European Review: Five players who shone before the Guinness Six Nations

Round 3 of European club rugby saw incredible action from start to finish as the knockout picture becomes clear.

Round 3 of European club rugby saw incredible action from start to finish as the knockout picture becomes clear.

As many as 15 teams qualified for the last 16 in both the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup leaving the final week to decide the remaining 17 places next weekend.

The Guinness Six Nations is just around the corner, and with squads already being selected, the weekend just gone may have been a last chance for players to put their hands up and earn their spot.

With that in mind, we look at five players who shone ahead of the Guinness Six Nations and will be looking to take that form into their national jersey.

Elliot Daly (Saracens and England)

Daly scored a sensational hat-trick that will go down in history, with all three tries coming in just seven minutes and 20 seconds in the first half, the third fastest hat-trick in Champions Cup history.

It was a first half to remember for Daly, as Saracens defeated Lyon 48-28 to seal their place in the last 16 with a game to spare.

His three tries showed just what he is capable of across the backline, with searing pace and vision for his first try, before being in the right place at the right time for his second and scoring his third with an outrageous dive into the left-hand corner.

Aside from a first-half hat-trick though, Daly was immense, kicking brilliantly from full-back including a fantastic 50:22.

He was called up to Steve Borthwick’s first England squad and as a player who can play across the backfield, he is very much one to keep an eye on.

Alex Cuthbert (Ospreys and Wales)

Alex Cuthbert’s double fired the Ospreys past Montpellier in a 35-29 win to give them every hope of Champions Cup qualification for the first time since 2010.

Cuthbert is an experienced head and one that Gatland knows how to use, having got the best out of the winger on the way to the 2012 Grand Slam and in the 2013 British & Irish Lions tour.

An underrated defender, and someone who is genuinely very good under the high ball make him an easy pick, but when you throw in his speed and eye for the try line he can quickly become a vital part of any team when on form.

Warren Gatland is due to announce his first Wales squad since returning as Wales head coach tomorrow, and assuming Cuthbert is included, he is one that could shine during the upcoming Championship.

Dave Cherry (Edinburgh and Scotland)

Dave Cherry opened the scoring for Edinburgh in their hugely impressive 34-21 win over Castres at the Stade Pierre Fabre and in a position that is up for grabs could find himself involved in Gregor Townsend’s squad.

The 32-year-old started in Scotland’s clash with Australia in the Autumn Nations Series, and although there is plenty of competition for the jersey, has found form at the perfect time to be included in the Scotland squad for the upcoming Championship.

Cherry may be slightly less dynamic than the likes of George Turner and Ewan Ashman, but his set-piece work is what sets him apart, as shown by his brilliantly taken try from the driving maul against Castres.

Townsend too names his squad tomorrow, which will give us an idea of how he is planning to line-up, but based on this weekend’s showing, Cherry has a real chance of adding to his eight caps.

Niccolò Cannone (Benetton and Italy)

Cannone proved in the Autumn Nations Series that he was an important member of the Italy squad when defeating Australia and in Benetton’s 26-7 victory over Bayonne, he was instrumental, scoring twice as the Italians qualified for the knockout stages.

Cannone is just 24 and has a long future in the jersey of both Benetton and Italy, with his powerful ball-carrying and work in the loose just an addition to his outstanding fundamentals at the set piece.

Italy’s pack has significantly improved in recent years thanks to the work of their young stars, with Cannone and his brother Lorenzo making a stark impact, and he will be expected to be hugely important for Italy this spring.

Melvyn Jaminet (Toulouse and France)

Having missed the Autumn Nations Series through injury, Melvyn Jaminet’s return to form for Toulouse will have greatly please Fabien Galthié as he looks to select a side to defend France’s title.

Jaminet was on fire from the kicking tee for Toulouse as they defeated Sale Sharks 27-5 at the AJ Bell Stadium to ensure they too qualified for the next stage.

In just his fifth game back in Toulouse colours, Jaminet scored 17 points from the tee and is looking back to his best as one of the most solid full-backs in Europe.

Thomas Ramos has been in fine form for club and country but with his ban lasting until January 23, Jaminet had a chance to wrestle back his No.15 jersey, which he has taken – now it is up to Galthié to see who will start at full-back.