Ulster and Glasgow Warriors both claimed victories on Saturday to keep themselves in pole position for a place in the Pro14 play-off quarter-finals.

Second in Conference A, Ulster bounced back from an away defeat at Ospreys last time out as they ran out 20-10 winners over Cheetahs.

Tries from Tom O'Toole and Robert Baloucoune proved enough for Ulster to claim their eighth win of the season and maintain their unbeaten run at home in all competitions this campaign.

Clayton Blommetjies drove over for Cheetahs with 15 minutes remaining, but the visitors did not have enough to set up a grandstand finish.

Glasgow, meanwhile, moved up to third in Conference A with a 30-19 comeback victory over Dragons, who took the lead through a Rhodri Williams try in the first minute.

The Warriors swiftly hit back via Tim Swinson and Grant Stewart to take a 10-point lead into the break.

Williams got his second for Dragons while Stewart doubled his tally for the home side and Huw Jones secured the bonus point after being dropped by Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend.

Ashton Hewitt's try brought Dragons back into contention but Mesu Dolokoto's late score made sure of a third straight win for Glasgow.

Wayne Pivac was unimpressed with the officiating after Wales suffered a narrow defeat to France that leaves the defending champions with only a slim chance of retaining their Six Nations title.

Romain Ntamack was the star of the show as Les Bleus ended a 10-year wait for a victory in Cardiff, winning a thriller 27-23 on Saturday.

Ntamack scored 17 points in a fly-half masterclass at the Principality Stadium for a France side that have won three out of three this year, putting them on track for a first Six Nations crown in a decade.

However, Wales felt they should have been awarded a penalty try by referee Matthew Carley for what they saw as a deliberate knock-on by Paul Willemse when Ken Owens attempted to set up Josh Adams in the second half.

Head coach Pivac said: "We have had a look at the slap down and I think the officials may have got that one wrong.

"That killed momentum as well."

Pivac was also aggrieved when France were awarded a penalty in a scrum as Wales applied the pressure, with prop Wyn Jones having stated this week he expected Les Bleus to "cheat" when they packed down.

"Another disappointing moment was when the French tighthead [Demba Bamba] came on and went straight across the scrum and was rewarded for that," said the New Zealander.

"Those were the big moments in the game. The scrums, from our point of view, had gone okay up until that point.

"You have got to go with the forward motion but he clearly went across the scrum."

Pivac said wings George North and Adams will be checked over after suffering head and ankle injuries respectively, with Wales having games against England and Scotland in March.

"George will go through the normal protocols for a HIA [head injury assessment]. He was taken off the field for a HIA," Pivac stated.

"Josh Adams had an ankle injury. We will have to check him in the next day or two to see how severe it is."

Romain Ntamack says Six Nations leaders France are not discussing the prospect of winning a Grand Slam after he inspired a magnificent 27-23 victory over Wales.

Les Bleus ended a 10-year wait for a victory in Cardiff to outline their title credentials in a thriller at a raucous Principality Stadium on Saturday.

Fly-half Ntamack score a crucial intercept try in the second half following first-half scores from Anthony Bouthier and Paul Willemse.

Dan Biggar's 18-point haul was in vain as the defending champions suffered back-to-back defeats to leave their hopes of retaining the title in tatters.

France went on to complete a clean sweep after their last win in Wales back in 2010, which is the last time they won the tournament.

Ntamack, who was named man of the match after scoring 17 points and showing maturity way beyond his years, says they are not getting ahead of themselves in what has been a dream start to the Fabien Galthie era.

"It's amazing. We worked the whole week for a big game like that. It was a very tough game," he told BBC Sport.

"We have no experience, but we play with a smile. It was a good experience to win at the Principality.

"The try was a good moment. We don't think about the Grand Slam, we play match after match."

Captain Alun Wyn Jones says Wales only had themselves to blame.

"The scoreboard said they deserved it," he said. "You make your own luck sometimes and we fell short on the scoreboard.

"We gave them two penalties and they scored. In the second half, we had the ascendancy and we felt we should have got more out of that scrum. There was a case for a couple of penalty tries.

"They have a very good defence coach [former Wales defence guru Shaun Edwards] and were an embodiment of that today."

The Stormers maintained their 100 per cent Super Rugby record by grinding out a 17-7 victory over the Jaguares at a rainy Newlands before the Blues snatched a last-gasp win over the Bulls.

