X Factor 2016 judges confirmed as Louis Walsh, Sharon Osbourne, Nicole Scherzinger and Simon Cowell

The original double act returns to the panel with Simon Cowell and fellow returnee Nicole Scherzinger after Rita Ora, Cheryl and Nick Grimshaw leave

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Stop the rumour mill – Louis Walsh, Sharon Osbourne and Nicole Scherzinger have indeed returned to The X Factor alongside the boss Simon Cowell. 

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It won’t be too much of a surprise for avid fans of the show; their return has been much discussed over the past few months with three seats up for grabs after the exit of Nick Grimshaw, Cheryl and more recently Rita Ora

We first caught wind of Mrs O’s involvement after her appearance on Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, an insider telling us her part in spoof murder mystery ‘Who Shot Simon Cowell?’ suggested she was “building bridges” with the boss. Meanwhile, Walsh has been yelling from the rooftops that he should return with Mrs O by his side, ensuring the idea was firmly in people’s minds.

Walsh was also pretty adamant Nicole Scherzinger should return, so perhaps we should stop looking to Mr Cowell for guidance and realise it’s really Louis Walsh who knows what’s going on. Because, yes, Scherzinger and her Schamazeballs vocabulary is also back.

It had seemed almost certain Rita Ora would return. She’s reigning champ after mentoring Louisa Johnson to victory last year – and from what I hear – Cowell was keen for her to stick around. After all, it was him who wanted the former The Voice coach in the first place. But ‘mashing it up’ is out and ‘balls’ are back in.

It’s almost a return to X Factor 2013 when Scherzinger, Osbourne and Walsh lined-up together for what was the tenth series alongside then head judge Gary Barlow. It didn’t last long: only Walsh remained the following year with Cowell making his long-awaited return along with Mel B and Cheryl.

But 2013 was Osbourne’s first comeback and she won with Sam Bailey, Cowell’s 2014 return then saw him win with Ben Haenow – perhaps it’s Scherzinger or Walsh’s turn to enjoy their own comeback and win?

Speaking of her return, Osbourne said: “I’m overjoyed about going back to The X Factor, sitting with Lou, Lou, gorgeous Nicole and naughty Simon. But most of all, I can’t wait to meet baby Eric.”

“I can’t wait to be back in the UK and on the show with the best judges sitting alongside me on the panel,” Scherzinger added. “I’m excited about discovering, mentoring and winning with an exciting new act this year. And having had winning contestants in the past, Simon knows I will do it.”

Walsh, not one to miss a chance to have a dig at Cowell, continued: “He’d say otherwise but I knew Simon missed me last year! I’m delighted to be back on the panel especially beside my two favourite female judges Sharon and Nicole, and I’m looking forward to taking them all back to Dublin this year when we head there for auditions.”

“I’m delighted that we have such a talented team reunited on the judging panel for the new series, especially as they’ve all previously won the show,” said Richard Holloway, Managing Director, Thames TV and Interim CEO FremantleMedia UK. It’s great to have them all back along with Dermot and the return of the audition rooms.”

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The X Factor will return to ITV later this year alongside sister show, The Xtra Factor on ITV2.