Six Premiership players who could benefit most from a stint in Super Rugby
Joe Marchant and Jamie Roberts were two Gallagher Premiership exports to the southern hemisphere this season, the Harlequins centre enjoying a loan with the Blues and the Welshman moving to the Stormers from Bath.
Despite the season now being suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, these were moves that looked to have benefitted each player on a personal level and their rugby career.
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The 23-year-old Marchant mentioned the different pace of the game in Super Rugby, but it looked to be a change that suited the centre as he managed three tries and two assists in six appearances.
Crossing the equator for Super Rugby is a path not taken often enough by northern hemisphere players, be it down to financial reasons or the hectic structure of the competition. Players have done it before, but not enough for the liking of some in the game.
With that in mind, here are six Premiership players that could benefit from a stint in Super Rugby:
1. Marcus Smith
Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith could follow in the footsteps of club teammate Marchant and make the move south next year in another loan deal.
The 21-year-old is one of the precocious talents in the Premiership having been a fixture in the Quins team for over two years now and already having featured for an England XV against the Barbarians last year.
However, with Owen Farrell and Geroge Ford still Eddie Jones’ favoured options at No10, there may still be a window for Smith to get a taste of a different rugby environment without sacrificing any caps.
As a player who likes to play flat and with a great turn of pace and footwork for breaking the line himself, Smith is not too dissimilar to a young Danny Cipriani, who made the move south almost a decade ago and spent two seasons at Melbourne Rebels.
The pace of the game would suit the Harlequin. It may be a scene in which he thrives and adds more to his attacking armoury.
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2. Freddie Burns
In the same way Jamie Roberts has used his rugby career to see the world, as well as test himself in different cultures, there are many others that could make use of this approach as well.
This applies to many players in the Premiership, but Burns’ creativity and flamboyant style is comparable to fly-halves from the other side of the world, meaning he could be a hit in Super Rugby.
The 29-year-old has revealed he is on his way out of the Rec and a move would be interesting. There is always the option for a payday with a move to Japan, but Super Rugby is a better setting for players to stretch themselves.
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3. Thomas Young
The Wasps and Wales flanker finds himself in an odd position. His current contract will expire at the end of the season and with the departure of his father Dai earlier this year from his long-held position of director of rugby, he may not have a great incentive to stay at the Ricoh Arena.
Equally, a move back to Wales in order to add to his three caps has not been signalled either yet.
The No7 jersey is one where the southern hemisphere has often served up players that those from the north cannot compete with.
It is perhaps the position that has had the greatest gulf in class between the two sides of the world in the professional era. It would therefore take some player to prove himself in Super Rugby in such a competitive position.
The 27-year-old Welshman is someone that is hugely popular and while he may not have many caps to his name, he is more than capable of mixing it with the best.
The loose forward’s breakdown expertise, alongside a reading of the game that means he has a hand in so many parts of a match, could work well in the southern hemisphere.
It would do his playing career no harm at all. Depending on how contract issues resolve over the coming months, it could be a viable option.
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4. Ben Loader
New Zealand seems to have an endless conveyor belt of world-class wingers and it doesn’t look like stopping, so there is no place more perfect for any inspiring winger to have a stint in.
London Irish’s Loader is a player tipped to have a bright future but isn’t in the international reckoning yet. If moves like Marchant’s are to become increasingly popular, the 21-year-old Exiles winger seems a prime candidate to follow his lead.
To be competing with these players on a weekly basis could improve any player’s game immeasurably.
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5. Beno Obano
One of the clearest divides between the two hemispheres over the years has been the skill set and ball handling of the tight five.
That gap has shrunk over recent years, with teams like England showing a lot of skill and subtlety from the front row forwards.
But in the echelon below Test standard, the speed and width of the game in the southern hemisphere necessitates forwards must have good hands, so a move south for any high level front five player in the Premiership could pay off.
The rugby would be nowhere near as abrasive and it would be a chance to hone skills that are not demanded as greatly in the UK and France.
Bath’s Obano is on the cusp of the England team. The loosehead’s strength and scrummaging prowess are not doubted, but adding more strings to his bow could help him burst onto the Test scene.
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6. Maro Itoje
There is a lot of speculation surrounding Saracens players ahead of next season as the reigning European and English champions must spend a season banished from rugby’s top-flight.
Should he instead move from north London for a season in Super Rugby, it would be fascinating to see one of the leading locks in world rugby come up against some southern hemisphere giants week after week.
Itoje would cross paths with Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock, who will both return to Super Rugby next year after sabbaticals in Japan.
Having said that, the mother lode of world-class locks may not be in the south any more as many of South Africa’s premier second rows now actually play in Europe.
A Super Rugby move would of course mean Itoje’s participation in the Six Nations would be ruled out, and there may be issues regarding selection for the British and Irish Lions.
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