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Autumn internationals preview: Who from the Guinness PRO14 is in form ahead of representing their country?

Rich Dore

9 Nov 2017

Of all the clamours for a player to feature more for his country in the entire history of clamours there is perhaps none larger than that attributed to Steff Evans.

The Scarlets winger has been carving up the Guinness PRO14 for several years now and seems to have started this season in even finer form than the last.

With the autumn internationals kicking off this weekend we take a look at Evans’ prospects and at some of the other Guinness PRO14 stars who could feature.

Steff Evans – Scarlets

For a man of Evans’ talents it’s astonishing to hear that some rugby fans around the world are so far unaware of his prodigious capabilities.

Just 23 years old, the Camarthen-born winger has already racked up half a century of appearances for Scarlets and an incredible 26 tries.

Last year he was a key cog for a Scarlets side that secured their maiden domestic league title.

And this season, the jet-heeled youngster has been even better, currently leading the Guinness PRO14 statistics for try assists, clean breaks, defenders beaten and offloads, to go along with his four tries.

With several players on British & Irish Lions duty this summer Evans did appear on Wales’ tour of the Pacific Islands, scoring two tries against Samoa.

But historically, Wales coach Warren Gatland has preferred to use the likes of George North, Alex Cuthbert and Leigh Halfpenny on the wings.

But with North injured this autumn – surely Gatland can ignore Evans no longer and give him his first start at the Principality Stadium?

Jacob Stockdale – Ulster

Ulster back-three player Jacob Stockdale is in a situation much the same as that of fellow-flyer Evans.

The 21-year-old speedster is enjoying a stellar start to this season’s Guinness PRO14 campaign and is targeting a spot on the wing for his country.

Joe Schmidt’s Ireland also seem to be undergoing a changing of the guard out wide with old hands Simon Zebo, Andrew Trimble and Tommy Bowe not included in the autumn squad.

The 6ft5in Stockdale has caught the eye in Ulster’s backline this season, linking up well with the mercurial Charles Piutau and helping himself to four tries, all of them displaying his increasingly elusive running.

Bundee Aki – Connacht

It seems to be the question gripping most Irish rugby supporters this week – will head coach Schmidt give Bundee Aki his Ireland debut against South Africa on Saturday?

If the answer to that question is yes then Schmidt will most likely be reuniting the midfield that proved so successful for Connacht during their barnstorming, Guinness PRO12 title-winning season in 2015-16.

27-year-old Aki is a wonderful centre who possesses as much guile as he does dynamism, and caused optimum damage that season alongside Robbie Henshaw, who moved on to Leinster.

The Galway-based province endured some tough opening rounds of the Guinness PRO14 season but look to have turned a corner now and Aki has been at the forefront of that.

The Auckland-born powerhouse has made the most carries in the league this season, 117, and could soon be swapping the green shirt of Connacht for that of Ireland.

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie