The Six Nations kicks off on Saturday with Wales bidding for their second consecutive title.
From England captain Owen Farrell to France’s influential scrum-half Antoine Dupont, the competition will again showcase the full spectrum of Northern Hemisphere talent.
Here we examine six players set to shine ahead of the tournament’s big kick-off.
OWEN FARRELL (England)
The Saracens man has been in impeccable form since the 2019 Six Nations and his on-field presence is a threat to opposition. Apart from his solid kicking and accurate distribution, he sets the tone for England’s defensive defiance and, if not selected at 10, you can bet he’ll produce a stellar effort at 12. A classy player.
JAMES RYAN (Ireland)
The 23-year-old may only be entering his fourth year in professional rugby but has developed into a leader on both sides of the ball. At 6’7, the line-out is his obvious chief strength, but away from that he puts in a serious shift to get on the ball and put teammates in favourable attacking positions. The Leinster man can get around the field like a six-litre Maserati and always steps up against elite opposition.
ALUN-WYN JONES (Wales)
The inspirational captain keeps the pack well organised and is the tipping point between winning and losing the forward battle, such is his imposing presence. Shows up all over the pitch and is an outstanding line-out option. The 34-year-old has the experience and class to inspire Wayne Pivac’s side to a second straight Six Nations title.
ANTOINE DUPONT (France)
The Toulouse scrum-half has been one of the shining lights for Les Bleus over the past 12 months. His running, passing and kicking can help Fabien Galthie build a solid and reliable game plan around. With 20 caps at just 23, expect the Lannemezan man to get the best out of his backs with his varied bag of tracks with the ball. Destined to be a star this Six Nations.
STUART HOGG (Scotland)
One of the stand-out players in the Northern Hemisphere, Hogg could step into any team with little fuss. It’s hard to believe the Exeter full-back is still only 27 – and his ability to produce magic with every touch has seen him evolve into one of the game’s most-dominant figures. Will be central to Gregor Townsend’s side.
TOMMASO ALLAN (Italy)
With the Benetton star pulling the strings from number ten, Italy will have a player of ultimate experience and confidence to bring the best out of their attack. Although the Azzurri may get overpowered at the breakdown, the 25-year-old, with 54 caps, is no stranger to pressure. Scored 34 points at the 2019 tournament, the third most by any player.
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