5 forwards to keep an eye on at the RWC

Steve Neville looks at 5 forwards who could make a difference to their sides at the RWC

5 forwards to keep an eye on at the RWC

Iain Henderson (Ireland)

A familiar face to Irish fans, who have recently been debating whether he should start or be used on the bench for his impact late in the game. If the warm-up games are anything to go by, Henderson is a far more mobile and explosive option than Devin Toner.

In a RWC where big ball carriers and tacklers may be need more than ever, not starting Henderson would be a mistake. He is excellent in the loose, aggressive at the breakdown and can fit seamlessly into the line out. As already noted, why use his impact for 20 minutes at the end when you could use it for 60 minutes from the off.

This RWC could see Henderson elevated to Ireland’s go too second row, as the current top dog, Paul O’Connell, bows out.

READ NEXT:5 backs to keep an eye on at the RWC

Eben Etzebeth (South Africa)

Already a star in Super Rugby, Etzebeth is a 6’ 8”, 21 stone colossus. He has been a Springbok since 2012, but a string of injuries has hampered his career to date, but he has still shown some serious talent.

Expect him to be used repeatedly in the loose, as his size and power make him very difficult to stop, and he will punch holes in even the best defences. If he keeps the injuries at bay, he will be one of the tournaments most destructive players.

Jonny Gray (Scotland)

The younger of the Gray brothers and he could prove to be even better than Richie. Both second rows, both mobile players and both excellent line out operators, the duo will help drive Scotland forward.

But Jonny, who had an excellent Six Nations could emerge from the RWC as a brighter star and at 21, is going to improve with every game. He already commands the respect of his team-mates and he will be of huge benefit to Scotland. If they want to get out of the group and challenge in a quarter final, Gray’s work rate and defence around the pitch as well as his ability at ruck time will be vital.

Tomas Francis (Wales)

The young prop was a relative unknown last year, but could be set for an exciting tournament. He only made his debut a few weeks ago - in a warm up game against Ireland, which Wales won - and he will be determined to push on from there.

He is already being compared to Adam Jones, but that was inevitable. Much like Jones, Francis is developing into a good scrummager and the tight-head looks like he could become a cornerstone of Wales’ scrum for many years to come. If he gets a chance at the RWC he could cement his place in the team, and with the scrum a vital set piece, he could help disrupt others.

Will Skelton (Australia)

Another 6’ 8” man mountain, Skelton has been in the Wallabies side since 2014, and could play a crucial part in their RWC drive for success. Again a man of his size is difficult to stop but added to his power is an impressive off loading ability which is sure to put his teammates into space to score tries.

He has aggression in spades on the pitch which Australia will need not just in the loose, but also at ruck time when they come up against England and Wales. This RWC could see him added to a growing list of world class second rows.

READ NEXT:5 backs to keep an eye on at the RWC

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