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Six Nations age profiles: Who's hitting the RWC magic number?

By Stefan Frost
Tom Curry and Alex Dombrandt /PA

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Every Six Nations side has one eye on the upcoming Rugby World Cup, now less than two years away. Picking a balanced squad for rugby’s biggest tournament is imperative and that is why the six northern nations chose to blood fresh talent in the opening weekend of the 2022 Six Nations.

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Age, however, should not be overlooked as World Cup winning sides have tended to average between 27 and 28 years old.

Below RugbyPass crunches the numbers on which Six Nations side was the oldest in Round 1 and which squad is closest to the magic World Cup winning age range.

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Ireland’s experience
Of all the six nations, Ireland had the oldest squad featuring in Round 1, averaging 27.7 years. In addition to this, Ireland had eight players that were 30 or above, also higher than their five rivals. However, this is not to say that Andy Farrell picked a side devoid of youth, as a further eight players chosen were 25 or below. This ranked middle of the pack, showcasing how finely balanced the Irish squad is at present. Indeed, debutant Mack Hansen made an instant impressed against Wales and is only 23 years old.

By comparison, captain Johnny Sexton, 36, is by far the eldest in the squad, while the lion share of Ireland’s age and experience remained on the bench through stalwarts Cian Healy, Peter O’Mahony and Conor Murray.

Leinster player ratings
Cian Healy and Ronan Kelleher /Getty Images

If the Ireland team were to remain unchanged up until the World Cup, Farrell’s men would average just over 29 years of age, an old team by World Cup standards.

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Wales and Scotland on similar ground
The average age of both the Wales and Scotland squad was around 27. While the Scotland team was marginally older, both sides shared identical statistics in numerous categories – both squads had five players aged 30 or above and had six players that were 25 or younger. The crux of both teams is therefore in the mid-to-late 20s age bracket and this is an intentional move, ensuring that each team balances youth and experience heading into the 2023 World Cup.

Gregor Townsend will be particularly happy with two 23-year-olds that starred for his side against England. Matt Fagerson was the man of the match while Darcy Grahams’ fast feet created the crucial opening try.

Cowan-Dickie yellow card <a href=
England Exeter” width=”1920″ height=”1080″ /> (Photo by Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)

If Wayne Pivac had everyone at his disposal, then Wales would likely have been a fair bit older, with the inclusion of veterans Jonathan Davies, Alun Wyn Jones and George North, all of whom are out through injury.

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Come the World Cup, this Welsh outfit would average 28 years of age while this Scottish side would surpass the magic range, hitting around 28.6 years old.

New look England
England had the third youngest squad featuring in the Six Nations opening weekend, averaging 26.4 years of age. More notable than that though was Eddie Jones’s decision to give Tom Curry, 23, the captain’s armband, making the Sale flanker the youngest captain to wear the red rose since Will Carling in 1988.

England Murrayfield Six Nations
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Curry was one of nine players aged 25 or under that travelled to Murrayfield, making up an extremely youthful England team. Ben Youngs was the oldest starter by a fair margin and front row replacements Jamie George and Joe Marler joined Youngs as the only players above the age of 30 chosen for matchday. The injured Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi and Courtney Lawes would likely have featured had they been fit, but in their absence, Jones has opted for a lesser experienced outfit.

This current England side would be roughly 28 years old come the World Cup, falling within that magic age range.

Fresh favourites in France
The French are the Six Nations favourites and yet the 23 men chosen to represent Les Bleus was the second youngest of all sides in the competition. Tighthead Uini Atonio was the only starting Frenchman over 30 while the squad contained twelve players aged 25 or under. This fresh-faced dexterity is no exhibited than through starting fly-half Romain Ntamack. It is easy to forget that amidst all the composure and attacking flair, he is only 22.

Since taking the coaching reigns, Fabien Galthié has made clear his desire to turn France into a World Cup heavyweight. With the competition looming, the French side would average 27 years of age in 2023, based upon the team which was picked to face Italy. France had the oldest squad at the 2015 World Cup, but it looks as though that strategy will not be replicated.

Italian inexperience
Italy have not won a Six Nations game since 2015, which is precisely why their coach Kieran Crowley has incited a huge overhaul. A rebuild has started in Rome and so Italy had the youngest squad featuring in Round 1, with an average age of 24.6. No starter was over 30 while the wider squad contained 13 players aged 25 or below.

Paolo Garbisi
(Photo by Lionel Hahn/Getty Images)

Tommaso Menoncello and Leonardo Marin were the youngest of this group, both making their debuts for the Azzurri at 19. Added to this, Michele Lamaro joins Curry as the other 23-year-old captaining a Six Nations side.

Based upon the team selected last weekend, Italy would have an average squad age of around 26 come the World Cup. Whether the youth can revive Italian rugby is yet to be seen.

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