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ENGLAND – JOE LAUNCHBURY
Launchbury was regarded as England’s find of the autumn after a series of impressive appearances culminated in an immense display against New Zealand, earning himself an England player of the series nod in the process.
At just 21 and with just two England starts to his name, Launchbury still has plenty to learn at international level but he has coped admirably with everything thrown at him so far.
After continually impressing for Wasps last season and this, 6ft 6ins second row Launchbury immediately took to the international arena off the bench against Fiji and Australia before assured performances from the off against South Africa and the All Blacks.
And as one of only three out-and-out second rows in the England squad, Launchbury is sure to get his chance to further enhance his reputation in the RBS 6 Nations.
FRANCE – MAXIME MERMOZ
It seems strange to talk about someone who has started a World Cup final and been named French player of the year as a potential breakthrough man, but Mermoz’s recent form makes him a very good candidate.
The jewel in the crown at Perpignan when they won the French title in 2009, injuries have since hampered Mermoz’s attempts to establish himself as first choice.
A move to Toulon appears to have sparked a renaissance for Mermoz, who was in such good form in November that Philippe Saint-André felt the need to put Wesley Fofana out on the wing.
In the RBS 6 Nations it will be an intriguing battle for the 12 jersey, but after forming a promising partnership with Florian Fritz in November, expect Mermoz to have quite an impact.
IRELAND – CRAIG GILROY
Part of Ulster’s dominating team at present, speedster Gilroy was handed his international chance this autumn and he seized it with both hands.
The 21-year-old scored a hat-trick and was named man-of-the-match in the non-capped match against Fiji before setting Ireland on their way to an impressive 46-24 victory with a superb opening try.
For Ulster, he burst onto the scene with two tries on debut in November 2010 and his exploits last season saw him awarded the province’s young player of the year award.
With Tommy Bowe ruled out through injury and Rob Kearney only recently back to fitness, Gilroy should get the opportunity to light up to 2013 RBS 6 Nations.
ITALY – ROBERT BARBIERI
The Treviso back row has been a shining light this season, with an impressive try-scoring record and offering a carrying game to complement a strong back row.
While Sergio Parisse and Alessandro Zanni are already well-established in the Italy back row, Canadian-born Barbieri has only become an automatic starter under Jacques Brunel.
Six tries in his last six Pro12 games go some of the way to explaining why, and during the RBS 6 Nations expect Barbieri, alongside Parisse and Zanni to cause a lot of problems.
His display for a struggling Treviso pack against Toulouse last week only reinforced the view that he is capable of making of a major contribution even in a team which is on the back foot.
SCOTLAND – SEAN MAITLAND
Maitland has made just five appearances for Glasgow Warriors this season but after easing himself in upon arrival in Scotland, he has been a mainstay of the back three of late.
With pace to burn, Maitland ran in tries for fun in Super Rugby for the Crusaders but he was persuaded to swap Christchurch for Glasgow – the city of his grandparents' birth – by, among others, former All Black and ex-Edinburgh coach Todd Blackadder.
Maitland, whose cousin is Australia fly-half Quade Cooper, won the Junior World Championship with New Zealand in 2008 but Scotland wasted little time in calling him up and he could form a devastating wing partnership with Tim Visser during the RBS 6 Nations.
If you're looking for a wildcard Lions pick to come straight out of left field, 24-year-old Maitland could be the man if he shows what he can do in the RBS 6 Nations.
WALES – DAN BIGGAR
Aside from his flirtation with the woodwork against Leicester Tigers recently, Dan Biggar has been in irrepressible form with the boot for the Ospreys.
With Rhys Priestland sidelined, 23-year-old Biggar will compete with James Hook for the No.10 jersey in the RBS 6 Nations but the Ospreys man’s consistency could well see him get the nod.
He was unlucky to miss out on last summer’s tour to Australia having been instrumental in Ospreys’ Celtic League success, kicking the crucial touchline conversion in the final against Leinster.
He started against Samoa this autumn but was taken off after 37 minutes and he will be eager to make amends if he is picked at fly-half when Wales begin the defence of their Grand Slam.