipola (London Wasps), 7 Michael Hooper (Brumbies), 6 Iain Henderson (Ulster), 5 Samu Manoa (Northampton), 4 Brodie Retallick (Chiefs), 3 Ben Tameifuna (Chiefs), 2 Tom Youngs (Leicester), 1 Mako Vunipola (Saracens).
By Adam Kyriacou