It was not pretty, but the leaders outmuscled their Argentinian opponents to make it four wins out of four and go three points clear of defending champions the Crusaders as the only unbeaten side.

A Damian Willemse penalty was the only score of the first half on a miserable day in Cape Town, but Herschel Jantjies scooped up a loose ball to go over for the opening try five minutes after the break.

Willemse laid on a second try for Ruhan Nel, with the fly-half making no mistake with his conversion attempt to ensure Rodrigo Bruni's try was no more than a consolation for Gonzalo Quesada's men.

The Bulls were on the verge of their first win of the season but Otere Black's penalty right at the end gave the Blues a 23-21 triumph.

Morne Steyn scored the Bulls' first try of the season and another from Jeandre Rudolph put them on course for victory, but Black denied them right at the end.

Mark Telea, Tom Robinson and Stephen Perofeta were the try-scorers for the Blues, who now have two wins from four matches.

Scotland eased some of the pressure on head coach Gregor Townsend by getting off the mark in the Six Nations with a 17-0 away win over Italy.

Townsend has come under fire after a poor start to the tournament for Scotland, who lost their opening two games against Ireland and England without scoring a try.

Captain Stuart Hogg ended that drought to put Scotland ahead at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday, and Chris Harris' second-half effort made it a 10-point gap that proved well beyond the hosts, who conceded a third try to Adam Hastings in the last minute.

The score was Scotland's largest win in Rome but there was still plenty unconvincing about their performance and Townsend will still have plenty of work to do to win over the doubters, while Italy appear destined for another wooden spoon.

Scotland spent much of the opening exchanges on the backfoot after Hastings missed what looked a simple early penalty as Italy made the majority of the early running.

For all their energy, Italy lacked composure with ball in hand and were punished for failing to capitalise on their early pressure in spectacular fashion by Hogg.

Hogg picked the ball up in his own half and weaved his way past Jake Polledri and Jayden Hayward before surging down the right to dive over in the corner.

Ali Price saw a try chalked off for a forward pass in the build-up before Tommaso Allan struck the post from the tee for the hosts.

Harris crashed over from close range to double Scotland's advantage six minutes into the second half, but Hastings again failed to add the extras.

Marco Riccioni was taken off on a cart in a blow to an Italy side that continued to spurn attacking openings and when Federico Zani was sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle their hopes were effectively ended.

Hastings then scooted down the blind side to add last-minute gloss to the scoreline, with Italy nilled for the second time in three matches.

 

Hogg leads by example

Scotland were second best in the opening 20 minutes, but skipper Hogg lifted their spirits and turned the tide with a fine individual effort that marked a moment of quality in a game otherwise short on it.

Italy lack killer instinct

Italy crafted a plethora of promising openings with a series of line breaks, but their inability to finish those attacks off was the decisive factor in a tight affair.

The Brumbies stretched their early lead at the top of Super Rugby's Australian Conference after handing the Chiefs their first defeat of the campaign.

The Canberra outfit had been edged out by the Highlanders last week but bounced back to beat the Chiefs 26-14 at FMG Stadium Waikato.

It was a first win in New Zealand since 2014 for the Brumbies after a blistering opening 40 minutes despite a mumps outbreak in the lead up to the game.

Thomas Banks, Solomone Kata and Pete Samu all crossed before the break for the visitors without reply.

And Samu's second try two minutes after the restart, along with Noah Lolesio's third successful conversion, made it 26-0.

Aaron Cruden and Anton Lienert-Brown went through to restore Chiefs hopes, but their run of three straight wins to start the season was ended.

The Reds are now second to the Brumbies in their conference, six points back, after getting their first victory in dominant fashion.

Tate McDermott scored twice in a stunning 10-try 64-5 success against the Sunwolves, leapfrogging their opponents.

Like the Brumbies, the Sharks bounced back from a first loss of the season in Saturday's early game, beating the Rebels 36-24 in Melbourne.

Makazole Mapimpi contributed a pair of tries, while Curwin Bosch had 16 points in all, including a 72nd-minute score.

Serge Betsen feels the "unbelievable" Shaun Edwards has already made a big impact since he was appointed France defence coach and declared "this is just the beginning".

Edwards was lured across the English Channel to join a new-look Les Bleus coaching set-up under Fabien Galthie after 12 years as Wales defensive guru.

It was clear that the hugely respected, no-nonsense 53-year-old has already stamped his authority early in his new role with the manner in which France defended for their lives in a victory over England in their Six Nations opener.

