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."

Quinton de Kock has no qualms with balancing multiple responsibilities as he prepares to lead South Africa in the one-day series with England.

De Kock has assumed the captaincy and will combine that with his usual duties as a wicketkeeper and batsman, the Proteas star insisting there is no risk of him being overloaded.

South Africa, who lost the Test series to England, face three ODIs against the 2019 Cricket World Cup winners, with the first taking place in Cape Town on Tuesday.

And De Kock will gladly continue to keep wicket in addition to his other roles.

"It [keeping wicket] is the one thing that helps me with my captaincy and my batting," he told the media. "It's key for me to hang on to the gloves for as long as I can.

"You guys think it sounds like a lot of work. I've been doing it for quite a while now, so it becomes second nature.

"Now, with the captaincy, it adds a bit more responsibility to me, which I enjoy. I think I am going to hang on with the keeping and the batting for a while."

The Proteas finished seventh in the pool phase at the World Cup last year, losing five of their nine matches in a miserable showing.

De Kock acknowledged there was significant room for improvement but the 27-year-old is looking to the future with optimism.

"We are in a rebuilding stage in the 50-over format," he said.

"We are looking forward to the next World Cup and we are at a stage where we are looking for youngsters to come through, and to give them the best opportunities we can, and hopefully help them grow as cricketers and be great prospects for us in future.

"We just want to win the series for now. There is a lot of time to give a lot of opportunities but for now, it's important for us as a team that we just get a series win.

"That's more important at the moment for the morale of the team. In the future, we will be giving more opportunities when we decide its best for the team."

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.

Eoin Morgan says Alex Hales could still make an England comeback, but it will take time to repair a "breakdown in trust" with the team.

Hales was dropped last year, a month before England's triumphant Cricket World Cup campaign on home soil, after he was reportedly handed a 21-day ban for what was described as an "off-field incident".

The batsman has not played for his country since but has been in sparkling form with the bat for Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League in Australia.

Morgan stated that Hales' international career may not be over just yet, with the T20 World Cup coming up in Australia this year, but the England captain indicated that it may be a while before the 31-year-old is considered.

Asked if Hales could make an international return, he told Sky Sports: "Yes, absolutely.

"Alex is in fantastic form for Sydney Thunder at the moment but his form has never been a question about him coming back into the squad

"What happened prior to the World Cup last summer was a complete breakdown in trust between Alex and the team.

"The way back in for Alex is to try and rebuild that trust and that takes a considerable amount of time. We are in that time at the moment."

Meanwhile, Tom Banton, Saqib Mahmood and Matt Parkinson could make their ODI debuts in the first game of the three-match series against South Africa on Tuesday.

With Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes rested, Morgan says those who are given a chance against the Proteas must grasp it with both hands. 

"I think we use ODIs as a great opportunity to build strength in depth throughout our squad," said Morgan.

"This series, as a starting point, will see guys come in and make their debuts and give people opportunities to stake a claim for positions that have been cemented for some time now.

"One of our strengths going into the last World Cup was competition for places and guys in those positions becoming not just very good England players but world-class international players."

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.

Gregory Alldritt says a warning from Eddie Jones added fuel to French fires as they started the Fabien Galthie era with a 24-17 Six Nations defeat of England.

England head coach Jones said a young France side should be braced for "absolute brutality" and to "understand what Test rugby is" at the beginning of their new dawn at the Stade de France on Sunday.

Jones might have been regretting those comments as Les Bleus scored 24 points without reply in the Paris rain, new captain Charles Ollivon getting a try in each half after Vincent Rattez's early score.

A sublime double from Jonny May gave England a glimmer of hope, but they could only muster a losing bonus point from an error-strewn display courtesy of an Owen Farrell penalty right at the end.

France showed immense physicality as they defended for their lives and man-of-the-match Alldritt revealed they were determined to show Jones what they are made of.

"Eddie was saying that we couldn't manage the brutality of the England team," said the number eight.

