The 2017 Autumn Internationals are almost upon us. This means the ‘big names’ will be off and some lesser known faces will get their chance to shine. The Anglo Welsh Cup 2017/18 will give younger players in particular an opportunity to make names for themselves.
It has proven a launchpad for now established names like Jonny May and Jack Nowell – see recent Breakthrough Player winners here. Some of the men below may even see their names in squads named for Aviva or European Professional Rugby competition.
Here is a selection of the next generation who could establish their names in 2017/18.
Max Malins – Saracens
Saracens have become leaders in giving their youngsters an opportunity in this competition. One of the beneficiaries last season was Max Malins. His debut came in a 32-17 win over the Scarlets in January 2017. And he will likely battle Tom Whiteley for the number ten shirt again in the Anglo Welsh Cup.
However Malins is a more versatile player who can also play at centre or full-back. This may be to his advantage given Saracens’ squad strength.
Like many of the players featured here Malins is an England U20 International Grand Slam winner. From a Sarries point of view replacing senior Grand Slam winners with junior winners brings continuity. This is partly what helps foster the ‘Wolfpack’ mentality.
Lewis Ludlam – Northampton Saints
Not to be confused with fellow back-rower Lewis Ludlow of Gloucester, 21 year old Lewis Ludlam will look to kick on from three Anglo Welsh appearances last season. 2017/18 has brought about a first Premiership start, in which Ludlam duly scored a try. Unfortunately this was at Twickenham: the scene of Northampton’s first mauling by Saracens. So for senior player Tom Wood to praise Ludlam specifically that day, suggests he was doing something right [while his team lost 55-24].
— Tom Wood (@tomwood678) September 2, 2017
Ludlam has already had to prove himself to Northampton after he was released by their academy. Now back at Franklin’s Gardens he played an important role in the club’s A League triumph last season. A graduate of the England Under 20 set-up, Ludlam will now want to push on and nail down a spot in the Saints’ backrow, in the next season or two.
Ben Vellacott – Gloucester Rugby
It speaks volumes for Ben Vellacott’s progress that he could already be considered an established figure at Gloucester. As such, might even be given a rest during the Anglo Welsh Cup 2017/18 matches (if Johan Ackermann determines he is integral to the squad’.
Ben burst into the side last season, notably with a try in this competition to salvage a draw against Bath. Since then he has signed a senior contract and become second choice scrum-half behind club captain Willi Heinz.
Now in 2017/18 Vellacott has made his first senior start after a number of substitute appearances. And what a start it was. Against Agen in the Challenge Cup he scored two tries in an 80 minute ‘Man of the Match’ performance. This followed a try the previous week against Pau.
In just 13 appearances he has five tries and he promises many more for years to come.
In Gloucester’s matches against Leicester and London Irish, Vellacott will hope to get more chances to demonstrate his pace and speed of delivery once more. With academy number nine and fellow prospect Harry Randall injured, it could likely be that Vellacott or Callum Braley who feature in these two matches.
Theo Brophy-Clews – London Irish
Another youngster who has used the Challenge Cup to make a mark, is Theo Brophy-Clews of London Irish. The 20 year-old fly-half started both Pool matches, and kicked 16 points in the process. Brophy-Clews has happy memories of the Anglo-Welsh Cup already, scoring a debut try against Saracens in 2015.
With Irish’s year in the Championship last season gave the youngster first team opportunities, that he used to earn an England under 20 call-up.
With the Exiles focusing heavily on Aviva Premiership survival, Brophy-Clews is likely to get further gametime which he will possibly use to push James Marshall for the starting number ten jersey.
Jacob Umaga – Wasps
When bearing the family name of a former All Black captain, it helps to also be a good rugby player. Nephew of Tana, 19 year-old Jacob Umaga is already making a name for himself in his own right. He has already swapped Leicester Tigers for Wasps; the Coventry side will hope their Midland neighbours will come to regret letting him go.
🗣️ "All I focus on is putting in 100 per cent on the pitch."
— TylerBale (@TylerBaleComms) October 13, 2017
Umaga has featured for Wasps in their 7s squad. This is no mean feat, considering the star-studded squads Wasps have fielded in this tournament in recent years. Playing alongside Christian Wade, Rob Miller and Elliot Daly will only have improved Umaga’s game. He has also been a part of the England Under 20 squad too.
He will hope to get a chance whilst Danny Cipriani is still out injured, and Dai Young protects other key players with the November International window opening shortly. Wasps host Newcastle, then travel to the Ospreys in the first two Anglo Welsh 2017/18 rounds.
Enjoy the Anglo Welsh Cup 2017/18, with increased coverage on mainstream television and sports media. The step-up that talented young footballers take, on their way up into the Aviva Premiership–and further.
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