Wales can approach Saturday's crunch clash against Ireland with confidence and the result will go a long way to determining their hopes of winning the Six Nations, according to James Hook.

There was plenty of encouragement for Wayne Pivac in his first match as head coach as Josh Adams' hat-trick inspired Wales to a dominant 42-0 win over Italy at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

A trip to Dublin to face Ireland, who themselves have a new man at the helm in the form of Andy Farrell, is sure to provide an altogether sterner challenge for the defending champions.

Ireland started their own campaign with a tense 19-12 beating of Scotland and Wales great Hook, who earned 81 caps and played in three Rugby World Cups for his country, is backing Pivac's men to flourish.

Speaking to Omnisport, the versatile Ospreys back said: "It's obviously going to be a much bigger test. 

"Ireland at home are always strong anyway. They've got some experience there, we know they're powerful, especially at the 22 line so they'll test Wales there. 

"But I think Wales will be full of confidence, they're enjoying playing under the new coaches, it seems to be quite a relaxed environment so I think the boys will thrive and give it a good go."

Hook, who won the Six Nations three times with Wales including Grand Slam triumphs in 2008 and 2012, says the result will provide a strong indicator of where the team is at in terms of their championship aspirations.

"I think they've obviously had a great start," he added. "But this is going to be a big Test out in Dublin and it will go a long way to seeing how we go in the championship.

"We've got plenty of confidence. It's going to be a much bigger test and after the weekend we'll know where we are."

Last month, Hook announced he will end a professional career that started in 2004 playing for Neath at the end of the Pro14 season.

Hook has played top-tier rugby in Wales, England and France – having also represented Perpignan and Gloucester in a distinguished career – and plans to continue working in the game.

The 34-year-old also has a new career venture, though, with the release of a series of children's books based around a young player's dreams to forge a top-level rugby career.

Hook was inspired by a visit to a book fair with his son Harrison and the opening title of the series, 'Chasing a Rugby Dream: Kick Off', will be released at the start of July.  

"I've got a few things going on. I'm hoping to do a bit of coaching, I'm just trying to sort a few things out with that," he said. 

"Obviously, I've got the books stuff going on, the children's books, which I'm enjoying doing at the moment. 

"I'm just trying to finish the season strong personally, then looking forward to the next chapter and going into post-rugby."

Expanding further on the books, Hook said: "It was a couple of years ago in Gloucester, my eldest boy Harrison wanted a children's book and there was a book fair at his school and he couldn't find a good rugby book, there wasn't any sort of children's rugby books there. 

"So, I just came up with a few ideas based on my rugby career and just my life basically and put that into a story through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy. 

"I got in touch with an author from Swansea who I know has written children's books and it went from there. 

"It was an idea that came from there, then we wrote the book together, got in touch with a publisher, he liked what he saw, and he gave us a series."

Willi Heinz is set to start in place of Ben Youngs in one of five England changes for Saturday's Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland.

Eddie Jones has opted to make several alterations after the Rugby World Cup runners-up were beaten 24-17 by France in their Six Nations opener last week.

Heinz comes in at scrum-half for just his fourth international start with Youngs dropping to the bench, while Jonathan Joseph will start at outside centre in place of the injured Manu Tuilagi at Murrayfield.

Mako Vunipola and George Kruis return at prop and lock respectively, and Lewis Ludlam is in at flanker in place of Courtney Lawes.

Joe Marler is omitted from the squad altogether, with Ellis Genge among the replacements.

Saracens back-rower Ben Earl is in line to make his England debut after being named among the substitutes.

 

England team to face Scotland:

George Furbank; Jonny May, Jonathan Joseph, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly; George Ford, Willi Heinz; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler; Maro Itoje, George Kruis; Lewis Ludlam, Sam Underhill, Tom Curry.

Replacements:

Tom Dunn, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Ben Earl, Ben Youngs, Ollie Devoto.

Joe Launchbury and Mako Vunipola have been named in a 25-man England squad ahead of Saturday's Calcutta Cup showdown with Scotland. 

The duo could return from injury, having been sidelined for the chastening loss to France in England's Six Nations opener.

