Ones to watch: Our six contenders for 2023 top try-scorer

There is one thing that never fails to entertain – tries, and this year’s Guinness Six Nations is filled with some of the best try-scorers in the game.

There is one thing that never fails to entertain – tries, and this year’s Guinness Six Nations is filled with some of the best try-scorers in the game.

Last year we saw 73 tries scored at an incredible 4.87 per match as France, led by joint-top try scorer Damian Penaud, won their first Grand Slam title since 2010 in a compelling Championship.

This year is set to be just as fascinating, with new coaches, the world’s top two sides competing and the added motivation of it being a World Cup year, but above all, because of the sheer number of top try-scorers on show.

Here, we look at six contenders for top try-scorer in the 2023 Guinness Six Nations.

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Damian Penaud (France)

It is very difficult to look past Penaud from being among the very top scorers again after his dazzling displays for France over the past two years.

The soon-to-be Bordeaux-Begles winger dotted down on three occasions last year to be crowned joint-top try scorer alongside fellow France winger Gabin Villiere and Ireland wing James Lowe.

Penaud has been a crucial member of the France backline in their revolution under Fabien Galthié, highlighted by his entry into the top ten of France’s all-time top try-scorers – crossing the line 21 times in 37 appearances to date.

To put it simply, Penaud can do it all, from the outrageous to the fundamentals, he is a world-class finisher with an eye for a gap and an excellent reader of the game making him a contender for the top try scorer gong yet again.

Ange Capuozzo (Italy)

Very few players have made as much of an immediate impact as Ange Capuozzo, World Rugby’s Breakthrough Player of the Year for 2022.

Capuozzo made an instant impact in Italy colours when scoring a brace of tries against Scotland in a 33-22 defeat on debut.

His agility, pace and ability to break the line were clear for all to see when racing away to set up Edoardo Padovani for the match winner in Italy’s famous 22-21 win over Wales in Cardiff.

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He did not stop there though, scoring three tries in the Autumn Nations Series including a double in their historic 28-27 win over Australia.

Capuozzo finished just one try short of the top spot last year, and assuming he is involved in all five matches this time around, he could be right up there again, possibly this time as the top scorer.

Josh Adams (Wales)

A regular performer for Wales since making his debut during Warren Gatland’s previous reign, Josh Adams is always one to consider when talking about scoring tries.

Deployed at centre at times under Wayne Pivac, Gatland will almost certainly put the Cardiff star back on the wing and if he can get him firing at the same level as 2019, he will be difficult to stop.

Adams starred that year as Wales won their third Grand Slam under Gatland scoring three tries including the match winner against England – before going on to be top scorer at the 2019 Rugby World Cup with seven tries.

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Adams only made his debut in 2018, but already finds himself sixth on Wales’ all-time top try-scorers list.

Last year Adams scored two tries in a misfiring Wales backline, now with Gatland back at the helm it would be a surprise if he is not right among the top scorers again.

Cadan Murley (England)

Steve Borthwick has selected a squad containing five debutants with Harlequins’ explosive winger Cadan Murley perhaps the most exciting of the prospective debutants.

Murley levelled the record set by Christian Wade for the most tries in a calendar year in the Gallagher Premiership with 19 in 2022 and that form has been noticed by Borthwick and his coaching team.

Murley’s power is outrageous, as shown during Harlequins’ 39-29 win over the Sharks at the weekend, in which Murley powered through three tackles before going on a barnstorming run from 22 to 22.

There is an element of the unknown in terms of what Borthwick may elect to do with England selection, but there can be no doubt at all about what Murley brings, a natural finisher who is very difficult to stop combined with serious pace makes him the perfect winger – if selected he will be one to watch.

Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland)

Scotland’s giant winger Duhan van der Merwe was the top try-scorer in the 2021 Championship with five tries and was on track to be among the leading try-scorers again last year before missing the final two matches with suspension.

He has been troubled with an ankle injury since re-joining Edinburgh from Worcester Warriors and has not featured since the derby with Glasgow Warriors in December.

But coach Mike Blair has confirmed he is ready to return, having missed the 20-14 win over Saracens to get married in South Africa.

That alone makes him one of the top contenders to finish at the top of the pecking order for the second time in three years.

At 6ft4 and 106kg he is always a presence down the wing and after scoring two further tries in the Autumn Nations Series to take his tally to 14 in 23 matches he will score tries, and as proven the last time he played all five games, he may not be stopped.

Mack Hansen (Ireland)

Ireland winger Mack Hansen burst onto the scene a year ago when scoring a sensational try on just his second cap straight from a restart in Paris.

That was his only try during the 2022 Championship as Ireland went on to lift the Triple Crown but having cemented his place in the team, he went on to score two more in the Autumn Nations series in the victories against South Africa and Fiji.

He earnt the Guinness Player of the Match award having made serious metres in Ireland’s 29-7 win over Wales on debut, and he seems to be set for a long spell in the Ireland backline for the Championship and beyond.

Hansen, with his now unrecognisable haircut having ditched the long locks, has showed in both Ireland and Connacht colours that he has all the attributes needed to be a top winger, with pace, strength and excellent aerial ability all aspects he excels in.