The Rugby World Cup produces heroes; whether you follow rugby or not, names like Wilkinson and Lomu resonate. The wingers and fly-halves seem to take the glory.
The team from TRU attended the World Cup in 2007 and 2011. Two players stood tall; Richie McCaw and Thierry Dussatoir. What they had in common was their role as leaders and back rowers; plus, maybe the number 7.
The inspiration for www.redpanda7s.com came from the 2007 competition and one of its founders, Max Skofic wears the number 7 shirt for his club, Waterloo and internationally for Slovenia. The number 7 has defined one of the UK’s greatest sporting brands, David Beckham. It’s a lucky number; so who fills that shirt for Mike Stanton as he reviews the talented players who will use this year’s Rugby World Cup to showcase their talents.
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.
• Open Side Flanker: Blair Cowan (Scotland)
Under Vern Cotter Scotland are seeing a revival. An exciting backline with the likes of Sean Maitland, Stuart Hogg and Tim Visser combined with a pack that balances the rugged darks arts of the tight game with the mobility needed in modern rugby with players such as the Gray brothers.
Scottish rugby, it seems, is on the verge of a golden era. Round two of the 6 Nations saw Scotland tipped by many as the favorites against Wales, something that would have been unheard of months ago. Yes, they lost that game but more due to composure and inexperience than natural quality. Cotter has picked a core group of young players who, given time, could grow into a formidable force in World Rugby.
One player who has been central to this revival is Blair Cowan, a natural seven who is topping the turnover charts after two rounds of the 6 Nations and has a nose for the try line.
Finding New Zealand born Cowan on this list of young stars may come as somewhat of a surprise at aged 28. However, his international career is in it’s infancy, making his debut only last year he has gone on to make eight appearances for Scotland, starting all but one and already has a try to his name.
He is quickly becoming the man many are talking about, both for Scotland and at club level where he plies his trade for London Irish and is becoming one of the leading open sides in the Aviva Premiership. After just eight caps he appears to have claimed a cast iron grip on the Scotland number seven jersey, and in his current rich vein of form that is unlikely to change any time soon.
Drawn in a pool alongside South Africa, Samoa, USA and Japan in Pool Two Scotland have an exciting opportunity at England 2015. In a pool where all sides could qualify Scotland face a tough route to the knockouts but should they reach it they will be battle hardened and have the experience of beating several tough teams to get there.
You would imagine that South Africa will finish top, leaving USA, Eddie Jones’ Japan, Samoa and Cotter’s Scotland to fight it out for qualification, four teams all with the potential and personnel to qualify should they perform on the day.
The open side is a crucial part of the team. A link between the forwards and backs, a potent weapon in both defense and attack and tasked with stealing opposition ball. Cowan fits this role to a tee and could prove to be the difference for Scotland in a year where all their potential could finally come to fruition.
Team so far:
• Lucas Noguera Paz (Argentina)
• Nathan Harris (New Zealand)
• Samson Lee (Wales)
• George Kruis (England)
• Will Skelton (Australia)
• Sean McMahon (Australia)
• Blair Cowan (Scotland)