Eddie Jones, who will name his 23-man matchday selection on Thursday, has cut Charlie Ewels and will be without injured duo Manu Tuilagi (groin) and Anthony Watson (calf).

Lock Launchbury is on the mend following a knee problem, while Vunipola missed the clash in Paris after suffering an issue with his eye.

Bath second row Ewels was substituted in the second half against France, when England were 24-0 down. They went on to claim a losing bonus point in a 24-17 defeat.

England squad

Forwards: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tom Curry, Ben Earl, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler, Will Stuart, Sam Underhill, Mako Vunipola 

Backs: Elliot Daly, Ollie Devoto, Owen Farrell, George Ford, George Furbank, Willi Heinz, Jonathan Joseph, Jonny May, Ollie Thorley, Ben Youngs

Blair Kinghorn believes Scotland have the creativity and confidence to defeat England and retain the Calcutta Cup on Saturday, despite the absence of Finn Russell.

Russell has been left out of Scotland's squad for the Six Nations clash with Eddie Jones' side at Murrayfield.

The mercurial fly-half was axed for the 19-12 defeat to Ireland last weekend after being disciplined for a "breach of team protocol".

Pre-tournament favourites England fell to a shock 24-17 loss to France in their opener, so both teams go into the match with a point to prove.

And Kinghorn reckons Scotland, who drew 38-38 at Twickenham last year, can replicate their home victory over England from 2018, even without Racing 92 star Russell.

"Finn is a great player but I have full belief in everyone in the team," said Edinburgh full-back Kinghorn.

"I fully believe we have all the creativity we need. Adam Hastings played really well against Ireland and it is great to see boys like Huw Jones coming back into some form – he's a devastating player.

"Even though we didn't get the result last week, we showed some really positive things away to Ireland. The review after the game was good.

"We've not had the results we've wanted in the last year, we all know that, so Saturday is a massive game for us. I fully believe we can get a result and that can kickstart a really successful year.

"Everyone in the team is really positive and we have full belief in ourselves that we can put in a winning performance.

"It would mean everything. It's a massive game at home, we want to retain the Calcutta Cup and get the points for the table."

Kinghorn conceded there was huge frustration at the missed opportunity in Dublin, where captain Stuart Hogg dropped the ball when he looked certain to score a try in what he admitted was a "schoolboy error".

"Losing is not fun at all," added Kinghorn. "We had chances to win but we gave away too many penalties and turnover ball at crucial points.

"It's something we've looked pretty hard at but it's never nice to lose, especially when we had not won over there for 10 years, so it was a big opportunity. 

"It's a quick turnaround so we've only got time to look at the things we can improve and then move on. Everyone is looking to get stuck in.

"Every time you come back from a loss you come in, look at the footage and try to bounce onto the next game – and there is no better one than England at home."

Hogg, meanwhile, took to Twitter to thank fans for their backing.

"It was a tough weekend but I'm very grateful for the support from everyone involved in the group," he wrote. "Can't wait to get back out there this weekend with the boys and put things right."

Courtney Lawes believes Saturday's clash with Scotland at Murrayfield offers the England team the perfect platform to prove their maturity.

England slumped to a 24-17 defeat to France in their opening Six Nations encounter in Paris on Sunday, with Eddie Jones' side failing to score a point in the opening half.

Jonny May scored two tries for the visitors to set up the chance of a grandstand finish, but Les Bleus ultimately held firm.

Scotland, meanwhile, were defeated by Ireland in their opener, and Lawes – who is the second-most capped player in Jones' squad – is relishing the trip to Edinburgh, with the Calcutta Cup at stake.

"It's the perfect place to go for us, because there is going to be some adversity without a shadow of a doubt," he told BBC Radio 5Live.

"It will be great for the maturity of our squad, and the players in it and the leadership group to show what we can learn from the weekend to take into this game.

"They don't really like us there but it's something we kind of like to embrace and get out there and play some fiery rugby."

Lawes also insisted it is on England's leaders to take responsibility on the pitch, as they aim to work out a way to prosper when not necessarily on top in a game.

"We have a leadership group in place and they are responsible for making decisions on the field. You don't want too many people talking, especially when you are under pressure," he said.

