Six Nations Rugby | Great inside centres of the Six Nations era

And as we head into the 2020 Guinness Six Nations, it feels like the perfect time to reflect on those players who have had the biggest impact on the last two decades.

In the build-up to the opening match between Grand Slam champions Wales and Italy, we are counting down some of the best players to have graced the Championship.

Today we pick out the inside centre who have made a big impact in the competition.

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In alphabetical order:

MIRCO BERGAMASCO (ITALY)

While his elder brother Marco received adulation for his performances in the back-row Mirco also produced the goods for Italy.

He made 48 appearances in the Championship across a ten-year period after making his debut in the defeat to France in 2002.

A remarkably versatile player, Bergamasco was probably best in Italy’s midfield where he punched holes in defences and his right boot to great effect.

It should be said though, that his greatest day in a blue shirt came on the wing when he kicked 17 points in the Azzurri’s first Championship victory over France in Rome in 2011.

GORDON D’ARCY (IRELAND)

Since making their Test debuts in 1999, D’Arcy and Brian O’Driscoll went on to form a legendary partnership for Ireland.

But while O’Driscoll took the world by storm from the outset it was not until 2004 when his Leinster colleague made his Guinness Six Nations bow.

Hard-running D’Arcy made up for lost time though, winning the Player of the Championship that year and helped Ireland clinch the Grand Slam in 2009.

He played more than 40 times in the Championship as the dynamic duo of D’Arcy and O’Driscoll led their country to many famous wins.

WESLEY FOFANA (FRANCE)

The Clermont Auvergne star burst onto the scene in 2012 when he marked his international debut in the victory over Italy.

The fleet-footed centre went on to score in the following three Guinness Six Nations matches to become the first player to achieve such a feat.

Although he made the odd appearance out wide, it was through the middle where Fofana proved to be more menacing.

With Mathieu Bastareaud causing damaging outside him, Fofana exploited any gaps that appeared most famously with an incredible solo try in the defeat to England at Twickenham in 2013.

WILL GREENWOOD (ENGLAND)

In his pomp, the 2003 World Cup winner was one of the most dangerous centres on the planet.

Greenwood racked up 31 international tries – 15 of those coming in the Championship.

While he often wore 13 on his back out of superstition, it was at inside centre that Greenwood emerged as one of the best in the world at his position.

The rangy runner struck six times in the 2001 campaign – including a hat-trick against Wales – as England fell short of winning the Grand Slam title with defeat to Ireland.

But two years later Clive Woodward’s side gained revenge over their rivals with Greenwood scoring twice in the 42-6 thrashing at Lansdowne Road.

GAVIN HENSON (WALES)

It is hard to ignore the mercurial Welshman when putting together this list.

Once the poster boy of Welsh rugby, Henson delivered many big moments for his country in the Championship.

The most notable came in 2005 when Henson put in two crunching tackles on Matthew Tait before downing England with a monster 76th minute kick in the Championship opener.

It proved to be a crucial win as Wales went on to clinch the Grand Slam. Three years later the men in red reclaimed that crown with Henson playing in all five matches.

YANNICK JAUZION (FRANCE)

Whether it was for France or Toulouse, Jauzion had the ability to light up matches as he encapsulated the notion of French flair.

He first emerged in 2004, crossing against Ireland before bagging a double in the win over Scotland as Les Bleus won the Grand Slam.

The inside centre became an integral part of the France squad for a decade, with his ability to stay on his feet and keep the ball alive when carrying into traffic, crucial to France’s success.

France won the Grand Slam again in 2010 with Jauzion playing an influential role as he went over in the wins over Ireland and Italy, while he was also part of the French side that won the 2007 title.

JOHN LESLIE (SCOTLAND)

Born in New Zealand, Leslie qualified for Scotland through a paternal grandfather after joining Glasgow Caledonians in 1998.

A year later Leslie scored what remains the fastest try in the competition’s history when he collected the kick-off before bursting through to score inside ten seconds.

He continued to make an impression in midfield after Italy’s arrival in the competition, featuring in three Six Nations campaigns before deciding to call time on his international career after helping Scotland to a stunning win in Wales in 2002.

His impact stretches back into the 1990s, but few Scotland midfielders have had a greater influence.

JAMIE ROBERTS (WALES)

Only Brian O’Driscoll has made more Championship appearances in the centres than Roberts as he became a mainstay in Wales’ midfield including starting a remarkable 35 consecutive games in the competition.

Starting out at full-back, Roberts made his international bow on the wing and looked like forging a career in the back three.

But standing at 6ft 4in and with a powerful physique Warren Gatland moved him to inside centre and it paid off.

Roberts played 97 times for his country, 46 of those coming in the Championship, as he helped Wales win the Grand Slam in 2008 and 2012 as well as a further title in 2013.

DAMIEN TRAILLE (FRANCE)

Like Jauzion, Damien Traille represented France between 2001 and 2011 – a period which saw them win three Grand Slam titles.

Although he missed out on their 2010 triumph, he starred in their victories in 2002 and 2004 as he played in eight successive campaigns.

During his career Traille showed his versatility when operating at fly-half and full-back but arguably played his best rugby from inside centre, giving France a physical edge.

He notched 128 points in his international career, scoring eight tries in his 35 appearances in the Championship.

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