One player who has really stood out in Super League this season has been Hull KR’s French hooker John Boudebza.
To see his 80-minute performances in recent weeks, it is hard to believe that it is only months since he was playing for FC Lezignan in France.
Richard Agar, France national coach, tipped him to me as a player destined for big things just ahead of the European Championship, where Boudebza featured for France.
His signing was a little bit of a gamble by Rovers, who were struggling to find depth in the number 9 role at the beginning of the year.
Following the departure of Keal Carlile to Sheffield Eagles, Boudebza became Rovers’ first-choice dummy half by default.
The way he responded to that challenge belied his status as a part-time player previous to this season.
Small, quick and teak-tough, Boudebza displays great enthusiasm, heart and courage. Despite his stature, he relishes the physical battle in the middle unit, playing with a typically Gallic passion.
He has made 293 tackles and 57 marker tackles this season so far, a fine effort.
He keeps his head up and weighs up options in possession, rarely looking like he’s panicking, and can distribute well in addition to being able to nip out of dummy half effectively.
“We took a punt on John in pre-season,” Rovers coach Chris Chester explained.
“We watched a lot of his games and we heard some really good reports from Richard Agar, the French national coach.
“He said, ‘He’s a small kid, but he’s got plenty of heart.’
“He’s done really well, he’s played 13 or 14 games for us. He’ll be here for another couple of years as well.
“He’s had to play 80 minutes in the last few weeks because Shaun Lunt’s not available, and we lost Graeme Horne a couple of weeks ago.
“He’s ready for a rest, his body is a little bit battered, but he’s a tough kid. He’s a pleasure to coach.”
That kind of endorsement would seem to indicate that Boudebza can look forward to becoming an established Super League player in near-future, if he can sustain his form.
With Eloi Pelissier also coming into his own as a player, the French national team could well be blessed with two of Super League’s top hookers for their clash with England later this year.
With England’s depth in the position too, that clash could be one to relish.