"Owen [Farrell] has got his role as skipper, and then we as lieutenants – or whatever you want to call it – have our role trying to figure out how he can do his role best.

"We know we are good when we get the game plan right and we are executing. But now we need to work on when things aren't going to plan, where we go to next.

"We need to be better at identifying where we are struggling and adapting to that situation to get momentum back where you are struggling to get anything from the referee, or a bounce of a ball, how can you gain back that control.

"We have some serious experience. [Head coach] Eddie [Jones] has given us the opportunity to be a part of that, and it is something we need to step up and do."

Wales have added two uncapped forwards to their squad to face Ireland in the Six Nations on Saturday.

The defending champions have drafted in Ospreys hooker Dewi Lake to provide cover for Elliot Dee, who has been dealing with a rib injury ahead of the key contest in Dublin.

Coach Wayne Pivac also added Dragons flanker Taine Basham to his pool on Wednesday, as Wales look to build on their emphatic 42-0 home win over Italy that opened their campaign.

Youngster Lake captained Wales at the World Rugby Under 20 Championship last year, while fellow 20-year-old Basham had been part of Pivac's first squad for the match against the Barbarians in November.

Both players have been training with the squad over recent weeks, but they are now available for selection. 

Dee, Owen Watkin and Gareth Davies are in contention to face Ireland having returned to training, though Josh Navidi (hamstring), Owen Lane (hamstring) and Liam Williams (ankle) are among Wales' injured players.

Leinster lock James Ryan has signed a new three-year contract with the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU).

Ryan has made a massive impact for Ireland since his first call-up, scoring a try less than a minute into his debut against the United States aged only 20.

The 23-year-old has gone on to win 24 caps and played a huge part in Leinster's 2018 European Champions Cup triumph.

Ryan won back-to-back Pro14 titles in the past two seasons with Leinster and has been billed as a future captain of his country.

"I am delighted to sign an IRFU contract," said Ryan.

"A lot has been packed into the start of my professional career with both Ireland and Leinster, and there has been some great success and a few disappointments, but I am involved in two very exciting squads that want to be challenging for trophies."

David Nucifora, the IRFU high performance director, said: "James is still a young man but he has delivered consistent high-level performances for both Ireland and Leinster.  

"He is growing into a leadership role with the national team and has a big future for both Ireland and Leinster."

England wing Anthony Watson will not be fit to return for this week's Six Nations meeting with Scotland, forwards coach Matt Proudfoot has revealed.

Watson was missing with a calf injury as the Rugby World Cup runners-up made a dismal start to the campaign in France last week.

England were beaten 24-17 in Paris, failing to score a single point in the first half of a Five or Six Nations fixture for the first time since 1988.

Bath star Watson was expected to return for the key Calcutta Cup clash at Murrayfield on Saturday, but Proudfoot has revealed this will not be the case.

"Anthony felt it [his calf] again yesterday and we won’t consider him for Scotland," Proudfoot said on Wednesday.

The news represents another big blow for Eddie Jones' side, who will also be without Manu Tuilagi against Scotland.

Tuilagi limped off against France due to a groin strain, with the home game against Ireland on February 23 targeted for his return.

Wales full-back Liam Williams is set to miss the Six Nations matches against Ireland and France as he continues to be troubled by an ankle injury.

The British and Irish Lion full-back has been out of action since he was injured in training before the Rugby World Cup semi-final against South Africa last October.

Leigh Halfpenny donned the number 15 shirt in the absence of Williams in a 42-0 thrashing of Italy at the Principality Stadium last weekend and could get the nod again for a huge clash with Ireland in Dublin.

Wales will be hoping Williams is fit to return when they face World Cup runners-up England at Twickenham on March 7.

"He’s struggling a bit at the moment," Wales defence coach Byron Hayward said of Williams.

"It's probably a bit too early for Liam. We're looking at the fourth and fifth game in the Championship for when he'll be available.

"Certainly not [as soon as the defending champions hoped], but the boys went well last weekend, Leigh had a great game at full-back, though it would be nice to get Liam back, obviously."

