Wednesday 18 September 2013

Pro 12: Players to watch out for: Part 2 - Scottish / Italian Clubs

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

Back - Angelo Esposito (winger)

Angelo Esposito is a 20 year old exciting talent. Already involved in Italian national squads, it won't be long until his speed excites fans and gives Treviso another boost up the table.

Forward - Giovanni Maistri (hooker)

A former captain of Italy's JWC squad in 2012, Maistri will be looking to build on the 12 appearances he achieved last season, with two in the Heineken Cup. The 21 year old hooker has already started the season well, with one start under his belt already.

Back - Leonardo Sarto (wing)

Another 21 year old perhaps already familiar with fans is Leonardo Sarto. After a decent season for Zebre last year, Sarto was capped on their tour to South Africa. Sarto's underage try scoring record was good, with 2 tries in 3 JWC games, and 4 tries in 8 under 20 games overall over two years. He also demonstrated his defensive awareness with this try saver last season.

Forward - Andrea Manici (hooker)

Manici was an explosive carrying machine against Munster last weekend. The 23 year old has already been capped by Italy, and will be back up to Ghiraldini for the national side. A strong runner with a touch of pace, Manici will challenge Ghiraldini and could be part of the Italian front row for years to come.

Back - Mark Bennett (centre)

Mark Bennett is the player I'm most looking forward to watching this season. At just 20 years of age, Bennett already has the likes of Clermont Auvergne on his CV. A versatile back, his pace, strength and running lines make him the most exciting thing to come out of Scotland since deep fried Mars Bars. Not only should Bennett make the Scottish side this November, but I'm backing him, injury barring, to be on the Lions squad in 4 years.

Forward - Jonny Gray (lock)

Brother to Lion Richie, Richie himself once warned that his younger brother Jonny was the one to watch. Jonny captained the Scottish Under 20s in the JWC last year, and already has two appearances this season, with one start. He will be battling with Tim Swinson and Ali Kellock for a place in the Glasgow side, with Gregor Townsend not afraid to give youth a chance, Gray has a big season ahead of him.


Back - Jamie Farndale (wing)

Scottish Rugby has been waiting years for a talented outside back to come through the ranks, and all of a sudden Farndale looks like being the third in a short space of time after Bennett and Hogg. A big, strong and pacey winger in the mould of George North. Farndale also has great timing for joining the line, looks defensively sound, and isn't afraid to throw in an offload, or kick in behind. Only a matter of time before he leapfrogs Tim Visser or Sean Maitland into the Scottish side.

Such is Farndale's ability that he finished top scorer in JWC 2012, despite Scotland's poor showing. He has a lot of competition for places in Edinburgh with Visser, Cuthbert, Jones, Walker and Brown, but has time on his side, and he will be eligible for a third JWC next summer. Whether he'll be there or higher up in the Scottish ranks will depend on this season.

Forward - Grant Gilchrist (lock)

The 23 year old second row is a former recipient of the McPhail scholarship award where players spend a year in the renowned Canterbury academy in New Zealand, Gilchrist came back and made an immediate breakthrough making almost 50 appearances last season. Such was his form last year that Gilchrist made his debut in the 2013 6 Nations, and this year Gilchrist will be hoping to be involved again this year with even more competition in the second row

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