SIX NATIONS: Six stars to make an impact
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The Six Nations gets underway on Saturday, with players hoping to impress ahead of the World Cup which starts in September.
Six players to watch during the tournament:
Antoine Dupont (France)
The former World Rugby player of the year missed out on that award last December but his ability to turn a game on its head remains unquestionable.
The 26-year-old captained France to their first Six Nations triumph since 2010 last March.
Despite a quiet start to the season, he has helped Toulouse to top spot in the Top 14 and his country to impressive Test wins over Australia and South Africa. The scrumhalf will be key to France’s hopes of finally winning their first World Cup later this year on home soil.
Josh van der Flier (Ireland)
Flank Van der Flier succeeded Dupont two months ago as the world player of the year mainly due to his performances during Ireland’s first-ever Test series win over New Zealand in July.
The 29-year-old of Dutch descent has continued that form for Leinster and Ireland this season, scoring eight tries in 12 matches, including five in four Champions Cup games as the Irish club romped through the pool stage unbeaten.
Ellis Genge (England)
The loose-head prop, nicknamed ‘the Baby Rhino’, worked under new England head coach Steve Borthwick at Leicester and was a pivotal part of their English Premiership title-winning team last season.
Genge, 27, returned to hometown club Bristol for this campaign and is set to be a crucial cog in Borthwick’s machine, especially up front, during the Six Nations.
Sione Tuipulotu (Scotland)
The 25-year-old has looked at ease for club and country since moving to Glasgow in 2021 after spells with Yamaha Jubilo in Japan and Melbourne Rebels.
Born in Australia with Tongan heritage, Tuipulotu chose to represent the country of his grandmother from Greenock, less than 40km from Glasgow. The centre’s quick feet and ability to beat the first defender make him the perfect player to feature outside influential flyhalf Finn Russell.
Jac Morgan (Wales)
Flank Morgan made his Wales debut 12 months ago and was a rare positive during Wayne Pivac’s last year in charge, when the side won just three games.
He played a key role as the Ospreys reached the last 16 of the Champions Cup this season with impressive ball carrying and superb work over the ball at the breakdown. The former Scarlets back-rower has fought off fierce competition to start in Warren Gatland’s second coming as Wales head coach this weekend against Ireland.
Ange Capuozzo (Italy)
The wing, who is equally at ease at fullback, announced himself to the rugby world with a double against Scotland on his Test debut last March.
A week later, the 23-year-old set up Edoardo Padovani for one of Italy’s greatest-ever tries as they beat Wales for their first Six Nations victory since 2015.
He has since moved from second-tier French club Grenoble to Top 14 giants Toulouse and settled in quickly before scoring twice again in his country’s maiden win over Australia last November.