x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Three bolts out of the blue demand a good look

Manu Tuilagi, Alex Goode and Owen Farrell are three names fans of English rugby should keep an eye out for, not to mention the selectors for the national team.

Bolters are a thing of the past in international rugby. It used to be that new boys were thrown in at the deep end to see if they had the right stuff.

For example, in 1998, an 18-year-old Jonny Wilkinson became England's youngest Test player in 71 years. The following year he played in the World Cup.

However, in today's world of professionalism, with the expanded calendar of Test matches, little is left to chance.

When England go to September's World Cup in New Zealand, every member of their squad will probably have played at least a handful of international caps.

However, three players who have yet to sample Test rugby are bidding to buck that trend, using the platform of the English Premiership play-offs to promote their cases this weekend.

Leicester's Manu Tuilagi was named the Premiership's discovery of the season this week. He has five brothers who have played internationally for Samoa, but he could be the answer to England's midfield problems. He could go a long way to proving it with a performance against Northampton tomorrow.

Alex Goode, meanwhile, has been so good in Saracens' recent winning run, he could probably play against Gloucester on Sunday wearing a sandwich-board saying "Pick me!" and still not have a hand laid on him.

His teammate, Owen Farrell, is also good enough to prove there is more than one prodigy worthy of international rugby while still a teenager.