"But when you are a winner, a competitor, you just want to show him that you can manage that.

"Of course we read it. We were clearly going to put some fighting spirit out there."

Alldritt was also full of praise for the impact new defence coach Shaun Edwards has made.

The La Rochelle back-rower said: "Shaun is a tough guy and he always wants aggression from you, in every bit of work and in every tackle.

"He wants big tackles. And speed in the tackle. He is bringing a lot of experience to us at international level and a lot of competence too."

Fabien Galthie felt a fearless approach and "solidarity" was the key to his young France side starting his reign with a 24-17 Six Nations win over England

New head coach Galthie put his faith in youth after replacing Jacques Brunel and was rewarded when Les Bleus beat the Rugby World Cup runners-up in his first game in charge on Sunday.

New captain Charles Ollivon scored a try in each half after Vincent Rattez's first Test score, with Romain Ntamack booting nine points from the tee to put France 24-0 up in the rain at a raucous Stade de France.

Jonny May's magnificent double caused a few French nerves in Paris, but England could only muster a bonus point courtesy of Owen Farrell's penalty with the last kick of the game.

England bossed territory and possession but they were frustrated by a combination of 23 handling errors and heroic France defending, new defence coach Shaun Edwards having already clearly made his mark.

Galthie said: "The players won the game, their solidarity won the game.

"When England started to come back on the scoreboard, there was an arm-wrestling contest and we won it, our defence won it.

"But we also scored three tries, which is no small feat against a team like England in these weather conditions.”

Former France captain Galthie added: "We're in a very positive state.

"It's a victory for all the little details put in place and worked on by the coaching staff over the last couple of months.

"Our team is very young, in terms of age and in terms of experience, but we were not scared of making mistakes, we did not think we could be wrong."

Eddie Jones conceded England looked like they "forgot how to play rugby" during Sunday's Six Nations defeat to France, just over a week after declaring he wants his side to be the greatest of all time.

Three months after losing to South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final, England were beaten 24-17 in an error-strewn display in the rain at the Stade de France.

The Red Rose bossed possession and territory in Paris, but made 23 handling errors and trailed 24-0 following a Charles Ollivon double, an early Vincent Rattez try and nine points from the boot of Romain Ntamack.

Jonny May's sublime double offered England hope, but they gave themselves too much to do and had to settle for a bonus point courtesy of Owen Farrell's penalty with the last kick of the game.

France were heroic in defence, the influence of new defence coach Shaun Edwards clear to see, in the first game of the Fabien Galthie era and England head coach Jones was left to rue a sloppy first-half display.

"It was one of those things, but full credit to the French. They played the conditions well. It’s like we forgot how to play rugby in the first half," he told BBC Sport.

"We were slow out of the blocks, we were sorry for ourselves and out of kilter, we let the situation get to us. But we took responsibility magnificently at half-time."

England lost Manu Tuilagi to injury early on and Jones felt the centre was sorely missed, along with brothers Billy (broken arm) and Mako Vunipola (eye).

"They have been playing like that for a while, they played really good rugby in the World Cup and Shaun Edwards will make them stronger," added the Australian, whose side face Scotland next.

"You miss good players and missing those three – the Vunipolas and Manu Tuilagi are difficult to replace – but we have to find ways around it. That is not an excuse for us. Manu was fully fit.

"It’s a good challenge, we are disappointed in our first-half performance but I have a lot of admiration for way we came back in the second. We have to pick ourselves up and go to Murrayfield and have a bit of fun."

Eddie Jones expected to see a brutal display when England travelled to France in the opening round of the 2020 Six Nations – and that is exactly what he got.

The problem for Jones, though, is that his pre-match quote with regards England testing their opponents' readiness for Test rugby came back to bite him. Badly.

Les Bleus were certainly up to the task. Starting a new era under the stewardship of Fabien Galthie and with defensive expert Shaun Edwards part of the coaching staff, they produced a performance that, after a long period rather stuck in the international doldrums, raises the hope they can rise again. England, in contrast, were as flat as a crepe.

