By Alex Shaw
As for England and Ireland – the two tournament favourites – Eddie Jones has largely stuck with the squad that won him 13 consecutive games last year and Joe Schmidt named his squad early on Monday, and as expected, it has not moved to far away from the core of players who recorded historic victories over New Zealand and South Africa last year.
We take a look at some of the new additions to these squads that have the capability to have profound effects on their respective nation’s prospects over the next two months.
Thomas Young, Wales
Thomas Young is a player whose name has never been far from Welsh lips over the last few months.
With James Haskell and Sam Jones injured at Six Nation Rugby Live Stream Wasps, Young has made the most of the playing time that has come his way and has helped deliver the club’s effective, high-tempo playing style in both the Aviva Premiership and European Rugby Champions Cup. He has performed equally as a contact area specialist and a link-man with ball in hand and though prospering in these traditional areas of an openside flanker, he has also displayed all of the physical skills and robustness required to operate in the Test match arena.
The captaincy switch to Alun Wyn Jones could open up a starting spot at seven for Young or he could be tasked with making an impact from the bench, but either way he needs to see action for Wales over the next two months. He would play a key role in injecting much-needed tempo into the side, a need that will only be made more urgent if the introduction of bonus points this year does indeed bring about a more attacking mindset among the teams.
Cornell du Preez, Scotland
After qualifying on residency, du Preez was called-up by Scotland during the autumn internationals but just missed out on winning his first cap. That looks likely to change during the Six Nations.
The versatile South African can pack down anywhere in the back row and should be in the competition for at least the six and eight jerseys, if not also at Six Nation Rugby Live Stream seven. He is a consistent performer in an inconsistent Edinburgh side and if he takes to Test match rugby and delivers just as much for Scotland as he does at club level, then he will be another player that the Springboks will come to rue losing.
With the Six Nations adopting the aforementioned bonus points, du Preez’s proclivity to cross the whitewash and create opportunities for the players around him make him a valuable asset going into the championship. The Port Elizabeth-born forward is a menace as a ball-carrier, not only for the power and intelligence of his running lines, but also the fact he keeps the ball high and in two hands, making him a nightmare to defend.
Mohamed Boughanmi, France
Can this tighthead break the stranglehold Rabah Slimani and Uini Atonio currently have on the French three jersey?
His departure from Toulon in the summer has seen him move from a bit-part player on the Côte d’Azur to a spearhead in the Bay of Biscay, as he has helped Six Nation Rugby 2017 Live Stream lead Stade Rochelais’ rise up the Top 14 table. With the unfancied club from the west going head-to-head with Clermont at the top of the table, Boughanmi is enjoying some well-earned time in the spotlight.
There is no doubt that he has significant competition in the forms of Atonio and Slimani but with the French scrum far from the dominant, all-conquering proposition it once was, fresh blood up front could be just what Novès needs to ignite the new-look Les Bleus.
Ellis Genge, England
Genge has already made his England bow – he was a replacement in England’s pre-summer tour meeting with Wales at Twickenham – but no longer is he just a young player included to gain experience and learn about the Test match environment, he is now a bona fide contender to be England’s starting loosehead.
Leicester’s form has been erratic to say the least this season but even at the club’s lowest ebb – a 38-0 humbling to Munster at Thomond Park – Genge has proven able to more than hold his own against his opposite number. The 21-year-old’s set-piece skills far bely his tender age, whilst his ability with ball in hand, both as a carrier and distributor on the gain line, makes him the perfect front row forward to help inject tempo into a game.
Jones will be hoping that experienced loosehead Joe Marler is available when the tournament kicks off in two weeks’ time but if not, Genge is more than ready to step in and fill the void. If Marler is ready, Genge can provide valuable impact off the bench.
Niall Scannell, Ireland
As Ireland have yet to name their Six Nations squad, this is a speculative suggestion.
With Sean Cronin injured, the hierarchy behind Six Nation Rugby Live Stream Rory Best at hooker is blurred and this uncapped front-rower has been in sparkling form for Munster in both the Guinness PRO12 and Champions Cup. A consistent thrower, strong scrummager and athletic enough to be a significant influence in loose play, Scannell would seem to be next man up for Ireland at hooker.
Between Jack McGrath and Tadgh Furlong, not to mention a resurgent Best, Ireland’s front row has been setting new standards in the northern hemisphere this season and Scannell is a player who will only add impetus to that if selected when Schmidt announces his squad on Sunday.
Second behind Brian O’Driscoll in the list of most starts; second – also behind O’Driscoll – in the list of most minutes played.
By the end of this championship no man will have led his country in more matches than the Italian, who has carried more ball and made more metres than anyone in the tournament’s history.
But the numbers don’t tell the whole story; since his Six Nations 2017 Dates debut in 2004, the number eight has regularly been the shining light in a losing team, arguably the sole ‘world-class’ player in the Azzurri ranks.
Another, less flattering, statistic: in his 55 championship matches, Parisse has won just nine times, a winning ratio of 17%.
The defeats would have taken their toll. Following the end of former coach Jacques Brunel’s unspectacular period in charge, Parisse was ready to call time on his international career.
But on the eve of his 14th Six Nations championship, the 33-year-old finds himself more invigorated than ever.
“The last two years with Brunel were really difficult – especially from the motivational point of view,” he admitted to BBC 5 live.
“I thought of finishing my international career. But I met Conor O’Shea and he gave me another vision of the future.”
Not only was new Italy boss O’Shea able to talk Parisse out of retirement, but he also shared his ambitions for Italian rugby.
“We talk a lot and share ideas,” Parisse explained. “Conor arrived with a lot of energy, with the idea not just to be the coach of the Italian team but to be a director of rugby in Italy.
“I want to leave a legacy and give to Italian rugby a lot of things on the field, but work with Conor in the background [as well], trying to help players in Italy improve.
“It is not an easy job, but as soon as you have people who are motivated, with energy, and clever enough to understand the things we have to change, [then] hopefully in 15 years we can meet in Rome for a beer and talk about the things we have done for Italian rugby.”
Parisse reveals he could have taken up a lucrative contract in Japan last summer, in the process retiring from Azzurri duty.
Few would have blamed him for going down this route at this stage of his career, but the player says the pride of playing for his country trumped any financial motivation.
“I could have left the Italian team and played in Japan Six Nations Reserve on a good contract, but I am a bit old school.
“For me what’s important is putting on your jersey and representing something and putting on the Italian jersey for me is a huge honour. I have played 120 caps, but every time I go out in the Italian shirt I feel the same emotion as when I was 18.”
O’Shea’s first few months as Italy coach provided huge signs of encouragement – a historic victory over South Africa in November the highlight – along with the traditional inconsistency, exemplified by the defeat by Tonga.
Meanwhile, the two professional clubs – Treviso and Zebre – are struggling on and off the field.
However Parisse feels the same players can flourish in the national set-up, as shown in the victory over the Springboks.
“When we beat South Africa there were 12 players on the pitch who played for Zebre, the same players who conceded 70 points to Leinster two weeks ago,” he added.
“How can you explain that those players performed against South Africa? Because there were put in a good environment.
“The objective for us is to put the guys from Zebre and Treviso in a good environment to be competitive every single week.”
And Parisse says he wants to give back to the game in Italy when he finishes his playing career.
“I would like to maybe in the future help as a coach or as a manager. Italian rugby is my responsibility today as captain, so maybe it could be my responsibility after my career.”