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The Six Nations Championship kicks off on Saturday with Grand Slam champions Ireland hosting Italy.
There is no doubting that the likes of experienced campaigners Brian O'Driscoll, Shane Williams, Jonny Wilkinson and Euan Murray will again play key roles during the tournament, however there will also be the next generation coming through.
Skysports.com has a look at 10 of the lesser lights who could rise through the ranks and shine at this year's tournament...
Remember to have your say on our top-10 via the feedback form below...
The uncapped lock has been in superb form this season for Ulster and deservedly earns his place in the squad for the tournament. The 24-year-old was immense in the Heineken Cup clashes with Stade Francais and will pressurise veterans Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan for a place in the starting XV.
A controversial selection by Martin Johnson, the 28-year-old New Zealander will have a lot to prove when he makes his debut. The Bath centre follows in a long line of cross code converts hoping to impress for England - with the Twickenham faithful hoping he is more Jason Robinson than Barrie-Jon Mather.
Big things are expected from the 17-year-old lightning-fast winger - with Prydie having been fast-tracked through the age grade systems at the Ospreys. He is already the youngest player in Magners League and Heineken Cup history, and he could well add the Welsh record to his collection before the end of the tournament.
The Leinster star has emerged as a serious contender for Ronan O'Gara's No.10 jersey. A nerveless kicker, Sexton has continued to impress for club and country - with his two appearances for Ireland seeing him named man-of-the-match against Fiji, and land all 15 points in the victory over world champions South Africa.
The 21-year-old Glasgow lock has been rewarded with a place in the Scotland squad after a series of first-class displays for the Warriors. At 6ft 10in, the former Under-20s captain will not be hard to pick out on the pitch - and he makes his presence felt with a tremendous work ethic.
Warburton has already been earmarked as a future long-term replacement for Martyn Williams for both club and country. In the meantime, he has proved himself versatile enough to impress anywhere across the back-row and has been pushing for inclusion with some quality performances for the Blues.
The second of the cross-code converts included in England's squad, Ashton has proved himself to be a class act in the Guinness Premiership. The 22-year-old has taken his time to learn union since his switch and has been rewarded with nine tries this season to rightly earn his chance on the international stage.
The Glasgow fly-half can count himself unlucky not to have already been capped by Scotland after injury ruled him out the autumn internationals. The 21-year-old, who plays very much on the gain line, will push Dan Parks and Phil Godman hard for the No.10 jersey in the Six Nations.
He may have a very British name, but the 23-year-old is very much Italian - with the Petrarca Padova back-rower having impressed in the junior ranks. The former Azzurri Under-21s skipper will now look to add to the solitary cap he won against Australia in Canberra in the summer.
The controversial Stade Francais centre will be looking to put his summer shame behind him when he returns for Les Blues in the Six Nations. There is no doubting the talent of the powerful 21-year-old - and he will be focused on doing his talking on the pitch.
Alex, you have taken my argument out of context. In the narrow context of the "Top Ten Rising Stars" it was only Shontayne Hape that fitted into the category of qualifying through residency. This was not an attack on England but an observation of a trend I have seen emerging among some of the top test nations, as you so rightly pointed out. I possibly made the mistake of discussing Hapes residency qualification ahead of his skills as a Rugby player which was the issue in this debate. However that does not change my opinion on this issue. The All Blacks are the worst offenders in this regard. Muliaina, Toeava and So'oialo are Samoan, Sivivatu and Rokocoko are Fijian, not to mention some young Tongan prospects who earn about two caps then are tied to the all blacks. Many of these players would make the Pacific Islands teams much more competitive but instead its New Zealand's gain. If this trend continues there will be serious consequences for the International game. Hape is a class player Alex, as is Flutey but surely they are keeping a young English prospect from getting a chance. What if France doesn't bring its wage cap lower, will they keep poaching English players for their club game. It's not long before they start poaching rugby academy graduates who may not have played for England yet. What then!? Dare I say it, will we see young Englishmen lining out under the tricolor? Or Irish? Or Scottish? Or Welsh? It may sound crazy but these sort of things happen.
Posted 19:12 4th February 2010
Michael, England are not the only guilty party with the residency issue, look at The Beast for South Africa, the likes of Tana Umaga (in the past) and Sivivatu for New Zealand, France have nicked a fair few flankers from the Ivory Coast, USA have Ngwenya, Australis had Tuquiri, Wales just tried to get Tito from the Cardiff Blues who is a New Zealander. Please give me a break about England, they only have 2 foreign players with no English relation, now compare that to the All Blacks Samoan contigent.
Posted 01:14 4th February 2010
I agree with you Michael...it's baffling to think that England cannot muster up a XV without resorting to a Global trawl. It must work wonders for national pride in the squad and dressing room!
Posted 18:43 2nd February 2010
While many of the above selections excite me this may be a six nations too early for many of them. Touhy is one for the future with both O'Connel and O'Callaghan in the Autumn of their careers but he is unlikely to make any of the benchs for this six nations with Kidney likely to prefer Cullen and Mick O'Driscoll. It would be a mistake to push Prydie into the 6 nations test arena too early. One can only remember England's mistake with Tait some years ago which in my opinion left his career stalled for some years after. Hopefully Tait gets a real chance at 13 this year. Many coaches in the test arena can be too conservative. This was a major flaw in Eddie O'Sullivan's stewardship over Ireland. But I am confident Kidney will allow Sexton to become Ireland's future in the engine room that is stand off this 6 nations. I hope Scotland's head coach Robinson doesn't make Eddies mistake of conservative selection. Ruaridh Jackson like Sexton is important for Scotland's future and I see today he hasn't even made the bench, instead Robinson has put the mediocrity of Parks and Godman ahead of the young dynamo. As for Shontayne Hape there is no denying his quality but I am very much against the parachuting of players through residency. Unless a player is born in a country or at least has a link through a family member I don't see why they can pick and choose who they play for. This undermines the international game. Nations will just become trumped up clubs where anyone can join. Ricki Flutey soon escaped to France as soon as he got his England and lions place sorted. It really brings into question the state of the English game when they can't field 15 players either born or of English descent. More players are playing rugby in England than any of the other 5 nations combined... Anyway if any of the above players get a chance I think it bodes well for the future of their respective countries.
Posted 14:42 2nd February 2010
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