The 2022 Tiktok Women’s Six Nations begins this Saturday when Scotland host England at the DAM Health Stadium in Edinburgh.
We covered the top three teams in last year’s tournament, England, France, and Ireland, in part one. I’m aware that I only picked backs (Prop Coco Lindelauf was really close to being my choice for France), but that is rectified this time.
Here are the under-23 players from the bottom three teams in last year’s tournament, Italy, Scotland, and Wales, that you should keep an eye on.
Italy – Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi
Italy’s captain, Manuela Furlan, has been a talismanic figure since her debut in 2009.
The 33-year-old is showing no signs of her age, playing every minute for Italy last year. This included a dazzling hattrick against Scotland in last year’s Six Nations.
It takes a special player, then, to move Furlan from her favoured position of fullback to the wing. Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi is a special player.
The 20-year-old made her debut in 2020, but it was in that Scotland game where she fully established herself in the Italy XV. Ostuni Minuzzi scored try and has never looked back since.
She has started every game, and only missed 7 minutes in Italy’s successful World Cup qualification campaign.
You will be able to spot her easily, as her red scrum cap stands out in a sea of Italian white and blue. You will also be able to spot her speed and agility that makes her a nightmare to tackle once she gets going.
In an aging squad, Ostuni Minuzzi has been a breath of fresh air. Apart of Gaia Maris, who is also 20, the rest of the Italy XV are either in their prime, or are leaving it.
For many of this team, the Six Nations and the World Cup is about ending on a high. For Ostuni Minuzzi, it’s only just the beginning.
Scotland – Evie Gallagher
Scotland are probably the most settled side in the Six Nations.
They only have three uncapped players, which is the least in the tournament.
When you look at their squad, while it is not the youngest, the oldest of the regular starters, captain Rachel Malcolm and Megan Gaffney, are 30.
There is a good spread, with the youngest of the regulars, 23 year-olds Leah Bartlett and Rachel McLachlan, only just entering their prime, which makes the next few years an interesting one for Scotland if they can get things right.
Considering what has happened since the last Six Nations, they are getting things right. This culminated with them qualifying for their first World Cup since 2010 last month with a comprehensive 59-3 win over Colombia.
While I could pick Bartlett or McLachlan my youngster to look out for in this Scotland team, I want to highlight someone that, while I don’t think will break into the starting team this tournament, is someone to watch from the bench and who could make a big impact in the future.
Evie Gallagher only has eight caps, but they all came last year as she featured in every game for the Scots.
Most of those came from the bench for the 21-year-old, but the blindside flanker has showed that she’s ready to start for Scotland by her performances when starting the last two games of the Six Nations.
She scored in the final game, helping Scotland beat Wales to ensure that they didn’t finish last.
Wales – Sisilia Tuipulotu
Wales have received the wooden spoon in the last two Six Nations, failing to win in either, but the vibes are good after the news of professional contracts for the first time and back-to-back wins in the Autumn Internationals.
It is probably too soon for them to immediately shoot up the table, but this doesn’t need to be a quick project. It is a young squad, and a young squad that has been given minutes.
Wales have been willing to blood their youngsters and this was demonstrated this once again in their warm up game against the USA Falcons (a team made up of USA internationals based in England).
Six uncapped players featured in the match, including one Sisilia Tuipulotu.
It tells you a lot about how highly Tuipulotu is thought of in the Wales camp that she already has a contract, a part-time retainer deal, before even making a debut.
She comes from a strong rugby family, with her cousins, Wales international Taulupe Faletau and England internationals Mako and Billy Vunipola, but she has already done enough to be known on her own terms.
The Gloucester-Hartpury lock is only 18, but has already made an impact in the Premier 15s. After breaking into the team at the end of last season, she has seven tries this season, scoring in her last three matches.
These tries are the result of her immense power. Weighing 113kg squatting 120kg, you have to feel sorry for anyone who has to tackle Tuipulotu when she’s in full flow.
It’s not a question of if, but when she breaks into the Wales XV.
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