Rugby Players to Watch in 2018

November 29, 2017

Having a brand ambassador can bring a myriad of benefits – awareness, engagement and favourability to name a few.

Over the past 15 years, we have brokered deals with a range of ambassadors (including Margot Robbie and David Millar) for our clients. But it can be expensive. If you can’t afford the top tier of talent, we suggest considering the people who are up and coming. It involves more risk as they are less well known but if you manage to build a meaningful relationship before they reach their peak, you could be onto a winner.

So if you are involved with rugby, then you might be interested in the top six ‘rugby players to watch’ from the Northern Hemisphere that have broken through in the 2017 Autumn Internationals.

The Rugby Players to Watch

1. Sam Underhill

England Rugby player Sam Underhill

Heralded as England’s saviour to their longstanding problem of not having a natural openside flanker, Underhill impressed during his first start against Argentina with a mouth-watering 19 tackles.

These weren’t your typical “wrap around the ankles” hits either. The Bath man was smashing big carriers in their tracks all day long. Argentina clearly wanted to test him early. Off the back of a line-out, they sent their inside-centre Santiago González Iglesias around George Ford to tear into Underhill’s channel. It’s safe to say that Iglesias didn’t try that again. Underhill crashed into his midriff with textbook technique, pushed his man back a good 5 yards and left him crumpled to the turf.

The 21 year old flanker certainly has elements to work on in his attacking game. However he showed enough in this game and in the opening exchanges of the game against Australia before going off with injury that he deserves another shot in 2018.

2. Jacob Stockdale

Ireland rugby player Jacob Stockdale

This 21 year old Ulsterman burst onto the international scene in 2017, and he has finished the year with a very impressive stat – four caps, four tries.

The modern breed of international winger, standing at 6ft 3in and weighing in at 16-stone can cause havoc with ball in hand. However, Stockdale is not just a ball-carrying wrecking ball, as shown by his second try against Argentina where he ran a sumptuous line, managing to arc round a player with as much quality as Argentina’s Joaquin Tuculet.

He still has some work to do in the air and defensively, but at 21 and with Simon Zebo moving to France, he looks like a frighteningly good prospect for the future of Irish rugby.

3. Josh Navidi

Wales rugby player Josh Navidi

Where do Wales keep finding such impressive openside flankers? Cardiff Blues’ Josh Navidi is the latest off the Welsh conveyor belt of genuine ball-poaching 7s that the rest of the Northern Hemisphere must be jealous of. He put in an absolutely monstrous performance against the All Blacks, covering every blade of grass and being a real nuisance at the breakdown following a series of impressive performances at regional level.

With Lions captain Sam Warburton in particular being relatively injury-prone, Navidi could find himself thrust into the action once again in Wales’ 2018 Six Nations campaign.

4. Byron McGuigan

Scotland rugby player Byron McGuigan

If not for a late injury to Scotland’s star man Stuart Hogg in the warm-up against Australia, we may not have seen what Sale Sharks winger McGuigan can do. He backed it up by scoring an impressive double, and his electric feet and eagerness to get his hands on the ball made him look like a huge threat.

He may be more of an interesting weapon to use from the bench during the Six Nations, but with Sean Maitland only recently returning from injury, he could threaten one of the back three spots alongside Hogg and Tommy Seymour.

5. Owen Williams

Wales rugby player Owen Williams

Whilst Wales may have struggled through their Autumn campaign, the Gloucester man is central to how they’re trying to change the style of Welsh rugby.
Instead of using a battering ram at 12 in the mould of Jamie Roberts, Gatland turned to Williams as a second playmaker after seeing its success first hand during the Lions’ Tour of New Zealand.

Whilst defensively they looked shaky at the best of times without the calming presence of Roberts, there were encouraging signs. Scott Williams’ try against the All Blacks was a sublime first-phase move that bamboozled the defence with multiple dummy runners and a lovely flat pass releasing Hallam Amos into acres of space.

6. Sam Simmonds

England rugby player Sam Simmonds

Simmonds started this season at Exeter like a steam train and thoroughly justified his inclusion in the squad. Eddie Jones said he isn’t ‘big enough’ to play at No8 internationally. However what he lacks in size over genuine gainline monsters like Billy Vunipola, is clever footwork making him a slippery customer that’s hard to bring down.

He was at his barnstorming best during his first start against Samoa making an impressive 95 metres. Despite fading in the second half, he will certainly be involved on the fringes for England during the Six Nations.

Those are my rugby players to watch in 2018 – who are yours?

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