Former British and Irish Lions coach and Telegraph Sport columnist Sir Ian McGeechan selects the 10 young players set to take the world by storm.

Marcus Smith, 21, England

A bit of a throwback to my era in terms of his size, but a huge talent.

Smith's progression from Brighton College 1st XV to the Harlequins 1st XV was rapid and well-timed, with Nick Evans stepping back to coach.


I have watched a lot of him. He never looks flustered on the ball, which is the hallmark of a great player and he has been in and around the England squad without yet being capped. But one to watch, certainly.

Jordan Joseph, 19, France

A player who could be the future of a very exciting France back row, and is already part of the Racing 92 1st XV.

Not yet capped at senior international level, Joseph is a crucial cog of the France teams who won the World Rugby Under-20 Championships in 2018 and 2019.

He played football up to the age of 13, which encourages "head-up" vision to see things early. A powerful runner with good hands and a skilful offload game.

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Caelan Doris, 22, Ireland

Another one off the Leinster independent schools production line (Blackrock College) and one of the standout No 8s in this season's Champions Cup.

It is one thing coming through so young, but another to do it at Leinster, where the competition is so fierce. His ball-carrying, physicality and handling mark him out as a special talent.


I expect him to go on to win many Ireland caps.

Joe Simmonds, 23, England

Probably the closest of the English players on this list to an international call-up. Simmonds has quietly become an excellent fly-half with consistently good decision making and plays well under pressure.

His kicking is incredibly accurate – there was a stage before Christmas when he was 26/26 in all competitions – and he has a great coaching group around him, with Rob Baxter and Ali Hepher, who I know well and really rate from our Northampton days.

Louis Rees-Zammit, 19, Wales

You cannot put a price on outright pace. Rees-Zammit has it in abundance, and, combined with his finishing ability, you begin to understand why the hype surrounding him has been so intense.


He was enjoying an unbelievable breakthrough season with Gloucester in the Premiership when coronavirus hit.

It would have been good to see him in a Welsh jersey against Italy – an ideal opportunity, particularly as he was playing with such confidence. A first cap cannot be far away.

Just one All Black features on Sir Ian McGeechan's list. Photos / Photosport
Just one All Black features on Sir Ian McGeechan's list. Photos / Photosport

Cameron Redpath, 20, England/Scotland

I know his father well, so I have followed Cameron's career fairly closely. I like what I see. Tall, rangy, more of a centre than a 10.

He was part of the West Brom football academy for two years, which means he has a top-quality skillset and vision off the ball.

Scotland-qualified but seemingly destined to play for England, Eddie Jones has already had a look at Redpath, was selected to go on the 2018 tour of South Africa, but had to pull out with injury. He has a big future.


Jamie Dobie, 18, Scotland

I have not seen a huge amount of Dobie, but I hear good things. He went straight from school into a full-time contract, which is quite rare.

He has George Horne and Ali Price ahead of him in the Glasgow and Scotland pecking order – neither of whom is exactly thinking of retiring anytime soon – but that is great for him and for club and country.

It will raise standards all round. Gametime management will be key to development.

James Grayson, 21, England

Another chip off the old block. Paul Grayson, his father, was one of my favourite players to coach – just a very clever, tactical player.


He and I used to have long conversations about what we wanted to do out on the pitch, either one-on-one or with Matt Dawson as well. And when I watch James play I can almost imagine the conversation he has had with his dad.

Chris Boyd has managed him and brought him through well at Northampton.

Luke Jacobson, 23, New Zealand

Do not be surprised to see Jacobson in the All Blacks' back row come the 2023 World Cup in France.

He was ruled out of the last one due to repeated concussions, having made his debut last summer, but has already made his mark for the Chiefs.

Jacobson is an all-rounder who captained the Junior All Blacks to victory at the World Rugby Under-20 Championship in 2017 - a powerful ball-carrier and support player with a real presence on the field.


Jordan Petaia, 20, Australia

Having watched Petaia playing for the Reds in a Super Rugby game this season, I was struck by how big and powerful he was and how natural he looked with ball in hand. Really good feet as well.

He can run over you or around you, and although he had to come off injured at halftime in his only start for Australia to date, against Uruguay in the World Cup, he had already scored with his second touch and set up another.

He is very highly rated in Australia, but injury is slowing his match progress at present.