Saturday, April 20, 2024

Rugby Union’s Team of 2020: Outside Backs and Midfielders

The time has come to complete our Rugby Union team of 2020. Lastly, but by no means least, we have the try scoring, speedsters in the outside backs and the swiss army knives of midfield, our centres. To me, 2020 was a rough year for world class centres. The likes of Jonathan Davies came in this year off the back of injuries and never found their form thanks to the covid-induced stop start nature of the rugby season. Then, on the other hand, the likes of Manu Tuilagi and Gary Ringrose suffered significant injuries this year, interrupting their quality form. Indeed, this year was a year for the up and commers. Much the inverse, there were almost too many outside backs to choose from for this year. For every place in our team, two or three quality players will no doubt be missing out. So, let’s get into it, the final five in our team of the season.

Left Wing: Jonny May

My god Jonny what a year you’ve had. Carried England on your back in their first game of the year, capping it off with what is, in my opinion, one of the two greatest ever tries ever scored at Twickenham. Electric pace, a relentless work-rate. Need I say more about The Termaynator?

England player Henry Slade celebrating after the score during the match Italy-England in the Olimpic stadium. Rome (Italy), October 31st, 2020 (Photo by Massimo Insabato/Mondadori Portfolio/Sipa USA)

Inside Centre: Henry Slade

Yes, I know Slade played most of his rugby at thirteen for the Chiefs and England in 2020 but he’s had too good a year not to include him and I’d put money on him stepping into the Owen Farrell mould of twelve without a hitch. Slade is a true Swiss army knife in midfield. A good kicker off either foot whilst possessing great pace and ball skills, he’s a fly half in a centre’s body. One of the biggest stars in Exeter’s constellation, Slade’s trophy cabinet wasn’t the only thing glistening for him this year. His form was sublime. He isn’t the stat sheet stuffer that our other centre is, Slade’s influence on the game comes from his intangibles. His ability to see open space as both a runner and a kicker makes him a key cog in whatever team he is in. Slade had an awesome 2020, earning him our twelve jersey.

Outside Centre: Semi Radradra

The first time I watched Radradra play was against Wales during the 2019 World Cup in Japan. In that game, he lined up on the left wing and utterly terrorised Wales. 2020 saw him move to the Premiership’s nouveau riche, Bristol Bears, where he immediately became their best player. The thing that has blown my mind about Radradra this season isn’t his silky-smooth handling, his ability to run the most impressive of lines or his tackling. No, it’s his ability over the ball. Watching Radradra commit himself to a ruck is a remarkable thing for any player, never mind a centre. The Fijian beast bulldozes his way into our team.

Right Wing: Caleb Clarke

While I’m not someone who jumped on the ‘Caleb Clarke is the next Jonah Lomu’ bandwagon, he did have a superb 2020. The physical winger presents a matchup nightmare for his opposite number and, at the young age of twenty-one, will be giving opposition coaches headaches for years to come. Mark my words, Caleb Clarke wont have the career try-scoring return of Julian Savea or, indeed, a Jonny May, but this is only because he will be double and potentially triple teamed during the peak of his career.

Will Jordan of the Crusaders (right) celebrates scoring a try during the Round 1 Super Rugby match between the Canterbury Crusaders and NSW Waratahs at Trafalgar Park in Nelson, New Zealand, Saturday, February 1, 2020. (AAP Image/Chris Symes) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY ** STRICTLY EDITORIAL USE ONLY, NO COMMERCIAL USE, NO BOOKS **

Fullback: Will Jordan

Another Kiwi rounds out our fifteen. Will Jordan was probably the biggest star to emerge from Super Rugby Aotearoa apart from Richie Mo’unga. He outshone both Barretts and all of his competition in the stacked Crusaders outside back depth to make his way into our fifteen jersey. I’ve heard Christian Cullen comparisons knocking about in recent months and, while I’m not too quick to jump on the comparison to an All Black legend in Clarke’s case, Jordan has already made a pretty compelling case. Will Jordan was the premiere fullback this year for my money and makes our team.

So, there you have it: seven Englishmen, four Kiwis and a single Irishman, Frenchman, Scot and Fijian. There’s the Sports Despatch team of the year for 2020. Like our picks? Hate our picks? We want to hear from you. Let us know in the comments below what you think and stay tuned to The Sports Despatch for more Rugby Union content coming your way soon. Thanks for reading.

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