Six Nations 2014: Players Who Have Enhanced Their Reputation For World Cup

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Six Nations 2014: Players Who Have Enhanced Their Reputation For World Cup
Sang Tan/Associated Press

It is the most finely-poised Six Nations Championship for many years as four sides go into the penultimate round of matches locked on four points each. 

Ireland, Wales, England and France each go into the next two rounds of matches knowing that two convincing victories will likely bring them the crown. 

The destination of this year's championship will provide a key indicator as to which European side can challenge the dominance of the southern hemisphere at next year's World Cup in England. 

Let's take a look at the three players who have laid down their marker for next year's William Webb Ellis Trophy campaign.

 

Players to Watch

Mike Brown, England

Let's not delude ourselves about Mike Brown, he will never be of the same prolific try-scoring ilk as a Shane Williams or Bryan Habana

But the Harlequins man brings creativity, stout defence and, most importantly, versatility to the England line up. Oh, and he's been named man-of-the-match for the last two England matches. The 28-year-old has been deployed on the wing for England this year, away from his familiar full-back position. 

Former England winger Tom Varndell certainly rates the Quins man highly.

Brown has produced a string of scintillating displays in the white shirt. Take a look at this athletic catch he produced against Ireland last weekend, courtesy of BBC Sport. Brown claimed the inspiration for the move came from an unlikely source: Manchester United's legendary goalkeeper, Peter Schmeichel, as reported by The Telegraph's Gavin Mairs.

He has even joined in the try-scoring fun, notching his first two tries for England against France and Scotland in this year's Championship.

If the upwards trajectory of Brown's form continues at its current rate, he could prove one of the stars of next year's World Cup.

 

Dan Lydiate, Wales

Alastair Grant/Associated Press

Poor old Dan Lydiate

The Racing Metro flanker came in for a public dressing down from Warren Gatland following Wales' comprehensive 26-3 defeat to Ireland, as reported by BBC Sport

And yet Lydiate bounced back last week with a resounding answer to his critics, who have been calling for him to be replaced by Justin Tipuric, as reported by WalesOnline's Gareth Griffiths.

Lydiate admits he felt the pressure going into the France clash.

It’s not a nice thing to hear, off your coach. But Gats has always been honest with his players, and I’d rather be told than talked about elsewhere but not be told personally.

That’s the level we’re at and I want it to continue that way.

You want to know where you’re at. If you deserve praise you get it and if you deserve a kick up the backside, you get that as well.

It’s not unusual for Gats to have a word. He always has chats with players, it’s not always doom and gloom, he might just pull you to the side and ask how you’re feeling.”

Fourteen tackles from Lydiate helped to lay the foundations for Wales' 27-6 destruction of France and if he can replicate those figures when facing up to the southern hemisphere sides next year, it could prove to be a fruitful World Cup for the Welsh.

 

Jonny Sexton, Ireland

Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

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Jonny Sexton doesn't receive as much fanfare as he perhaps should. 

Let's not forget, this is the man who orchestrated the Lions' victory in Australia last year. And the Racing Metro man is the linchpin of an Irish side that consistently underachieves at the World Cup. 

Sexton's display against Wales in Ireland's 26-3 win was masterful. The No. 10 dictated the tempo and ensured Ireland dominated the territory. Like a good heavyweight boxer, Sexton kept the Welsh at arm's length with his metronomic jab. 

Now, having tasted success against a southern hemisphere side with the Lions' victory, the Irishman faces the challenge of transplanting the confidence that victory brought into the Irish side. 

No man will do that better than the man from Dublin. 

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