The RBS Six Nations 2017 Championship is upon us and with so much anticipation leading up to the tournament, let’s take a look at players we need to watch out for from all the home nations and their chances of being included in Warren Gatland’s Lions team.
Perhaps the obvious choice but Maro Itoje has set the rugby world on fire since his debut in 2014 for Saracens. His adaptability to be able to play in the back row or second row has helped to make him invaluable to England.
He has lost just nine out of 41 games for Saracens in the Aviva Premiership and he holds the record of zero losses for England in seven tests. This will be just his second tournament, having made his debut in 2016 against Italy, but expect the 6ft 6in current European Player of the Year to bring a masterclass all over the pitch.
Lions Chances: Very Good
Despite a below par third place finish for Ireland in last year’s tournament, they are a squad full of exciting young talent. Garry Ringrose has stepped into the Brian O’Driscoll shaped void in Leinster’s midfield with confidence and passion. Ever since his debut in 2015 against Cardiff Blues for Leinster, the comparisons between Ringrose and O’Driscoll have flooded in. Their respective journeys to international rugby are almost identical. Both attended Blackrock College in Dublin, then University College Dublin and onto the blue of Leinster then the green of Ireland. The 6ft 1in, 22 year old has even got the backing of BOD,
Twitter: Brian O’Driscoll: ‘I remember vividly thinking that this guy has got something special’ (via @the42_ie) https://t.co/9jrZpbBGZ9 (@pheylin)
It is arguable that no-one expects Ringrose to perform to level O’Driscoll did during his Six Nations career, but no-one expected O’Driscoll to score 3 tries on his debut in Paris.
Lions Chances: Outside Chance
The squad, picked by interim coach Rob Howley, is one full of experience with the likes of Jamie Roberts and new captain Alun Wyn-Jones. However, it is not short in fresh young talent waiting to stake their claim for a place in the starting XV.
One of those young players is back rower Ross Moriarty. The former England Under-20s player has one Six Nations appearance to his name in the 2016 Championship in a 67-14 rout against the Italians. He looks in line to start against Italy in Wales’ opening fixture due to the injury to regular number eight Toby Faletau, Qt 6ft 2in he should have no problem doing a similar job to the hard hitting, bruising Faletau.
Lions Chances: Good
Arguably the most unpredictable team in the entire tournament, Scotland are full of untapped potential. Last year, they narrowly lost out to eventual winners England and pulled off one of the shocks of the tournament defeating France by 29 points to 18.
The player I’m most excited to watch from Scotland and perhaps in the whole tournament is Huw Jones. At just 23 years old, he has a long international career ahead of him and he has quickly made an impression in a Scotland jersey. On his first start for the nation, he scored two tries against World Cup runners-up Australia in a 22-23 losing effort.
However, his quick feet and impressive hands mean he will be dangerous for any team facing Scotland. The only player on this list to play club rugby outside of the UK and Ireland, he currently plays for Super Rugby side the Stormers, which makes him unpredictable for viewers who are unfamiliar with the hard hitting yet silky style of southern hemisphere rugby.
Lions Chances: Outside Chance