Six Nations 2024 Rugby News

Captain Candidates: The Six Nations Enters A New Era Who Will Lead?

Captain Candidates: The Six Nations Enters A New Era Who Will Lead?

European Rugby faces a new era, as teams aim for redemption in the 2024 Six Nations and build toward the 2027 World Cup. Here are the front-runners to lead.

Jan 12, 2024 by Philip Bendon
Captain Candidates: The Six Nations Enters A New Era Who Will Lead?

It’s a new dawn for European Rugby’s elite nations. As the page is turned on the 2023 Rugby World Cup cycle, the focus shifts toward Australia in 2027. 

On the whole, it was a disappointing return for a tournament that promised so much for the Northern Hemisphere. 

Dumped out by the slimmest of margins in the quarterfinals, pre-tournament favorites Ireland and France will be hurting the most. Losing to the eventual finalists by a combined five points is scant consolation, given the understandable optimism surrounding the world’s top two teams heading into the tournament. 

Elsewhere, England’s run to the semifinals was a strong return for a team in flux at the outset of the tournament. 

Completing the set, Wales put in impressive pool-stage showings, before losing in the quarterfinals, while Scotland and Italy failed to fire a shot and were dumped out in the pool stages. 

Thus, the 2024 redemption tour is in full swing for five of the Six Nations' squads, while England will be looking to build on the foundation it laid in France. 

One thing all of the competing nations have in common is that the naming of their squads has yet to be unveiled. As such, who will lead the squads remains a point of contention across the board. 

Here, we will examine the leading candidates for each of the Six Nations teams, starting in order of where they finished the 2023 Guinness Six Nations. 


Front-Runner – Peter O’Mahony 

The Last Dance looks to be the order of the day for the 34-year-old warrior, who has been one of Irish Rugby’s finest servants since making his debut in 2012. 

Eleven years and 101 Irish test caps later, O’Mahony looks set to be the perfect bridge captain for Andy Farrell to transition from the Sexton, Earls, O’Mahony and Murray era to the Brave New World. 

The only question would be if Farrell would prefer to invest in a more long-term option. 

Second Choice – Garry Ringrose/James Ryan 

The Leinster co-captains both are strong contenders for the role, and one would feel that given Ryan’s recent struggles with referees, Ringrose would hold a slight edge. 

In saying this, Ryan has previously captained Ireland and is an intelligent player who will no doubt be working on his referee interactions. 

Bolter – Caelen Doris 

Arguably Ireland’s best player and possibly a future World Player of the Year contender, Doris is a nailed-on starter in the Irish back row. 

A force of nature around the park, Doris is widely respected around the world for his playing ability and appears to be a great communicator. 

Of the contenders, he appears almost certain to be a key component of the 2027 Rugby World Cup squad.


Front-Runner – Charles Ollivon 

In the wake of Antoine Dupont’s move to Rugby 7s in a bid to chase an Olympic medal in Paris, Ollivon is the front-runner here. 

Without the scrumhalf in the squad, former captain Ollivon looks to be the standout candidate to lead Les Bleus on the opening Friday against Ireland. 

Now 30 years old, Ollivon could well make the next World Cup and is a week-in, week-out captain for an in-form Toulon side. 

Second Choice – Gregory Alldritt 

Realistically, Alldritt is joint first to be Dupont’s replacement, given he, too, has captained Les Bleus and is a club captain. 

At 26 years old, Alldritt looks set to remain as the linchpin of the French back row for at least the next four years and is a viable option to keep the job even when Dupont returns. 

Bolter – Gael Fickou 

Likely to be the most experienced player for the French squad this year, Fickou could be a great outside bet to captain the side until Dupont returns. 

The center commands respect and is a guaranteed starter in the midfield alongside Jonathan Danty when the two are fit. 

Remarkably, he now is in his 12th season of international rugby and is one of the most respected players in the world. 


Front-Runner – Jamie Ritchie 

The incumbent Scottish captain should remain in place for the Six Nations, with the one caveat being that he will need to hold off the coming force that is Rory Darge. 

