The block of Premiership games during the Six Nations is always crucial. This year it is no different, with many players unavailable clubs’ depth is severely tested. With this reliance on the wider squad comes opportunities for fringe players to shine.
Last Word on Rugby will be looking at some lesser known names who are poised to be given some opportunities in the absence of their international colleagues. We will be assessing their chances of success and what they may bring to their respective sides.
Joe Ford – Fly Half – Leicester Tigers
It is possible that Geordan Murphy may opt for Matt Toomua at ten. However with Tigers also missing Tuilagi and May for the Six Nations they are somewhat light in the backline overall. This could spell an opening for George Ford’s brother.
For a while it seems that Joe has been living in the shadows of his brother but this could be a real opportunity to step out and shine. He has had a few chances to start this season and has not disgraced himself by any means. However he will need to show that he can control a side in order to impress during this crucial period of the Premiership.
Matt Gallagher – Fullback/Winger – Saracens
The number of Saracens on Six Nations duty is incredible in all honesty. Across the pitch they are depleted and none more so than in the backs. With both Williams and Maitland away with Wales and Scotland respectively this leaves a hole for someone to fill.
Gallagher has had a couple of opportunities this season but none so far in the Premiership. This time Mark McCall’s hand may be forced and the young Saracen may have his chance. He is a strong runner and solid under the high ball, but the Premiership will be a big step up. We expect him to fit in well in a strong Saracens side, but it will be a big test for the young man.
James Grayson – Fly Half – Northampton Saints
Son of England international Paul, James Grayson has been on the fringes of the Saints team for a while now. However. with Dan Biggar away with Wales for the Six Nations this could be the chance he needs to shine. Grayson will almost certainly have his chance with Biggar away and coach Chris Boyd will hope he can step up to the challenge.
Grayson has a strong yet cultured boot which will be a great asset for him. However what remains to be seen is whether he can control a game at this level. If the Northampton pack can get him some decent ball he could shine but if they start going backwards Grayson could struggle.
Tom O’Flaherty – Winger – Exeter Chiefs
Due to injuries at the Chiefs O’Flaherty has actually had a number of opportunities this season. Those opportunities look to keep coming with Jack Nowell away with England, meaning he will be able to string together a solid run of games. O’Flaherty has shown he can cope with the step up but he now needs to demonstrate consistency.
He has great physically assets being blessed with great strength and speed. He is yet to be fully tested under the high ball so teams may target him positionally. However here’s hoping he can continue to churn out great performances and give Rob Baxter some serious selection headaches.
Max Malins – Fly Half – Saracens
The third and final fly half on this list, Malins has been part of Saracen’s squad for a while without ever quite breaking through. This is mostly due to his main competition being the England captain. When given opportunities Malins has shown what a quality operator he can be.
Flanked by experienced game managers like Lozowski and Goode, Malins should have no trouble slotting into that side. Also given Saracens pack is likely to be in the ascendancy in most games they play we could see Malins use all of his pace and flair over the coming weeks.
These five players have the perfect opportunity to raise their stakes within their own clubs or to put themselves in the shop window to move to other clubs in order to guarantee themselves regular game time.
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