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The players who can make the step up to the Guinness Six Nations in years to come

The players who can make the step up to the Guinness Six Nations in years to come

The players who can make the step up to the Guinness Six Nations in years to come

It could be an historic weekend for Irish rugby as the senior team look to record the fourth Grand Slam in their history, while the Under-20s will hope to match them on Sunday. 

If Richie Murphy’s side can make it a clean sweep of victories, they will become the first team in Championship history to win back-to-back Slams but they play host to an England team who could yet win the title.

As it stands, any one of Ireland, France or England could be crowned champions on Sunday, while every team has enjoyed some good moments along the way.

Super Saturday will see a number of players who lit up last year’s Under-20s getting their opportunities with the senior side – not least a first Test start for England winger Henry Arundell.

For Italy, Alessandro Garbisi will make his Championship bow off the bench, while Wales have already tested out Christ Tshiunza, Dafydd Jenkins, Joe Hawkins and Mason Grady, all of whom were part of the Under-20s set-up in 2022.

Mason Grady makes a break on his way to scoring a try 12/7/2022

Add in France, for whom current age-group stars Emilien Gailleton and Louis Bielle-Biarrey have been part of the senior squad during this campaign, and it is clear that the jump is not necessarily as big as in previous years.

So which players could we see making that leap sooner rather than later?

Sam Prendergast (Ireland) 

Ireland are on course for a third Grand Slam in five years, and it is in large part to the sensational play of fly-half Sam Prendergast. In some ways, this feels an obvious choice, such is the interest already surrounding the young Leinster player.

He will still be eligible for this competition next year, and can count Sonny Bill Williams among his admirers after a delightful offload in the opening victory over Wales.

While Ireland often take a little longer to bring players from the age-group sides to the senior set-up, Prendergast has the talent to be the exception to the rule, particularly with a certain legend of the game set to wear the Ireland No.10 jersey for the final time in the Guinness Six Nations on Saturday.

Aside from Prendergast, flanker Ruadan Quinn looks like the latest great back-rower off the conveyor belt, while No.8 Brian Gleeson could follow in the footsteps of Caelan Doris and Alex Kendellen in terms of Irish age-group greats in that position.

Lenni Nouchi (France)

It would be too easy to pick Emilien Gailleton, the Top 14’s current top try-scorer, or Baptiste Jauneau, already being likened to Antoine Dupont for his ability to shake tackles of much bigger men and starting for Clermont week in, week out.

Gailleton may even crack France’s squad for the World Cup, but we will focus on a player who might wait a little longer for a first cap, but has all the ingredients to be a future star.

Lenni Nouchi has already racked up five appearances for Montpellier in the back row this season, while he has shown his versatility for the Under-20s by playing both flanker and at lock.

Built in the mould of Charles Ollivon, he has a similar taste for the try-line to the current France flanker, with three tries in four games so far. Long term, his future may lie in the back row, but he certainly has the skills to crack the highest level, even if it will take something special to top this magical moment in the big win over England.


Hands 💙🥹 #Under20s #U6N20 #SixNationsUnder20s #SixNationsRugby #SixNations2023 #20s #Foryoupage #TryTime #france #francerugby

♬ original sound – Daniel Barrington

Lewis Chessum (England)

The man left grasping at thin air on that Nouchi clip was England lock Lewis Chessum, but do not let that fool you, he has been immense so far this campaign.

Prior to the heavy defeat to France, England had taken 15 points from a possible 15, and in Chessum have a giant second row to serve as an enforcer.

With his brother Ollie ruled out of the final game of the Championship with a dislocated ankle, after a brilliant campaign, England could have just turned to the younger version.

Somehow even bigger than Ollie, Lewis has all the physical gifts required to make it, and should get some chances with Leicester Tigers in the not too distant future. If his trajectory is anything to go by, there is every chance that we might see two Chessums on the same England team sheet before long.

Aside from Chessum, No.8 Chandler Cunningham-South is already impressing regularly for London Irish in the Premiership, while Charlie Bracken looks like a chip off the old block, playing scrum-half to a high level like his dad Kyran.

Marcos Gallorini (Italy)

Maybe the safest bet of any player on this list, at 18, Marcos Gallorini is already destroying every scrum he faces and looks like one of the biggest prospects in recent Italian history.

The tighthead served notice with a dominant display against France in week one, grabbing a try and wreaking havoc at scrum-time, and he got over again away to England. Add in another try against Wales, plus a penalty try that was all his work, and he has been arguably Italy’s greatest attacking weapon.

Italy already have a very young team, and with Gallorini coming through, it might just get a bit younger, such is the skill he has demonstrated.

In the back row, David Odiase and Carlos Berlese have both impressed as well, while François Carlo Mey has lived up to his billing as a returning star, having made his debut for Clermont earlier this season.

Rudi Brown (Scotland)

Scotland had not won a game in the Championship for three years, but they ended that barren run with a thrilling 18-17 win over Wales.

At the forefront of everything they have done well has been back-rower Rudi Brown, a try-scorer in each of their first three matches, including a crucial score in that Wales win.

Scotland are hardly lack for options in the back row, but the Melrose product looks a prime candidate to follow in the footsteps of Rory Darge in making the jump.

Add in back-row colleagues Jonny Morris and skipper Liam McConnell, and it is clear that Scotland will have a wealth of talent in that position for the foreseeable future.

Morgan Morse (Wales)

The excitement around No.8 Morgan Morse was palpable last year, when he lined up against France at the age of just 17.

He is still two years underage this campaign, but Morse does not look out of place against players much older.

This weekend, the current Wales No.8, Taulupe Faletau, will win his 100th cap for his country, and at 32, still has plenty left in the tank.

But Morse, 14 years his junior, looks a prime candidate to be the long-term successor.

Elsewhere winger Oli Andrew has seized his opportunity with three tries in two matches, while fly-half Dan Edwards has caught the eye as well.