THE BLOG

Six Nations Six to Watch: The Backs

01/02/2015 20:12 GMT | Updated 03/04/2015 10:59 BST

The Six Nations is always important but in the year of a World Cup, every match takes on extra significance as coaches, players, pundits and fans alike look for indicators as to their team's chances later in the year.

Certain players while have a huge influence on their team in the next ten months and so over the next two weeks we'll be looking at couple of players from each team who could play an important part in the success or lack thereof of their nation in what will be a key Six Nations for all involved.

George Ford: Stuart Lancaster will not have wanted to go into this Six Nations without the opportunity to play what he perceives to be his best backline but one area he can be thankful for is the strength in depth and form of contenders at fly half.

With Owen Farrell set to miss the entire Six Nations, Bath's George Ford has an all but guaranteed five game run in the Number 10 jersey. Ford has shown throughout the season that he can open up a defence and has been an integral part of Bath's sensational attacking play. England fans will now hope he can bring that spark to the international stage.

Camille Lopez: While the impressive performances of Teddy Thomas and Scott Spedding received a lot of attention during France's November Internationals, Clermont's Camille Lopez was also worthy of note.

He didn't have his best day in France's defeat to Argentina but the fly half has shown enough in his first five caps and in his performances at club level to suggest that France might have a number 10 of the highest quality and his ability to bring the best out of Thomas, Spedding, Wesley Fofana and others will be key to his country's chances.

Robbie Henshaw: Brian O'Driscoll, BOD, Ireland's greatest rugby player, the best outside centre of his generation, the man, the myth, the legend. Safe to say his successor was always going to have a tough time matching the achievements and game changing influence of a player of his calibre.

Yet in young Connacht centre Henshaw they have a player who not only impressed in the Autumn Internationals with his physicality in defence but also brings a similar ability as O'Driscoll to break a defensive line while being allied to a much more powerful frame.

Giovanbattista Venditti: Rarely have Italy had a player with the attacking ability of Paolo Vaccari, who was a leading light for Italy throughout the '90s, even though the arrival of young outside backs Tommaso Benvenuti and Michele Campagnaro have hinted at a brighter future.

With all this in mind, the return of Venditti to the Italian squad after missing the November Internationals is a welcome one for Jacques Brunel. The solidly built Zebre winger will be a key strike runner for the Italians and the powerful ball carrier will take a lot of pressure off his forward pack.

Tommy Seymour: In the last 15 years or so a popular refrain has been Scotland's inability to turn possession into points, often relying upon the prowess of Chris Paterson to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

In the post-Mossie era Scotland don't have those guaranteed points but are making up for that by having a number of genuine ball players from 10-15 with Glasgow's Tommy Seymour among the most impressive. The lightning quick winger has been in outstanding form for both club and country in the last 12 months showing a keen eye for the tryline and a strong all-round game in attack and defence.

Rhys Webb: Scrum half has been a position of real strength for Wales in recent years and while Mike Phillips was very much a player who divided opinions, nobody could deny his influence and ability to step up in key matches for Wales especially in the Six Nations.

Osprey's Rhys Webb is the heir apparent to Phillips and the strong, quick, breaking scrum half in the mould of Robert Howley or (dare I say it) Gareth Edwards has settled into international rugby and impressed throughout the November Internationals.