Emerging Nations Premiership XV: The backs

Our series celebrating the best foreign talent to have played in the English Premiership continues. So far, teams have been selected from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, plus the Pacific Islands of Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. But now our attention turns to nations not so regularly represented in the English game. We start with the backs of this Emerging Nations Premiership XV.

  1. Gareth Rees – Wasps, Harlequins

Gareth Rees was the first Canadian to be inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame, an accolade he achieved in 2011. Rees was the only player to play in the first four World Cups and he earned 55 caps. 

He came to England from Wales in 1996 to join Wasps and he played fullback as they won the English Cup in 1999, beating Newcastle Falcons at Twickenham. Rees then spent a season with Harlequins before retiring in 2000. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he is now working for Rugby Canada and is still a prominent figure for the game in his home country. 

  1. Vasili Artemyev – Northampton Saints

The Russian winger who could have been turning out for Ireland, but ended up in Northampton after the 2011 World Cup. The man from Moscow scored two tries on his league debut against Newcastle Falcons.

Artemyev made 33 appearances for Northampton over two seasons, but decided to return to Russia in 2013 for family reasons. He continues to play club rugby in Russia and captained his national team in Japan, scoring against Ireland.   

  1. Chris Wyles – Northampton Saints, Saracens

The most successful player in this backline is US utility back Chris Wyles. He first played in England for Nottingham, where he went to University. In 2006 he joined Northampton Saints and then joined Saracens, where he remained for the rest of his career. 

Wyles made over 200 appearances and had the perfect end to his career; he scored two tries in the 2018 Premiership final on his last appearance. He temporarily came out of retirement later that year to help Saracens out during an injury crisis, but is now focused on the Wolfpack lager business he co-founded with ex-teammate Alistair Hargreaves

  1. David Lougheed – Leicester Tigers, Gloucester

The second Canadian in this line-up is David Lougheed, who played for Leicester during their dominant era starting in the late 1990s. He was a regular try scorer as the Tigers won the league in consecutive seasons. 

Regularly also playing on the wing, Lougheed was a popular player in his two years at Welford Road. He retired in 2000 but had a very brief stint at Gloucester during an injury crisis. He then also continued playing for Canada to reach a fourth World Cup in 2003. 

  1. Oriol Ripol – Northampton Saints, Sale Sharks

The only Spaniard, or more specifically Catalonian, to make this team, Oriol Ripol was part of the 2006 Sale title-winning side. Indeed, he scored in the final against Leicester. Ripol first played in the Premiership for Northampton between 2002 and 2004 under Wayne Smith, playing alongside the likes of Paul Grayson, Bruce Reihana and Ben Cohen. 

Embed from Getty Images

After failing to secure a contract with Perpignan, he originally joined Sale on a short-term injury cover deal via Rotherham. Ripol ended up staying at Sale for five years, the longest stint at any club in his nomadic career. Ripol also played in England for Worcester in the Championship before retiring, and he now lives in Sweden. 

10. AJ MacGinty – Sale Sharks

Alan “AJ” MacGinty is an Irish-born USA international who is now well-known to Premiership and PRO14 crowds. He joined Sale Sharks in 2016 after winning the PRO12 with Connacht, with the daunting task of replacing Danny Cipriani. A highly reliable goal kicker, MacGinty has scored 479 points in 59 games for Sale. 

Embed from Getty Images

At age 30, the fly-half has played in two World Cups and will hope to appear at France 2023. He has been challenged for his position at club level by Rob du Preez in the past couple of seasons, but remains a Premiership regular.  

  1. Morgan Williams – Saracens

Rounding of the Rest of the World XV backline is Canadian Morgan Williams. A veteran of three World Cups from 1999 to 2007, Williams spent most of his career in France until he joined Saracens in 2005. 

He arrived in England with a growing reputation, having fought Fabien Galthié for the nine shirt at Stade Francais and ended his last season as top points scorer. He retired in 2007 and has been involved most notably with the Canada Sevens Team, coaching both the men’s and women’s sides.  


  • Kensuke Iwabuchi  – Saracens 
  • Mike Hercus – Sale Sharks
  • Paul Lasike – Harlequins
  • Phil Mackenzie – London Welsh, Sale Sharks  
  • Blaine Scully – Leicester Tigers 

Emerging Nations Premiership XV

The second half of this team containing the eight best forwards from emerging nations will follow shortly. Who do you think should be included?

Keep in touch at @LWOSRugby and @LWOS_PremRugby.

Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images