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Friday Feb 16, 2024

Five electric wingers to watch in the Rugby Europe Championship

The Rugby Europe Championship is just two rounds deep into the 2024 competition, with several electric performances already on tape.

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Bearing down on the rugby world like a freight train, round three gets underway tomorrow at 12 pm UTC as Pool A’s two undefeated sides, Georgia and Spain, square off in Tbilisi.

Two and a half hours later, the top two sides in Pool B will battle for the sole position of first place as Romania host Portugal before the mightily impressive Belgium look to press their case for a play-off spot as they face Poland.

Across these four fixtures, several players in red-hot form will undoubtedly play a key role in their team’s success.

While the old adage of the game is won upfront, the statement that the backs decide by how much remains ever present in this year’s competition.

So, with this in mind, here are five electric back three playmakers to track throughout the rest of this year’s competition.

Martin Alonso – Spain

24-year-old Martin Alonso of Spain is no stranger to the big stage following his time with Top 14 powerhouse outfit La Rochelle. Playing in twenty-three matches during his time with the back-to-back Champions Cup winners, Alonso signed for Pro D2 side Vannes ahead of the 2023/24 season, starting ten matches so far this season for the league leaders, scoring two tries in the process. To date, Alonso has played in four test matches for Los Leones, starting three and will be in search of his first test try this season.

Rafaelle Storti – Portugal

Electricity in a bottle, Portugal’s try-scoring phenom, has taken the Pro D2 by storm this season, scoring 16 tries in 12 matches for Béziers Hérault… This outrageous form follows on from his three tries at Rugby World Cup 2023 and will see the 23-year-old return to Top 14 leaders Stade Francais for the 2024/25 season. In total, Storti has scored 16 tries in 23 test matches for Os Lobos, which sees him have one of the best try-scoring strike rates in test rugby.

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Bart Wierenga – Netherlands

Dutch Rugby’s danger man, Bart Wierenga, has come through New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty set-up before moving onto the renowned Stade Toulousain in French Rugby. Since 2020, the flying utility back has played his club rugby for Valence Romans in the Pro D2. At 24 years old, Wierenga is part of a new generation of players who are ready to drive the game forward in the Netherlands. Alongside the likes of captain Koen Bloemen, Odin Ruijgrok and Tim De Jong, Wierenga has played in some notable performances for the Oranje so far this Championship as they pushed Spain to the brink before challenging a mightily physical Georgian team on the road.

Aka Tabutsadze – Georgia

One of Georgia’s most potent attacking options, 26-year-old Tabutsadze, had an outlandish 31 tries in 36 test matches for the Lelos. Plying his trade with Georgian club sides The Black Lion in the EPCR Challenge Cup and Rugby Europe Super Cup whilst playing for the Lelo Saracens in the Georgian Championship. Scoring one try against the Netherlands in round two, Tabutsadze will look to get back on the scoresheet in his team’s crunch fixture against Spain this weekend.

Ionel Melinte – Romania

A key absentee through injury from Romania’s 2023 Rugby World Cup squad, Ionel Melinte is the key cog to the Romanian backline. Playing his club rugby for Hyères in the Nationale (3rd division), the fullback is a sharp shooting goal kicker in addition to being a silky playmaker. In total, Melinte has scored 173 points for the Oaks across 27 test matches. Slotting three conversions on his return to the national team in round two, as well as providing some extra firepower to the Oaks attack, Melinte will be crucial for his team’s chances of picking up the title this season.

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