With the Six Nations kicking off on February 4, we look at six players set to shine.
Do you agree with our choices?
AGE:25 A fearless option at full-back for Wales and another name earmarked as a potential Lion this summer. Solid under the high ball and a real threat on the counter attack, Williams will be a vital cog for Rob Howley’s men when they face England on February 11. Has the attributes and potential to be one of the success stories of the tournament. FINN RUSSELL (SCOTLAND)
AGE:24 He’s transformed into a world class performer over the last 12 months, producing a series of outstanding displays for his club and country. Much reliance will fall on the 24-year-olds shoulders against Ireland next week, as his vision, kicking and physicality will be crucial to unlocking the significant qualities of Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour out wide. If November can be a reference point of Scotland’s progression then this is set up to be one of their most exciting campaigns to date. If they are to produce something special then Russell will be their orchestrator. OWEN FARRELL (ENGLAND)
AGE: 25 He may be in his fifth season as an international player, but this will to be a seminal year for the 25-year-old if the Red Rose are to win back-to-back Six Nations titles. Ably assisted by the talismanic Jonathan Joseph in the centre, Farrell’s accurate passing and intelligence in attack and defence will to be critical to England’s dominance in the wider channels. SERGIO PARISSE (ITALY)
AGE:33 Who else but Parisse? In what is an experienced team named by Conor O’Shea, all eyes will be on the colossal No8. With 121 caps, the Stade Francais man is Italy’s ultimate source of inspiration upfront with devastating ball carrying skills and thunderous tackling qualities. Their lack of class may result in another wooden spoon, but in Parisse, they have a totemic figure who is the best in his position in Europe alongside Jamie Heaslip and Billy Vunipola. UINI ATONIO (FRANCE)
AGE:26 At 6’6 and 24 stone, the French prop is the second biggest man to play international rugby history – after Fijian Bill Cavubati. It’s a mystery as to what team Guy Noves will select for the competition, but with Atonio at the fore, the French pack will be looking to bully opposition eight at any opportunity. The La Rochelle monster is a bulldozing presence and will pose a major threat at scrum time.