Sam Moore has been in the middle of a tug-of-war tussle between the Red Rose and the Three Feathers in recent months. Welsh-born, but played his age grade rugby across the border, and is currently in the Sale Sharks senior academy. The Cardiff-born number eight seems to be high on the priority list of both Warren Gatland and Eddie Jones and has already held discussions with both regarding his future allegiance. The 19-year-old is rumoured to have been asked to be part of a Welsh training squad but declined and has attended an England training camp as an apprentice player.
The fact that Moore plays number 8 would suggest that he is not an immediate necessity for either coaches. That is no slight on the talented youngster but Taulupe Faletau and Billy Vunipola are two names that are mentioned as being the best number eight in the world, alongside Kieran Read and Sergio Parisse.
As we look closer, though, there does seem to be a chance that Moore has the capability of playing a role in not only the long-term but in the near future for both countries – I believe as soon as the Rugby World Cup in 2019.
For Jones’ England, it is as simple as this – they are a better side with Vunipola locking down in the number eight shirt. They simply do not have the ‘go forward’ in their team to compensate for his loss, as has been shown throughout this year’s Six Nations. He looks like a player that has the potential to be the best player in the world. The problem is that he does not seem to be able to string a number of games together without getting hurt. It’s not an ideal situation for England to be in one-year out from the World Cup, and it will be interesting to see how he fares on England’s tour to South Africa.
The obvious answer would be that England would turn to Nathan Hughes or Sam Simmonds to replace him. Hughes is a dangerous runner of the ball, and some would argue a better off-loader than Vunipola, but he also seems to have been hit by the injury curse. We also haven’t seen Hughes translate his club form on the international stage. Simmonds has rightly taken the mantle as the starting number eight in the Exeter starting line-up and has looked strong in his early performances for England. However, many question if he has the physicality to match the best backrows in the world playing at the base of the scrum. His international future may lie in the number six or seven shirt. Zach Mercer, the young Bath number eight, is another option, but the fact he was only selected for the Brighton training camp last week and not the squad to tour South Africa suggests he is unlikely to be a short-term solution.
Wales’ Mr Reliable Taulupe Faletau has, for the first time, looked vulnerable. When he has played he has played well, he is consistently one of the top three players on the pitch every time he plays. Faletau has missed a number of games this season, though, and that will be a worry to Gatland this close to the World Cup.
A number of players have been given the opportunity to stake a claim to understudy Wales’ most consistent player – Dan Baker, James King, Ross Moriarty and Josh Navidi. Neither Baker or King have the explosiveness to compete at number eight at international level. Navidi, as well as Moriarty, have shown glimpses, but both seem more secure in their natural positions of openside and blindside flanker respectively. This belief will be firmly tested when Wales take on the Springboks and the Pumas over the summer, as Faletau has been rested.
This is where Sam Moore comes in.
At 6’6 and weighing 110kg, he has the natural stature to make an immediate impact at the highest level. What sets him apart is that he seems to have a strong all-round game. He is as capable of running around a player as he is to break through them, he has a strong offloading game, and he has a burst of speed you might not expect of a man of his size. Add in the fact that he brings an extra option in the lineout, then you begin to see what he could offer.
The argument could be made that he is yet to have a substantial run of games for Sale, and that most of his promise has been shown against academy and international age grade opponents. My argument is that the same could’ve been said about Marcus Smith and Jack Willis a year ago; it shows what an opportunity can do for a young player.
Whether next years Rugby World Cup is too soon or not, there is ample reason why the powerful and dynamic Moore is definitely a prize worth fighting for.