Women's Six Nations: Five players to watch

By Mike HensonBBC Sport
England celebrate winning the 2020 Six Nations
England have won three of the last four Six Nations titles

Fewer matches, but more of the spotlight?

That is the calculation that many in the women's game are weighing up as the Six Nations gets under way on Saturday.

Instead of the usual six-team round-robin ding-dong, the 2021 edition has been compressed by Covid considerations.

2021 Six Nations fixtures
3 AprilEngland v Scotland
France v Wales
10 AprilItaly v England
Wales v Ireland
17 AprilIreland v France
Scotland v Italy
24 AprilFinals day

There are two pools, three matches each and a chance to shine on weekends free of men's Test action.

It's a team game, but here are five players who could be key to their teams' chances.

Hannah Botterman (England)

Hannah Botterman
Botterman has already amassed 20 caps in a short, Covid-interrupted, international career

England's hard-running, fast-talking prop Hannah Botterman sat out the autumn games against France through injury, but is back in Simon Middleton's Six Nations squad for the Six Nations.

Botterman is a key part of a Saracens side that have lifted the title in the last two completed Premier 15s seasons, but almost walked away from the game aged 17.

Now 21, her decision to stick with it has been proved wise as she established herself as one of the best all-court props in the international game, equally adept at close-quarter combat or in the wide, open spaces.

Claire Molloy (Ireland)

Claire Molloy
Molloy combines her work as a doctor with her sporting career

Flanker Molloy, who combines her rugby with work as an accident and emergency doctor, missed the first half of last year's Six Nations, to concentrate on her medical exams.

During sport's absence, she cared for patients in a hospital in Cardiff. Now, though her focus is all on the pitch. She turned in a player-of-the-match display in the win over Italy in October.

On the club front, she is part of a Wasps side that are riding high in the Premier 15s. The 32-year-old's pace around the park takes her through gaps and regularly makes her first on the scene at the breakdown.

Chloe Rollie (Scotland)

Chloe Rollie
Rollie, who previously played her club rugby in France for Lille Metropole, moved to Harlequins in 2019

There is no Jade Konkel in Scotland's squad this year, as she takes time away from the game to train as a firefighter. However, her fellow Harlequin Chloe Rollie is in and capable of scoring from anywhere.

The 25-year-old full-back's pace, swerve and fend makes her a dangerous broken-field runner. It certainly caught the eye of Great Britain's Sevens selectors who included her in the initial 19-player training squad for Tokyo.

Elinor Snowsill (Wales)

Elinor Snowsill
Snowsill is into her 12th season of international rugby

Elinor Snowsill only picked up a rugby ball for the first time as a 15-year-old, but five years later was winning her first cap for Wales.

The 31-year-old is sublimely gifted, pulling strings and the occasional rabbit out of a hat at fly-half.

She is part of a seven-strong Welsh contingent playing their club rugby over the border in Bristol.

Safi N'Diaye (France)

Safi N'Diaye
N'Diaye started her career with Castres before moving to Montpellier

At the end of last year, World Rugby named their team of the noughties.

The XV was entirely occupied by players from New Zealand and England. With one exception.

One big figure in the back row held out against the Red Rose/Black Fern dominance.

Safi N'Diaye has been doing it on the big stage for a while. The 32-year-old has 76 caps to her name and is the most experienced of coach Annick Hayraud's squad.

Watch out for her skittling defenders in the loose with Obelix-like strength from either the second row or number eight.

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