"France can expect absolute brutality from England, we are going to go out there to make sure they understand what Test rugby is. It is about being brutal, it is about being physical and it is about dominating the set piece," Jones had said in his pre-match media conference.

Yet after stoking the flames ahead of a clash that rarely needs help to catch fire, his players failed to even do the basics expected of your local junior team.

Their first-half display quickly brought back memories of November's Rugby World Cup final against South Africa, when they suffered a chastening 32-12 defeat that saw an otherwise excellent campaign end in disappointing fashion.

Disappointing would be a generous description for an error-strewn opening 40 minutes at the Stade de France.

England treated the ball as if if harboured a contagious disease. Debutant George Furbank was diagnosed early with a case of the 'dropsies', which was perhaps understandable to a degree. However, the problem even spread as far as the usually reliable Owen Farrell, who failed to hang on to a simple pass in midfield, much to the delight of a raucous French crowd revelling in what they were witnessing.

There was even a penalty given away for failing to mind the gap at a lineout; that is how far things went underground for England.

Still, while the visitors showed all the coordination of a baby giraffe on ice, France produced some slick rugby in slippery conditions to assume total control. They led 17-0 at half-time, while Edwards' fingerprints were all over an aggressive defensive display that stifled England.

Jones may well have been brutal with his half-time assessment of his team's performance in the changing room, though England did not really start to show any fight until the immediate aftermath of Charles Ollivon's second try of the game, as a late challenge on the scorer caused a confrontation with just under an hour gone.

Jonny May – one of the few bright lights for the visitors in a dismal outing – crossed twice to reduce the gap, both fine finishes by the wing that demonstrated what England can deliver when they can build from firm foundations.

In the end, though, time scuppered any hopes of a dramatic comeback. France – who had surrendered a 16-point lead to lose on opening weekend a year ago to Wales – stood firm under late pressure near their own line, forcing Farrell to slot over a penalty with the final kick of the contest just to claim a losing bonus point.

After a stirring rendition prior to kick-off, the home support voiced their approval by singing La Marseillaise one more time in the closing stages of a superb 24-17 triumph.

England must now face the realisation that their Grand Slam prospects for this year are over after 80 minutes. Jones fanned the flames with his words in the media, but this rebooted France team let their rugby do the talking.

Owen Farrell said sloppy England only had themselves to blame for an error-strewn 24-17 defeat to France in their first game of the Six Nations.

France made a dream start to the Fabien Galthie era at Stade de France, though England gave them a huge helping hand on a wet Sunday in Paris.

The Rugby World Cup runners-up dominated possession and territory, but a double from new captain Charles Ollivon after Vincent Rattez's early try and nine points from the boot of Romain Ntamack put clinical Les Bleus 24-0 up.

A brace of sublime solo tries from Jonny May set the nerves jangling, yet England could only muster a bonus point courtesy of Farrell's penalty with the last kick of the game.

Fired-up France were magnificent in defence, but it might have been a different story had Eddie Jones' not been guilty of 23 handling errors and captain Farrell had no excuses for a poor start to the tournament.

"They scored tries off a couple of our mistakes, we had the ball in our own half too much, we made too many mistakes and they capitalised." he told BBC One.

"They got a foothold, we kind of paused, we had a bit more in the second half but that's not the way we want to defend.

"It's not due to mental fatigue, we were excited to get together and we have to get excited about playing Scotland next week.

"They were more aggressive from the word go, the second half was a bit better but we left ourselves with too much to do."

New captain Charles Ollivon scored a try in each half as France started the Fabien Galthie era with a clinical 24-17 Six Nations defeat of sloppy England at Stade de France.

There was an air of optimism in Paris after Galthie picked a youthful squad for his first tournament as head coach and Les Bleus made a dream start to a new dawn in the Paris rain on Sunday.

Vincent Rattez scored his first Test try and Ollivon claimed a contentious second in a first half France ended with a 17-0 lead, England left to rue a string of handling errors in tricky conditions.

