Five emerging talents who could get their opportunity in the Six Nations

Immanuel Feyi-Waboso in action for Stourbridge in 2022 - and the now Exeter flyer could find himself in England's Six Nations plans
©Andy Cook

A new World Cup cycle has opened the door for seriously talented young players across Europe to catch the attention of national selectors this season.

And with Six Nations squads being announced in less than a week, TRU's Tom Jones has identified five youngsters who could burst onto the scene at this year’s tournament.

Posolo Tuilagi

Position: Second Row/Back Row

Age: 19

Nation: France

Son of arguably the most physical and feared player of the modern era, Henry Tuilagi, and a member of one of the most famous rugby families, Posolo was always going to be blessed with a frightening size advantage and at 6ft 4in and 150kg, he is even bigger than his dad.

The 19-year-old’s aggressive playing style has not gone unnoticed by the rugby world with some of his heaviest hits for Perpignan in the Top 14 and France U20 going viral on social media. At lock, Posolo is built in a similar mould to Will Skelton and like the Wallaby captain, the teenager’s enormous frame gives him a physical edge and the chance to be a real force for France at Test level.

Although France lacked physicality in the ‘engine room’ at the 2023 World Cup, Tuilagi isn’t the only enormous second row on Fabien Galthie’s radar, with 145kg and 6ft 8in Emmanuel Meafou now qualified to make France’s Six Nations squad for the first time. However, Tuilagi’s ability to also play in the back row may persuade Galthie to give the young behemoth the chance to make an impact on Europe’s biggest stage.

Cameron Winnett

Position: Full-Back

Age: 21

Nation: Wales

Cameron Winnett's breakthrough season for Cardiff in the United Rugby Championship has generated real excitement around the young full-back with Welsh fans believing the wonderfully balanced player could be the long-term answer in that key position.

Off the back of this excellent form, Winnett has emerged as a serious contender for the No.15 shirt in Wales’ opening Six Nations game against Scotland in Cardiff. With world-class operator Liam Williams unavailable for selection following his move to Japan, the local Cardiff boy has an opportunity to impress Gatland and make the famous shirt his own.

Winnett’s excellent club form caught the attention of former Wales and British Lions captain, Sam Warburton, who believes the young full-back deserves a shot in this year’s Six Nations. Warburton told RugbyPass: “He (Winnett) has been amazing for us this season. With Leigh Halfpenny and Liam Williams now playing in New Zealand and Japan, I think he is going to be in the Six Nations squad. A really exciting player - he has been awesome.”

Guy Pepper

Position: Flanker

Age: 20

Nation: England

To be in the England conversation while playing for Newcastle side who are winless in the Premiership this season is a remarkable achievement and Guy Pepper has shown what a special talent he is. How Pepper has garnered positive attention and international excitement amidst all the negativity in and around Falcons this term is very impressive.

Earlier in the campaign, Pepper was identified by England head coach Steve Borthwick as a player to watch, and it’s easy to see why - the 20-year-old made a Premiership record-equalling 34 tackles in a truly relentless personal performance against champions Saracens last month.

Although things are looking bleak for Newcastle this season, they have unearthed a real gem in young Pepper, whose consistently strong performances and breakdown work indicate a bright international future. 

Immanuel Feyi-Waboso

Position: Winger

Age: 21

Nation: England/Wales

The sensational Immanuel Feyi-Waboso has lit up the Premiership for Exeter Chiefs this season and his blistering Man of the Match performance against Bristol Bears just after Christmas had everything, triggering a tug-of-war between England and Wales for the 21-year-old’s services.

Earlier this week, Cardiff-born Feyi-Waboso broke the hearts of Welsh supporters as he made the bombshell decision to join up with the wider England squad as part of their Six Nations preparations.

He qualifies for England through a family connection and was forced to leave the country of his birth and head across the border after Cardiff University turned down his application to study medicine despite the 21-year-old boasting three A* grades at A-Level.

With Henry Arundell unavailable after extending his contract with Racing 92, Borthwick has an opportunity to blood Exeter’s young flyer and ultimately block Wales from being able to select the wing.

Interestingly this week, The Telegraph's Charlie Morgan likened the medical student to All Black star Mark Telea and it seems England can certainly bolster their previously stagnated and limited attack by selecting the electric Feyi-Waboso in their Six Nations squad next Wednesday. 

Emilien Gailleton

Position: Centre

Age: 20

Nation: France

Born in Croydon to a French father and an English mother, Emilien Gailleton has opted to represent France. Interestingly, he is also Scotland-qualified. Despite being only 20 years old, the centre finished the last Top 14 season as the league's leading try-scorer with an impressive 14 tries.

That earned him a call-up from head coach Fabien Galthie to the Rugby World Cup training squad and he claimed his first cap in a World Cup warm-up game against Scotland.

Gailleton has a heady mix of pace, vision, and soft hands, and contributed to France's opening try in that aforementioned match with the Scots. Having started his senior rugby career with Agen, Gailleton is now a key figure in the Pau team and has captained the France U20 side whilst also being named ‘Revelation of the Year’ in 2023 at the French rugby “Oscars”.

After narrowly missing out on a place in the 33-man squad at the home World Cup in France, Gailleton will be looking to make a statement if selected in Galthie’s Six Nations plans.