Eels predict French invasion
In a backline loaded with established names it's a relatively unknown 20-year-old who Parramatta players believe will spark their side at the 2016 Downer NRL Auckland Nines.
Bevan French is one of just two players included in the Eels' Nines squad who is yet to play Telstra Premiership footy, but comes off a Holden Cup season where he scored 16 tries in 20 games.
And while the Parramatta squad contains players such as Corey Norman, Ryan Morgan and Semi Radradra – who has been one of the most prolific attacking players in the tournament's short history – second-rower Manu Ma'u is backing French to grab the headlines.
"He is a bit of a freak, Bevan French," Ma'u told NRL.com
"You will see plenty of him this weekend and I am really happy for him to be here with us.
"This is his first full pre-season with the NRL squad and he has a good opportunity here to build some combinations with the boys ahead of the season.
"I think he is going to be really well suited to Nines, he is fast and strong for his size, this will be really good for him."
Re-signed by the Eels last year until the end of 2018, French was hotly pursued by a number of Sydney clubs before electing to remain with the blue and gold.
Last season the Tingha Tigers junior ran for at least 100 metres in a match on 15 occasions, combining that with 10 line breaks and 19 offloads to ensure he caused plenty of drama for opposing defensive lines.
New Parramatta recruit Mitch Cornish said along with Radradra – who was the joint-top try-scorer in the first edition of the tournament in 2014 – French was the player he was most looking forward to feeding the ball to at Eden Park.
"You only have to look at Semi's record at the Nines over the past couple of years, it's all there," Cornish said.
"But Bevan is certainly one to watch this weekend. Coming up from the Holden Cup he is a livewire and is built for this format.
"He is extremely quick with unbelievable footwork, so we are looking forward to seeing how he goes.
"He can play fullback or in the halves so he brings us some versatility as well."
Parramatta line up in the Waiheke Pool alongside the Storm, Roosters and defending champions South Sydney.