Of course, the two could both start, but it is unlikely that would be the balance head coach Gregor Townsend would look for in his backrow. 

Since taking over the job as captain, Ritchie has led magnanimously and is one of Scotland’s most consistent performers. 

Second Choice – Finn Russell 

Scotland’s magician has been on a hot run of form for his new club, Bath, and remains one of the best fly-halves in the world. 

Seemingly in a sweet spot in his career, where his physical prowess remains and his mental game is off the charts, Russell looks set for his best Six Nations campaign to date in 2024. 

Bolter - Sione Tuipulotu 

One of Scotland’s top performers in 2023, the Glasgow Warriors center clearly is a valued leader in the setup. 

Captaining his club this season will only boost his chances of being considered for the top job. 

While he certainly is behind the other two candidates, he is a near lock to start all of the big games in the 12 shirt. 


Front-Runner – Ellis Genge 

Genge is a Premiership-winning captain who carries an air of authority that has been earned through years of great performances and being a leader both on and off the pitch. 

The Bristol Bears prop is well-respected in and out of the England camp and was captain of now-England head coach Steve Borthwick’s title-winning Leicester Tigers squad. 

Second Choice – George Ford 

Predicated on him being the starting fly-half for England, Ford long has been a leader within the England setup. 

The challenge will be whether he can hold off Marcus Smith, and possibly Fin Smith, for the No. 10 shirt.

If he has been given assurance that he is the first choice, then he would be a great contender for the skipper's armband as a cool and calm tactician. 

Bolter – Ben Earl 

Seemingly England’s “Energy Captain,” the No. 8 was one of England’s top performers at the World Cup. 

Clearly one of the players his teammates adore, but his opponents despise (on the pitch), Earl is a Duracell bunny who would lead with his actions. 

Previously asked if he would be interested in the role, Earl was emphatic that it would be a huge honor for him. 

The youngest of the trio, Earl would make sense as a long-term option who likely is to remain the first choice in his position. 


Front-Runner – Jac Morgan 

Morgan is a young, world-class backrow in his early 20s. Where have we seen this before? 

He is the next coming of Sam Warburton, and there is no two ways about it. 

The Ospreys star is just 23-years-old and already is regarded as one of the best in his position in the game. 

Co-captaining the World Cup squad with clubmate Dewi Lake was a clear signal that head coach Warren Gatland values his leadership qualities immensely. 

Second Choice – Dewi Lake 

As touched upon above, Lake was the World Cup co-captain, and that could be the approach Gatland takes again in 2024. 

The 24-year-old is a nailed-on starter in the No. 2 shirt. 

Bolter – Daffyd Jenkins 

It is very unlikely to happen, given the two co-captains above him both are under 25, but the Exeter lock looks to be the next line-out kingpin for the men in red. 

At 6-foot-7, Jenkins is tall, which is, of course, useful in the air, but what sets him apart is his ability in the loose as a ball-carrying option. 

While still very young, he looks set for a long career in the Welsh shirt. 


Front-Runner – Michele Lamaro

The incumbent is unlikely to lose his job, despite a bitterly disappointing Rugby World Cup. 

Simply put, Lamaro is a modern-day gladiator who leads from the front and has been the face of Italy’s return to relevance in recent years. 

His teammates clearly respect him, and he is a character the Italian fans can get behind. Whether new coach Gonzalo Quesada shares this view remains to be seen. 

Second Choice – Sebastian Negri 

Born in Zimbabwe, the 29-year-old back row has been a fixture in the Italian back row since 2016 and is a leader within the squad. 

Offering his experience to Lamaro as a deputy likely will be the outcome for the Six Nations, but he would do a great job if called upon to lead the squad. 

Bolter – Paolo Garbisi 

Making your chief playmaker your captain is a major debate in the rugby community, but one only needs to look at three all-time greats in Johnny Sexton, Owen Farrell and Dan Biggar to see if can work. 

Certain of his place in the starting lineup when fit, the Montpellier star dictates the Azzurri’s play around the park and clearly is an influence in decision making on the field. 

Could he be a long term captain at 23? Absolutely! Will it happen? Unlikely, with Lamaro around.