Six newcomers to watch during the 2019 Six Nations | Gerard Meagher | Sport

Tom Curry, England

Curry has five caps but has never before appeared in the Six Nations after missing out last year with a long-term wrist injury. He began the autumn in the No 7 jersey but was injured again in England’s opening match and such was Sam Underhill’s form thereafter that it is hard to imagine Curry would have come straight back in to the side but for the Bath flanker’s similarly awful luck with injuries. Curry then is set for another chance to answer the ongoing question as to who is Eddie Jones’s first-choice openside. The 20-year-old was one of the few shining lights of England’s tour of South Africa last summer and has more in his attacking armoury than Underhill. He is an effective operator at the breakdown but if there is one concern about Curry it is that he struggles to adapt if on the wrong side of the officials.

Romain Ntamack, France

At 19, he is the youngest player in the championship but deemed ready to make his transition to the senior setup, having steering France to the Junior World Cup title last summer. The son of the former France wing Emile, Ntamack has made 18 appearances for Toulouse this season, playing an instrumental role in their resurgence on the European stage. A fly-half by trade, Ntamack has made inside-centre his home for Toulouse this season but Jacques Brunel is keeping an open mind as to where he plays for France. “In matches Romain Ntamack starts as a centre but in open play he changes between positions. So we’ll say he’s a fly-half-centre,” the head coach said. It may come later in the tournament but the first of what is likely to be many caps beckons.

Romain Ntamack – the youngest player in the tournament – in action for Toulouse.

Romain Ntamack – the youngest player in the tournament – in action for Toulouse. Photograph: Pascal Pavani/AFP/Getty Images

Demba Bamba, France

Another promoted from France’s Under-20s side, Bamba made his senior international debut against Fiji in the autumn. Currently on loan at Brive from Lyon in France’s second tier, Bamba is a ferocious scrummager, bulldozing carrier and fond of the odd offload as well. Like Ntamack, he was part of the French side that won the Under-20s Six Nations title but it was the Junior World Cup where he really caught the eye as part of a pack that scrummaged both New Zealand and England off the park in the semis and final respectively. Aged 14 Bamba was a national judo champion before making the transition to rugby where he began life as a No 8 before moving to tighthead prop, which explains his thunderous runs, for which is beginning to make a name for himself.

Darcy Graham, Scotland

A pocket rocket who earned a surprise call-up to the Scotland squad in the autumn on the back of some eye-catching displays for Edinburgh in the Champions Cup against Montpellier and Toulouse. Gregor Townsend clearly likes what he sees and has no concerns over Graham’s size, stating last week: “I believe the game has never been more suited to smaller players. You look at Darcy Graham who has made more tackle breaks than the super-size wingers out there.” Graham has drawn comparisons with the former Wales wing Shane Williams, is similarly quick and has the ability to get crowds on their feet. He managed only one league start in his first season at Edinburgh but the former Scotland sevens player has five tries in his six Pro14 appearances this term.

Tomos Williams carries the ball for Cardiff Blues against Glasgow Warriors.

Tomos Williams carries the ball for Cardiff Blues against Glasgow Warriors. Photograph: David Davies/PA

Tomos Williams, Wales

Williams started his first two Tests last year, the second against Tonga in the autumn, but looks poised for a first Six Nations appearance against France on Friday. Gareth Davies may well have recovered from a thigh injury but Williams – the lightest player in the championship at 78kg – is primed for a place among the replacements with Warren Gatland recently describing the scrum-half as “a young player who is pretty talented. He could be something pretty special”. Williams has been knocking on the door for a few years now, having previously been part of Wales’s sevens setup, and with Gatland looking for more depth at scrum-half, Williams now has the platform to push for a World Cup spot.

Thomas Young, Wales

Young’s cause is not helped by the limited amount of time he has been able to train with Wales as someone based in a different country but anyone who has seen him perform consistently well for Wasps this season will know he warrants a Six Nations debut at some stage of the tournament. The riches of openside flankers available also explain why this is the first time Warren Gatland has ever selected him (his previous involvements have come when the head coach was on British & Irish Lions duty) but with Ellis Jenkins a long-term injury absentee Young has been called up. Justin Tipuric and Josh Navidi are ahead of him in the pecking order, while there is Aaron Wainwright for competition too, but Young’s all-round excellence means he merits his chance.


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Publish date : 2019-01-28 18:00:00

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