Scorching wings to powerful props: 5 international players who broke through in 2014

ANOTHER YEAR OF international rugby is over and while it was a brilliant 12 months for Ireland, there was also plenty of quality elsewhere with the All Blacks once again winning the Rugby Championship with ease and sweeping their autumn series.

But there was more happening in international rugby other than the dominance of New Zealand and the revival of Ireland. I’m sure you are familiar with the Irish players who had good seasons, so now here are 5 other international players who made a big step forward since last January.

Handré Pollard

Source: EMPICS Sport

It was a huge call for Heyneke Meyer to start the 20-year old Pollard away to the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship, but it paid off massively.

He played well on the road but was electric in the return game on home soil as his two-try display powered the Springboks to their first win over New Zealand in three years.

Source: Jerome V2/YouTube

There is still room for growth with Pollard – Ireland’s tight defence made him look ordinary in the autumn – but there is no question that the exposure the out-half got this year will make him a threat at the World Cup.

Xavier Chiocci

Source: Associated Press

The rambunctious loosehead exploded in 2014, seamlessly stepping into the Toulon side in place of Andrew Sheridan and also getting a call-up to the national squad.

The Toulon pack steamrolled most opponents and Chiocci was a key part of that. His dynamism was particularly evident in the French side’s disposal of Leinster from the last ever Heineken Cup.

Source: Monsieur Wiko/YouTube

Teddy Thomas

Source: Associated Press

Teddy Thomas left it late to make an impression in 2014 but when he did, it was superb. His strike rate for France is already impressive – granted, he has only been capped twice but four tries in two tests is a great return nonetheless.

He scored a scintillating hat-trick on his debut against Fiji while his score against Australia is definitely one of the tries of the year as he criss-crossed his way between a host of Wallaby defenders.

Source: Monsieur Wiko/YouTube

Source: rustycruiser/YouTube

Click Here: Gws Giants Guernsey

He was dropped for France’s final November test for missing a meeting but that only underlined his value as the team slumped to a disappointing defeat to Argentina.

Tevita Kuridrani

Source: EMPICS Sport

Kuridrani had a strong 2013 but this year he grew into arguably the world’s premier outside centre. The big Brumbie picks a line as good as anyone, has the strength to make the defence pay and the speed to finish off scores.

Before he got injured against Ireland he was similarly destructive and if he can stay healthy, he will be a force in the World Cup.

Jonny May

He might not have been quite as prominent as the other players on this list but he offers England something they lack – a creative threat out wide. May’s one of the speediest wings in rugby and he showed against the All Blacks what he can do to defences that aren’t communicating properly.

Source: Christo kid/YouTube

Which international players do you think had big breakout years?

‘The processes that are in place work’: Heaslip shoots down notion of doping problem in rugby