Six players set to breakthrough at the Rugby World Cup

The world stage is the perfect place to make your name.

The world stage is the perfect place to make your name.

While players will have been performing week in week out throughout the season to earn their spot in their country’s final 33-man squads, a few stellar performances over the next two months could catapult careers to even greater heights.

Each of the squads for sides from the Guinness Six Nations has plenty of players ready to announce themselves on the biggest stage of all – here are six players set to make their mark in France.

France – Louis Bielle-Biarrey

The hosts boast a squad brimming with international experience, with captain Antoine Dupont set to lead a group that contains the vast majority of those who powered to Grand Slam glory during the 2022 Guinness Six Nations.

However, one new face in Fabien Galthié’s side is winger Louis Bielle-Biarrey who has enjoyed a meteoric rise in 2023.

The 20-year-old only made his senior debut against Scotland last month, and has since earned a further two caps during an impressive Summer Nations Series.

His performances were enough to convince Galthié to include him in his final squad at the expense of Ethan Dumortier, despite the latter’s impressive showings in the 2023 Guinness Six Nations.

Now the task for Bielle-Biarrey is to continue his superb early showings for Les Bleus during the World Cup should he be afforded the opportunity.

Damian Penaud and Gabin Villière are currently in possession of the starting jerseys on the wing, but Bielle-Biarrey will hope to make an impression off the bench with his ability to cover full-back an added string to his bow.

Scotland – Rory Darge

Back row Rory Darge has endured a stuttering start to his international career but is now ready to cement his place at the top table in France.

Darge shone on his first international start against France in the 2022 Guinness Six Nations, as he scored a try and impressed at the breakdown despite a 36-17 defeat.

Scotland boss Gregor Townsend described his performances in the 2022 Championship as “world class” but the 23-year-old missed out on the 2023 edition due to an ankle injury.

It meant Darge had just seven caps to his name when Townsend handed him the captaincy for Scotland’s opening Summer Nations Series match against Italy.

It was as sure a sign as any of the esteem in which Townsend holds his young flanker, with Darge going on to appear in all four of Scotland’s warm-up matches.

Should Darge keep hold of a place in the starting XV, the stage is set for him to be a star performer in France.

Italy – Lorenzo Cannone

Italy’s No.8 shirt has long been synonymous with one name, but 22-year-old Lorenzo Cannone will hope to make it his own in France.

The post-Sergio Parisse era has seen a number of contenders for the starting berth at the base of the scrum, but a stellar showing during the 2023 Guinness Six Nations has put Cannone in the box seat heading into the World Cup.

The Florence native won plenty of admirers for his all-action performances on both sides of the ball since his international debut less than a year ago, including a particularly strong showing against eventual Grand Slam champions Ireland that saw him set up Stephen Varney’s try with a line-breaking run.

Cannone looks to have sewn up a starting spot in France after starting three of Italy’s four warm-up matches and will hope to secure his status as one of the world’s most exciting young No.8s this autumn.

He will line up in the back row alongside captain Michele Lamaro and Sebastian Negri in what should prove a vitally important trio for the Azzurri.

Wales – Dafydd Jenkins

At just 20, Dafydd Jenkins is the youngest member of the Wales squad heading to France but the Exeter Chiefs lock could be set for a starring role across the Channel.

Warren Gatland has opted for just three specialist second rows, with the more experienced Adam Beard and Will Rowlands likely to start and the versatile Christ Tshiunza the fourth option, though he will also likely be used in the back row.

It means Jenkins has a real opportunity to not just add to his seven international caps so far, but make a real impact for Wales this autumn, be that off the bench or in a starting jersey.

A starting berth at a World Cup would mark the latest peak of a whirlwind journey for the Bridgend-born star, whose international debut came less than 12 months ago.

A first Guinness Six Nations appearance came as a replacement in February before a first start followed a week later against Scotland at the expense of the great Alun Wyn Jones.

The retirement of Jones earlier this year leaves a 158-cap hole in Gatland’s squad, but Jenkins will hope his youth will go at least some way to replacing that experience.

England – Henry Arundell

There are plenty of potential candidates for a breakthrough star from England’s squad, with Steve Borthwick taking a host of fresh faces to France.

Hooker Theo Dan has enjoyed a rapid ascent to the top at hooker, only earning his first cap this summer while 22-year-olds George Martin and Ollie Chessum will battle for a place in the second row.

But it is impossible to look past 20-year-old Henry Arundell as the spark that may reignite an England side currently short of confidence and performances.

Arundell made a dream start in England colours, scoring with his first touch against Australia but since then is yet to truly nail down a starting spot in Borthwick’s side.

A second international try came off the bench against Italy in the 2023 Guinness Six Nations, but Arundell was limited to just a single start in England’s final game against Ireland.

Injury to Anthony Watson, however, may open the door for Arundell to claim a starting shirt and stamp his authority on the World Cup; there is no doubt he has the ability to do so.

Ireland – Jeremy Loughman

Heartbreak for one player creates opportunity for someone else, and Cian Healy’s calf injury has paved the way for Jeremy Loughman to make his mark in France.

The 28-year-old has just three caps to his name but could now play a role off the bench for Andy Farrell’s side.

Healy’s impact as a replacement for Anderew Porter at loosehead prop was a crucial weapon in Farrell’s arsenal as Ireland romped to a first Grand Slam in five years during the 2023 Guinness Six Nations.

Loughman will now look to challenge Dave Kilcoyne for that role, with the duo plying their trade together at Munster, helping the province win the United Rugby Championship last season.

That Loughman at 28 is a breakthrough candidate for Ireland is a reflection of the deeply settled nature of Farrell’s squad, though that will not stop those on the fringes trying to break into the matchday 23.