With five of the teams heading to New Zealand in October, the record-breaking Women’s Six Nations 2022 has succeeded in whetting the appetite for Rugby World Cup 2021, playing in 2022.
And whatever the result of the Grand Slam-decider between France and England in Bayonne on Saturday, there have already been some standout performances from those who could have a big role to play at the showpiece tournament.
Here are five players who have starred for their respective countries in March and April and should do the same in New Zealand later in the year.
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🌟 PLAYER OF THE ROUND 🌟 @alishabutchers, after her dynamic all-round performance in @WelshRugbyUnion's win against Ireland 🏴#TikTokW6N pic.twitter.com/ONAVKFRBZQ— TikTok Women's Six Nations (@Womens6Nations) March 30, 2022
Alisha Butchers (Wales)
The standout performer of Wales’ early successes against Ireland and Scotland, Alisha Butchers has made a stunning start to life as a professional rugby player.
One of 12 Wales players who earned full-time contracts at the beginning of the year, Butchers epitomised the team’s renewed confidence as they began the 2022 Championship with back-to-back victories for the first time in seven years.
No Wales player has made more carries (40) or tackles (51) than the 24-year-old who has been a committed presence on both sides of the ball during the Women’s Six Nations.
Butchers highlighted her attacking skills against Scotland when she produced a step to beat Lana Skeldon in midfield and then showed composure to supply a scoring pass to Ffion Lewis, who sprinted under the posts to secure the win.
Lark Davies (England)
England hooker Lark Davies has transported her prolific form in the English Premier 15s to the international stage over the past 18 months.
Since scoring her fifth test try during the dramatic defeat of France at Twickenham in November 2020, Davies has crossed the whitewash 12 times in only 13 matches for the Red Roses.
The 27-year-old shows no signs of slowing down with RWC 2021 on the horizon, either. Davies has crossed the whitewash five times during the Women’s Six Nations 2022, adding another two to her tally during the 69-0 defeat of Ireland in Leicester on Sunday.
A pinpoint accurate lineout thrower, there is much more to Davies’ game than driving mauls and tries, and she will definitely be one to watch in New Zealand later this year.
Rhona Lloyd (Scotland)
A sprinter in her youth, Rhona Lloyd has been using her pace to beat defenders on the international stage for the past six years.
Since making her debut against England in the opening match of the 2016 Championship, Lloyd has scored 17 tries in 37 test appearances for Scotland.
The most recent of those came in Cardiff in round two of the Women’s Six Nations 2022 as she struck twice in a losing effort against Wales, both highlighting her finishing prowess in different ways.
Lloyd also scored one of Scotland’s nine tries in the RWC 2021 Final Qualification Tournament victory against Colombia that clinched her country’s place in New Zealand. She will hope to add to her test tally when she makes her Rugby World Cup debut in October.
Beatrice Rigoni and @Federugby are "ready to rock" ahead of @Womens6Nations #SixNations360 pic.twitter.com/jsdYrllNJy— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) March 23, 2022
Beatrice Rigoni (Italy)
One of the women’s game’s most effortlessly cool characters, Beatrice Rigoni is a serious talent on the rugby pitch.
It is now more than eight years since she made her Women’s Six Nations debut, during a 12-11 defeat of Wales in Port Talbort, yet despite winning more than 50 caps for her country she is still only 26.
A key component of the Azzurre’s resurgence in recent years, both on and off the pitch, Rigoni started every match as Italy booked their place in New Zealand by winning the RWC 2021 Europe Qualifier in Parma last September.
Rigoni will want to help Italy make their mark on the showpiece tournament, in which they have been drawn against Canada, USA and Japan. She is well capable of leading the Azzurre to the quarter-finals in New Zealand.
Laure Sansus (France)
A supremely talented scrum-half who plays their club rugby for Toulouse spearheading a French Grand Slam charge? That should sound familiar, but it is Laure Sansus and not Antoine Dupont who has got France fans off their feet in April.
Les Bleues are blessed with quality options at scrum-half and in the absence of the injured Pauline Bourdon, Sansus has made a compelling claim for the number nine jersey on the road to New Zealand.
An attacking scrum-half with an eye for a break and the goal line, Sansus is the sort of player people pay their admission money to go and watch.
She has scored six tries in only three starts in the current Women’s Six Nations, contributing braces in each of the wins against Ireland, Scotland and Wales, while providing the scoring pass for four more.