The Debut Dozen from the Guinness PRO14

Paul Eddison
13 November 2017

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It was a big weekend of international rugby across Europe and the Guinness PRO14 provided players to a number of countries including a host of new faces.

In all there were 12 debutants in action from the Guinness PRO14, with Benetton, Zebre, Ospreys and Glasgow Warriors each providing two international newcomers.

Connacht, Munster, Edinburgh and the Dragons provided the four remaining debutants to the five Guinness PRO14 nations.

Italian quartet

A lot has, of course, been written about Benetton’s Ian McKinley, who made his Test bow in Catania in Italy’s 19-10 win over Fiji.

The fly-half, who plays in specialist goggles because of the loss of his sight in one eye six years ago, came on for Carlo Canna and kicked a late penalty to seal the victory for the Azzurri.

11.11.17 è una data che non dimenticherò mai. Il percorso è stato incredibile ma le persone in questa foto mi hanno aiutato a farcela. Circondati di belle persone e belle cose succederanno. Indossare la maglia dell’Italia significa tutto per me. L’Italia mi ha dato una seconda occasione nella vita e per questo le sarò sempre grato. Grazie a tutti quelli che hanno trovato il tempo per mandarmi un messaggio. Lo apprezzo davvero tanto. 11.11.17 is a date I will never forget. The journey has been incredible and the people in this photo have helped me make this happen.Surround yourself with good people and good things will happen.To wear the Italian jersey means everything to me.Italy has given me a second chance in life and I will be forever grateful for that. Thank you to everyone who took the time to send me a message.I really really appreciate it #leonorsorugby #rugbyviadana #zebre #benetton #italrugby #678

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He joined Treviso teammate Jayden Hayward, who also made his bow from the off at full-back, while Zebre pair Matteo Minozzi and Giovanni Licata came off the bench for their first caps.

The latter is currently a permit player, but has made such a rapid progression since starring for Italy Under-20s last season that he already looks like a long-term fixture in the Italy back row.

Scots’ new front rowers

Gregor Townsend took charge of Scotland for the first time on home soil and oversaw a thrilling Scotland win against Samoa, 44-38.

The former Glasgow coach called on two Warriors, George Turner and Jamie Bhatti both of whom came on for the final 20 minutes at BT Murrayfield.

Joining them was Edinburgh loosehead prop Darryl Marfo, who was very active in making ten tackles and playing his part around the park.

With WP Nel out for the remainder of the autumn, Townsend will hope the newcomers can continue to make an impact against New Zealand next weekend.

Aki and Sweetnam get their chance

Anyone who saw Connacht play on their way to the title in 2015/16 will have known just how much of a midfield threat Bundee Aki is, and the centre played his part in a record victory.

Aki played all 80 minutes alongside former Connacht teammate Robbie Henshaw as the Irish recorded a 38-3 success.

He racked up 15 tackles in a big defensive effort, while he was later joined by Munster’s Darren Sweetnam, who came onto the wing late on.

Trio of Welshmen

Few could have predicted the rise of Sam Cross in recent weeks – not even the man himself – as the flanker came off the bench to earn his first cap against Australia.

The former Wales Sevens player only got his first game for the Ospreys in October, stepping in for an injured Justin Tipuric at the last minute, but he made such an impression that he has already got Test recognition.

Against the Wallabies he came on for the final five minutes, as did the Dragons’ Leon Brown, while Owen Watkin rounds out the debutants after playing the last 20 minutes in Cardiff.

This weekend there could be a number of players who join the initial 12 in making their debuts, with Ireland playing host to Fiji and Wales taking on Georgia.

Scotland are also in action against the All Blacks, Italy host Argentina and finally South Africa travel to Paris to take on France.

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

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