The 2022 TikTok Women’s Six Nations is almost upon us as England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales prepare to battle it out for the Championship title.
With the first title partner in the history of the Championship and a standalone window, this year’s TikTok Women’s Six Nations is set to be a landmark moment in women’s rugby.
But while there are plenty of firsts to be excited about, including the addition of Super Saturday, this year’s edition also reinstates the conventional round robin format.
And with the stage set for the brightest stars in the women’s game to showcase their talent to the world, here’s six of players to watch out for in the Championship.
Zoe Aldcroft – England
Becoming the fourth English player to win World Rugby’s Women’s Player of the Year in 2021, Zoe Aldcroft charges into this Championship as one of the Red Roses’ most dangerous weapons.
In 2021, Aldcroft helped the Red Roses to a third successive Women’s Six Nations title before captaining her country for the first time during England’s 89-0 blowout against USA.
The 25-year-old, who carries a knitted Jonny Wilkinson doll to every game, also played a pivotal role in England’s record 43-12 victory over New Zealand in the autumn.
In fact, Red Roses head coach Simon Middleton has described Aldcroft as “exceptional”, “consistent” and “sensational” since her return from injury in 2019.
Jade Konkel – Scotland
Known for her power and ability to get over the gainline, the return of Jade Konkel for the 2022 Championship is a massive boost for Bryan Easson and his Scotland side.
Konkel stepped away from rugby to begin her training with the London Fire Brigade but she returned for the World Cup Europe qualifiers and is back in the Championship squad again.
Her physicality was clear for all to see in the opening rounds of the 2020 Women’s Six Nations as she carried a combined 55 times in two games – 20 more than any other player.
And Easson explained why the No.8, who made her debut in 2013, is so crucial: “When you look at it statistically, Jade is one of the main ball carriers in the Six Nations, not just for Scotland so what that does mean is that defenders will worry about her and it can leave space elsewhere.”
Aoife McDermott – Ireland
Following the retirement of Ciara Griffin, Claire Molloy and Lindsay Peat, Greg McWilliams’ renovated squad includes nine uncapped players as he looks to the future.
But the influx of new blood means Williams will also rely considerably on those with prior Championship experience for this year’s TikTok Women’s Six Nations campaign.
Aoife McDermott, 31, will be one of those players expected to rise to the occasion, having been a stalwart for Ireland since making her Test debut in the 2018 Championship.
Other than missing the final Women’s Six Nations match against Italy in 2020 through injury, McDermott has been a key component as Ireland’s first choice second row.
Standing over six feet tall, McDermott brings both physicality to the scrum and fearsome breakdown expertise, making her an integral figure at the engine room of the Irish pack.
Hannah Jones – Wales
This year’s Championship represents a major milestone for Wales Women after the historic agreement in January which saw 12 players signed on year-long professional contracts.
One of those players was centre Hannah Jones, who has been a lynchpin of the side since making her debut in 2015 ahead of making her Championship bow the following year.
A powerful runner and strong presence in the Welsh backline, Jones was among the try-scorers during her side’s 31-23 defeat to USA Falcons in their warm-up game earlier this month.
And expect the 25-year-old, who is also studying to become a teacher, to be right in the thick of the action throughout the Championship having taken more of a leadership role in 2021.
Cyrielle Banet – France
France have reloaded the barrel for 2022 as far as their squad is concerned, naming 16 of the 23 players who lost narrowly to England in last year’s Championship final.
Among the star names selected by Annick Hayraud again is Cyrielle Banet, who has been a regular presence on the Les Bleues wing over the past few seasons.
Banet’s scoring prowess makes her box office viewing as England found out after she carved her way through the Red Rose defence to score a sensational solo try at Twickenham in 2020.
The quick-footed 27-year-old also scored twice in the historic 38-13 win over New Zealand in November and she will no doubt be at it again in the 2022 Championship.
Michela Sillari – Italy
While Sara Barattin and Manuela Furlan often grab the headlines for Italy more often than not, Michela Sillari has been a key part of her country’s backline since 2012.
She played a starring role for Italy during the European Qualification Tournament for the Rugby World Cup, with her goal-kicking proving pivotal as the Azzurre secured their berth.
With more than 60 caps to her name, she is also one of the most experienced campaigners in Andrea di Giandomenico’s squad and a primary focal point of the Italian attack.
Should she be able to bring her form from last year into the 2022 TikTok Women’s Six Nations then Italy could be a force to be reckoned with in this year’s Championship.