Ones to watch: six breakout stars from the Autumn Internationals

Selection staff across Europe will be left scratching their heads after a busy month of international rugby draws to a close and attention turns to next year’s Six Nations.

Selection staff across Europe will be left scratching their heads after a busy month of international rugby draws to a close and attention turns to next year’s Six Nations.

There were breakout stars across the board in the Autumn Internationals, with several staking a realistic claim to be in the reckoning when February rolls around.

With that in mind, we take a look at some of the emerging talents who impressed in November and may well have a part to play as Ireland, England, France, Scotland, Wales and Italy prepare to do battle once more.

England – Joe Cokanasiga

After a high-profile move to Bath Rugby in the Gallagher Premiership this summer, Cokanasiga’s displays in the English top flight impressed Eddie Jones and co sufficiently to earn him an international debut against Japan at Twickenham.

A week after suffering an agonising defeat to New Zealand, England found themselves trailing at the break to the impressive Brave Blossoms and in need of an attacking spark.

The winger duly delivered, capping an impressive debut with a late try to buff England’s lead, blowing out the candles after he celebrated turning 21 during the week.

And when Australia came to town, Jones backed the youngster once again, handing him a second start in as many weeks

The youngster more than paid back his coach’s faith, grabbing another try and leaving England fans salivating with a remarkable display of powerful running.

Scotland – Adam Hastings

As offspring of one of your country’s greatest players, Hastings the younger certainly has big shoes to fill, but the 22-year-old is undoubtedly on the right track.

The fly-half’s performances for Glasgow Warriors in the Guinness PRO14 this season have had many purring, and he got the chance to showcase his skillset on an international stage when Gregor Townsend named him in his autumn squad.

Two starts and two appearances from the bench offered a glimpse of Hastings’ talent and a first international try in the win over Fiji was just rewards for a job well done.

No doubt he will be back in a Scotland jersey  in February, hoping to replicate his father Gavin’s Five Nations feats in 1990 when he guided the Scots to the title.

Wales – Tomos Williams

After making his debut against South Africa in Washington DC back in June, the Cardiff Blues man played his first Wales match on home soil as Warren Gatland’s men toppled Scotland at the Millennium Stadium.

And while it was his namesake – Liam – who made the headlines as Wales thrashed Fiji, edged out Australia and downed South Africa, Tomos certainly made room for a second Williams in the international fold.

The 23-year-old scrum-half featured in all four of his country’s November fixtures, and looks as though he could well be the long-term successor to Gareth Davies’ jersey.

Ireland – Tadhg Beirne

To break into Ireland’s second row, you have to be something of a special talent.

Joe Schmidt’s side stamped their mark on the month of November, winning four from four – including a famous scalp of the All Blacks – with the likes of Iain Henderson, Devin Toner and James Ryan all proving crucial.

But Beirne threw down a marker with standout performances against the USA and Italy, with a try against the former and two against the latter certainly turning heads.

When the defending champions get set on retaining their Six Nations title, expect Beirne to bolster their ranks in the pack.

France – Demba Bamba

Despite only featuring in one of France’s November Tests, Bamba’s breakthrough represented the first step in the fulfilment of a lofty prophecy.

A crucial member of France’s U20 World Cup winning side earlier this year, the prop has been tipped for greatness by many – not least Jacques Brunel.

And he became the first of the young world champions to feature on senior duty for France, called on from the bench in his country’s defeat to Fiji.

The 20-year-old could mark something of a sea-change for Brunel’s side as they approach the Six Nations, a tournament that Bamba will certainly look to make his mark on.

Italy – Luca Sperandio

Despite making his debut in the 2017 Six Nations, the Benetton Rugby winger truly cemented his place in Conor O’Shea’s Italy team in this year’s Autumn Internationals.

Sperandio started in three of Italy’s four Tests, starring at full-back against Ireland and Georgia before reverting to the wing against New Zealand.

Despite not crossing the whitewash in an Italy jersey this month, a hat-trick against Edinburgh Rugby in the Guinness PRO14 this season is testament to his finishing ability, something Azzurri fans will be hoping he can replicate next February.