Breakthrough players from Summer Tests

It has been an historic summer for Guinness Six Nations sides with two series wins in the southern hemisphere, the top two teams in the world rankings and countless young stars getting their opportunity and thriving.

It has been an historic summer for Guinness Six Nations sides with two series wins in the southern hemisphere, the top two teams in the world rankings and countless young stars getting their opportunity and thriving.

Ireland and England each claimed series victories over opposition from the south, Andy Farrell’s men doing so in New Zealand for the very first time, while Eddie Jones’ side came from behind to beat Australia.

Grand Slam champions France extended their winning streak to ten by taking their two-Test series in Japan and Wales earned a first-ever win over the Springboks in South Africa.

There was also a memorable success for a young Scotland side in Argentina and Italy made it three wins in a row before losing their final Test of the summer in Georgia.

As much as results, these games gave the coaches the chance to test a host of new players and we have picked out six, in particular, who caught the eye:

Ewan Ashman (Scotland)

Capped for the first time by Scotland in the Autumn Nations Series, hooker Ewan Ashman was handed a maiden Test start in the deciding Test in Argentina.

And while a last-gasp Emiliano Boffelli try snatched the win for Los Pumas, Ashman could have done little more for his side.

Still only 22, he notched a second and third Test try in four caps, back in the country where he scored seven tries to finish at the top-scorer at the World Under-20s Championship back in 2019.

In fact, when Ashman left the field, Scotland had a healthy eight-point lead and looked on course for the win, only for a late comeback from the home side.

Over the last year, George Turner has established himself as the main man in Scotland’s No.2 jersey, but Ashman is clearly his long-term successor.

The question is, how soon will that be?

Gavin Coombes (Ireland)

Ireland’s historic series victory in New Zealand will live long in the memory and came in part thanks to the settled nature of the side.

Virtually every player in the matchday 23 for the second two Tests has considerable international experience, while even the rare exceptions like Mack Hansen and Dan Sheehan had already broken through during the Guinness Six Nations.

With that in mind, we are going to focus on one of the star performers from their two matches against the Maori All Blacks.

Ciaran Frawley’s performances at fly-half certainly impressed, but Gavin Coombes might be the most likely man to use those matches as a springboard into the Ireland first-choice squad.

The Munster No.8 scored a try in each encounter and underlined his status as one of the most powerful carriers in the country. From tap penalties, there are a few more difficult to stop and while the back row is arguably where Ireland are strongest, he offers something a little different to those currently in the squad.

Tommaso Menoncello (Italy)

A try on debut against France earlier this year marked Tommaso Menoncello out as one to watch, only for injury to cut short his Championship campaign.

He responded impressively during the Azzurri’s summer Tests, with tries against Romania and Georgia, showing exactly why former Benetton defence coach Paul Gustard named him one of the players with the greatest potential he has ever coached.

Still eligible for Italy Under-20s, Menoncello started one Test at outside centre and the other on the wing but it is in the former where his long-term future could lie.

Ange Capuozzo might have grabbed the headlines for setting up Italy’s match-winning try in Cardiff back in March, but Menoncello could be the best of their young crop of outside backs.

Yoram Moefana (France)

Fabien Galthié chose to rest the vast majority of his Grand Slam stars for France’s tour of Japan, giving some new faces a chance to shine.

Four players made their debuts in the Far East, with No.8 Yoan Tanga probably the pick of the bunch, but it was a slightly more experienced player who might have made the biggest impact on tour.

Centre Yoram Moefana started both Tests alongside Virimi Vakatawa and really caught the eye in the first, in particular.

The Bordeaux youngster, who has just turned 22, featured in four of France’s Guinness Six Nations encounters, playing on both wings and in the centres, and his versatility should serve him well.

In Japan, his line speed in defence caused the home side problems and he is also able to bust holes in the midfield despite not being as big as some international centres.

Between Gaël Fickou, Jonathan Danty, Vakatawa and the returning Arthur Vincent, France have a lot of options in midfield, but Moefana is becoming increasingly important.

Tommy Reffell (Wales)

The conveyor belt of talent competing for the Wales No.7 jersey seems to be never-ending and the latest contender showed up in a big way in South Africa.

Tommy Reffell has been a standout performer for English champions Leicester Tigers this season and he carried that form with him to South Africa.

Up against the world champions, Reffell was a constant menace over the ball at the breakdown, with few doing more to help the Welsh cause in the momentous second Test success in Bloemfontein.

He even crossed for a try in the first half of the decider and while Wales could not complete the series win, they might have come away with the biggest find of any team in Reffell.

Picked ahead of Josh Navidi in the first two Tests, Reffell will need to maintain this level considering all the players fighting for a starting spot in that back row.

On this form, however, Wayne Pivac will be hard pushed to put anyone else in that openside role.

Jack van Poortvliet (England)

Scrum-half Jack van Poortvliet went from missing out on Leicester’s matchday 23 in the Gallagher Premiership final to starting for England in a must-win Test in Australia.

Last year’s England Under-20s skipper looked right at home on the biggest stage, and has a game that is perfectly suited to Test rugby.

An accomplished territorial kicker, he carried out England’s game plan to a tee in Brisbane as they levelled the series, before coming off the bench before half-time in the decider.

In a match where England had been struggling for fluency, Van Poortvliet injected some pace and helped swing the contest.

Ben Youngs and Harry Randall shared the starts during the Guinness Six Nations, while Danny Care started twice in Australia so there is not necessarily a defined hierarchy in the English scrum-half ranks.

That could all change if Van Poortvliet can kick on from these performances.