Hayward did not rule out Williams getting some game time with Saracens before making an international comeback, saying in a news conference: "That will be governed by the medical team in terms of where he's at and how he progresses in the next couple of weeks. It's a possibility, certainly."

Robbie Henshaw and Peter O'Mahony come into the Ireland starting line-up to face Wales in the Six Nations at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, while Max Deegan could make his debut off the bench.

Centre Henshaw will play alongside Bundee Aki after Garry Ringrose suffered a hand injury during a 19-12 victory over Scotland on the opening day of the tournament last weekend.

O'Mahony gets an opportunity in the back row, with Caelan Doris ruled out due to the head injury he suffered on his debut in Dublin against Gregor Townsend's Scots.

CJ Stander switches to number eight in the absence of Doris, with Josh van der Flier named at openside.flanker.

They are the only alterations to Ireland's starting XV for the clash with the defending champions.

The uncapped Max Deegan and vastly experienced wing Keith Earls feature among the replacements named by head coach Andy Farrell, who stuck to his approach of making an early team announcement.

Ireland: Jordan Larmour, Andrew Conway, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale, Johnny Sexton (captain), Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, Max Deegan, John Cooney, Ross Byrne, Keith Earls.

Manu Tuilagi will miss England's Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday due to a "low-grade groin strain".

Tuilagi limped out of the 24-17 Six Nations defeat at the hands of France at the Stade de France on Sunday, but was named in a 35-man squad for the showdown with Gregor Townsend's men.

Head coach Eddie Jones confirmed on Tuesday that the 28-year-old has been ruled out of England's second match of the tournament. but is optimistic he will be able to return against Ireland at Twickenham on February 23.

"Manu had his MRI scan last night and he has a slight, low-grade adductor strain. We're hopeful he'll be fit for Ireland. It's very good news, outstanding news," said Jones.

The Rugby World Cup runners-up are taking no risks with the Leicester Tigers powerhouse, whose career was almost ended by a groin injury six years ago.

Jonathan Joseph would appear the most likely take the number 13 shirt after coming off the bench to replace Tuilagi in Paris, or Elliot Daly could be moved inside from the wing.

Ollie Devoto and Fraser Dingwall are the other midfield options for Jones. 

 

 

Eddie Jones is convinced Tom Curry can be England's long-term solution at number eight after once again overlooking a specialist in the position for the Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland.

England began their Six Nations campaign with an error-strewn 24-17 loss to France in Paris, but head coach Jones opted to name the same squad for Saturday's trip to Murrayfield.

In-form Harlequins star Alex Dombrandt and Fiji-born Nathan Hughes once again miss out on an opportunity to stake a claim in the absence of powerhouse Billy Vunipola, who will sit out the entire tournament with a broken arm.

Curry was moved from flanker to play number eight and struggled to stamp his authority against Les Bleus, but Jones is set to persevere and backed the Sale Sharks back-rower to adjust quickly.

"I see him as a long-term number eight, so I am prepared to accept some mistakes for him to learn and become a better number eight," Jones said. 

"We don't have a one-game selection policy. Just look at players like [Ellis] Genge and how long it has taken him to be a Test player – four years. They have to go through this apprenticeship and sometimes they go through some pain at the start of it.

"I think he [Curry] can be a Rodney So'oialo type player: a mobile, hard-running number eight that has ball skills. We can't find another Billy so we won't go down that track – we will find a different sort of player.

"We want this team to be a great team. To do this we need to have the ambition to make players great players. Tom is one of those players we feel can be an absolutely outstanding number eight. But it will take time."

Jones, though, did admit he wants an injection of power from England – an area where Vunipola excels, especially at the opposition try line.

"That sort of attack has become a power game and we weren't good in that area," Jones added.

"In the World Cup final, we weren't good in that area and we weren't good there against France. It's an area we need to improve in.

"We need to find a way to get some more power because you've got to carry through bodies. We've got to find a way to have more variety."

Eddie Jones has overlooked Alex Dombrandt once again for England's Six Nations showdown with Scotland – but injured centre Manu Tuilagi is included in a 35-man squad.

