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

 

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.

Jofra Archer will miss England's Test tour of Sri Lanka after it was confirmed the paceman has sustained a low-grade stress fracture to his right elbow.

The lightning-quick seamer missed the final three matches of England's four-match Test series in South Africa and was already ruled out of the ODIs and Twenty20 fixtures against the Proteas.

Archer underwent further tests on his injury this week and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) confirmed he will not travel to Sri Lanka in March.

"Archer underwent further scans on his injured right elbow yesterday in the UK which confirmed a low-grade stress fracture," an ECB statement read.

"He will now commence an injury rehabilitation programme with the ECB medical team with a view to be ready for the international summer campaign starting in June against the West Indies in a three-match Test series."

The 24-year-old will also miss the 2020 Indian Premier League season with the Rajasthan Royals as a result of his injury.

England will hope to have Archer back for the three-match home Test series against the West Indies, which starts on June 4 at the Oval. 

Joe Root's men play two five-day matches in Sri Lanka, the first beginning on March 19.

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."

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.

Jose Mourinho believes Harry Kane will not return to action for Tottenham until at least May, in a blow for both club and country.

Spurs striker Kane sustained a hamstring injury on New Year's Day in a defeat to Southampton and has been out of action since, having undergone surgery.

Initially, it was expected Kane would be out until April and the 26-year-old has already begun his rehabilitation process.

However, Mourinho has cast doubt on that prognosis, revealing he does not expect England captain Kane to be able to play again until at least May 9-10, with Spurs scheduled to face Leicester City in their penultimate match of the season, with Crystal Palace their final league opponents on May 17.

"The Leicester match," said Mourinho, whose side face Southampton in an FA Cup replay on Wednesday, when he was asked about Kane's return.

"Maybe we need that match for something. To be fourth, to be fifth, to be sixth. Maybe he can help us in this match. I hope. Is that the best-case scenario at the moment? Yes, I think so."

If Mourinho's prediction proves correct, it means Kane will only be able to play in two league fixtures prior to joining up with Gareth Southgate's England squad for Euro 2020.

England are in action in two warm-up fixtures in early June - against Austria and Romania respectively - before facing Croatia in their opening Euro 2020 fixture on June 14.

The national team's issues are of little concern to Mourinho, however.

"It's a problem for [Gareth] Southgate and for [the England assistant manager] Steve Holland, not for me," he added. "How would I feel if I were England manager? I don't know. I'm not."

Eoin Morgan acknowledged England were "way off the mark" after Quinton de Kock inspired South Africa to victory in the opening ODI at Newlands.

In England's first ODI since winning the World Cup, the tourists lost by seven wickets as new Proteas 50-over captain De Kock scored an imperious 107 to lead South Africa to victory.

England, without Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, had looked set to amass a big score with openers Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow ticking over neatly, only for the tourists to suffer a batting collapse similar to those which have plagued the Test side over the last year.

Joe Denly (87) and Chris Woakes stood firm to help England to 258-8, but De Kock and his South Africa side ultimately had too much - with Temba Bavuma (98) also weighing in with a hefty score.

"We were way off the mark and we were hurt," Morgan said at the post-match presentation.

"South Africa completely outplayed us today in all departments. We've got no excuses. We didn't adapt to the conditions today that were set in front of us, [because] we knew it wasn't going to be an absolute run-fest.

"But apart from Joe Denly and Chris Woakes we really struggled to get going, which probably emphasises that we are a little bit rusty.

"South Africa bowled well and accurately, they used the conditions really well with slower balls, and then we couldn't penetrate the partnership between de Kock and Bavuma, so it made things very difficult for us. But full credit to them, they've started the series very well.

"I think we lacked adaptation to the skill level that was needed. The guys up front came hard like they normally do, as we always try and do, but when that didn't come off we had to try and rein in in a little bit.

"I think we lost wickets in clusters, and when myself and Joe [Root] went at the same time, we continue to lose wickets until the Woakes and Denly partnership. But I suppose that total would only get us in the game if we bowled well and managed to take early wickets. but having let those guys get themselves in, it was a struggle to drag things back."

However, Morgan believes England, who gave ODI debuts to Tom Banton and Matt Parkinson, along with recalling Chris Jordan to the 50-over team for the first time in over three years, will have learned plenty from the chastening defeat.

"I think they learned a huge amount," said Morgan. "Failure is a huge platform to try and catapult yourself forward and learn from your mistakes. As soon as you can, [you have to] implement them into this series.

"I think the two guys making their debuts, Banton and Parkinson, have come in today and seen what international cricket is like. They've had a little glimpse of T20 international cricket but it's not all crash, bang, wallop, like we've seen today.

"So they learn a lot from tonight and hopefully take that into the rest of the series."

Quinton de Kock led by example with a magnificent century at the start of his reign as South Africa ODI captain, setting up an emphatic seven-wicket win over world champions England at Newlands.

De Kock replaced Faf du Plessis as skipper in the 50-over format last month and could not have scripted a better beginning to a new era, inspiring the Proteas to a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

Tabraiz Shamsi took 3-38 as England were restricted to 258-8 after being put in by De Kock, Joe Denly making an ODI-best 87 and Chris Woakes 40 in a seventh-wicket stand of 91.

That was not enough for the tourists in their first ODI since winning the World Cup for the first time, with De Kock scoring an imperious 107 to become the joint-fifth fastest to 5,000 ODI runs.

Temba Bavuma fell for a classy 98 after putting on 173 for the second wicket with his new skipper before South Africa - beaten 3-1 by England in the Test series - completed the highest successful ODI run chase in Cape Town with 14 balls to spare.

England - without the rested Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler - looked destined to post a big total with Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow going along nicely, but they lost their way after both openers fell in consecutive overs.

Roy (32) holed out to debutant JJ Smuts to end a stand of 51 before Bairstow (19) fell to Andile Phehlukwayo and Rassie van der Dussen ran out Joe Root with a magnificent piece of fielding.

Spinner Shamsi got rid of captain Eoin Morgan and ended Tom Banton's first ODI knock, then bowled Sam Curran around his legs to leave England reeling on 108-5.

Denly and Woakes halted the procession of wickets, rotating the strike well and driving handsomely as they took the tourists over 200.

A third ODI half-century - 11 years after his second - for Denly was registered off 72 balls and he struck the fit-again Lungi Ngidi for two sixes before falling to Beuran Hendricks in the final over, with Woakes having become Lutho Sipamla's first international victim.

Reeza Hendricks successfully reviewed after being given lbw to Woakes in the first over of the run chase, but the England all-rounder got his man caught behind for just six.

De Kock and Bavuma then made the England attack look ordinary in a magnificent partnership, driving majestically and sweeping with conviction to put the Proteas well on their way to victory.

A reverse sweep took De Kock to a half-century and he crunched Tom Curran for six with disdain before Bavuma dispatched a poor ball from debutant Matt Parkinson over the ropes.

De Kock passed 5,000 ODI runs and fittingly brought up a 15th ODI hundred with a stylish drive off spinner Parkinson, before he was cleaned up trying to hit Root out of the ground.

Bavuma missed out on a hundred when he was struck bang in front by Chris Jordan, but Van der Dussen made an unbeaten 35 as South Africa sealed victory at a canter.

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."

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. 

 

 

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