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5 players set to light up this year's Six Nations

Keep an eye on these players over the next few weeks.

Paddy Jackson (Ireland)

Saracens v Ulster Rugby - European Champions Cup - Pool One - Allianz Park Jackson has been in good form for Ulster. Source: Paul Harding

JOHNNY SEXTON REMAINS Joe Schmidt’s first-choice out-half but doubts remain over his fitness and some quarters have even called for the Leinster man to call time on his career.

The party line from the Irish camp is that Sexton is raring to go for next weekend’s opener against Wales but in Paddy Jackson, Schmidt has a more than able deputy.

The 24-year-old has been in or around the international set-up for some time and has never quite provided enough evidence to convince in the crucial number 10 position but he appears to have come of age.

Jackson has produced a succession of imposing performances for Ulster and his place-kicking has improved no end. He was part of the World Cup squad in September but played a minimal role in that tournament as he served as Sexton’s back-up.

Source: TheUAFC/YouTube

It’s likely he’ll begin this campaign as understudy again but as the Championship progresses, Jackson may just have more of a part to play in a green jersey.

Paul Jedrasiak (France)

The 22-year-old is one of 10 uncapped players included in Guy Noves’ first French squad but Jedrasiak has made the transition into the senior set-up a seamless one.

The second-row grasped his opportunity when Clermont’s internationals were away at the World Cup and he’s displaced the likes of Jamie Cudmore and South African Flip van der Merwe to retain his place.

The U20 international has made a big impression this season for the Top 14 outfit and was rewarded with a berth in Noves’ extended panel and a first test cap beckons.

He brings energy and industry to the side and his workout is second to none. There is an opening there for him to establish himself as a regular with Les Bleus and he certainly has a big future ahead of him.

John Hardie (Scotland)

The New-Zealand born flanker hasn’t disappointed since making his debut for Scotland before last year’s World Cup and he stamped his mark on that tournament, earning the man of the match award against Samoa after scoring two tries.

Hardie joined Edinburgh after signing a two-year contract with Scottish Rugby in 2015 and will be central to Vern Cotter’s plans for the Six Nations.

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Italy Scotland Rugby John Hardie in action against Italy last August. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Scotland have long been tracking the progress of the 27-year-old and identified his eligibility more than two years ago through his Scottish ancestry.

He’s a dynamic back-row forward and brings a wealth of experience to the Scottish pack after playing for the Highlanders for five years. Hardie has arrived on the international scene late but he’s already making up for lost time.

Cotter took a chance by throwing him into the team at the World Cup and it appears it’s a gamble which is already paying off.

Jonathan Joseph (England)

With Elliot Daly released back to Wasps by new England coach Eddie Jones, it would appear Joseph has won the battle to start at outside centre against Scotland next week.

The Bath back was England’s Player of the Year in 2015 and was their standout performer twelve months ago but injury has curbed his progress and he was unable to replicate that form at the World Cup.

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - England Captains Run - Twickenham Jonathan Joseph. Source: Adam Davy

Daly is an exceptional young talent and many would argue he deserves his place in the side but Jones clearly is veering towards the tried and tested and Joseph is a proven performer at this level.

His pace, nimble footwork and distribution makes him a potent attacking weapon while he’s an asset in defence too.

Jonathan Davies (Wales)

Not exactly a new kid on the block or a player looking to make the breakthrough but the returning Jonathan Davies will provide Wales with a major boost.

The centre is back in the fold after he missed the World Cup campaign with a cruciate ligament injury and he’s determined to re-establish himself in Warren Gatland’s team.

Rugby Union - 2015 RBS Six Nations - France v Wales - Stade de France Davies was a big loss for Wales during the World Cup. Source: David Davies

“I’m more than a little eager to get back out there and hopefully play for Wales again – it’s something you only need to be away from for a little while in order to miss it terribly,” he said after his inclusion. “Hopefully I can make a good contribution to the team.”

Davies has made a strong return from injury, scoring a try on his comeback for Clermont before Christmas, and after six months on the sidelines, he is beginning to get back to his brilliant best.

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