Edwards returns to Cardiff on Saturday for France's showdown with his former employers at the Principality Stadium on what promises to be a pivotal weekend in the battle for the title.

Betsen has first-hand experience of Edwards' coaching skills from his time at Wasps and the former France flanker has paid tribute to the Englishman.

He told Omnisport: "Shaun Edwards used to be my coach at Wasps. He coached me for three years, he's an unbelievable coach, very passionate and very effective with what he does.

"He's one of the best defensive coaches in the world and everybody who he coaches, you can see the impact he has made. I'm looking forward to seeing how he is going to empower the French players for this game because it's really fine margins and those margins are so important.

"I don't feel he'll be looking to use his past experience with Wales as an advantage so much, but what he is really good at [is] empowering people and he'll make sure the players know how to be the best they can be."

Betsen revealed Edwards asked to pick his brains before embarking on his new challenge.

"I really appreciated the fact that Shaun asked to meet with me before he went to France, to try to understand the French mentality, et cetera," he added.

"As a Frenchman and someone who understands his coaching philosophy, I think he made a very good decision to try to understand the people he would be working with and the culture, to ensure he can adapt himself and make a difference.

"We saw the impact he has made in the game against England, not so much against Italy. He brings to the team with instilling discipline, effectiveness, attention to detail and this is just the beginning.

"What people remember from Shaun Edwards is the blitz defence and I want to see the French team being able to apply that at some point."

Sale Sharks moved up to second in the Premiership with an easy 36-3 win over Leicester Tigers.

Second-bottom Leicester took the lead through Noel Reid's penalty but it was all downhill thereafter.

Marland Yarde's try was sandwiched between efforts from Bryn Evans and Coenie Oosthuizen as Sale took command and the wing scored each of the Sharks' second-half tries to complete his hat-trick.

Wasps routed already-relegated Saracens 60-10 in Friday's other game to go seventh.

Zack Kibirige and Brad Shields crossed for doubles while Jimmy Gopperth tallied 20 points with the boot as Wasps went level with Gloucester on 23 points in the fight for the European Challenge Cup places.

Leinster set a new Pro14 record as they claimed a 12th straight win to maintain their 100 per cent start to the season by beating Ospreys 21-13.

The Conference A leaders and defending champions were made to work for their win, with Cian Kelleher's 75th-minute try eventually settling the contest.

Tommy O'Brien gave Leinster the lead 18 minutes in, yet Ospreys fought back through Luke Price's kicking and Luke Morgan's try.

But after Price had managed to claw the hosts back to within touching distance following Josh Murphy's try for Leinster, Sam Parry's yellow card handed the visitors the initiative, with Kelleher duly wrapping up the win.

Elsewhere, Edinburgh retained their place at the top of Conference B as they claimed a comfortable bonus-point win over Connacht.

Having been 20 points behind by the 33rd minute, visiting Connacht reduced the deficit when Tiernan O'Halloran went over either side of half-time.

Yet Edinburgh rallied – Pierre Schoeman and Duhan van der Merwe putting them in control before a penalty try handed them a bonus point.

The victory keeps them three points clear of Munster, who hammered 14-man Zebre 28-0 in Italy.

Devin Toner has been promoted to the Ireland team to play England in the Six Nations on Sunday after Iain Henderson was ruled out.

Coach Andy Farrell had initially named an unchanged team for the crunch Twickenham clash, with Ireland joint-top alongside France after winning their beating Scotland and defending champions Wales.

However, the continuity has been disrupted, as family reasons mean Henderson will be unavailable.

Towering lock Toner, who was surprisingly left out of Ireland's Rugby World Cup squad under previous boss Joe Schmidt, comes into the side for his 70th cap.

The change sees Ultan Dillane take Toner's spot among the replacements.

England are under huge pressure heading into what Lewis Moody has described as a "must-win game" against Ireland in the Six Nations.

Eddie Jones' side were lacklustre in a shock loss to France before getting their campaign up and running by beating Scotland in torrid conditions at Murrayfield.

The Rugby World Cup runners-up welcome Andy Farrell's Ireland to Twickenham on Sunday and former England flanker Moody believes the onus is on the hosts to get a result.

Speaking to Omnisport ahead of the England v Ireland Rugby Legends Charity Match at Twickenham Stoop on Saturday, Moody said: "Without a shadow of a doubt we all expected England to drive on after the World Cup. They faltered in the first game, the Scotland game allowed us to see they can knuckle out a victory in diabolical conditions. 

