Elliot Daly (age: 24, height: 6ft, weight: 15st 10lbs)
With eight caps to his name, Daly is certainly not an unknown, but he has yet to show his full talents at international level. A clear yet unfortunate red card against Argentina saw his Autumn Internationals cut short, but he is likely to feature strongly in the 6 Nations.
Blessed with searing pace, solid defence, great hands and the ability to step off both feet, Daly can play centre, wing or fullback. He can also bang over penalties from approaching 10m inside his own half, which can seriously demoralise the opposition. 2017 could be the year he becomes a star.
Garry Ringrose (age: 21, height: 6ft 1in, weight, 14st 7lbs)
If there’s one cross in world rugby that you wouldn’t want a 21-year old to bear, it would to be touted as the heir apparent to the incomparable Brian O’Driscoll. As if finding your feet as an international centre isn’t hard enough, it is exactly what Garry Ringrose is having to cope with.
The good news, however, is that he may well live up to expectations. In addition to a running style remarkable reminiscent of the great BOD, Ringrose has pace, all the required skills and a real nose for the try line.
Jonny Gray (age: 22, height 6ft 6ins, weight 18st 10lbs)
It’s hard to believe, given his size, that Jonny is comfortably the smaller of Scotland’s Gray brothers, with the older, 60-capped Richie hitting 6ft 10ins in his socks and almost 20 stone. Not that it’s held Jonny back, as he’s widely being tipped to make this year’s Lions tour to New Zealand.
Gray is the complete modern lock, with decent hands and good mobility complementing the basics of providing grunt at scrum time and reliable line-out ball. His work rate, however, is his strongest suit. His stats for hitting breakdowns and completing tackles are up there with the very best back-row forwards. Expect to see some world-class performances from him in the upcoming tournament.
Justin Tipuric (age: 27, height: 6ft 2in, weight: 16st 1lb)
Tipuric has won 46 caps since his 2011 international debut, but he has never managed to cement himself as first choice. That may change for the coming 6 Nations, with Tipuric’s skills as a link man being cited by many rugby sages west of the border as exactly what the national side needs to revive an increasingly predictable attacking game.
Baptiste Serin (age: 20, height: 5ft 11ins, weight 12st)
With the skill-set to occasionally play fullback for his club, Bordeaux Bègles, the young scrum-half might just be the spark to ignite France’s backline. Blessed with incredible sleight of hand and an enormous boot, Serin already has a highlights reel full of magical moments. If he gets the nod for France in this year’s 6 Nations tournament, make sure you watch him very, very closely.
Michele Campagnaro (age: 23, height: 6ft, weight: 15st 8lbs)
Ignoring the obvious choice of Italy’s talismanic Sergio Parisse, we’ve gone for Exeter’s bullocking young centre, Michele Campagnaro. He has won man-of-the-match awards for Italy, but never a 6 Nations match. If 2017 is to be the year Campagnaro breaks his 6 Nations duck, Italy will need him to be at his powerful best in attack and defence.
Opening round fixtures
Scotland vs Ireland, Sat 4th Feb, 2.25pm
Ireland won this fixture by 10 points in Dublin last year, a difference that home advantage could easily reverse in Scotland’s favour. Both teams having progressed since then, making it a difficult match to call.
Irelands inspiring displays against New Zealand, allied to a squad with arguably more strength in depth, make them favourites, but they’ll doubtless have to weather a Scottish storm if they’re to win at Murrayfield.
England vs France, Sat 4th Feb, 4.50pm
England have become a relentless force under Eddie Jones, demanding all teams who face them to push their physical limits until the final whistle, and they’ll be highly fancied to win handsomely at home against a France team long in transition.
France, however, utterly destroyed the Wallaby scrum last autumn, with New Zealand’s pack fairing only slightly better in a game where France rediscovered their attacking verve in a close loss. Maybe chickens should not be counted just yet..?
Italy vs Wales, Sun 5th Feb, 2pm
Wales’ attack has not fired for some months and they were roundly slated by home supporters for some lacklustre displays during the autumn. Boasting a squad dripping with top quality players, they will hope there is some truth behind the old adage, ‘Form is temporary, class is permanent’.
Italy have also been struggling for form, with a first, historic win over the weakest team to ever leave South Africa offering them a rare moment in the sun. New coach Conor O’Shea has expressed his ambitions to make them fitter and more competitive, but it would still be a huge upset if they manage to beat the visiting Welsh team.
Location: London, England
First Rugby International hosted: England v Wales, January 1910
Interesting fact: Twickenham is the world’s biggest dedicated rugby stadium and the fourth largest stadium in Europe.
Location: Cardiff, Wales
First Rugby International hosted: Wales v South Africa, June 1999
Interesting fact: The Principality Stadium is the second-largest stadium in the world with a fully retractable roof, hosting 770,000 paying visitors each year.
Stade de France
Location: Paris, France
First Rugby International hosted: France v England, February 1998
Interesting fact: The multi-sport stadium was initially built specifically to host the 1998 FIFA World Cup and features a stand that can be retracted to uncover a section of the athletics track.
Location: Rome, Italy
First Rugby International hosted: Italy v England, February 2012
Interesting fact: Owned by the Italian National Olympic Committee, Stadio Olimpico’s construction was initiated by the regime of Mussolini, with building taking place between 1928 and 1950. Early football crowds approached 100,000.
Location: Dublin, Ireland
First Rugby International hosted: Ireland v South Africa, November 2010
Interesting fact: The Aviva Stadium was built on the site of the old Lansdowne Road Stadium, which had been hosting rugby matches since 1876.
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
First Rugby International hosted: Scotland v England, March 1925
Interesting fact: Murrayfield was redeveloped to an all-seater stadium in 1994, but, years before, Murrayfield could host 104,000 rugby fans, as it did for their game against England in 1975 (setting a world record that stood for 24 years).