Monday, 16 September 2013

Pro 12: Players to watch out for: Part 1 - Welsh Regions

Part 1 - Welsh regions
Part 2 - Italy / Scottish Clubs
Part 3 - Irish Provinces

There is an abundance of talent coming through in the Pro 12, and despite Rabodirect pulling out, and the confusion that reigns over the Heineken Cup, this league is going from strength to strength.

One country that is worth keeping an eye out for is Wales, who despite losing players like Jamie Roberts, Dan Lydiate and Mike Philips from the regions, have a number of fantastic prospects fresh from the JWC final to come straight in and get an opportunity.

I've picked a back and a forward from each team in the Pro 12, who look like they are going to have a big season, and I'll be monitoring these players throughout the season.

Cardiff Blues:
Back: Rhys Patchell (outhalf)

There was a lot of competition, with Cory Allen, Owen Williams, Harry Robinson and Tom Williams all featuring heavily, but at outhalf, Rhys Patchell looks set to first make the Blues position his own, and then challenge strongly for the Welsh team. At just 20 years old, Patchell is exciting a lot of Welsh fans, and he could be the solution to the "problem" outhalf position for Wales for many years to come. He's started the season strongly, and almost single handedly beat Connacht last weekend.

Forward: Ellis Jenkins (openside)

It's a big season for the captain of that impressive Welsh Under 20s side, Jenkins will look to get as much game time as possible as Sam Warburton eases back from Lions duty. Cardiff seem to favour older more experienced forwards, but Jenkins is by a distance the most exciting young forward in their ranks, and if last year's JWC is anything to go by, Sam Warburton will have another challenger for the openside berth.

Neath and Swansea Ospreys:

Back: Matthew Morgan (outhalf)

While the Ospreys may possess the current JWC player of the year in Sam Davies in their ranks, their is one other outhalf that is a year further down the development ranks and has been afforded more opportunities to showcase his talents. Matthew Morgan, now 21, has a big season ahead of him if he is to remain as the back up to Dan Biggar before Davies gets his chance.

Morgan is a naturally talented runner with the ball, known for making great line breaks, but has been learning how to control and dictate play from the outhalf position for the last few seasons.

Forward: Tyler Ardron (blindside)

Tyler Ardron is a new signing in Swansea, with the 22 year old already one of the youngest captains of a Canadian senior team. Ardron is a player that walesonline seem most excited about. He was an unused subsititute against Leinster, and looks like he will be eased into action.

Llanelli Scarlets

Back: Steve Shingler (inside centre)

The player that caused so much controversy when Scotland attempted to select him for the 2012 Six Nations, despite Wales claiming that he had already played for their designated second team. Given Shingler's strong start to the season, it might be the year whether we find out whether he was worth the fuss, or whether this was a perfect of example of highlighting the rules to rugby fans. Only time will tell.

Forward: Rhodri Jones (prop)

Already a Welsh international at 21 years of age, Jones made his Welsh debut against the Barbarians in 2012, and toured with the Welsh side to Australia that summer. Having made 64 appearances for Scarlets, Jones looks to have a battle on his hands to cement his place in the Scarlets XV, but time is on his side.

Newport Gwent Dragons

Back: Jack Dixon (inside centre)

18 year old Jack Dixon made a big impression at this year's JWC, and is likely to be one of Wales's key players next year. Having started both of the Dragon's games this season, the 6'2'' centre looks like he is set to build on last season's breakout year. Big hard and quick, Dixon will be hard to miss this season.

Forward: Ieuan Jones

After last season's breakthrough, Jones will be looking to cement his place in the Dragons back row alongside Toby Faletau. Jones will be hoping that the lose of loss of Dan Lydiate means he is given more gametime to further impress.

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