Josh van der Flier felt Ireland were in control during their vital 24-14 Six Nations victory over Wales on Saturday.

Ireland's performance in a narrow win over Scotland last week prompted questions over their championship credentials, but they ran in four tries in an impressive home triumph in Dublin.

They have now won 17 of their last 18 Tests at the Aviva Stadium after ending Wales' hopes of winning back-to-back Grand Slams.

Van der Flier and Andrew Conway scored tries in the second half as Ireland built on a 12-7 half-time lead given to them by Jordan Larmour and Tadhg Furlong, with Andy Farrell's men claiming a bonus point.

"We did a lot of things we said we wanted to do and I thought we controlled the game," flanker Van der Flier told RTE.

"In defence we slipped off a lot of tackles last week and were probably a bit soft in the contact area. It gave Scotland easy yards and we knew we couldn't do that against Wales.

"I thought our attack looked pretty fluid and our backs were exceptional. It was great to get the win over last year's Grand Slam champions, they are an incredible team and we saw last week how good they are."

Ireland were inspired by number eight CJ Stander, the man of the match for a second consecutive week, and they now have a break before travelling to Twickenham for a clash with England on February 23.

Van der Flier added: "The break will do us good, but we are building up a nice momentum. In the dressing room we focused afterwards on the good things we did.

"We know we have much to work on for the England game, but we will look at those learnings when we get back into camp." 

Wing Jacob Stockdale, meanwhile, believes Ireland will only get better as they continue to adapt to new head coach Farrell.

"It's going to take a few weeks to get into the new coaching structure and new ideas but I thought we did it really well," he said.

"Our physicality was brought to the next level but in all fairness to Wales they came and pushed us hard. They fired a few shots early on.

"It's great to get the win. We are always looking for the kicks in behind and we know the 15s like to get quite high early. It worked out really well.

"We know how good we can be when we are on it with our carrying and at the breakdown. Once we started to do that, the tries started to come."

There were winds of change in Dublin on Saturday as ferocious Ireland denied Wales a record-equalling ninth consecutive Six Nations victory with Storm Ciara fast approaching.

Wales crossed the Irish Sea braced for an almighty arm wrestle after an emphatic defeat of Italy on the opening weekend of their first tournament since Wayne Pivac replaced Warren Gatland.

The defending champions were second best in the battle of the 2018 and 2019 Grand Slam winners, failing to match their best winning run in the tournament at the Aviva Stadium – such a fortress for the men in green.

A highly anticipated showdown was expected to be badly affected by high winds and torrential rain, yet it was Ireland doing the damage in the first half to lay the platform for a magnificent 24-14 win.

Unconvincing in a win over Scotland at the start of the Andy Farrell era last weekend, this was much more like the Ireland side that was crowned champions under Joe Schmidt two years ago and topped the world rankings.

So uncompromising up front, with CJ Stander outstanding at number eight to claim a second successive man-of-the-match award, Ireland were magnificent in defence and clinical in attack.

The pressure finally told midway through the first half when the nimble-footed Jordan Larmour pierced a hole in the Wales defence, Nick Tomkins unable to haul the full-back to the ground before he touched down.

Johnny Sexton made a mess of the conversion attempt and Wales were in front against the run of play after Tomos Williams rounded off a slick move following great work from Dan Biggar and Alun Wyn Jones.

Tadhg Furlong ploughed his way over at the other end as Ireland continued to batter away at the Wales pack and Josh van der Flier gave them breathing space when the holders were unable to halt a driving maul.

Hadleigh Parkes had a try ruled out before huge roars echoed around the ground when Wales were penalised at a scrum close to the Ireland line, prompting Farrell to leap up and punch the air. 

With the wind gusting at an increasing speed, Wales were much more of a force in the second half but Andrew Conway's try gave ruthless Ireland the bonus point.

Justin Tipuric crossed right at the end, but the damage had already been done as Ireland, led so well by Sexton, made it two wins out of two.

