Breakout Players: Forwards

Ollie Chessum celebrates scoring their second try with Jack van Poortvliet 12/2/2023
As we approach the first rest weekend of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations, it is time to reflect on some of the standout performers so far.

As we approach the first rest weekend of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations, it is time to reflect on some of the standout performers so far.

It has been a Championship filled with thrilling moments, from Caelan Doris bundling over for Ireland in Cardiff to Henry Arundell’s latest excellent finish at Twickenham last Sunday.

Doris’ quality has been apparent for several years but many of his fellow forwards have also been in impressive form over the opening two rounds – let’s take a look at some of the breakout stars from the pack…

Jac Morgan (Wales)

Wales have endured a tricky start to the Championship, going down to consecutive defeats and losing both opening fixtures of a Championship for the first time since 2007.

But one bright spot who has been constantly impressive for Warren Gatland’s men is Jac Morgan, a constant presence in the back row on both sides of the ball.

READ MORE: The Comeback Kids: 6 players who are back in the Guinness Six Nations after a long absence

Fresh from dominant displays for the Ospreys as they sealed Champions Cup qualification, Morgan has averaged 4.75 metres per carry, offloading twice (only Taulupe Faletau has more among forwards).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it has been in defence where Morgan has been particularly busy and he has excelled, making 28 tackles, three of which have been dominant, and three turnovers – the joint-most overall.

Results have yet to come but Morgan’s displays will have provided Gatland with some solace, and the 23-year-old will be hoping he can continue his form into Round 3 and beyond.

Ollie Chessum (England)

Ollie Chessum made his debut for England in last year’s Championship, but it has been this year that he has really made the shirt his own.

He scored his maiden try against Italy at Twickenham in Round 2, the icing on the cake following two excellent and underrated performances, with Chessum leading the way for metres made among second row forwards with 111 from 18 carries.

He was a key player for Steve Borthwick’s Premiership-winning Leicester Tigers’ side and he looks set to be equally crucial in England’s new era.

Chessum has become his country’s go-to man at the lineout, successfully targeted 13 times at the lineout.

Giacomo Nicotera (Italy)

Italy’s two opening displays have seen them build on their historic win in Cardiff on Super Saturday last year, with two performances that show just how much they have closed the gap with the other five nations.

One of the biggest reasons for them maintaining their form has been hooker Giacomo Nicotera, who has been a revelation since making the step up to the national team.

Only Julien Marchand has made more tackles than Nicotera’s 26 among hookers, while his 66 metres made with ball in hand show his dynamism.

He only has nine caps to his name but that number is set to rise significantly, with Nicotera looking increasingly at home on the international stage.

Thibaud Flament (France)

In place of the injured Cameron Woki, Thibaud Flament has been nothing short of outstanding in France colours so far this campaign.

His try in Rome showed good awareness but it has been his work around the park and at lineout time that have put Flament among the top performers this Championship.

READ MORE: Stats review: The main takeaways from the first two rounds

He has made 96 metres (only Chessum has more in the second row) from only 15 carries, while his place as Les Bleus’ number one lineout target is shown by his six lineout takes, stealing one too.

There is one stat that really stands out with Flament, though. He has made a whopping 43 tackles in the opening two matches, beaten by only Matt Fagerson’s 45.

Flament has really seized his opportunity and looks set to be a key part of the forward pack for some time.

Finlay Bealham (Ireland)

Bealham is the most experienced player on this list, with 31 caps, but he has started just six of those matches – including the first two of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations.

Tadhg Furlong’s injury had the potential to disrupt Ireland’s momentum in the build-up to their Championship campaign but Bealham has excelled, helping Andy Farrell’s men put an end to their Cardiff hoodoo and see off France in a titanic Dublin tussle.

His most eye-catching moment came when assisting for Hugo Keenan’s wonder try against France, taking his tally to two assists, second in the Championship behind only Finn Russell.

Bealham has also been excellent at scrum time and notched up 26 tackles across two superb displays.

Luke Crosbie (Scotland)

Another player to fill the void following a potentially damaging injury, Luke Crosbie has taken his opportunity with both hands in the absence of Hamish Watson.

In just 97 minutes of rugby, Crosbie ranks fifth for tackles made, with 32 at a bonkers average of three minutes per tackle, and crucially, missing zero.

To provide further evidence as to his impact, four of those tackles have been dominant (12.5%).

Scotland have been at their very best this year, winning their first two matches for the first time since 1996, and Crosbie has been key to their flying start.