"All being the well the weather conditions will be favourable this weekend and we can really see where England are at.

"Ireland will come with confidence from the first two matches, they have the energy and enthusiasm of having a new coaching staff.

"For England it's a must-win game, because otherwise all of a sudden you're going into your fourth game having lost two, only just won one and staring down the barrel of a seriously disappointing Six Nations, which they started with big expectations.

"Without a shadow of a doubt there is a lot of pressure on this England side and coaching staff, which there always is, but we need to see them crack on and Eddie take them forward."

Moody, who made 71 appearances for his country and was part of the 2003 World Cup-winning squad, feels England – who won in Dublin last year – are slight underdogs for this weekend's match against an Ireland side who received a visit from U2 frontman Bono this week.

"I have to admit I'm not overly confident, I even think Ireland will come in as slight favourites," he said.

"England have not really fired so far in the Six Nations, they had that really disappointing start in France, they got what they needed in Murrayfield – which is a very difficult place to go and win.

"To knock out a win in those unbelievably horrific weather conditions was impressive, but this is the true test, this is the game that matters. They [Ireland] have a very well-organised side, with a new coach who seems to be instilling some real belief and I'm sure they've got a slight degree of vengeance from last year's upset at home to inspire them."

While England still have not found what they are looking for in this year's Six Nations, Ireland's desire to win may have been boosted by the presence of Irish singer-songwriter Bono at the team hotel.

Moody does not know exactly how the away side will benefit from that experience, but he suggested some song lyrics might provide some inspiration. 

He said: "I'm not sure what motivation that will provide, but it'll be interesting for sure. Perhaps there may be a few of his lyrics quoted beforehand, but I'm not so sure what impact that might have."

- The England v Ireland Rugby Legends Charity Match will take place at Twickenham Stoop on February 22, kick-off 17.30 and will be raising money for Restart Rugby, RFU Injured Players Fund and the Tom Smith Testimonial Committee. Visit http://tickets.quins.co.uk for tickets and more information.

Manu Tuilagi returns to England's team for the Six Nations clash with Ireland on Sunday and Jonathan Joseph will line up on the left wing at Twickenham.

Head coach Eddie Jones moves Elliot Daly from out wide to full-back, where he replaces the injured George Furbank, while scrum-half Ben Youngs is recalled at the expense of Willi Heinz for what will be his 100th Test appearance - including two caps for the British and Irish Lions.

Lewis Ludlam drops out as Courtney Lawes returns in the back row, and with Mako Vunipola absent for family reasons, Joe Marler comes in at prop as Ellis Genge has to settle for a place on the bench once again.

Tuilagi's return after missing the victory over Scotland with a groin injury beefs up England's midfield, but the selection of Joseph on the wing catches the eye, given he is a centre by trade and Jones had more orthodox options.

Joseph will win a 50th England cap, while centre Henry Slade is on the bench, having not yet played this year due to an ankle problem.

England began their campaign with a defeat to France in Paris before getting the better of Scotland at Murrayfield.

They play a first home match of the tournament against an Ireland side who have beaten Scotland and Wales already, so will be seeking to stay in contention for a Grand Slam.

Jones said: "Ireland are a very good team, extremely well coached. They are a team we respect a lot. They will bring their usual physicality and under Andy Farrell they've opened up their game a little bit.

"They are a tactically smart team. [Conor] Murray and [Johnny] Sexton, who have played 170 Tests between them, at nine and 10 will manage the game well. We've got to make sure we match their physicality and their emotion on the weekend."

England: Elliot Daly, Jonny May, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell (captain), Jonathan Joseph, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Joe Marler, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Courtney Lawes, Sam Underhill, Tom Curry.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Joe Launchbury, Charlie Ewels, Ben Earl, Willi Heinz, Henry Slade.

The Crusaders went top of the Super Rugby standings following a 33-13 triumph over the Highlanders in Christchurch on Friday.

The champions of the last three seasons ran in three tries inside the opening 26 minutes and had secured a bonus point before half-time.

Codie Taylor, Tom Christie, Braydon Ennor and George Bridge all went over, with Michael Collins' effort and a Josh Ioane penalty all the Highlanders had to show for their first-half efforts.

The Highlanders trailed 26-8 at the interval and their cause was not helped by Shannon Frizell's sin-binning six minutes into the second half for a tip-tackle on Ennor.

They were still the next to score through Jona Nareki, but Sione Havili dotted down for the Crusaders' fifth try six minutes from time to cap a comfortable victory.

