Whether it's the new law interpretations, the continuing success of New Zealand's age-group teams, or just a joie de vivre that permeates the national provincial championship, 2010 seems to be the year of the young flyer.

While the likes of Tim Nanai-Williams and Andre Taylor got their first taste of Super rugby, the competition for spots in the outside backs next season is set to be even more intense.

Take Julian Savea. The individual star of this year's world under-20 championships seems destined for bigger things and if he keeps scoring tries like he did against Otago last weekend, you'd think the Hurricanes would be a stepping stone rather than an end point.

Ahsee Tuala is one of the beneficiaries of a Counties Manukau team that is looking eerily reminiscent of the mid-90s, when Luke Erenavula, Joeli Vidiri and a bloke named Jonah used to roam the wings down Pukekohe way.

Meanwhile, on the production line that is otherwise known as Canterbury rugby, a couple of rough diamonds have emerged.

JULIAN SAVEA
Wellington
Age: 20
Stats: 1.90m, 100kg
Tries: 3

As a 15-year-old prodigy at Rongotai College - the former stamping ground of Ma'a Nonu and Roy Kinikinilau - Savea was picked for the Wellington sevens team for the national championships.

"He had limited game time, but we wanted him in a professional environment," said former coach Dave Meaclem.

Ever since he has been on a fast track to success.

Savea was the individual star of the world under-20 championships in Argentina, where his combination of size, pace and power was near unstoppable. But age-group success does not always transfer to the big stage. When the size element is no longer a factor and the time and space is restricted, young stars often fizzle out.

Savea has shown that scenario is unlikely. In a few breathtaking seconds at a mostly empty Carisbrook last week, he took the ball in space, kicked ahead, beat the cover for pace, kicked again before regathering and scoring.

He would, it seems, have it all on the attacking front, which would distinguish him from his father and Oriental Rongotai stalwart Masena Savea, a No 12 with a bone-crunching tackling technique and a corresponding lack of sublety on attack.

Julian might not be the only Savea to make a mark. His brother, Ardie, who plays openside flanker for the Hurricanes' secondary schools team, is described by Meaclem as an uncommon talent.

AHSEE TUALA
Counties Manukau
Age: 20
Stats: 1.89m, 101kg
Tries: 4

Former Counties coach Andrew Talaimanu has a theory that it is easier to bed young outside backs into ITM Cup rugby than any other position.

"You just get them the ball and tell them to run like hell," he said.

It's something "Ace" Tuala has taken to heart. Counties got him a bit of ball this year and the Manurewa flyer has run like hell, four times crossing the opposition line.

"He's a talented kid and he's come on a lot this year," Talaimanu said. "A good indication of that was last year against Manawatu when he caught an intercept but was run down in heavy ground. This year against Otago he did the same thing but was never going to get caught. He's come on a lot physically."

Talaimanu said Tuala was one of a number of players who had benefited from a lack of money in the province. Where others recruited a few years ago, Counties never had that luxury. Instead they identified talents like Tuala and Tim Nanai-Williams and gave them the confidence they would grow into professional rugby players.

If there's one thing they've done well, it's identify the right talent. Tuala was a talented kid playing in a poor 1st XV at James Cook High.

Talaimanu was involved with Manurewa High School who were strong, thanks in large part to Nanai-Williams.

"But the boys talk about different guys they play and Ace's name kept coming up, so I was pretty keen to get him to Manurewa [Rugby Club]."

Described as a prankster with "strong Christian values", Talaimanu reckoned Tuala's best position was fullback, but with Nanai-Williams cementing that spot, his destiny might lie out wide.

PATRICK OSBORNE and TELUSA VEAINU
Canterbury
Age: 23 and 19
Stats: 1.86m, 105kg/ 1.80m, 85kg
Tries: 0 and 2

In a province with more celebrated names than it knows what to do with, Veainu and Osborne barely register. If you stuck them on the Sonny Bill scale, they're not even a blip on the graph.

But Canterbury assistant coach Tabai Matson knows he's got a couple of live ones on his hands.

Neither have established themselves in the starting XV. Osborne had impressive form in the pre-season and won the opening day wing place with Tu Umaga-Marshall. A hip injury has slowed his progress though and Veainu has started the past two games with Sam Monaghan on the other flank.

Matson described both Osborne and Veainu as "raw", but with the skillset to push on to higher honours.

Veainu is the oldest of 11 children in his family. "He talks up both his brothers and his sisters so there could be a few more to come for Canterbury."

If Veainu has a weakness it's also his strength. Given a situation where there's a 50-50 chance he'll score if he keeps the ball and an 80-20 chance they'll score if he passed it, he'll back the odds on himself. "His decision-making is getting better in that respect but you're also wary about not trying to coach that finishing instinct out of wingers," Matson said.

Osborne's potential flaw is that he has no sense of self-preservation.

"One thing you can't coach is that desire to smash people," Matson explained. "You can teach them where to stick their shoulder and that sort of thing, but when you have got a player who has the desire to want to smash the opposition ... that's gold."

Next year might be too early for Super rugby because the chances are they won't have the week-in, week-out exposure others will get, but Matson said they both had the skillset to play at that level.