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Six Nations Players to Watch: Jack Crowley to fill Jonny Sexton's boots

There has been plenty of squad shuffling in the build-up to the 2024 Six Nations, not least because many players called time on their international careers after the Rugby World Cup in the autumn.

The end of one international career signals the start of another, so here are five players who could be in with a shout of making some headlines in the coming weeks.

Rugby Union

England - Tom Roebuck

There are places up for grabs in England’s backline and Sale winger Tom Roebuck, one of six uncapped backs in Steve Borthwick’s squad, looks ready to stake a big claim.

Borthwick’s predecessor Eddie Jones often lamented a lack of physicality in his ranks - “bigger backs” was his usual response when asked what was on his wish list - and 6ft 2in 15-stone Roebuck fits that bill.

He has established himself as a regular in the Sale side in the last two seasons and, although he finished the last campaign on a losing note, he scored a memorable try in the Premiership final against Saracens.

With six tries to his name for the Sharks this season, Roebuck will be looking to get on the scoresheet in an England shirt this spring.

France - Nolann Le Garrec

France scrum-half Antoine Dupont misses out on this year’s tournament as he joins up with the Sevens squad to prepare for the Paris Olympics, and it’s only logical that the man already dubbed “the next Antoine Dupont” could be the player to replace him.

Racing 92’s Le Garrec is uncapped, but is one of only two number nines in the squad and head coach Fabien Galthie may well turn to the talented 21-year-old.

Racing coach Stuart Lancaster has hailed Le Garrec as a future star and he is already joint top scorer in the European Champions Cup this season with four tries.

Ireland - Jack Crowley

It’s the dawn of a new era for Ireland after the retirement of fly-half Johnny Sexton, whose 118-cap career included four Six Nations titles and two Grand Slams.

Sexton started all five of Ireland’s matches at last year’s Rugby World Cup and Crowley was on the bench in all but one and looks like the man in the frame to fill those enormous boots.

Munster man Crowley has only nine caps, but fellow fly-halves Harry Byrne and Ciaran Frawley have only three between them, while Leinster’s Ross Byrne is injured.

Despite his lack of international experience, Crowley has shown plenty of big-game confidence, notably in last season’s United Rugby Championship play-offs, when he landed the winning drop goal in the semi-final against Leinster as Munster went on to beat the Stormers in Cape Town in the final.

Scotland - Kyle Rowe

Scotland have one of the more settled squads in this year’s Six Nations and have plenty of top-class back-three players, but if someone gets a chance to grab some limelight, no one will have deserved it more than Glasgow winger Kyle Rowe.

Rowe was forging a path on the Sevens circuit for Scotland, but found himself out of a job when the Sevens Series was halted in 2020.

He resurfaced at London Irish and made the Scotland squad in 2022, but was injured after coming off the bench on his debut in Argentina.

Fit again and firing, Rowe scored three tries in his last two matches for Glasgow in the European Champions Cup to give Scotland coach Gregor Townsend a very timely reminder of the talent he has waiting in the wings.

Wales - Sam Costelow

The retirement of Dan Biggar after the Rugby World Cup has left a vacancy in the number ten shirt for Wales and a nation renowned for producing some of the finest playmakers in history has three fairly inexperienced candidates for the role.

Leading the way is Scarlets’ Sam Costelow, who has nine caps to his name and who has already shown encouraging signs on the big stage.

The 23-year-old joined Leicester as a schoolboy and won back-to-back Premiership academy titles with the Tigers before heading to Scarlets.

He started Wales’ final Rugby World Cup pool match against Georgia last September, then came off the bench for Biggar against Argentina in the quarter-final.

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