The six nations championship is fast approaching, and with squads named and players getting themselves ready for the off, it’s time to start thinking about your bets. But instead of focusing on the teams, we thought we’d take a closer look at the individuals that look set to set the tournament alight.
This year’s six nations odds see England as the clear favourites, but when it comes to individual performances, that doesn’t necessarily mean much. Just ask Stuart Hogg. Last year Scotland finished in fourth place, but Hogg was the player of the tournament. And after shedding the pounds and giving up Guinness, Hogg looks in good shape to stake a claim for the title of best player. Despite having said that, we have a sneaking suspicion that in-form player Huw Jones (no he’s not Welsh) could be Scotland’s breakout player of the tournament.
Although the Italian side has plenty of solid players, it’s unlikely that any of their key men will do enough to be considered the out-and-out best player. Italian rugby has come on in leaps and bounds, but no individual player stands out as one who would get into either the Irish or English setups.
And speaking of Ireland, we were hoping to see Gary Ringrose, but an ankle injury has put him out of the squad. In his absence, the attention now turns to the pretty sensational Jordan Lamour. The 20-year-old has scored six tries in 13 games for Leinster this season and looks like a good bet as the Irish breakout player. However, we suspect that either Bundee Aki or Robbie Henshaw will shine for the Irish. However, if we only had to choose one, it would be Henshaw—for the simple fact that the Leinster centre is likely to see more game time than Aki.
In the Welsh camp, Steffan Evans is the one to watch. The 23-year-old Scarlets winger is enjoying his rugby of late, and as the top try scorer in the Pro12 last season, he’s a surefire starter. It’s incredible to think that a 5-cap player would be the first name on the team sheet, but with three tries in those five tests, it’s easy to see why.
Choosing a player to watch out for in the French squad is rather difficult. With six uncapped players in the squad, there’s a lot of potential there; but can they translate their club form into international match-winning performances? Nineteen-year-old Bordeaux Bègles fly-half Matthieu Jalibert is the name on everyone’s lips, though; and you’d get great odds on him to score a try against Ireland in the first round. Can he be the player of the tournament? It’s possible, but with so many uncapped players and a new coach, we reckon it will take time for the team to gel.
And last, but by no means least, we come to the favourites. The England team have some great players in their midst, but we reckon that this year’s six nations will be all about speed in attack for Eddie Jones and his team. For this reason, we expect Anthony Watson to add to his already impressive tally of 14 tries in 28 tests. Having said that, though, it’s Jonny May who is the standout player for us. In November, he clocked an unbelievable 10.49 metres per second in a rehabilitation speed test. Over 100m that would make him faster than Usain Bolt! Speed like that doesn’t come along very often, and Jones will no doubt try his best to make the most of May’s talents.
So, who will be the player of this year’s six nations? It’s a tough one to call. The talents and strengths of Robbie Henshaw could see him take the plaudits, while Steffan Evans will no doubt cause havoc for Wales’ opponents. However, May’s speed, as well as the likelihood that England will run rampant, makes him our shout for the player of the tournament. Get your bets on now.