With the Autumn Internationals all but over, with the exception of Wales v South Africa this weekend, here in the Gain Line office had a chat about which players stood out and who would make our ‘Team of the Series’, we deliberated for hours, many a coffee was drank, many an argument was had, but in the end, it was worth it…..as I ignored everything they said and did what I wanted. I mean let’s face it, who wants to hear from a second row and a fly half when you’ve got the sage wisdom of a prop on hand. So here is Gain Line Rugby’s (well, mine) top 15 of the 2017 Autumn Internationals.
15 Stuart Hogg
I could way lyrical about this guy, apparently while was injured after the Lions, he gave up Guinness and lost a few kilograms, although this may seem a bit of an extreme step to most of us, it seems to have done Hoggy the world of good. I mean he was an awesome player before but this Autumn he looked unbelievable! In my opinion he’s the most exciting player on the planet at the minute and very nearly showed the All Blacks why I rate him so highly. Gutted to miss the fantastic win against Australia but his previous performances had already sealed his spot at 15 in my team. Plus, after all the years of hurt I think we all owe the Scots a bit of love and attention.
14 Eliot Daly
With three tries in three games you can’t really ask much more of an international winger but Daly brings much more. I can’t quite put my finger on his position yet, I’d like to see him at fullback but saying that, he’s not a bad winger is he? Daly’s game seems to have really improved under Jones especially his kick chase game, since his mistake last year that saw him sent off he really has got his timing spot on. The cherry on the cake with Daly though is his cannon of a boot, what a weapon to have in any side.
13 Huw Jones
Who the hell would have thought id be picking Scottish players in my backline a couple of years ago? They couldn’t finish a sandwich never mind a try. What Vern Cotter and now Gregor Townsend have added to Scotland is near miraculous, and bringing this guy into the squad was one od the biggest steps forward. A Scotsman with a rugby education in South Africa, spending the past few seasons playing for the Stormers, he really does have the whole package. The 13 picks a phenomenal line and with fast feet and power added to that he takes some stopping. Jonathan Davies will be looking over his shoulder come the next Lions tour.
12 Kurtley Beale
I know, I know, before anyone says it, we do understand Beale played fullback for this series but I just thought the Waratah’s man deserved a spot in my team but I couldn’t not put Hogg in there at fullback. Beale seems back to his best at the minute , his trademark spin out of the tackle was there for all to see and his maverick way playing ball never fails to entertain me, he really did look good this autumn. Like Daly, I do struggle to pin him to a position but I always enjoy him at 12, so that’s where he’s going in my team. You’ve got to throw him in the team just for his rip against Wales where he stole the ball and went in to score from the half way line.
11 Reiko Ioane
World Breakthrough Player of the Year 2017, there’s no arguing from me, he looks to the manor born at International level and strikes fear into ant opposition wing. Very different in style from Elliot Daly, big, strong and incredibly hard to put on his arse, Ioane can run round you, over you and I imagine, through you if he fancied. I think the Blues man will eventually play much of his rugby at outside centre but for now he’s dotting down for fun on the wing so who are we to argue where he plays.
10 Finn Russell
As our health and fitness expert big Ash Holland said to me earlier, “it’s amazing how a potential big pay day can make a player up his game” this may be true with Russell because he has looked like a world beater this Autumn, just before he was announced to have signed for Racing 92 with megabucks coming his way. But away from the cynicism Russell has been a joy to watch, the timing of his pass and eye for a gap is up there with the very best. The Glasgow tens tactical kicking game has been just as impressive giving the Scotland pack the perfect platform to play off. It is always difficult not to name Beauden Barrett in any team but judged on the past three games I genuinely think Finn Russell has just edged it.
9 Aaron Smith
When you keep this lad from fingering random birds in an airport he is probably the best distributor of a ball I’ve ever seen. Its no wonder Beauden Barrett looks so good when he gets the service he does from this guy. Smith marshals the pack around the field like the young petit generale he is, he seems to glide from ruck to ruck delivering the perfect pass every time. Not only that, he has bags of pace and always seems to pop on the shoulder at exactly the right time.