Six young stars set to make a Championship impact in 2019

From Brian O’Driscoll’s break-out hat-trick back in 2000 to Jacob Stockdale’s record-breaking exploits in Ireland’s 2018 Grand Slam – there are always young stars that light up Rugby’s Greatest Championship.

From Brian O’Driscoll’s break-out hat-trick back in 2000 to Jacob Stockdale’s record-breaking exploits in Ireland’s 2018 Grand Slam – there are always young stars that light up Rugby’s Greatest Championship.

And the 2019 Guinness Six Nations will be no different, with new faces sure to burst onto the scene over two months of competitive and compelling action.

Here are our six to watch ahead of the action getting underway:

Ireland – Jordan Larmour

Still only 21 and yet already a Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam winner – Larmour is making the professional game look remarkably easy.

Anyone who saw his incredible try for Leinster in last year’s Guinness PRO14 final or the hat-trick he scored against Italy this past autumn knows his skillset is bordering on the absurd.

With a sidestep that often looks too fast for his own shadow let alone the defenders, Larmour will be hoping to continue his meteoric rise in 2019.

Equally capable on the wing or in the centres, his future looks to be at full-back and while Rob Kearney remains Ireland’s incumbent – expect Larmour to make his first ever Championship start at some point this year.

England – Tom Curry

When you have only Jonny Wilkinson for company – you know you are in rarefied air.

Curry made his England bow in Argentina on the summer tour of 2017 at the age of only 18 – making him England’s youngest ever flanker, the youngest forward since 1912 and the youngest player since World Cup winner Wilkinson.

Since then, injuries mean he has not yet made his Guinness Six Nations debut – but the No.7 jersey is his for the taking this year.

After an impressive summer in South Africa, and with Sam Underhill now out injured, Eddie Jones will be looking to Curry to improve England’s breakdown work in 2019 – and expect the 20-year-old to answer the call.

Scotland – Darcy Graham

At the start of this season, Graham was just hoping to cement himself in Richard Cockerill’s first-team plans at Edinburgh.

But the 21-year-old has been so impressive this campaign so far that it is becoming increasingly difficult to see how Gregor Townsend can afford to leave him out of Scotland’s matchday 23.

The elusive winger has been sublime of late as Edinburgh have made the European quarter-finals and continue to challenge for a Guinness PRO14 play-off spot.

His twinkle toes make him a defender’s nightmare and – after his international debut off the bench against Wales in November – the youngster will be itching for a crack at Rugby’s Greatest Championship.

Italy – Federico Ruzza

Benetton Rugby’s season continues to go from strength to strength.

A big part of their Guinness PRO14 play-off push has been their power up front and one of the key cogs in that pack is Federico Ruzza.

A try in a man of the match display against Zebre after Christmas was the icing on a impressive first half of the campaign for the lock or back row.

The 24-year-old has seven caps and counting for Italy – including three in last year’s Championship – but they have all come off the bench.

However, his exploits this season have caught many an eye – and Conor O’Shea will be surely considering him for a first career Azzurri start during the 2019 Championship.

France – Demba Bamba

The future is here – and his name is Demba Bamba.

Still not yet 21, Bamba has become the name on everyone’s lips with his astonishing displays from tighthead prop.

A beast in the scrum, the Lyon powerhouse – on loan at former club Brive until the end of this season – is a giant waiting to be unleashed.

He had both New Zealand and England’s front rows on toast on the way to the Under-20 World title last summer and has handling and sidesteps to go with customary ferocity in the carry.

His senior international bow came this autumn against Fiji but, with Rabah Slimani out injured, Bamba looks set for a more integral role with Les Bleus over the next two months.

Wales – Aaron Wainwright

Football always looked like being Wainwright’s route to the top.

On the books of both Cardiff City and Newport County, rugby was very much an afterthought for the back-row forward.

But the round ball’s loss has been the oval ball’s gain as Wainwright has hit the ground running in the professional game.

After a breakout season for the Dragons, the youngster earned his first Wales call-up and has not looked back.

Equally capable at blind and openside, Wainwright impressed in the autumn and then tore it up for his region in the festive fixture list of derbies.

And with Sam Warburton retired and Ellis Jenkins and James Davies injured, Wainwright is now ready to produce his best in the Guinness Six Nations for the first time.