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Five Wales players to keep an eye on this Six Nations

Warren Gatland has named a strong 34-man squad for this year’s Six Nations, but all eye’s will of course be on those not named

Warren Gatland has named a strong 34-man squad for this year’s Six Nations, but all eye’s will of course be on those not named.

Superstar winger Louis Rees-Zammit will not be a part of Gatland’s squad as he pursues a new career in the NFL, meaning Gatland has a vacancy in the starting backline.

Who will stake their claim to fill the Rees-Zammit shaped hole in the Wales starting 15? Elsewhere in the squad will someone emerge from the woodwork to become a star for their country?

Here are five players we think Wales fans need to keep an eye on this Six Nations:

Dafydd Jenkins

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It may seem an obvious option to choose the captain as a player to watch, but the Welsh captaincy this Six Nations is a story within itself. Exeter Chiefs lock Dafydd Jenkins has been given the armband for the tournament in February, but at only 21 he will be the second youngest player to lead Wales in a test match. He is still developing as a player, however this year he has shown he is a fantastic leader, and is incredibly mature for his age.

As a player, he is a typical workhorse second-row. He gets through so much work on both sides of the ball for Exeter, and this should delight Welsh fans alike. He is only just getting into his stride in the test arena, but with the mantel of captain he should improve leaps and bounds this Six Nations.

Mason Grady

Wales v South Africa Rugby International 19/08/2023. Mason Grady of Wales during the Rugby international match, Länderspiel, Nationalmannschaft between Wales and South Africa at Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Wales on 19 August 2023. Cardiff Principality Stadium Glamorgan Wales Editorial use only , Copyright: xSimonxKingx PSI-17860-0068

The Cardiff winger could be the man to fill the void left by Louis Rees-Zammit. He has been very impressive for Cardiff this year, so much so he seems to be linked with every top half Premiership club. The likes of Sale, Exeter and Saracens have all begun sniffing around Grady, which shows how much he has come on this season.

Whilst he might not have the devastating pace Rees-Zammit has, he is a quality winger in his own right. Since returning to Cardiff after the World Cup, he has scored five tries in nine games, and this ability to score could come in handy for Warren Gatland’s side. He also possesses the size and strength needed to succeed at test level-standing at 6 foot 5 and weighing 16 stone.

Another big tick in his box is the ability to shift across into 13, which will only boost his chances of playing a big part this Six Nations. He will definitely be one to keep an eye on this year.

Sam Costelow

Wales v South Africa Rugby International 19/08/2023. Sam Costelow of Wales lines up a kick at goal during the Rugby international match, Länderspiel, Nationalmannschaft between Wales and South Africa at Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Wales on 19 August 2023. Cardiff Principality Stadium Glamorgan Wales Editorial use only , Copyright: xSimonxKingx PSI-17860-0129

Scarlets stand-off Sam Costelow could be set to wear the hollowed Wales number 10 shirt this Six Nations, and the glimpses we’ve seen of him in a Welsh jersey should fill fans with hope.

The jersey has been dominated by Dan Biggar in recent times, but in the run up to the World Cup, Costelow showed he was more than capable to don the famous shirt upon Biggar’s international retirement. He hasn’t played a lot of rugby following the World Cup, but his time in the Welsh jersey-in particular the warm-up victory over England at the Principality-showed what he can do. He is a player who loves to threaten the defensive line, and he has a great eye for space. This will come in really handy for Gatland’s side, with the likes of Grady, Josh Adams, Rio Dyer et al all wanting to gallop through space.

Leon Brown

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Tighthead prop isn’t the most glamorous of positions, but Gatland has completely overhauled this area of the team, with Brown looking the most likely to nail down the number 3 shirt. Brown has 23 caps to his name already, but this Six Nations gives him the chance to make the position his own, after Thomas Francis, Henry Thomas and Dillion Lewis were all omitted from the squad. He is also the most experienced tighthead in the young unit, so will be looking to be a consistent starter this Six Nations. He is also starting to rediscover the form that saw him make the 2020 PRO14 dream team, but can he transfer it over to the Wales squad?

Aaron Wainwright

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Aaron Wainwright hasn’t had the easiest international journey, however this Six Nations could be when he comes into his own.

He is playing some fantastic rugby for the Dragons this season, and is another one who has been attracting interest from Premiership clubs; and a solid Six Nations could see his stock raise even higher. He is a strong carrier with the ball, and always puts in a good shift in defence.

Wales are without the likes of Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi and Taulupe Faletau this time around-either through retirement or injury-which gives Wainwright the perfect opportunity to make his own mark in the back-row, and potentially nail down his starting credentials for years to come.

He is also one of the more experienced players in a new-look Wales squad this Six Nation. The back-rower has 43 caps to his name-an impressive feat at just 26-years-old-but he will need to put this to good effect with a new group of talent.