These are the ones to watch for

The Rugby Paper - - Front Page - ANDY GOODE

With the Pre­mier­ship sea­son nearly upon us, there is a lot of tal­ent to be ex­cited about. I’ve picked out a player from each club that I think will have fans on the edge of their seats in 2017-18.


Not too many for­wards make my se­lec­tion but Sam Underhill gets the nod be­cause he is a very ta­lented player whose re­turn to Eng­land has been hyped up for some time. Is he the guy to fi­nally put the Eng­land open­side de­bate to bed? James Haskell has done a bril­liant job but Underhill is a spe­cial­ist with age on his side. Ball in hand he is strong and has good foot­work and links up play well, but he can also do the dog work and win turnovers. Will be fas­ci­nat­ing to watch him de­velop un­der the Eng­land coaches.


I am a bit of a closet Slade fan to be fair – ever since I played against him dur­ing my first year at Wasps and he schooled me. His ball skills are top drawer and some of the touches he has are out of this world. Ev­ery time he gets the ball, he tries to make some­thing hap­pen. The thing that ex­cites me is whether we’ll find out this year if he is go­ing to play 10 full-time or con­cen­trate on play­ing cen­tre? I’d rec­om­mend the lat­ter.


An ex­cit­ing player in what is an av­er­age squad in my book. Played ex­cep­tion­ally well at times last year in a heav­ily beaten Bris­tol team. Al­ways seems to find space in front of him and has the pace to ex­ploit it. Glouces­ter will need his spark to ex­cite the fans now Jonny May has gone to Le­ices­ter.


A Kiwi cen­tre from Mun­ster sim­i­lar in style to Toulon-bound All Black Malakai Fek­i­toa. I watched Saili a few times in the Pro12 and his foot­work is un­be­liev­able. He is quick and pow­er­ful with the abil­ity to make some­thing hap­pen ev­ery time he touches the ball ei­ther through a line break or by at­tract­ing de­fend­ers to cre­ate space for oth­ers. It’ll be in­ter­est­ing to see if they de­cide to play him at 12 and Joe Marchant at 13 or Jamie Roberts at 12 and Saili at 13, be­cause he can play both.


Al­most feels like a new sign­ing be­cause of his lack of game time over the last few years. Ev­ery­one wants to see Manu fit – other than maybe op­po­si­tion de­fences – and dom­i­nat­ing games with his phys­i­cal­ity in at­tack and de­fence. His car­ries or fends or bone-crunch­ing tack­les are the things you re­mem­ber from games and he has been sorely missed.


We haven’t seen the best of Napo­lioni Nalaga for a few years so I’m go­ing to go with one of Eng­land’s young hot­shots. The man they call “Big Joe” scored an ab­so­lute bel­ter of a try against Lon­don Scot­tish in the Cham­pi­onship last year and I can­not wait to see him in the Pre­mier­ship. Could give Ir­ish X-factor they need to sur­vive.


New­cas­tle have been fir­ing more shots in at­tack un­der Dave Walder and a fita­gain Sinoti Sinoti will only add con­sid­er­ably to their weaponry. He has had a rough ride with in­juries but, from what I hear, he has had a great pre-sea­son in terms of shak­ing off all those nig­gles. When fresh, he beats de­fend­ers with pace and foot­work; when tired, he uses his strength to bounce off them.


A jaw in­jury in pre-sea­son may de­lay his Pre­mier­ship ca­reer but it should be worth the wait. I was re­ally im­pressed with his all-round game in Ar­gentina. It’ll be in­trigu­ing to see if Saints want him to spark their back-line at 10 or at 12 where he played for Eng­land. Seems to have ev­ery­thing in his locker to be a suc­cess in the North­ern Hemi­sphere af­ter mak­ing his name in Su­per Rugby.


Blond hair makes him look even more ex­plo­sive when he makes those lit­tle breaks around the edges and sucks in de­fend­ers be­fore of­fload­ing. The hard thing for him will be get­ting used to play­ing on softer pitches. He’ll soon find the AJ Bell in win­ter is a bit dif­fer­ent to Jo’burg. Sale fans have been well-blessed at No.9 with Peter Stringer and Mike Phillip. Faf will of­fer some­thing dif­fer­ent again.


The man with the mes­meris­ing bow legs. I can’t wait to see him in the Pre­mier­ship week-in week-out. Writ­ten off be­fore the Lions tour but he had a blinder against the Chiefs and went on to prove he is world-class. Alex Goode has had the run at full-back re­cently so it’ll be in­ter­est­ing to see if Liam plays there or on the wing.


An ob­vi­ous pick but if you could choose any­one to il­lus­trate the term “crowd-pleaser”, he would be it. Ball in hand and go­ing for­ward, he is some­thing else. Chris­tian is just elec­tric in terms of pace and his abil­ity to fin­ish in tight spa­ces is prob­a­bly un­ri­valled al­though Denny Solomona is threat­en­ing to give him a run for his money.


Worces­ter’s only world-class player. Fast and strong – the phys­i­cal at­tributes I’d have loved to have had! Makes scin­til­lat­ing breaks from nine but can be phys­i­cal as well – a real feisty com­peti­tor. Worces­ter tend to need him to save the day as they are nor­mally in a rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle by the time he ar­rives from his in­ter­na­tional com­mit­ments.

“Chris­tian is just elec­tric in terms of pace and his abil­ity to fin­ish in tight spa­ces”

PIC­TURE: Getty Im­ages

Crowd pleaser: Wasps wing Chris­tian Wade

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