Ollivon went over again after the break and Romain Ntamack took his tally from the tee to nine points to put France 24-0 up after Galthie's men soaked up huge pressure with magnificent defence.

Jonny May set the nerves jangling with a brace of sublime solo tries and Owen Farrell booted seven points to earn a losing bonus point, but the Rugby World Cup runners-up - who lost Manu Tuilagi to injury early on - were made to pay for a lack of ruthlessness in the final third.

France were resolute and well drilled, showing the influence new defence coach Shaun Edwards already appears to have made, as they held on for a huge victory a year after letting a 16-0 half-time lead slip in their first game of the Six Nations against Wales.

Rattez - in for the injured Damian Penaud - raised the roof when he crossed just five minutes in after taking a clever inside pass from Ntamack, Teddy Thomas having cut England open with an initial incisive burst.

Ntamack added the extras and extended the lead with a penalty before Tuilagi's early departure gave England another headache.

Handling errors cost England and they were punished for not playing on when they were convinced Ollivon had knocked on before he raced away to touch down, the TMO awarding the try.

England continued to rack up the errors as they applied huge pressure either side of half-time but were unable to break through as resolute France defended for their lives. 

It was all England, but they were caught out again when Antoine Dupont scooted around the outside and whipped the ball inside for back-row Ollivon, who slid over for a double 15 minutes into the second half and Ntamack again added the extras.

Referee Nigel Owens warned both sides following a mass melee and England finally broke through when May showed a rapid turn of foot to get on the end of his own kick and dot down.

Wing May, who scored a hat-trick in a hammering of France last year, darted inside to go over for another brilliant score, but George Kruis was denied a third try when he charged through, so a Farrell penalty with the last kick of the game meant they would only head home with a solitary point.

The Algarve: Sun, sea, sand and, if you are the England rugby squad, a chance to discuss salary caps. 

Eddie Jones - a man not known for sugar-coating his words - made clear that England's pre-Six Nations training camp in Portugal offered not just preparation time but also an opportunity to clear the air in the wake of the Saracens scandal.  

Joe Marler described the situation as the "elephant in the room", while Jones himself said the players needed to "get it out on the table" so they could all move on. The hope is voicing any grievances with what happened at the Premiership club will not allow any resentment to fester and, potentially, cause a splintering in the ranks. 

While their futures at club level remain uncertain, some of Sarries' stars will once again provide the backbone for England's push for glory in this year's championship. The one notable absentee is Billy Vunipola, once again sidelined due to a broken arm. Yet even without the number eight, hopes are rightly high for success.

They will no doubt have memories of their last outing, a painful Rugby World Cup final that did not go to plan. Having ended New Zealand's longstanding grip on the Webb Ellis Cup with a stunning semi-final win, England failed to hit the same heights in the showpiece game. In truth, they didn't even come close. 

That 32-12 loss to the Springboks in Yokohama must have hurt back in November, but - now the dust has settled and the debrief is all done - it can provide a catalyst to raise the bar, rather than the beginning of the end for the current crop.

Asked in a media conference if there was a concern over a World Cup hangover still lingering, young flanker Tom Curry offered a response that was both swift and to the point: "No".

Jones will not tolerate any self-pity either. Instead, the Australian will expect a reaction, starting with their trip to Paris on opening weekend. 

For Les Bleus, this feels like the first chapter in a new story. Head coach Fabien Galthie selected 19 uncapped players in his initial squad, suggesting he is free to shape the script going forward. 

England, however, do not have the thought of the 2023 World Cup at the forefront of their minds. Jones may not even still be in charge by then – his current deal runs until August 2021 – so his only focus is on winning now. 

Trusted lieutenants will once again will be relied upon to lead in the heat of battle, including Saracens duo Owen Farrell, who captains the team against France, and Maro Itoje. 

With Ireland and Wales – Grand Slam winners in 2018 and 2019 respectively – beginning new regimes following the departures of longstanding coaches, the familiar faces lining up in white shirts are considered favourites to reign this year. 