Wales also lost in-form wing Josh Adams and Biggar to injury as the Rugby World Cup semi-finalists suffered a first Six Nations defeat since losing to Ireland in Dublin two years ago.

Ireland handed Wales a first Six Nations defeat in nine matches as they ran in four tries for an impressive 24-14 bonus-point victory in Dublin on Saturday.

Andy Farrell's side were laboured in their win over Scotland on the opening week, but this time tries from Jordan Larmour, Tadhg Furlong, Josh van der Flier and Andrew Conway secured a morale-boosting triumph.

Ireland have now won 17 of their last 18 Tests at the Aviva Stadium and will travel to play England – the only team to beat them in that marvellous run - on matchday three with a 100 per cent record in this year's tournament.

Wales' hopes of winning back-to-back Grand Slams and equalling their best-ever run in the competition, a run of nine victories that ended in 1973, were ended as new head coach Wayne Pivac suffered his first defeat.

Tomos Williams and Justin Tipuric scored a try in each half for the defending champions, but Wales have still not enjoyed a Six Nations win in Ireland since 2012.

Ireland made the early running and while a gutsy decision to go for the corner with a penalty did not pay off, the hosts did get a 19th-minute breakthrough.

After the forwards made impressive ground, Larmour seized an opening as he cut inside and fought his way past Nick Tompkins before powering over, although Johnny Sexton shanked a dreadful conversion wide.

A frustrating start for Wales got worse when in-form wing Josh Adams was lost to injury, though they struck out of the blue after 27 minutes when Williams went over after capitalising on a superb exchange between Dan Biggar and Alun Wyn Jones.

But Williams made a costly knock-on just four minutes later to present Ireland with an attacking scrum and Furlong forced his way across the line, with Sexton this time adding the extras to give his side a 12-7 half-time lead.

A stolen lineout gave Ireland momentum just after the restart and, after they kicked a penalty into touch, Van der Flier rolled over the line as part of a driving maul, with Sexton extending the advantage to 12 points.

Hadleigh Parkes was inches away from getting Wales back into it, but the TMO ruled he had just lost control of the ball with a powerful reach forward to the try-line.

Another big chance went begging when Ireland forced a scrum collapse under their own goalposts, a pivotal moment the home forwards celebrated like a match-winning try.

Conway made sure of the victory and a bonus point five minutes from time as he charged in down the right after being released by Larmour, with Tipuric's late stretch over the line at the other end only proving a consolation.

Mark Telea scored a hat-trick and earned the Blues a bonus point in a 32-12 win over the Waratahs, while the Chiefs came from behind to defeat reigning Super Rugby champions the Crusaders 25-15.

Blues wing Telea touched down his first try two minutes after Joe Marchant – on loan from Harlequins – got off the mark for the New Zealand franchise early in the second half.

Hoskins Sotutu was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle, although referee AJ Jacobs accidentally brandished his red card initially, and the Waratahs made their numerical advantage count when Mark Nawaqanitawase crossed after the hour mark.

Telea then scored twice in the space of four minutes, the second coming after the 80th minute, to send the Blues above the Crusaders and into second in the New Zealand Conference.

Saracens have been fined €50,000 for fielding Titi Lamositele against Racing 92 without a valid work permit but the holders will remain in the European Champions Cup.

There were reports that Sarries could be thrown out of the competition after European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) brought a misconduct complaint against them.

The champions of Europe and England faced an independent disciplinary hearing in London on Friday as a result of Lamositele's appearance in a crunch Pool 4 clash with Racing last month, which took place a day after his documentation expired.

United States prop Lamositele came off the bench in a crucial 27-24 win at Allianz Park on January 19 but may have been ineligible due to what EPCR described as "an inadvertent administrative error on behalf of the club".

A tweet from the Champions Cup revealed that the London club have been fined €50,000, half of which is suspended until the end of the 2020/21 season.

Sarries will be relegated from the Premiership at the end of the season for breaching salary-cap regulations but could still retain the Champions Cup.

The victory over Racing saw them through to the quarter-finals, with a showdown against Leinster to come on April 4 in a repeat of last season's final.

