Updated: Dec 18, 2020
It continues to be a crazy year for Rugby Union with the fallout of the Six Nations largely being consumed by the Welsh disappointment at the result against Scotland and final flat performance by England against a misfiring Italy. However, it's important to remember that this is a year of transition for all the major home nations after largely poor performances at the World Cup, barring England, and new coaching setups being implemented after lengthy tenures have come to an end. That's why it's exciting to see how the new coaches manage the new crop of players coming through. So join us to take a look at the 'Players to WATCH this Autumn Nations Cup'...
5. Callum Sheedy (Bristol Bears, Wales)
Callum Sheedy has been one of the in-form stand offs in the Premiership this season, dictating a fun, exciting attack with a fearsome kicking game to boot. Although undone in the semi finals by a rampant Wasps team, Sheedy has showcased on multiple occasions this season that he has the potential to the lead the line for Wales. I think we can expect a new look back line, with an approach similar to the Ford - Farrell combination with Patchell filling in at 12. One of the exceptional traits Sheedy has shown this season is an ability to use his centres unpredictably. Radradra is pretty easy to make look good in an attacking side, but the majority of his breaks have come from intelligent stand up play by Sheedy preferring to use the Fijian as a wide man to cut around slower inside centres, rather than a battering ram. Definitely an exciting option for this Welsh team.
4. Dan Robson (Wasps, England)
England fans for years now have been crying out for new blood in the half backs. Despite putting in a stellar performance against Italy, Youngs has been the achilles heel for England against World Class opposition, most notably in the World Cup final against Faf De Klerk. He's also been dreadfully out of form for a number of seasons at a misfunctioning Leicester Tigers. Robson couldn't be further from that curve. Consistently in the top three performers at Scrum Half in the Premiership for the last 4 seasons, Robson IS the best Scrum Half in England at the moment. However there are issues stylistically... Farrell is no ordinary 10, much larger, more physical, tactically resolute and a real match technician, but not fleet of foot whatsoever. Robson has historically played with fly half's who have real gas like Cipriani, Umaga and Sopoaga, if he can add Ben Spencer tactical game and can build a chemistry with Farrell, they could make for a frightening duo.
3. Jack Wills (Wasps, England)
Jack Willis is a terrifying prospect. There have been a handful of players I could say that about in world Rugby in the last 5 years, even less from the UK, but he's genuinely a world class talent without even getting his first cap. By far the best player in the Premiership, the fact that it's even debated is stunning to us, he didn't just break turnover records this year, he set a standard that we wont see beaten in our lifetime. I think however it perhaps distracts from how strong he is with ball in hand, the kid is a wrecking ball! 7 tries this season, multiple game-breaking gain line smashes; I thought Underhill was un-droppable, but Willis cannot be benched in this form. How about we continue the experiment with Curry at 8 and have all three destroyers in there? Now that would be exciting!
2. Billy Burns (Ulster, Ireland)
Ireland have a particularly peculiar situation in their hands. One of their star players is also the reason why they aren't able to maintain consistency at the top. Although Sexton has been 'Player of the Year' previously and has commanded that 10 spot for a decade now, his lack of fitness, durability, level-headedness and flair have caused him to get unstuck when Ireland need something special...At least most recently anyway. I just feel that Ireland have a great backline at the moment that's made to look much worse due to their style of play. They have electric wingers, hulking centres and want to play with ball in hand, but Sexton is a World Class tactician and operator, whereas before he could balances that team out, now he just obstructs the good work. Burns however offers something entirely different. Confident, calm and collected, Burns would at least eliminate the discipline issues Sexton has shown most recently. Also international setups NEED options, having Sexton as the only usable standoff has hampered the Irish teams constency, when he's off the boil, so are the rest. Give Billy a go!
1. Nemani Nadolo (Leicester Tigers, Fiji)
So this is a very different pick to what you were probably expecting. We've just named some outstanding, young/savvy talent and now we are moving to a bona-fide, cemented superstar. However, let's remember, this could be Nadolo's swansong. After retiring from international Rugby, the fans around the world all sighed at the prospect of never seeing the big man dominate the right wing again. But somehow, Vern Cotter has managed to convince the flying Fijian to come back into the setup. Fiji have always been a team full of athletic specimens and natural talent, but have always lacked a general. For a short time, Nadolo really grew into his captaincy and added some new dimensions into a high functioning, far more efficient team. He's also been in great form for a terrible Tigers team this year, putting in huge hits and going on storming runs. This Fiji teams needs a leader and someone to control their talent in the midfield, Nadolo is, just as he was, the man for the job.