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

Richie Gray
The Guinness Six Nations is back and better than ever.

The Guinness Six Nations is back and better than ever.

But the Championship is not the only thing to have returned with a vengeance this spring.

Some iconic players from year’s past have made their return to Rugby’s Greatest Championship in the first two rounds.

Some have starred on the pitch, while others have inspired fans with their remarkable stories.

So, let us take a look at the players who have returned to the international stage in recent weeks.

Dan Cole

Dan Cole made his return to the Guinness Six Nations this spring, four years on from his last appearance in the Rugby’s Greatest Championship.

Cole is approaching 100 caps, has played in a Rugby World Cup final, and has won three Championships since making his debut back in February 2010.

He is undoubtedly an England legend, but it appeared that the 2019 Rugby World Cup final defeat against South Africa might be his last appearance in the famous white jersey.

Kyle Sinckler was forced off after two minutes in that game and was replaced by the Leicester Tiger for the remainder of the match.

However, the tighthead prop has enjoyed an Indian summer at Mattioli Woods Welford Road Stadium in the three years since, rewarded with inclusion in Steve Borthwick’s first squad as England head coach.

He has come off the bench in both of England’s games so far, winning a scrum penalty with his very first involvement against Scotland.

Richie Gray

Richie Gray’s last Six Nations appearance prior to this year’s edition of Rugby’s Greatest Championship came in February 2021.

That may not seem long ago, but consider that his last international start came all the way back in March 2017, and the full scale of the lock’s achievement this spring become clear.

Six years on from his last start for Scotland, Gray has been one of the standout stars in the 2023 Guinness Six Nations.

He completed 80 minutes against England and Wales, helping Gregor Townsend’s side to two impressive wins, with his quick hands crucial in setting up Duhan van der Merwe’s match-winning try in the former.

The 33-year-old made his debut for Scotland during the 2010 Six Nations, coming off the bench against France.

And 13 years on, he is still making a huge impact on the biggest stage.

Scott Baldwin

Upon signing for Harlequins in 2019, Scott Baldwin was no longer eligible to be selected for Wales due to the 60-cap rule.

However, his return to Ospreys came hand in hand with a return from the international wilderness, and now he is back in Warren Gatland’s squad.

Before the 2023 Guinness Six Nations, the 34-year-old hooker had not made an international appearance since the 2017 edition of Rugby’s Greatest Championship.

He made five appearances off the bench in 2017 and has proved an equally important part of the squad this year.

Stuart McCloskey

Stuart McCloskey’s only Six Nations appearance heading into 2023 was a defeat against England in 2016.

However, he could end the year with the Guinness Six Nations title in his hands after his remarkable start to his campaign.

McCloskey has worked his way back into Andy Farrell’s plans over the last 12 months, starting three Autumn Nations Series games and both of Ireland’s Guinness Six Nations matches.

Ahead of the start of this season, McCloskey had not made an international appearance for over a year and had not made a Championship appearance in seven.

But now, it is hard to imagine Ireland’s backline without him.

Jake Polledri

A serious knee ligament injury left Jake Polledri out of action for nearly 18 months.

The powerful backrower suffered the injury against Scotland at the end of 2020 and was at one point forced into a wheelchair.

As a result, he had not made a Six Nations appearance since October 2020.

During his time rehabilitating, Polledri also had to overcome personal tragedy.

The Italy star lost his younger brother, who passed away suddenly from a suspected heart attack.

Polledri has shown incredible determination to make his Guinness Six Nations return, coming on off the bench in Italy’s Round 2 defeat against England.

Rhys Webb

Three years on from his last appearance in Rugby’s Greatest Championship, Wales scrum-half Rhys Webb is back.

The British & Irish Lion came off the bench in Wales’ defeat against England back in March 2020, but only made three appearances on the international stage since.

With 36 caps to his name, Webb is an experienced operator at the highest level.

So, Wales fans everywhere would have been delighted to see the scrum-half make his return in cameos off the bench against Ireland and Scotland.