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Six Nations: Players To Watch

The 2024 Six Nations will kick off this coming weekend with a number of regular faces not around due to a number of reasons ranging from retirements, mental breaks, etc.

Six Nations

The 2024 Six Nations will kick off this coming weekend with a number of regular faces not around due to a number of reasons ranging from retirements, mental breaks, etc. It’s a new start for some coming from a World Cup year. Bet Central profiles 6 players who could have a huge impact in the upcoming Six Nations.

Tom O’Toole (Ireland)

Tom O’Toole was arguably the surprise package of the 2023 6 Nations when he emerged as an impact player who put his stamp on the game early in the tournament with Tadgh Furlong struggling with injuries at that time.

One can expect him to have a similar impact in 2024 once again. He’s been playing well with Ulster and with the older tighthead props, Furlong and Finlay Bealham, on the wrong side of 30, the time seems ripe to give O’Toole more responsibility as they build toward the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

Joe McCarthy, the young Leinster lock, is another player the Irish faithful should be excited about. The giant lock will look to force his way into the starting XV with his considerable bulk and physicality.

Nicolas Depoortere (France)

It was in July 2023 that the world got a glimpse of the incredible talent that Nicolas Depoortere possesses. During that period, he was with the France u20 side at the World Rugby u20 Championship in South Africa. Even then it was clear for all to see that it would only be a matter of time before he earns senior national colours.

His inclusion in this year’s squad comes as no surprise considering his form with his club side Bordeaux Begles. The 20-year-old centre is so proficient on both sides of the ball, he’s got good hands and body movement on the attack, but he also reads opposition attacks so well and stifles them more often than not. His playing minutes will likely be limited with star centre Gael Fickou fit, but even then, he could show his prowess in a French jersey.

Racing 92 standout scrumhalf Nolann le Garrec is poised to have a breakthrough campaign as well. With regular scrumhalf Antoine Dupont committing to the French 7s until the Olympics he will have ample playing time.

Finn Russell (Scotland)

Hardly a role player or youngster like the aforementioned players, but this 4-year cycle presents a new slate for the man who is now a Scotland co-captain. He’s had his fair share of run-ins in the previous cycle with his current coach Gregor Townsend and it seems that both have learned to put that aside for the sake of the team.

One can almost tell that Townsend is fully confident in the Bath magician having handed him a leadership role as one of his co-captains for the upcoming 6 Nations. At 31, Russell is going towards the end of his Test career, the added leadership presents a different challenge for the maverick. If he can add some steel as a leader, he becomes that much more important for Scotland.

Blair Kinghorn has been in fine form for Toulouse in the Top 14 and Scotland fans will be hoping their 2 key playmakers can translate their domestic form onto the Test stage.

Beno Obano (England)

A teammate of Russell’s in a resurgent Bath side, Beno Obano makes a return to the England side. He last played for England in the 2021 6 Nations. This time around it could be longer than the 3 caps he earned in that tournament.

His phenomenal early-season form has earned him a recall into the England squad. Obano’s maturity into the player he’s promised to be for years comes in the nick of time as England look to rebuild their loosehead stocks with both Joe Marler and Mako Vunipola officially retired in the Test arena. At the age of 29 Obano is primed to assume an important role for England and the 2024 6 Nations will give him an opportunity to prove that.

Alex Dombrandt was given a few opportunities to stake a claim last year and failed to impress. There is no doubt how talented he is, but he may be on his last chance, so expect him to fire on all cylinders.

Mackenzie Martin (Wales)

The Welsh squad is hardly recognizable without Taulupe Faletau, but the veteran 8thman’s injury may be a blessing in disguise for not only his country but his club as well. In his absence, Cardiff have perhaps unearthed a player who is the 2nd coming of the Faletau. Mackenzie Martin has the same vigour as a ball carrier, he brings the same energy on defence.

He will become more nuanced at the breakdown as he gets older and he will learn how to operate as a lineout jumper at the back, but right now there is so much about the 20-year-old that reminds one of a young Faletau. He has been called into the Welsh squad by Warren Gatland and will look to make an impact should he get some opportunities.

Another player who will be looking to cement his place as a starter is Mason Grady at centre. He has all the dimensions to succeed, he just needs to play in a team with a bit more consistency.

Tommaso Menoncello (Italy)

Italy or Italians in this case rarely hold the records that are on the positive side in the 6 Nations, but Tommaso Menoncello is the exception to the rule. In 2022 on his debut at the age of 19 years and 170 days, he became the youngest try scorer in 6 Nations history. He began his 6 Nations story on a positive note and it continued last year as he played exceptionally well.

Having missed the Rugby World Cup last year due to injury, Menoncello will not be short of motivation when it comes to donning the Italian jersey. He could become a key figure for new coach Gonzalo Quesada going into the next couple of seasons. For now, the 21-year-old’s focus will be on trying to help Italy improve their 6 Nations record and it could be fireworks in that Italian midfield.

For the likes of Menoncello to fire at the back, Danilo Fischetti will need to prove that the great performances in last year’s competition weren’t just a flash in the pan.

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