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Past Bolters: Six of the best from the Summer Nations Series

Past Bolters: Six of the best from the Summer Nations Series

Past Bolters: Six of the best from the Summer Nations Series

The Summer Nations Series is now just 10 days away and excitement is building as the best sides in the northern hemisphere prepare for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Scotland host Italy in the opening game at BT Murrayfield on July 29 before all the other sides get involved a week later.

The Summer Nations Series will see some fantastic battles and represents an opportunity for players to make their mark for the national team, with coaches often changing teams around.

Ahead of the 2023 series, we look at players who emerged in the Summer Nations Series and quickly became essential members of the team.

Manu Tuilagi (England 2011) 

One of the biggest examples of a Rugby World Cup bolter, Manu Tuilagi made his England debut against Wales at Twickenham in August 2011, aged just 20.

He immediately impressed, scoring a try as England won 23-19 and he scored his second international try against Ireland on his second cap for his country.

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That impressive start saw him selected as part of England’s squad for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, where Tuilagi would start every match as they bowed out in the quarter-finals.

He subsequently became a hugely important figure for England over the following decade, starring in some of their greatest moments and despite being hampered by injury, Tuilagi remains one of the top centres in the world and will look to try and return to the Test side in the 2023 Summer Nations Series.

Conor Murray (Ireland – 2011) 

In the summer of 2011, Conor Murray was just 22 and uncapped by Ireland but after impressing for Munster he would go on to become a key performer in New Zealand.

He made his debut in the 19-12 defeat to France in August, replacing Eoin Reddan and then made his second Ireland appearance against England.

Despite such little experience in a key position, that was enough to see him selected for the World Cup and in New Zealand he usurped both Reddan and Isaac Boss as Ireland’s first choice No.9, starting in the quarter-final defeat to Wales.

The rest, as they say, is history, with Murray going on to become one of his nation’s greatest ever players and star as they rose to World No.1, earning over 100 caps.

WP Nel (Scotland – 2015) 

WP Nel timed his run for the 2015 Rugby World Cup perfectly, making his debut against Italy in the summer of 2015.

The prop had joined Edinburgh in 2012 and was named in the Scotland squad when eligible, immediately making an impact.

He went on to play in all five of Scotland’s matches at the World Cup, including 80-minute shifts against both South Africa and Samoa and 74 minutes in the 35-34 quarter-final defeat to Australia.

Now 37, Nel has played over 50 times for Scotland and played in four matches at the recent Guinness Six Nations – now he is set for a third Summer Nations Series and World Cup.

Gareth Anscombe (Wales – 2015) 

Another who timed their run perfectly, Gareth Anscombe made his Wales debut against Ireland, coming off the bench and scoring two conversions in a 35-21 defeat.

With just one cap to his name, Anscombe missed out on initial selection to the 2015 Rugby World Cup but after an injury to Hallam Amos, Anscombe was called up and he would play an important role for Wales.

He started against both Australia in the group stage and South Africa in the quarter-final at full-back and became a key part of Warren Gatland’s side post World Cup.

Anscombe starred in the 2019 Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam, starting four of the five matches and earning Player of the Match in the 25-7 win over Ireland to seal the title.

Marco Riccioni (Italy – 2019) 

Italy prop Marco Riccioni made his debut aged just 21, starting in Dublin as the Azzurri suffered a 29-10 defeat to Ireland.

He would then be involved in the next three summer internationals, before earning a call-up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup squad.

He came off the bench in three of Italy’s four fixtures, including the wins over Namibia and Canada and has since been a crucial player for his country, as well as moving to Saracens, where he won the Gallagher Premiership Rugby title in May.

Still only 25, Riccioni has 21 Italy caps and will be hoping he can have a starring role in the Summer Nations Series.

François Cros (France – 2019) 

Back row forward François Cros made his France debut in the 2019 Summer internationals, starting at blindside flanker as France beat Scotland 32-3.

He did not make the World Cup squad but quickly became a key performer under Fabien Galthié in the 2020 Guinness Six Nations, starting all five matches.

Two years later and he was a key protagonist in France lifting their first Grand Slam title in 12 years, scoring a crucial try in the 25-13 win over England in Paris.

After an injury ruled him out for much of the start of last season, he came back firing for Les Bleus and recently won the Top 14 title with Toulouse – now he looks to cement his place in the France team in the Summer Nations Series, before a home World Cup.


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