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10 Rugby Players to Watch

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Wilkinson kicking for Newcastle in 2008 - David Coldrey

If you are learning about rugby and are considering taking in a rugby match during your visit to the United Kingdom, here's a look at 10 players you should know about. On our 2009 vacation the the UK, I was able to attend London Sevens test and had a wonderful experience. It's by no means a list of the top ten, but more a cross-section of players a relative rugby novice should be aware of.

1. Michaela Staniford
The English Sevens women's captain will be leading her side in the final two tournaments of the Sevens World Series. The tourney in Glasgow takes place May 5-6, 2012, and the last tests will take place May 12-13 in London. Staniford reached the 50-cap pinnacle with the Wasps in a 15-3 win over France in March of 2012.

2. Chris Cracknell
Another English Sevens star, Cracknell started in all but two of the Seven's 45 matches in the 2010 -2011 HSBC World Series. He's a player I got to see in person when I saw England defeat New Zealand at Twickenham in sudden death extra-time on our vacation.

3. Jonny Wilkinson
Sure, he plays for Toulon, so if you want to see him in the UK you need to do your homework. He's one of the greatest to ever play the game, and any rugby fan would love to see him on a pitch. Wilkinson had set his sights on winning the Amlin Challenge Cup for Toulon on his native soil. That dream will be realized when Toulon plays for the Cup May 18 at the Twickenham Stoop.

4. Sonny Parker
London Welsh signed the former Wales center April 24 of this year, and will have his talents on the pitch next season. Parker was on Wales' World Cup squads for 2003 and 2007. He was a good international player looking to revive his career with London Welsh, and it will be worth noting if he can do so.

5. Mark Cueto
He plays for the Sale Sharks, and over his illustrious career has 70 Premiership tries in 153 matches over the course of 10 seasons. He missed the first two matches of the 2011 Rugby World Cup because of injury. In his first game back, he was Man of the Match.

6. Adam Thomas
His Pontypridd squad are without his services for the time being because Thomas is playing on the Wales Sevens. Thomas is an up-and-coming talent, and barring serious injury his name will likely be associated with Wales' rugby aspirations for some time.

7. Sam Warburton
Another Wales standout, Warburton is the first-choice no. 7. He helped lead Wales to Grand Slam victory at Millennium Stadium. He was bothered by injuries for a good part of the 2012 Six Nations play, but was healthy enough to return and help his side to glory.

8. Greig Laidlaw
He's a nephew to Scottish rugby legend Roy Laidlaw. While he's not reached the lofty heights his uncle did, Greig is a player to watch. His Edinburgh side fell to Ulster in the European Cup semifinals April 28, but the play of Laidlaw in earlier rounds was a big part of what got them there.

9. Sarah Hunter
Picked to captain England Women in the European Cup, Hunter plays for Lichfield. She will lead the squad, who are the defending European Cup champions, into the campaign that begins in Italy when England battle Spain on May 12.

10. Richie Rees
He will join the same Edinburgh side who lost the semifinal against Ulster for next season after Mike Blair announced his intention to leave the squad. Rees will be asked to fit in right away, which is something he and Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley both agree will be an easy transition. Content by Jeff Musall.

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