Stuart Hogg says Scotland are too consumed with plans to turn over England at Murrayfield on Saturday to engage in a war of words.

England head coach Eddie Jones yet again started the mind games by referring to Gregor Townsend's side as "niggly" and a team that look to "goad" opponents.

Back-row forward Lewis Ludlam also vowed that the Rugby World Cup runners-up will be prepared to go to "war" against the Auld Enemy in the second round of the Six Nations.

Yet captain Hogg says Scotland are only interested in giving themselves every chance of retaining the Calcutta Cup, which they have held since 2018.

The British and Irish Lions full-back said: "Look, my job is to make sure I'm concentrating on getting my performance spot-on but also making sure the team is switched on.

"We're here for the right reasons, not listening to what others have got to say.

"We're concentrating on what happens within the four walls of our changing room and making sure we are focused and ready."

Scotland and England were beaten by Ireland and France respectively on the opening weekend, and Hogg is confident Townsend's men can respond with a victory.

"I think I've made it pretty clear I've got a lot of respect for England," the Exeter Chiefs man added.

"I've been fortunate enough to play for a few of their boys on Lions tours and they're world class.

"But we want an opportunity to turn them over. I fully believe in our team, that we can do that and we'll do everything in our power."

France and Italy both make just one change to their starting line-ups for the Six Nations clash at the Stade de France on Sunday.

Former Les Bleus Under-20 captain Arthur Vincent replaces powerhouse centre Virimi Vakatawa, who suffered a triceps injury in the victory over England last Sunday, to make his first Test start.

Romain Taofifenua replaces Vincent in the matchday squad, so Fabien Galthie has six forwards to call upon among the replacements in Paris.

Italy were thumped 42-0 by Wales in their opener, but Jayden Hayward's inclusion at full-back is the only alteration made by Franco Smith.

Matteo Minozzi shifts from number 15 to the left wing, with Leonardo Sarto overlooked for the Azzurri's second match of the tournament.

France have triumphed in 18 of their 20 clashes with Italy in the Six Nations, including winning all 10 of their home games.

 

France: Anthony Bouthier, Teddy Thomas, Arthur Vincent, Gael Fickou, Vincent Rattez, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas, Bernard Le Roux, Paul Willemse, Francois Cros, Charles Ollivon (captain), Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements: Peato Mauvaka, Jefferson Poirot, Demba Bamba, Romain Taofifenua, Boris Palu, Cameron Woki, Baptiste Serin, Matthieu Jalibert.

Italy: Jayden Hayward, Mattia Bellini, Luca Morisi, Carlo Canna, Matteo Minozzi, Tommaso Allan, Callum Braley; Andrea Lovotti, Luca Bigi (captain), Giosue Zilocchi, Alessandro Zanni, Niccolo Cannone, Sebastian Negri, Jake Polledri, Abraham Steyn.

Replacements: Federico Zani, Danilo Fischetti, Marco Riccioni, Dean Budd, Federico Ruzza, Giovanni Licata, Guglielmo Palazzani, Giulio Bisegni.

Saracens could face more punishment after Titi Lamositele played in a crucial European Champions Cup victory over Racing 92 last month a day after his work permit expired.

The European and English champions are already facing relegation from the Premiership at the end of the season for breaching salary-cap regulations.

Sarries will face an independent disciplinary committee on Friday after European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) brought a misconduct complaint against them.

Lamositele came off the bench in a 27-24 win over Racing on January 19, but may have been ineligible due to what EPCR described as "an inadvertent administrative error on behalf of the club".

An independent disciplinary committee consisting of Roger Morris, Pamela Woodman and Jean-Noel Couraud will hear the misconduct complaint in London.

The London club face Leinster in the quarter-finals at the Aviva Stadium on April 4 in a repeat of last season's final.

The Brumbies snapped a four-game losing streak in their rivalry with the Melbourne Rebels after a fast start set the platform for Friday's 39-26 victory in Canberra.

Not since a 32-3 win in June 2017 had the Brumbies come out on top in matches between these Super Rugby rivals, but last season's beaten semi-finalists were on top from the early stages in their latest encounter.

