Xi’s delay of Siberia pipeline signals limits to his embrace
Europe’s six rising stars set to light up World Cup
Europe’s Six Nations, which kicks off on Sunday (AEDT), is a big deal in its own right but there’s an added dimension to it in a Rugby World Cup year.
It’s inevitable that the team crowned the best in the northern hemisphere will be burdened with extra expectation in the build-up to the global showpiece, which will start six months later in France.
Here’s a look at some of the best young players expected to play in the Six Nations and who might go on to light up the World Cup.
Watch the 2023 Six Nations on the home of rugby, Stan Sport. All matches streaming ad-free, live and on demand
Cadan Murley, England
The 22-year-old Murley is in line for his England debut as part of an overhaul of the team’s wingers by coach Steve Borthwick.
Out have gone established stars Jonny May and Jack Nowell and in have come Murley and 23-year-old Ollie Hassell-Collins.
Murley has eight tries in the English Premiership for Harlequins — putting him third in the list — and is second for metres gained.
Borthwick is impressed by the youngster’s ability to “beat defenders in the smallest space possible and has the power to step off both feet and then accelerate.”
READ MORE: Rugby fans banned from singing Tom Jones classic
READ MORE: Gisele leads tributes for retiring ex-husband
READ MORE: Khawaja visa sorted after star batsman ‘stranded’
Ethan Dumortier, France
Another junior world champion poised to make his debut is left winger Ethan Dumortier, showing the deep talent pool at France’s disposal.
With Gabin Villiere still recovering from a shin fracture, Matthis Lebel was hoping to take Villiere’s place for the opening game against Scotland.
Instead, Lebel was among the players released back to their clubs.
So the slot could go instead to the 22-year-old Dumortier, who won the under-20 world championship in 2019.
He is the Top 14’s top try-scorer this season with eight in 11 games for Lyon and has added three more in two Champions Cup games.
“My objective is to shake things up,” Dumortier said.
“It’s good to see that I’m in competition with the best players in my position.”
Jack Crowley, Ireland
Made a memorable first Test start in the last match of 2022 against Australia after Jonathan Sexton was injured in the warmup.
Crowley kept Ireland in the game and replacement Ross Byrne won it with a last-minute kick.
Both have been picked as Sexton’s backups at the expense of Joey Carbery, Crowley’s fellow Munster 10 and Sexton’s heir apparent for six years.
Carbery hasn’t been playing poorly; most observers just believe he’s been outshone by the young gun Crowley and the matured Byrne.
How highly the Irish coaches rate Crowley is evident by him playing 10 only once since the autumn tests, and more often in midfield.
Munster has given the No.10 jersey mostly to Carbery.
Luca Rizzoli, Italy
One of four uncapped front-rowers in the squad, Luca Rizzoli is a loosehead prop converted from hooker by Italy under-20s coach Massimo Brunello in 2021.
The transformation was inspiring. Rizzoli was the starting loosehead for two years and featured in the historic under-20 win against England a year ago.
He started ahead of Mirco Spagnolo, another squad newcomer, in the 2021 under20s.
Spagnolo is going to Benetton. Rizzoli is at Zebre.
They will be competing against each other for years to come to the benefit of Italy.
Ben Healy, Scotland
High hopes are pinned on the development of uncapped Ben Healy.
The injury-prone Adam Hastings has laid bare Scotland’s lack of depth at flyhalf.
While Finn Russell was in purgatory last year, a valid attempt was made to convert fullback-wing Blair Kinghorn into a 10.
Lately, he’s been on the wing for Edinburgh. The 192cm Healy is at Ireland’s Munster, having come through the Ireland age groups.
He came onto Scotland coach Gregor Townsend’s radar two years ago when he looked at joining Glasgow, as he qualifies for Scotland through his mother.
Healy came back late last year looking at Edinburgh and signed on for next season. Townsend says he will definitely add to Scotland’s squad.
Jac Morgan, Wales
Wales just keeps on producing great back-row forwards.
The latest is the 23-year-old Jac Morgan, a standout flanker for the Ospreys with his destructive runs with ball in hand and disruptive work at the breakdown.
Last summer, he was omitted from the Wales squad for the tour of South Africa because then-coach Wayne Pivac suggested Morgan wasn’t physical enough, having only broken into the team during the 2022 Six Nations.
Now Morgan appears to be a shoo-in alongside Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau in a stellar-looking back row.
For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here