We’re just a few weeks away from some of rugby’s oldest and most bitter national rivalries resuming as the sport’s oldest tournament, the Six Nations Championship, kicks off once again.
Every year, certain players burst onto the scene and establish themselves as new national heroes over the course of the Championship, and this year is going to be no different. With that in mind, we’ve picked 5 players that we think could make an impact in this year’s Six Nations – some of them you’ve probably heard of, some of them you may not have, but all of them have the talent to be huge stars…
Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
A Lions tourist back in 2013, the Glasgow Warriors full-back might not have made a test start in Australia, but it would be a shock if he didn’t occupy one of the back three slots in New Zealand this summer. Quite simply, the man from Melrose is one of the most exciting, devastating attacking players in world rugby – he has the sort of pace that makes him a threat to score from anywhere on the pitch, as evidenced by his 13 international tries in 48 appearances, including a brace against Georgia back in November. Hogg is also a weapon from the tee, with an absolutely booming right boot that can easily knock over penalties from within his own half.
Boots worn: Nike Magista Opus – Nike’s latest cleat silo, released in 2014, is designed for creative players that provides comfort and traction and with a grip design on the top of the boot for enhanced kicking control. Hogg wore the Magista’s in eye-catching Hyper Grape colorway for most of 2016 but has been recently spotted in the Magista Red/Yellow colorway (above) that was released last summer. No telling what distinctive look he will pull on for Six Nations’ action.
Sam Davies (Wales)
After making his debut for Wales in the Autumn internationals, don’t be surprised if Sam Davies continues his rise to the top of the game by taking the coveted number 10 jersey before the end of the Championship. Dan Biggar might be the man in possession, but he’s struggled to keep his place in the Ospreys team thanks to the 2013 IRB Junior World Player Of The Year’s superb form, and with the latter a more natural runner and distributor (not to mention one of the most effortless line-kickers you’ll ever see), it’s not hard to imagine Wales coach Rob Howley thinking Sam is the man for the new, more expansive game plan the men in red are attempting to develop.
Boots worn: ASICS Lethal Speed – ASICS athlete Davies has been lighting up the Guinness Pro12 with his Lethal Speed cleats. The Lethal Speed’s improved outsole tooling certainly came in handy when Davies stroked over a perfect last-minute drop-goal to spare Wales’ blushes against Japan when he came of the bench for his debut in November.
Huw Jones (Scotland)
Huw Jones has taken a unique path to international rugby. Educated at the famous Millfield School in Somerset, the 23-year-old centre moved to South Africa and attended the University of Cape Town. Remarkably, playing for UCT in the 2014 Varsity Cup drew the notice of Western Province and by 2015 he was making his Super Rugby debut for the Stormers. There aren’t many Scotsmen scoring tries in Super Rugby, and he was duly called up and started Scotland’s game against Australia in November – the 6’1″ flyer scored a brace of tries on his international debut, marking him out as a serious talent to watch in the Six Nations.
Boots worn: adidas Predator Malice – while the Predator is a boot generally associated with fly-halves and other kickers, outside centre Jones prefers the control offered by the Predator, and sported the stunning Night Navy/Silver Metallic/Solar Blue colorway from the Elements pack during the Autumn internationals.
Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)
Robbie Henshaw has gone from strength to strength since he made his big move from Connacht to two-time European champions Leinster. The 6’2″ 23-year-old has also established himself as a key cog in Ireland’s team, starring for the men in green when they earned their famous win over the All Blacks in Chicago, and if they are to challenge England and win their second Six Nations title in three years, they’ll need the hard-running centre to be at his destructive, physical best. If he is, expect Warren Gatland to come calling for the Lions tour this summer…
Boots worn: Nike Mercurial Vapor – Henshaw’s move east to Dublin also saw him switch boot suppliers to Nike from adidas. The Mercurial Vapor is designed for increased traction and acceleration thanks to a mix of chevron-shaped molded and metal screw-in studs.
Alex Lozowski (England)
England coach Eddie Jones is clearly a huge fan of Alex Lozowski having picked him for his Autumn international squad after some eye-catching displays in the Premiership covering for England star Owen Farrell’s absence. The young Saracens fly-half didn’t make a matchday squad in November, but look for that to change in the Six Nations – Jones has described the versatile 22-year-old as the Premiership find of the season, and sees him having an international future filling in at 10, 12 and 15. With an excellent kicking game, fluid running and impressive distribution for a rookie, look for him to make an impact somewhere during this year’s championship.
Boots worn: adidas Predator Malice – adidas’ latest evolution of the classic Predator concept is designed for backs with a Sprintframe construction and Speedtraxion stud alignment for improved stability and acceleration, while the Predator element in the forefoot is designed to better enable precision kicking.
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