Irae Simone sold a dummy and scurried in for a fifth-minute opener, before exciting young fly-half Noah Lolesio fed Tom Banks with a pass from out the back of the hand to grab the Brumbies' second try.

Smart play from Simone gave Tom Cusack the chance to grab a third, and the Brumbies' fourth try in the opening half-hour arrived when Lolesio's teasing kick through was reached first by Solomone Kata to dot down.

After a disheartening round one defeat to the Sunwolves last weekend, the Rebels were again second best but they found a response just before half-time when Angus Cottrell powered over.

A half-time deficit of 24-7 was narrowed by Melbourne when Cottrell burrowed in for his second try; however, hopes of a turnaround were dashed for the Rebels when Brumbies hooker Folau Fainga'a barged through in the right corner in the 52nd minute.

The lively encounter at GIO Stadium saw further tries from Tom Wright for the Brumbies and Dane Haylett-Petty and Frank Lomani for the Rebels.

While the Brumbies have won two from two, the Rebels are yet to get off the mark.

The Sharks are also two from two after crushing the Highlanders 42-20 in Dunedin.

Springboks wing Makazole Mapimpi and Aphelele Fassi both scored two tries for the impressive visitors from Durban, with James Venter also dotting down and Curwin Bosch kicking 17 points.

Dillon Hunt, Jona Nareki and Michael Collins grabbed tries for the well-beaten Highlanders.

The opening round of fixtures in this year's Six Nations did not disappoint.

Wales served up a feast of tries to kick things off, the defending champions showing a cutting edge as they thrashed poor Italy 42-0 in Cardiff.

The score was far closer at the Aviva Stadium, though, as Ireland edged out Scotland. New captain Johnny Sexton was the hero for the hosts, scoring all their points in a hard-fought 19-12 triumph. Next up: Wales.

England, meanwhile, got their just deserts following a shocking start against France. Failing to score a point in the opening half of a game in the tournament for the first time since 1988 left Eddie Jones' side with too much to do in Paris, Les Bleus delighting the home crowd by holding on for a 24-17 win on Sunday.

So, what will be on the menu for the second week? With help from Opta, we whet your appetite for the upcoming games.

 

Ireland v Wales

- Wales have lost just one of their last five Six Nations games against Ireland (W3, D1). However, their solitary defeat in that spell came the last time they travelled to Dublin in the tournament (2018).

- As for Ireland, they have an outstanding home record, losing just two of the last 22 Tests they have played in front of their own fans (W19, D1). Those defeats? Against New Zealand (November 2016) and England (February 2019).

- Wales gained the most metres (563) of any side in last weekend's opening round, ahead of Ireland (413). Wales also topped the charts for clean breaks (12) and defenders beaten (26, level with Scotland and France).

- Ireland's Jordan Larmour made the most carries (19) and metres (138) of any player last weekend, while Wales' Leigh Halfpenny ranked second in both categories (17 carries, 107 metres).

- Josh Adams crossed for a hat-trick against Italy, taking him to 13 tries in Test rugby since the beginning of 2019. That tally is two more than any other player has managed over that same period of time.


Scotland v England

- Scotland are unbeaten in their last two Six Nations matches against England (W1, D1), this after losing seven in a row before that. Not since 1982-1984 have Scotland gone unbeaten in three straight Calcutta Cup fixtures (W2, D1).

- Only once since 2000 have England suffered successive defeats to open a campaign (2005), but they have lost five of their last seven away outings, including the last two.

- England won 17 of their 18 lineouts in the defeat to France, their 94 per cent success rate the best of any side. In contrast, Scotland's 78 per cent success rate was the worst out of the nations.

- Stuart Hogg beat eight defenders against Ireland, more than any other player in week one. Team-mate Jonny Gray excelled in defence, ending as the joint-top tackler (22, level with Bernard Le Roux).

- Owen Farrell is 20 points away from reaching 900 for England in Test rugby. His highest haul in an international match came against Scotland in 2017, as he landed seven conversions and four penalties to finish with 26.


