10 Players Whose Stock Fell in the Summer Internationals
The summer tours saw the Southern Hemisphere big three put England, France, Scotland and Wales firmly in the shade with nine wins from nine.
The results exposed a number of players who failed to reach their best level and several who can now consider their places in the starting 15 to be in some degree of jeopardy.
This list takes into account expectation before the tours and how those players matched up to those opinions with their performances on the field. The telling sign of falling stock is whether they are now as sure of their place in the side as they were before their respective tours.
Here are the fallers.
1. Nicolas Mas
Mas has been the rock solid foundation of the French scrum for over a decade, but he crumbled against Australia’s James Slipper, who had a fine series.
Mas, along with his mate Thomas Domingo, was dropped from the starting lineup for the second Test in favour of the far less experienced Rabah Slimani and debutante Alexander Menini, who fared much better.
2. Billy Twelvetrees
Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell looked to have the making of a decent centre partnership in this year’s Six Nations, but they were unable to replicate that form in New Zealand.
The Gloucester man was injured for the first Test while Burrell was still on club duty back home. Kyle Eastmond and Manu Tuilagi played well in that opener, but Twelvetrees was drafted back in for the second.
He promptly coughed the ball up to spark New Zealand’s first try as they ripped the game away from England.
He was dropped again for the third Test, but Eastmond fared poorly in his place and left the field at half-time never to return.
3. George North
North was ill ahead of Wales’ first Test and was ineffectual, having supposedly recovered to play.
He wasn’t much better in the second, looking a shadow of the Lion who ripped Australia apart last summer.
A long season for Northampton may well have taken its toll on the young man.
4. Liam Williams
Williams was outshone in the first Test by a dazzling display from South Africa’s Willie le Roux.
In the second, he played well until the last minute when he stopped Cornal Hendricks going over in the corner with an illegal shoulder barge that resulted in a penalty try.
He has had finer moments.
5. Aaron Shingler
Shingler was picked to deputise for the missing Sam Warburton in Wales’ first Test, but he failed to make much of an impression as the tourists were outgunned by the power of the Springbok pack.
When Josh Turnbull replaced him he added something to the Welsh effort, and the following week he had Shingler’s shirt, with the dropped man not even earning a spot on the bench.
6. Adam Jones
Jones had a summer to forget. He was hauled off midway through the first half of Wales’ first Test defeat to South Africa and dropped from the squad altogether for the next game.
He has struggled with the new engagement regulations since they were introduced as it has taken away his chance to get dominance with the big hit and technically he is being undone.
Back to the drawing board.
7. Liam Messam
The players’ player of New Zealand’s perfect year suddenly has a fight on his hands to get in to the side.
Messam was in the side for the first two Tests, but when Kieran Read returned for the final clash with England, Jerome Kaino was shifted to the blindside to accommodate the IRB player of the year and Messam dropped to the bench.
His Super XV team the Chiefs have had an inconsistent season, which has not helped Messam.
8. Courtney Lawes
England’s tour of New Zealand was Lawes’ chance to affirm his growing reputation north of the equator as a world class, all-action second row.
Here he could show rugby’s harshest critics just how good he was. Instead, he arrived late and drained from the domestic season and when he was picked, struggled to make an impact.
In fact, he and Joe Launchbury both looked a little like their season had gone on a little too long.
Contrast that with the performances put in by Geoff Parling, and England’s dream lock partnership looks like it has sailed into choppy waters.
9. Billy Vunipola
The No. 8 who had looked so powerful last autumn and in the Six Nations appeared a shadow of that player in New Zealand.
Two bruising finals for Saracens seemed to have sapped Vunipola’s strength when he came on for Ben Morgan in the second Test and started the third.
England’s big game players need to be firing on all cylinders next autumn when the World Cup rolls around, and Vunipola’s workload may need to be monitored if the Red Rose Brigade are to see him at his best in that tournament.
10. Jonny May
Having jinked his way through the Six Nations as one half of an exciting—if a little raw—wing duo with Jack Nowell, May started the first Test in New Zealand.
But he looked far less influential than his new wide partner Marland Yarde.
He was jettisoned for the second as the ill-fated experiment to play Manu Tuilagi was deployed, and then overlooked for Chris Ashton in the third.