As we are nearing the end of an incredible premiership season, rugby in England has seen the emergence of a number of new stars who will be featuring heavily on the international stage in the future. Lets take a look at some of the young stars for have had brilliant 2021/22 seasons.
It would seem only right to begin with the young player of the year. Leicester have completely turned around their team this season, just two years on from finishing bottom of the Premiership. The Tigers are building an incredible exciting young core which is combining well with the veterans.
The highlight of these youngsters has to be Freddie Steward. The 21 year old actually made his Tigers debut in 2019 having led the under 18 side to two straight league titles. Since then, Steward has become one of the best fullbacks in the league. His carrying and kicking is exactly what you are looking for in a fullback.
He is also incredibly good in the air. Steward uses all of his height to dominate in the air. This was clear in the Six Nations when Steward excelled when he was moved to the wing and England went to the boot. Steward has done brilliantly this season to keep the experienced Freddie Burns out of the team. Steward will be key to Leicester and England for a very long time.
Bevan Rodd is the sort of player who excels every time you watch him. It has not exactly been the season Sale are looking for. With some big losses this upcoming summer, Sale will be disappointed to have missed out on the playoffs. One of the few shining lights of the season has to be Bevan Rodd.
The 21 year old has been phenomenal in his second season with Sale. Rodd continues to get the better of opponents in the scrum as well as being a happy carrier. But the most impressive part of Rodd’s game is his work at the breakdown. There might not be a better prop over the breakdown in the league.
He has done it all for Sale this season and it is hardly surprising that this has come with international recognition. Rodd played well in a huge autumn international game against World Cup winners South Africa, holding his own against the huge Trevor Nyakane. There is no doubt that Rodd should get some game time in Australia this summer.
If you had not have heard of Henry Arundell, his spectacular solo try in the Challenge Cup is not the first time that Arundell has scored an incredible individual try this season, doing similar against Scotland in the Under 20s Six Nations.
This is the young full backs first season in the premiership and he is part of a young core of London Irish which is turning the team into a winner. There is no doubt that London Irish are heading in the right direction and a big reason for this is the excellent performances of Arundell.
The youngster has eleven tries this season despite only starting in nine games. His ball carrying and quick feet are world class and he scores tries for fun. His double in the premiership rugby cup semi final were a huge reason for Irish getting to the final. Scoring that good of a try against a quality team like Toulon almost took Irish to a European semi-final.
There are big things to come for Arundell and London Irish. He was in the 36 main training squad Eddie Jones assembled to prepare for the tour down to Australia. With no more domestic games to play, Arundell will hope that good performances in training, combined with game time against the Barbarians should mean he goes to Australia in the summer.
One of the slightly surprising continuous emissions from England squads recently is Cadan Murley. Eddie Jones continues to overlook Murley despite another brilliant season with Harlequins.
This is certainly not Murley’s first season in the premiership. He was crucial part of the Premiership winning team last season, starting in the final as Harlequins won the title. He has continued to be a key player this season. Murley has started all 28 games that Harlequins have played this season, his longevity and consistency has really helped Harlequins.
This consistency has also led to Murley scoring 14 tries this season. He is a brilliant finisher, always being in the right place to take advantage of the talent in the backs that Harlequins have. Murley still has a chance to finish as the leagues top try scorer. But his finishing is certainly not his only asset.
Murley is strong for his size and speed. If you look at his highlights from the Quins win against Leicester in round 23, he made a number of big tackles on the huge Nemani Nadolo while Nadolo was running full speed. The Fijian is one of the most difficult people to tackle in the world and Murley was able to nullify him. Surely it can’t be long until Murley breaks into the England squad.
Wasps season as a whole has not been the best. Injuries really hurt them at the start of the season and despite some good performances in recent weeks they are far from the top four. Barbeary was one of those players who struggled with injuries, only making his season debut in week nine against Gloucester.
Since he has come back in the team, Barbeary has looked brilliant in the back row. It was a big move to go from hooker to the back row but it has really worked for Barbeary. He is a truly decisive forward with brilliant line breaking ability and with the ability to score, tries. He has eleven tries this season including a hattrick in the Challenge Cup Round of 16.
Barbeary was excellent in Wasps Challenge Cup semi final loss. The most impressive part of his game has to be his offloading ability, the perfect back rower for fast paced rugby. Barbeary works really hard over the ball and consistently makes crucial tackles. Lee Blackett is building a good core and its impressive that Barbeary is one of the first names on the team sheet despite all the talent in Wasps back row.
Involved in the most recent England squad, Eddie Jones clearly likes the 21 year old and he is certainly going to get his England debut soon.
Jack van Poortvliet
Jack van Poortvliet is the only player on this list to not be the starter for his team. But it is hardly surprising that he is not the starter when Ben Youngs is your starting scrum half. But Jack van Poortvliet is undoubtably the future of the number nine position for Leicester and he has two great teachers in Youngs and Richard Wigglesworth to teach him.
Despite all that talent in front of him, van Poortvliet has still started 12 games this season, coming off the bench in 13 more. He has five tries in that time including a pair in the early midlands derby against Northampton. In the Champions Cup, he was excellent in both legs of the round of 16 as Leicester easily got past Clermont.
He may still be very early in his career, but van Poortvliet controls the game much like his predecessor Ben Youngs. There is no doubt that he will soon take over that number nine shirt and will give Harry Randall and Raffi Quirke some competition for the England number nine shirt.
London Irish have a huge number of young talent including Ollie Hassell Collins, Will Goodrick-Clarke and Henry Arundell. The most impressive of the three may be Tom Pearson, so Irish fans will be very pleased that Pearson recently resigned with London Irish.
Pearson is in his first season with London Irish. The youngster only joined London Irish last year having played in BUCS Super Rugby for Cardiff Met. This is of course not the first time a player has entered the Premiership this way with Pearson talking a lot about taking inspiration from former Cardiff Met rugby player and England number eight Alex Dombrandt.
Pearson is also a back rower who made quite the impact in his first season. On debut, with a very difficult task at Exeter, Pearson was named man of the match for a brilliant performance against the Chiefs. Since then, he has become a key part of the back row of London Irish.
Pearson has fitted into professional rugby brilliantly. Despite being in his first season in the premiership, Pearson has already caught Eddie Jones attention. He was included in England’s training squad during the Six Nations, as well as in the most recent training squad in preparation for the Australian tour.
This tour may be slightly too early for Pearson, but he will undoubtedly be a key player for London Irish in the years to come, being rewarded with a professional contract with the Exiles just after their season ended.