2023 EPCR Player of the Year nominees Justin Tipuric and Josh van der Flier face off in the opening round of the Six Nations on Saturday as Wales take on Ireland at the Principality Stadium.

Wales’ Tipuric was a key figure as Ospreys reached the Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16 in dramatic fashion, while Ireland’s Van der Flier starred for Leinster Rugby as they topped Pool A.

The two flankers were recently confirmed as part of a 15-man longlist for this year’s EPCR Player of the Year award, the winner of which will be announced following the Heineken Champions Cup final at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday 20 May.

Tipuric played every minute of Ospreys’ Heineken Champions Cup pool stage campaign, crossing the whitewash in the second of their two wins over Montpellier Hérault Rugby and asserting himself as one of the leading tacklers in this season’s competition, completing 47.

Meanwhile, Van der Flier, who is seeking back-to-back EPCR Player of the Year honours, is the Heineken Champions Cup’s leading try-scorer with five heading into the knockout stage after crossing in each of Leinster’s four Pool A wins, including a brace at Racing 92 in Round 1.

On Saturday, they both wear the number seven jersey for their nations in what is set to be an almighty contest between two elite players.

Tipuric is part of an eight-man Ospreys contingent in the Wales XV, while Van der Flier is joined by 10 Leinster teammates in the Ireland side – including a further two EPCR Player of the Year nominees.

No.8 Caelan Doris and centre Garry Ringrose, who are also up the award after their breathtaking attacking displays in the Heineken Champions Cup pool stage, contributing two tries apiece, both start.

Jamison Gibson Park and Johnny Sexton form a familiar and dangerous half-back pairing, with James Lowe on the wing and Hugo Keenan at full-back.

Prop Andrew Porter, hooker Dan Sheehan and lock James Ryan are the other Leinster representatives in the starting team, while Munster Rugby lock Tadhg Beirne and flanker Peter O’Mahony are also included, with Ulster Rugby’s Stuart McCloskey at inside centre.

There will also be three EPCR Player of the Year nominees in action on Sunday as France head to Italy in the final opening round game of the Six Nations.

The Stade Toulousain duo of hooker Julien Marchand and scrum-half Antoine Dupont – the 2021 winner – are joined by Stade Rochelais No.8 Grégory Alldritt in the visitors’ XV.