Andy Farrell feels two battling wins to open the Six Nations have Ireland "in a great place" ahead of their trip to face England at Twickenham.

Ireland saw off defending champions Wales with a 24-14 bonus-point win in Dublin on Saturday.

Jordan Larmour, Tadhg Furlong, Josh van der Flier and Andrew Conway scored as Farrell's men answered critics who had questioned them following an unconvincing opening win over Scotland.

Farrell conceded Ireland are still not at their peak but could not be happier with the base they now have to build from before facing England on February 23.

"The things that you're working on, it isn't going to come to fruition straight away," the Ireland head coach said to RTE.

"But what you want to try and see is a bit of fight and we're certainly seeing that over the two weeks - it puts us in a great place to keep building.

"Two from two and still plenty to do. It was another gutsy, gritty performance. First half we created opportunity after opportunity and we probably didn't convert as much as we possibly should have.

"I've absolutely no doubt that Wales were really pleased with the half-time result because of the strong wind and the opportunities we didn't convert, but how we managed that second half against a strong wind was really clinical.

"Our defence was superb and our set-piece tightened up. There are some good signs of what we're trying to do. I've just said to the boys that it's a great place to be, knowing what we're trying to achieve and we're nowhere near that yet.

"If you've got a foundation like that, you can build massively."

CJ Stander, man of the match for the second straight week having faced Scotland at blindside flanker and Wales at number eight, was among players to win the praise of Farrell, as did captain Johnny Sexton and his two wings.

"He was awesome, he is a guy who has come in for a bit of stick as well, but he's got two man of the matches – those performances say it all about the guy," Farrell said of Stander, who was sent to the sin-bin in the final moments of the contest.

"I've never seen a standing ovation for a yellow card before but he deserved it."

Of Sexton, Farrell added: "He's in control, isn’t he? That's what he's done all his life and that's what he does best. With the added responsibilities of captaincy, I think he's added to his game, actually.

"And Andrew Conway was outstanding. We want our wings to go at it 100 per cent and he defined that. Jacob Stockdale did the same on the other wing as well. 

"We want to play to space because we've got some really exciting backs and we like to give them one on ones. We were excellent, on the front foot in defence and attack throughout.

"We wanted to be nice and physical right through. We had some big moments last week, especially when we had to dig deep to hold on and win but here we got that intensity 100 per cent across the 80 minutes.

"We're in a great place, we had a great week's preparation and good, honest feedback from the boys in the aftermath to the display against the Scots.

"We saw an improved performance, but we all know, the coaches and the players, there is still plenty more in us even after a bonus-point win."

Ellis Genge took a swipe at the "sausages" who criticised England following a Six Nations defeat to France after they beat Scotland to regain the Calcutta Cup on a bleak Saturday at Murrayfield.

The Rugby World Cup runners-up made a poor start to the tournament last weekend, paying the price for an error-strewn performance by losing 24-17 in Paris.

England rolled up their sleeves to respond with a 13-6 victory in a Storm Ciara-battered Edinburgh, Genge scoring the only try 10 minutes from time.

Jones' side showed they were up for the fight in driving rain and strong winds and the replacement prop let his feelings be known after they lifted the Calcutta Cup for the first time in three years.

Asked about the emotion of scoring the winning try, he told BBC Sport: "I don't know; I can't remember. It was 20 minutes ago, and it was all a bit of a blur, it happens quite quick.

"We played well and luckily I was the one that picked it up. Quite a few of the boys are getting drug tested so it's quite quiet in the changing room.

"We are buzzing to win but there is more to come. We had a bump in the road last week and people were saying we were not good enough.

"It's classic – you have a lot of sausages that say things that come to their head. What are they on about? We go away and win in Scotland in the rain and they are full of praise again. I hope we have shut them up."

Jones is hopeful his side can kick on with a showdown against Ireland to come at Twickenham following a weekend off.

"Apart from 15 minutes, we dominated the game. We had a few poor kicks, but we dominated possession and we finished it off, which we didn't do last week," said the England head coach.

"It was an old-fashioned Calcutta Cup game, swirling wind and an aggressive crowd without manners.

"There is a lot of growth for us. I under-prepared the side for the first game but we'll get stronger as the weeks go on."

Wayne Pivac acknowledged Wales had conceded an "unacceptable" level of turnovers after he suffered his first defeat as head coach against Ireland in the Six Nations.

Ireland recorded a 24-14 bonus-point victory in Dublin on Saturday which ended Wales' hopes of winning consecutive Grand Slams.

An error-strewn display saw the visitors make 17 handling errors and Pivac admitted their opponents were worthy winners, Tomos Williams and Justin Tipuric having scored his side's only tries.

"There were just too many turnovers when we were in good positions on the field," Pivac said.

"We turned the ball over eight times through handling, that is unacceptable at this level of the game.

"There were inaccuracies in their 22 and we let them off the hook a couple of times. The difference was when they got down there they were very accurate and scored the tries that we weren't able to.

"We have got to be very accurate in our passing game, it's something we will need to go away and work on. You are not able to build that constant pressure which Ireland were able to do when they scored a couple of their tries.

"Some of the handling errors, we will go and look at them. They weren't always under pressure. Some of it was skill execution. But the Irish deserved to win this game."

Wales centre Hadleigh Parkes had a try disallowed by the TMO in the second half when he just lost control of the ball as he stretched for the try-line.

Pivac added: "It was a big decision, but the decision was right. He didn't have control, so we didn't get rewarded with the points.

"It wasn't through a lack of effort. With 20 minutes to go, it's game on at that point if it's scored."

Ahead of their next clash at home to France, Wales have fitness concerns over in-form wing Josh Adams, who left the match in the first half, while fly-half Dan Biggar came off early in the second period.

Biggar failed a head injury assessment, a fate he also suffered twice at the Rugby World Cup.

"Dan failed a HIA so he'll go through the normal protocol there," said Pivac. "Josh had a knock to a hip so he will be getting that checked."

And he added of the defeat: "It's an opportunity for us to have a look at our game. We were put under pressure and we will see where we have to work harder to make sure we get those things right for the next match.

"It is a tournament and we've got another three matches to look forward to. We'll be working very hard to get the areas right that we need to so we can put on a better performance next time around.

"So we have to go away and work hard at our game and make sure we are a little bit better in those areas for the French game."

Ellis Genge scored the only try of a scrappy battle in horrendous conditions as England regained the Calcutta Cup with a 13-6 defeat of Scotland at a sodden Murrayfield.

There was little to separate the fierce rivals on a bleak Saturday in Edinburgh, lashed by Storm Ciara, after Adam Hastings' penalty brought Scotland level following Owen Farrell's strike from the tee in the first half.

That was until replacement prop Genge touched down 10 minutes from time after England were awarded a scrum five yards from the post when Stuart Hogg was adjudged to have made downward pressure on the ball, having spilled it over his own line.

Farrell missed three penalties, with the rain teeming down and wind howling, but was successful with a second to increase his side's lead after adding the extras to Genge's try.

A second Hastings penalty reduced the deficit to seven points, but the Rugby World Cup runners-up held on to beat their old rivals the first time in three years.

England deserved to win an ugly contest after losing to France on the opening weekend of the Six Nations, while Scotland have lost two out of two - Hogg's mistake proving to be pivotal after the captain inexplicably dropped the ball when he should have scored against Ireland.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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