France v Italy

- France have won 18 of their 20 clashes with Italy in the Six Nations (L2) – scoring victories in each of their 10 home games in that run. They have averaged four tries per game against the Azzurri in the Championship, too.

- Italy hold an unwanted record, having now lost their last 23 Six Nations games. No other side has lost more than 17 consecutive games in Five or Six Nations history.

- France were not flush with possession in the match against England, yet they conceded the fewest metres (224) and clean breaks (6), as well as making the most tackles (182).

- Only England's Maro Itoje (44) hit more rucks in the opening round of this year's Six Nations than France duo Gregory Alldritt (43) and Charles Ollivon (37, level with Peter O'Mahony). Alldritt hit the most defensive rucks of any player (25) and slowed the opposition ball down on 16 occasions at the breakdown.

- France are beginning a Six Nations campaign with two successive home games for the first time since 2016, which also happens to be the last time they began with back-to-back victories.

The Scarlets have announced Glenn Delaney will take over from the departing Brad Mooar as head coach.

Delaney already works for the Pro14 club, serving as defence coach since his arrival from Super Rugby franchise the Highlanders last May.

However, the New Zealander – who previously had a spell in charge at London Irish - will be promoted to the top job once the 2019-20 season has come to a conclusion.

Mooar only joined last year to replace current Wales boss Wayne Pivac at Parc y Scarlets but is leaving the region to take up a role on the All Blacks' coaching staff.

"Since the news was confirmed that Brad was linking up with the All Blacks we have had a huge amount of interest in the post from all over the world," Jon Daniels, general manager of rugby, said.

"The head coach at the Scarlets is a sought-after position, with Brad and previously Wayne (Pivac) having progressed to the international stage.

"We have built a strong reputation based on the stability of our environment and the quality of players we have here.

"We have done our due diligence on all the candidates and it was Glenn who came through as the man to continue this journey we have started with Brad."

The Scarlets sit second in Conference B after 10 rounds of the Pro14 campaign, while they have also qualified for the quarter-finals of the European Rugby Challenge Cup.

Gregor Townsend has spoken to Finn Russell and informed the player he will reassess his place in Scotland's squad after the Calcutta Cup clash against England.

Fly-half Russell was omitted for Scotland's Six Nations opener against Ireland, which they lost 19-12, after being disciplined for a "breach of team protocol". He was also not considered for the clash with Eddie Jones' men, which takes place on Saturday.

Adam Hastings will start at 10 in Edinburgh in place of Russell, who had a disagreement with head coach Townsend after last year's dramatic 38-38 draw with England at Twickenham.

Scotland have a two-week break coming up before facing Italy in Rome and Russell's place in the squad will be discussed before that fixture.

"I spoke to [Russell] on Sunday night to let him know we wouldn't be making any changes to the squad and that I would reassess after this weekend's game," Townsend told a news conference.

When asked if the chat was positive, Townsend replied: "It was a conversation. It was to tell him he wasn't in the squad for this week and we would look at things next week."

Townsend was reluctant to discuss what Russell will have to do to be considered but says there is a chance he will be involved in the remaining rounds of the tournament.

"I'd rather not discuss that here. We've got a big game at the weekend and I want to be talking about the 23 that will be involved in that game," Townsend said.

"Of course [he could feature in the tournament], just as there's a chance Sam Skinner, Matt Fagerson, guys that have been injured, are back available to us in the next couple of weeks."

 

 

 

 

Gregor Townsend has spoken to Finn Russell and informed the player he will reassess his place in Scotland's squad after the Calcutta Cup clash against England.

Fly-half Russell was omitted for Scotland's Six Nations opener against Ireland, which they lost 19-12, after being disciplined for a "breach of team protocol". He was also not considered for the clash with Eddie Jones' men, which takes place on Saturday.

Adam Hastings will start at 10 in Edinburgh in place of Russell, who had a disagreement with head coach Townsend after last year's dramatic 38-38 draw with England at Twickenham.