In-form number eight Dombrandt did not make the matchday squad for the defeat to France in Paris on Sunday despite Billy Vunipola being ruled out with a broken arm.

Tom Curry was instead shifted to the back of the pack for the game at the Stade de France, with France running out 24-17 winners.

Dombrandt, who plays his club rugby for Harlequins, has not been included for the Calcutta Cup clash at Murrayfield.

Tuilagi is on the list of players, however, even though he suffered a groin injury in Paris, leading to him being substituted in the first half.

The uncapped Tom Dunn, Ben Earl, Alex Moon, Fraser Dingwall, Ollie Thorley and Jacob Umaga were also selected by Jones.

 

England squad

Forwards: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tom Curry, Tom Dunn, Ben Earl, Charlie Ewels, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Ted Hill, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, Joe Marler, Alex Moon, Kyle Sinckler, Will Stuart, Sam Underhill, Mako Vunipola, Harry Williams.

Backs: Elliot Daly, Ollie Devoto, Fraser Dingwall, Owen Farrell, George Ford, George Furbank, Willi Heinz, Jonathan Joseph, Jonny May, Ollie Thorley, Manu Tuilagi, Jacob Umaga, Anthony Watson, Ben Youngs.

Finn Russell has been left out of Scotland's squad for the Six Nations clash with England at Murrayfield on Saturday.

The mercurial fly-half was axed for the 19-12 defeat to Ireland on the opening day of the tournament last weekend after being disciplined for a "breach of team protocol".

Head coach Gregor Townsend stated that the "door is open" for Russell to return to the squad, but he will not feature in the Calcutta Cup showdown with an England side smarting from a loss to France on Sunday.

Adam Hastings impressed after being given the nod to replace Racing 92 playmaker Russell and looks set to keep his place.

Wing Darcy Graham remains sidelined with a knee injury that ruled him out of the encounter with Andy Farrell's side at the Aviva Stadium.

 

Scotland squad:

Forwards: Simon Berghan, Jamie Bhatti, Magnus Bradbury, Fraser Brown, Alex Craig, Luke Crosbie, Scott Cummings, Allan Dell, Cornell du Preez, Zander Fagerson, Grant Gilchrist, Tom Gordon, Jonny Gray, Nick Haining, Stuart McInally, WP Nel, Jamie Ritchie, Rory Sutherland, Ben Toolis, George Turner, Hamish Watson.

Backs: Chris Harris, Adam Hastings, Stuart Hogg (captain), George Horne, Rory Hutchinson, Sam Johnson, Huw Jones, Blair Kinghorn, Sean Maitland, Byron McGuigan, Ali Price, Henry Pyrgos, Matt Scott, Kyle Steyn, Ratu Tagive, Duncan Weir.

 

 

 

 

Ireland centre Garry Ringrose will miss the Six Nations matches against Wales and England with a hand injury.

Ringrose was replaced at half-time in Ireland's 19-12 victory over Scotland at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday with a suspected broken finger.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) confirmed the Leinster back has since undergone a procedure on his hand and will not be available for selection until they face Italy in Dublin on March 7.

However, the IRFU said Ringrose will "stay connected with the squad as a member of the leadership group".

Uncapped back-rower Will Connors has been added to the Ireland squad ahead of the clash with reigning champions Wales on Saturday.

Tadhg Furlong's fitness will be monitored after he complained of calf tightness against Scotland, while Dave Kilcoyne and Caelan Doris will follow graduated return to play protocols as part of the HIA process.

 

Ireland squad to face Wales:

Backs: Will Addison, Bundee Aki, Billy Burns, Ross Byrne, Andrew Conway, John Cooney, Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Robbie Henshaw, Dave Kearney, Jordan Larmour, Stuart McCloskey, Luke McGrath, Conor Murray, Johnny Sexton, Jacob Stockdale.

Forwards: Will Connors, Max Deegan, Ultan Dillane, Caelan Doris, Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy, Dave Heffernan, Iain Henderson, Rob Herring, Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Jack McGrath, Jack O'Donoghue, Peter O'Mahony, Tom O'Toole, Andrew Porter, James Ryan, CJ Stander, Devin Toner, Josh van der Flier.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.