Premiership Rugby

Five U25 Forwards To Watch In The 2023-2024 Investec Champions Cup

Five U25 Forwards To Watch In The 2023-2024 Investec Champions Cup

We take a look at five young stars who are set to light up the Champions Cup.

Dec 8, 2023
Five U25 Forwards To Watch In The 2023-2024 Investec Champions Cup

Every time the Champions Cup rolls around, we get a chance to watch the best European clubs come to blows.

The litany of stars on show is, at times, ridiculous, all of them aiming to write themselves into the history books.

However, there also are lesser-known youngsters who, each year, use the European tournament to show off their skills and show the world their talent.

Here, we take a closer look at five young stars who are set to light up the Champions Cup.

Evan Roos, Stormers

Any fan of the URC will know plenty about Evan Roos. 

The highly rated Stormers back rower quickly has become one of the best forwards in the league, yet he’s still only 23 years of age.

He first burst onto the scene in 2021 - during the inaugural season of the URC. 

Roos’ imperious ball carrying earned him plenty of plaudits and resulted in him winning the Players’ Player, Next-Gen Player and Fans’ Player of the Season Awards.

All that early success hasn’t immediately translated into international caps - Roos has only featured for the Springboks on three occasions.

He was not selected in South Africa’s eventual World Cup-winning squad of 2023, but, following the retirement of Duane Vermeulen, he now has the chance to cement his spot as the Springboks' No. 8.

That added incentive will make Roos a formidable figure as he gears up for his second season in the Champions Cup.

Tom Stewart, Ulster

Often, it takes time for a young player to bed into the professional game. But that wasn’t the case for Tom Stewart.

When making his debut for Ulster at hooker, the local boy bagged a try against Connacht and subsequently won the player of the match award for his efforts.

He then went on to score a record-breaking 16 tries in the URC, picking up the top try-scoring accolade, as well as the Next-Gen Player of the Season Award for the 2022-2023 campaign, following directly in the footsteps of Roos.

Stewart’s masterful control of possession at the back of a rolling maul has driven Ulster to new heights and marks the young hooker out as the heir apparent to Rory Best.

He even got the chance to make his international debut for Ireland in the summer, featuring against Italy in a World Cup warm-up match.

It seems the sky’s the limit for the 22-year-old. 

Stewart’s meteoric rise has been a thing to behold, and the climb may continue with European rugby now beckoning.

Juan Martín González, Saracens

To say the past year has been a bit turbulent for Juan Martín González is a real understatement.

In that time, he was made jobless when his former club, London Irish, folded, but he found a new home at Saracens and has become a pivotal piece in the Argentina back row, earmarking himself as one of the best young forwards in the game.

His rise to prominence has been made all the more impressive by the fact he’s often outshone Los Pumas legend and fellow back rower Pablo Matera.

Martín González’s fierce ball carrying and relentless energy - which is what makes him so consistently effective at the breakdown - would improve any team, but with Saracens, he has the chance to build something truly special.

Working alongside rising stars such as Ben Earl, Andy Christie and Tom Willis will give the 23-year-old license to thrill. He may even be the key to helping push Saracens to its first taste of European silverware since 2019.

Dafydd Jenkins, Exeter

When huge responsibility is bestowed upon a young player, you know there’s something that makes them pop.

That’s exactly what’s happened with Dafydd Jenkins. 

In the last year, the 21-year-old has gone from having little name recognition to becoming not only a mainstay in the Exeter Chiefs pack, but a settled figure in the Wales second row.

He played an important part in Wales’ run to the World Cup quarterfinals and has since gone on to captain his club.

If both Warren Gatland and Rob Baxter feel comfortable empowering Jenkins to lead, there’s a serious future in store for the youngster.

His presence in the lineout is invaluable, but it’s his relentless work rate that makes him the perfect Chiefs forward - and a prolific tackler, as well. He’ll definitely be one to watch in the Champions Cup this season.

Paul Boudehent, La Rochelle

France has an embarrassment of riches in its back row at the moment. That has made it a lot harder for young players to make names for themselves and earn a call-up for France, yet this year, Paul Boudehent managed just that.

The versatile back rower has been a mainstay in the La Rochelle pack for a few years now, but he’s had to wait for a phone call from Fabien Galthié. It finally came in the summer, as Boudehent was picked for France’s World Cup squad and ended up featuring in the team's curtain-raising win against New Zealand.

Spurred on by his experiences this autumn, Boudehent will have even more to play for as he tries to help La Rochelle win a third Champions Cup in a row.

The 24-year-old is not one to shrink from the limelight – especially when he’s built like Eben Etzebeth and possesses the speed of a center.