Scotland have a two-week break coming up before facing Italy in Rome and Russell's place in the squad will be discussed before that fixture.

"I spoke to [Russell] on Sunday night to let him know we wouldn't be making any changes to the squad and that I would reassess after this weekend's game," Townsend told a news conference.

When asked if the chat was positive, Townsend replied: "It was a conversation. It was to tell him he wasn't in the squad for this week and we would look at things next week."

Townsend was reluctant to discuss what Russell will have to do to be considered but says there is a chance he will be involved in the remaining rounds of the tournament.

"I'd rather not discuss that here. We've got a big game at the weekend and I want to be talking about the 23 that will be involved in that game," Townsend said.

"Of course [he could feature in the tournament], just as there's a chance Sam Skinner, Matt Fagerson, guys that have been injured, are back available to us in the next couple of weeks."

 

 

 

 

Magnus Bradbury returns from injury in Scotland's solitary change for their Edinburgh Six Nations showdown with England.

Edinburgh number eight Bradbury replaces club-mate Nick Haining, who impressed in the narrow 19-12 loss to Ireland last weekend, after overcoming a thigh strain.

Haining drops to the replacements for the Calcutta Cup clash at Murrayfield, while Cornell du Preez misses out on the matchday squad.

Scotland were victorious the last time they faced England on home soil two years ago and retained the trophy in a barnstorming 38-38 draw at Twickenham 12 months ago.

Finn Russell is once again omitted having been overlooked for the Ireland game due to a "breach of team protocol".

Head coach Gregor Townsend was encouraged by his side's performance against Ireland but warned of a response from an England side smarting from an opening defeat to France.

"We were proud of parts of our performance in Dublin at a very difficult venue," Townsend told Scotland Rugby's official website.

"The challenge for the squad is to replicate that level and take our chances when they come, in order to win tight games.

"England are an excellent team whose run to the Rugby World Cup final was no fluke.

"They will be smarting from their opener in Paris and Eddie [Jones] will have them primed to come to Edinburgh and put in an improved performance."

Scotland team to face England:

Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Huw Jones, Sam Johnson, Blair Kinghorn, Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Magnus Bradbury

 

Replacements:

Stuart McInally, Allan Dell, Simon Berghan, Ben Toolis, Nick Haining, George Horne, Rory Hutchinson, Chris Harris

 

Nick Tompkins will make his first Wales start against Ireland in the only change from their opening Six Nations victory over Italy.

Wayne Pivac saw his reign as head coach begin in style with a dominant 42-0 win at the Principality Stadium and has opted to keep the majority of the same line-up for the tricky trip to Dublin.

Tompkins scored a fine solo try on his Wales debut last week and is set to partner Hadleigh Parkes in midfield, while George North moves from centre to a more familiar role on the wing.

Johnny McNicholl drops to the replacements to accommodate that alteration, but Wales are otherwise unchanged in the starting XV.

Gareth Davies, back from a groin injury, Rhys Carre, Owen Williams and Adam Beard come into the matchday squad at the expense of Rhys Webb, Jarrod Evans, Rob Evans and Cory Hill – the latter missing out with a leg complaint.

"We've made just one change after a winning start last weekend," Pivac told the Welsh Rugby Union's official website.

"Nick comes into the side, I thought he played exceptionally well when he came on last week so he deserves the start. George, who played really well last weekend at centre, moves back out to the wing.

"On the bench we have a few players back available. Rhys Carre impressed at the Rugby World Cup and he comes back in. Adam Beard comes in for Cory Hill who picked up a leg injury earlier this week, Gareth is fully fit and Owen Williams comes onto the bench and gives us a bit more cover.

"Momentum is important in the championship. It was nice to get a good winning start under our belts and hopefully we can build on that through the tournament."


Wales team to face Ireland: 

Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Nick Tompkins, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Tomos Williams; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Dillon Lewis, Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones (c), Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: 

Ryan Elias, Rhys Carre, Leon Brown, Adam Beard, Ross Moriarty, Gareth Davies, Owen Williams, Johnny McNicholl.

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