In the debate which followed the publication of this season’s Dream Team, one name kept cropping up again and again.
Where was Morgan Escare? The French full-back, in the eyes of many observers, was very unlucky to have missed out on a place in this year’s star selection.
Certainly, statistically speaking, Escare’s figures add up to produce a strong impression of a high quality performer.
He has scored 27 tries so far this season, second only to Warrington’s Joel Monaghan, another player who might be considered unlucky to have missed out on the Dream Team.
Escare also has 16 try assists to his name, while 102 tackle busts and 18 attacking kicks show there is more to his offensive game than just running speed.
He has carried the ball 284 times, and made 2626 metres. By way of comparison, Warrington’s Scottish full-back Matty Russell has carried 382 times for 3546 metres, making more ground than any other Super League player.
Escare’s 23 clean breaks puts him at seventh place overall in Super League, while 28 runs from dummy half show how dangerous he can be helping his forwards with his scoots.
His 35 handling errors, however, indicate that he is still a young player who has much to learn, although he is only seventh in the list for that particular stat, behind the likes of Ryan Hall, Greg Eden and Rangi Chase. He has also given away 21 penalties.
But looking beyond the stats, it has been a delight to see a French full-back show all the virtures traditionally associated with French back play.
Escare plays what is in front of him superbly, and his ability to run through broken fields is outstanding. Whether receiving the ball from pass out wide, or picking up and scooting from dummy half, Escare can turn opposing defensive lines inside out.
His raw pace, complemented by an economic and efficient running style, makes him a deadly threat in attack.
Defensively, there are still areas he needs to address. But every young player has these.He has still weighed in with 151 tackles in 2014, although he has missed 45.
Escare can also add bulk to his smallish frame in the coming years, and will develop further as a player. He might yet be the first Frenchman to really fire in the NRL – he certainly has the potential to do so.
And with Theo Fages rapidly turning into one of Super League’s best young halfbacks, and Kevin Larroyer developing at Hull KR, the French game is starting to produce players of real promise and talent at last.
Long may it continue. Vive la France!