The 6 Nations are back! 2017 promises to be a special year for the tournament. The introduction of bonus points means we will be seeing more tries than ever before and the prospect of a place on the Lions tour means we will be seeing Home Nations performing at a whole new level.
Last year, England achieved a Grand Slam with a string of stunning victories. Can they do it again? We’ll soon find out but for now, we’ve picked out 6 players who are set to stun the rugby world over the coming weeks.
Michele Campagnaro (Italy)
Why you should watch him: You can’t say Italy are a one-man team anymore. There are a few rising stars in the squad who have shown that the future of Italian rugby has incredible promise. Campagnaro is the poster boy for the new generation of Italian excellence.
Last year, it was Campagnaro who helped Italy come so close to a win against France in Paris. He has only improved since then for club and country. He’s been one of the in form centres this season for Exeter Chiefs, recently scoring a hat-trick against Wasps in the Anglo-Welsh Cup. Given the new bonus point system, we wouldn’t be surprised if he earns his country a few points in this championship.
Virimi Vakatawa (France)
Why you should watch him: A Sevens Star and a now indispensable back on the National XV team, Vakatawa epitomises the new style of rugby coach, Guy Noves, has been trying to instil in the French side. His first 6 Nations was only last year but Vakatawa cemented his place with stunning performances during the Autumn Internationals.
A hattrick against Samoa and great performances against Australia and the All Blacks, France are heading into this tournament looking like contenders. Can they surmount the challenge of an away game against the reigning Grand Slam Champions? Vakatawa might be able to help with that…
Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)
Why you should watch him: One of the most exciting backs in rugby, Henshaw has consistently surprised his opposition. As one of the players instrumental in elevating Connacht in the eyes of the rugby world, Robbie Henshaw is feared for his speed and power (See above). Since last year, Henshaw has had an excellent season at Leinster and happened to score the winning try against the All Blacks in Ireland’s first ever win over New Zealand.
There can be no complacency from his opposition, if this tournament goes well for Ireland, expect to see him on the Lions team sheet.
Huw Jones (Scotland)
Why you should watch him: The man with the least caps on this list is far from being the least exciting. Huw Jones has shown in less than a year that he deserves a place on the Scotland team in a squad bursting with incredible centres.
Jones’ most memorable performance for Scotland so far was his double try scoring game against Australia in the autumn. Speaking about Huw, Scotland assistant coach Jason O’Halloran said the young player had “one of the most rounded skill-sets I’ve seen”. Will Huw give Scotland the depth and Talent they need for a Top 3 place? We’ll find out when Scotland host Ireland this weekend.
Sam Warburton (Wales)
Why you should watch him: We all know who Sam Warburton is. The tireless and relentless Wales leader has been leading the team for over six years. Not so for this 6 Nations. Warburton has been relieved of his duties as Captain and told to concentrate on his game as competition for the number 7 jersey heats up. We’ve yet to see if this will have a profound effect on the already legendary Welsh player but it could well be just what he needed.
We saw with Robshaw that being relieved of duty can do wonders for your game. Will time to focus even more on his own game unleash a whole new level of Warburton on the opposition?
Jack Nowell (England)
Why you should watch him: One of the most talented backs on the England team sheet, Nowell has been a delight to watch during the last few years. Now firmly established as part of the new generation of incredible talent that has been floating up into the England team recently, Nowell consistently leaves everything on the pitch.
He’s been in scintillating form for the Chiefs recently. His recent Michael Jordan-esque try has to be one of the highlights of the season so far.
We can’t wait to see Nowell cut loose for England again and to see how Eddie Jones puts his talents to good use when it comes to getting those bonus try points. Hopefully losing his rat-tail talisman won’t affect his game…
What fixture are you most excited for in the 6 Nations this year? Let us know in the comments or over on Twitter.