As we enter a World Cup year Mike Stanton continues to look at some of the best young players that could feature at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Rugby World Cups are the pinnacle of world rugby. They offer a chance for players to get their name etched into rugby folklore. Lomu, Campese, Wilkinson, these are just some of the names of players who will never be forgotten not only for their impact on rugby but most notable for their roles in a World Cup.
The World Cup is also an incredible opportunity for players to show the world what they have. With the tournament comes the World’s media, the sport comes under the focus of all sport lovers and provides a chance for young players to book their place on the international circuit of years to come.
In these articles I will hope to pick out some young players for whom the 2015 Rugby World Cup could be their chance to stamp their authority on the game and secure their place in their national side’s starting line-ups.
• Blind Side Flanker: Sean McMahon (Australia)
Things appear to be looking up for Australia. Having spent the last few years in the doldrums and a mere shadow of the side the Wallabies once were they appear to be timing their rise back to former power with perfection.
Having become somewhat the whipping boy of the Southern Hemisphere ‘Big Three’ they are beginning to once again trade blows with the big boys and just in time for the 2015 World Cup, there were maybe not the results they were after in 2014 but they are heading in the right direction.
Much of this promise is down to the young crop of exciting players making a name for themselves in the first team and in back to back weeks it is an Australian who makes it onto my list of top youngsters to watch out for at the World Cup.
This week sees Sean McMahon penned in on the blindside flank. At 20 years of age McMahon has just three test caps to his name, starting all three against Wales, England and France in the Wallabies 2014 tour in November.
Despite just three test caps McMahon has already proven himself; breaking into the Melbourne Rebels Super Rugby side and being named both the Rebels’ and the Australian Super Rugby Rookie of the Year in 2014, captaining the Australian under 20s at the Junior World Cup, winning the NRC Player of the Year award after performances for Melbourne Rising and also helping Australia to the Bronze in the Commonwealth Games in the sevens, the shorter form of the game once again proving a vital opportunity to blood some of the most exciting young talent. All of that in the same year he made his international debut, 2014 will certainly be a year to remember.
McMahon looks set to become a fixture in the Wallabies set up, just last month bucking the trend and signing a contract extension with the Rebels, and in doing so with Australia, in a deal that keeps him in the country until at least 2017.
In recent years Australia have struggled up front. A backline littered with star talent and potent attacking weapons has been starved of ball and played on the back foot behind packs that have struggled, especially at the scrums.
The new guard of Australia, with the likes of Will Skelton, who featured last week, and McMahon have shown themselves as potential world-class players and could provide the platform for the Wallaby backline to tear opposition teams to shreds.
For McMahon, 2014 was an incredible year. His international debut came late on in that year, and now with 2015 the year in which rugby union will come under the spotlight he needs to follow 2014 up with another stellar year. First he must cement his place in the Rebels’ six shirt throughout the Super Ruby season and then push on to make sure he is Australia’s blindside man come the World Cup and use rugby’s biggest stage to his advantage and make sure he is their go to man for years to come.
Team so far:
• Lucas Noguera Paz (Argentina)
• Nathan Harris (New Zealand)
• Samson Lee (Wales)
• George Kruis (England)
• Will Skelton (Australia)
• Sean McMahon (Australia)