A total of 21 uncapped players were selected across the six teams ahead of this year’s Six Nations. Here are ten pushing for that first cap.
Alex Lozowski (England)
The Saracens playmaker has had an incredible season for the London club, and though his inclusion might have raised a few eyebrows, his vision and keen distribution should lay those concerns to rest. The number 10 was even dubbed “the find of the season” by England coach Eddie Jones, which adds adequate gravity to the player’s inclusion. Should the likes of Ford or Farrell be injured, Lozowski would be an astute replacement. Can also cover full-back, and is expected to ComeOn for England.
Mike Williams (England)
Zimbabwe-born Williams has been a consistent performer for Leicester Tigers and will be champing at the bit to make an impression on England head coach Eddie Jones. The 25-year-old has bounced back from three broken arms and with James Haskell and Jack Clifford withdrawing from England’s training camp in Portugal earlier this week, his chances of making his Test bow have improved.
Arthur Iturria (France)
Last season a young lock for Clermont was the talk of France as he made his Test debut in the win over Italy. But that was Paul Jedrasiak, and one season on Iturria has been getting supporters in France excited with his performances for les Jaunards. The athletic 22-year-old could form a new French partnership with his team-mate Sébastian Vahaamahina.
Geoffrey Palis (France)
Eyebrows were slightly raised when Palis was selected ahead of the in-form Maxime Médard of Toulouse but the Castres full-back has been in good form. The long-time Castres full-back is one of only two specialist 15s in the French squad along with Scott Spedding, although Yoann Huget can provide cover, but that gives Palis a window. Dangerous with ball in hand.
Niall Scannell (Ireland)
With the injury to Sean Cronin and the fact Richardt Strauss has dropped behind James Tracy in the pecking order at Leinster, Scannell’s consistent performances at Munster have seen him rewarded with a call-up. Munster’s scrum has been impressive this campaign and their front row deserve a lot of credit for that, with Scannell’s lineout throwing and work in the tight helping in his rise.
Rory Scannell (Ireland)
A solid option for Joe Schmidt at both inside centre and fly-half after an excellent campaign thus far in Munster colours. With Jonathan Sexton not 100 percent and Joey Carbery working his way back to fitness, Scannell could find himself in the 23 for their opener. Being left footed is also a strength he has, should Ireland need to change their game-plan or relieve pressure off their 10.
Federico Ruzza (Italy)
The young second-row has entered the Italian fray at the right time after the retirement of Azzurri stalwart Quintin Geldenhuys. He could prove to be a strong replacement for Geldenhuys considering his impact in just the European Cup alone after scoring four tries this season. The 23-year-old tall and mobile unit might be exactly what Italy need in the tight five to get the ball moving around the park.
Cornell du Preez (Scotland)
The selection of the Edinburgh stalwart in Scotland’s squad is just reward after some fine performances for his club in the PRO12 and Challenge Cup competitions. The South African-born back-row enjoys the physical nature of the game, is a strong ball-carrier and solid in defence. Du Preez is also no stranger to the Scotland setup as he was part of their squad for last year’s end-of-year Tests.
Rory Thornton (Wales)
Called up last November but unused by Wales in their Test matches that month, maybe now Thornton will get his chance. Outstanding in the lineout when starting for the Ospreys this season, Wales don’t lack for quality in the second row but Thornton has more than earned a cap with his set-piece work. A physical presence at 201cm and 125kg.
Thomas Young (Wales)
It has been a stellar season so far for Young at Wasps and it would’ve been a major surprise to see him left out of Rob Howley’s squad. What will help Young’s cause in February and March is the decision to appoint Alun-Wyn Jones as skipper, ahead of Sam Warburton, which shows no one’s place in the back row is guaranteed. Young, 24, has real pace and the potential to be a big star for Wales.