Serge Betsen laughed off Wyn Jones' claim that France will "cheat" in the Six Nations showdown on Saturday and urged Les Bleus to keep their discipline on a revenge mission in Cardiff.

Wales prop Jones fanned the flames this week by stating that the defending champions know France will "hit and chase and cheat" in the scrum.

France head coach Fabien Galthie accused Wales of a "lack of respect towards our scrum, towards our team, towards French rugby, towards our nation", while manager Raphael Ibanez described Jones' barbs as a "blatant, childish attack".

Betsen says joint-leaders Les Bleus are best advised to let their rugby do the talking when they bid to keep their Grand Slam hopes alive.

Asked about Jones' comments, the former France flanker told Omnisport: "That made me laugh, because it is an attempt to create disruption and get into the head of your opponents.

"Communication is a key aspect of the game, but I believe none of the French players responded to that. My view is better to be quiet and play at your best than start talking about things that are not the truth.

"Saying that, we are not really in the press outside of France because we are not speaking, we are not talking a lot about what we are doing, and we talk after the game."

A moment of madness from Sebastien Vahaamahina cost France dearly the last time the two nations met in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final at Oita Stadium in October.

Les Bleus were leading 19-10 at half-time and looked to be heading into the last four before lock Vahaamahina was dismissed for elbowing Aaron Wainwright, with Wales going on to win 20-19.

While a host of players who will feature at the Principality Stadium were not involved in that painful encounter, Betsen says it should make them even more eager to give Wales a taste of their own medicine.

"I think that red card gave them a lot of experience of high level. It is a great opportunity for all those players who felt that frustration of losing," he added.

"It will be very challenging for France, it is a young side, with players who have not experienced playing in Cardiff.

"At the highest level it is all about keeping your nerve, maintain your discipline."

Family loyalty will go out of the window when England and Ireland do battle this weekend, and France face a major test of their Six Nations title credentials against Wales.

Ireland beat defending champions Wales 24-14 in Dublin last time out, while France also made it two wins out of two with a 35-22 triumph over Italy.

The joint-leaders will not have home comforts for the first time in the tournament, with the third round of matches seeing Les Bleus travel to Cardiff on Saturday and Ireland taking on England at Twickenham on Sunday.

England captain Owen Farrell could inflict a first defeat on his father, Andy, since he become Ireland head coach.

Winless Scotland and Italy do battle on Saturday at Rome's Stadio Olimpico, where the hosts go in search of their first points of the tournament.

We take a look at what promises to a be pivotal round of matches with some standout Opta data.

 

Italy v Scotland

- Scotland have won six of their last seven Six Nations games against Italy, their solitary loss in that spell coming at Murrayfield in 2015 – the Azzurri’s last victory against any side in the Championship.

- Seven of the last eight Six Nations meetings between Italy and Scotland in Rome have been decided by seven points or fewer.

- Italy have spent 40 minutes in possession in the Six Nations this year, longer than any other side, making the most carries (300) and metres (857) in the process; in contrast, Scotland have spent the least time in possession during this campaign (33m 56s).

- Scotland have missed just 25 tackles in this year's Six Nations, fewer than any of their rivals and as a result boast the best tackle success rate (91 per cent).

 

Wales v France

- Wales have won eight of their last nine Test matches against France, this after winning just two of their previous 12 clashes with Les Bleus before that run.

- France and Scotland (7/7) are the only sides who boast a 100 per cent scrum success rate on their own feed in the Six Nations this year, while Wales have recorded the worst success rate at that particular set-piece - with 11 from 15.

- France’s Bernard Le Roux has made the most tackles of any player in the tournament with 38, one more than Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones.

- No player has beaten more defenders in the Six Nations this year than France's Antoine Dupont (10, level with Stuart Hogg), while he also has the second-most offloads with seven.

 

England v Ireland

- Ireland are the only side to hold a winning record over England in the Six Nations (winning 11 and losing nine); however, they suffered a record 57-15 to the Red Rose in their last meeting before the Rugby World Cup.

- England have lost just one of their last 19 home games in the Six Nations (W17, D1). That one defeat came the last time they hosted Ireland in 2018.

- Ireland have won 95 per cent of their lineouts in the Six Nations this year (19/20), which is the best rate of any team. However, England have stolen the most lineouts (5) in the Championship.

- Maro Itoje has hit 74 rucks in the 2020 Six Nations, more than any other player, and has also won the most turnovers with six.

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