Will Muir has been prolific in the Premiership this season
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
Will Muir’s transition from England Sevens to XVs has been nothing short of remarkable. Despite competing with a stable of high class wingers at Bath, Muir has stood head and shoulders above a number of England internationals this campaign.
The 25-year-old has looked anything but the novice that he is at Premiership level. Muir has proven himself to be a deadly finisher, incredibly tough to tackle and demonstrated his considerable strength throughout the season.
Bath have unearthed another gem from sevens, just as they did with Ruaridh McConnochie, and Muir was rewarded with a two-year contract in March as recognition for the impact he has made.
Muir, who was named England Sevens player of the year in 2019, earned the nickname ‘the horse’ while on the circuit and it easy to see why. His style of running is akin to galloping and his long strides make him a tricky proposition for defenders. Muir has surprisingly nimble footwork for a man of his size and his ability to change direction quickly is an asset of his.
Muir shows off his wide array of skills in this stunning finish for Bath
Your contenders for @thefamousgrouse Try of the Week in Round 14:
🛁 @BathRugby’s Will Muir & @Ben_spencer9
🃏 @Harlequins’ @LukeNorthmore
🐻 @BristolBears’ @henrypurdy_ & @AndyUren9
🏉 @ExeterChiefs’ @HSkinner10
Vote now on the #GallagherPrem website ➡️ https://t.co/LrRREp8Swx pic.twitter.com/iPmJrXJpk1
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) March 22, 2021
The strength of Muir has also been crucial to his success. He uses leg drive expertly in the tackle, often ending up a metre or two further up the pitch from where the initial contact was made.
This season no player in the Premiership has made more clean breaks per 80 minutes than Muir, illustrating how potent an attacking force he is.
Most clean breaks per 80 minutes in the Premiership this season
Muir also boasts the joint sixth best try-scoring rate per 80 minutes this season and is tenth on the list for defenders beaten for 80 minutes. These are not the usual numbers for a player in his rookie Premiership season. Muir was injured at the start of the campaign and in fact only made his Premiership debut in February. The splash he has made in just his first 12 appearances is quite something.
Muir’s campaign rates favourably against a number of the Premiership’s leading wingers in both attacking and defensive categories despite playing in an inconsistent Bath outfit. Many of the names listed below are already internationals or have been touted for this summer against the USA and Canada.
How Will Muir compares to the Premiership’s leading wingers
The attacking aspect of the game is where a former sevens players would be expected to thrive. But Muir has also adapted well to other areas of the game. His catch percentage for balls kicked to him is higher than a number of leading wingers in England.
The statistics above indicate how well Muir has played this season – but that is not to say he is the finished product by any means. At times he has been overeager to offload, a habit built up in sevens, and his defensive positioning needs honing. His high ball work could also be refined, although it is by no means poor. All of these aspects are relatively straightforward to improve and crucially the raw elements of an elite winger are evidently present.
Muir was named in the initial Team GB Sevens squad for the Olympics in Tokyo but has been unable to train with them due his Bath commitments, leaving his participation in doubt. He has stated that he is eager to fulfil his Olympics dream while also admitting that XVs is now his priority. If Eddie Jones selects him in his squad on Thursday for either the ‘A’ team or to take on USA and Canada he will be left with a mighty dilemma – and this scenario seems a distinct possibility given his form and the unavailability of alternative options.
Anthony Watson and Elliot Daly will be on the Lions tour, Jonny May is likely to be rested, Jack Nowell is currently injured while Paolo Odogwu has definitively been ruled out. Other capped options are available but the form of Ollie Thorley and Muir’s club team-mate Joe Cokanasiga have dropped off with both having campaigns interrupted by bans and injury.
Ollie Hassell-Collins, Ben Loader, Tom O’Flaherty and Ollie Sleightholme are the leading uncapped wingers in contention. But, as the statistics demonstrates, Muir deserves to be in the conversation. The way he has performed with such little experience also suggests there is a huge amount of growth in Muir’s game.
Jones is not afraid of making a left-field selection and one of those may be particularly instructive. McConnochie was selected for the 2019 Rugby World Cup despite relatively little XVs experience. Muir has the same sevens background and is the same height and similar weight as his Bath team-mate although their skill-sets are slightly different.
While 29-year-old McConnochie is not necessarily out of the running, Muir is four years younger and could be seen as the better option going forward if Jones were to select a former sevens player.
Muir has developed at a frightening rate this season. Representing England this summer is a golden opportunity to accelerate that process even further.