After so much talk around off-field issues and World Cup hangovers, the players may just be grateful just to get on with playing games.

Vunipola's absence is an obvious blow, considering his ball-carrying abilities, but there is more than enough power in the pack to cope without him. The time for talking is over; England know there are no excuses for failing to deliver a first title since 2017.

George Furbank will make his England debut in their Six Nations opener against France at full-back following an injury to Anthony Watson.

Watson was not considered for selection due to a calf issue he entered England's training camp with and Eddie Jones has given Northampton Saints back Furbank the nod.

Elliot Daly will consequently start on the left wing and Jonny May on the opposite side at the Stade de France on Sunday.

George Ford has been handed the fly-half berth with Owen Farrell named at inside centre, while Tom Curry gets the number eight spot in the absence of the injured Billy Vunipola.

Luke Cowan-Dickie was scheduled to re-join the squad in Paris on Friday after being granted leave for personal reasons and was among the replacements. Uncapped prop Will Stuart was also named on the bench.

Jones said: "It has been a massively exciting week for us. It is the start of the Six Nations, the best rugby tournament in the world. We have had a great preparation in Portugal with a quality training week this week.

"We have really worried about ourselves, getting ourselves right. We have picked a strong forward pack which is part of the England way and an exciting backline with young George Furbank playing his first Test at full-back.

"France can expect absolute brutality from England, we are going to go out there to make sure they understand what Test rugby is. It is about being brutal, it is about being physical and it is about dominating the set piece."

 

England: George Furbank, Jonny May, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Joe Marler, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Charlie Ewels, Courtney Lawes, Sam Underhill, Tom Curry.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, George Kruis, Lewis Ludlam, Willi Heinz, Ollie Devoto, Jonathan Joseph.

Four head coaches will take charge of their first Six Nations matches when the 2020 tournament gets under way this weekend. 

Wales start the defence of their title against Italy in the opening match of the competition at the Principality Stadium on Saturday with Wayne Pivac at the helm and Franco Smith in charge of the Azzurri on an interim basis. 

Ireland begin Andy Farrell's tenure against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium later in the day, while France start a new dawn with Fabien Galthie in command against England at Stade de France on Sunday.

Here we take a look at the prospects of each nation for the 2020 campaign.

 

ENGLAND

Who's in charge?

There was frenzied speculation over the future of Eddie Jones after England were soundly beaten by South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final.

The canny Australian stayed in the role, though, and is contracted until 2021, but it remains to be seen if he will still be in charge at the next World Cup in France two years later.

Who's the key man?

Tom Curry was outstanding on the biggest stage of all in Japan, and the back-row will have a major part to play in the England's bid to win the Six Nations for the first time since 2017.

Curry is expected to deputise from the injury Billy Vunipola against Les Bleus in the opening round, giving another example of his versatility.

What can they achieve this year?

The World Cup runners-up should be fuelled by the agony of coming so close to being crowned world champions three months ago and have been installed as favourites.

Jones is determined to make England the "greatest team ever" and he must hope his Saracens contingent are not affected by the European champions' salary-cap saga.

 

FRANCE

Who's in charge?

Former France captain Galthie was charged with the task of replacing Jacques Brunel after the World Cup and has put his faith in youth with an eye on the next World Cup on home soil. The appointment of Shaun Edwards as defence coach could be a masterstroke.

Who's the key man?

Teddy Thomas is a livewire wing who has been in fine form for Racing 92 this season and should show what he is capable after missing out on the World Cup.

What can they achieve?

It is difficult to know which France side will turn up at the best of times and, although there is an air of optimism with young players getting their chance, that could make them even more difficult to predict.

A showdown with England in Paris grants them a great opportunity to make a huge statement, but Les Bleus face a tricky trip to Cardiff after hosting Italy.

 

IRELAND

Who's in charge?

Farrell has earned his stripes as an assistant with Ireland, England and Saracens, and he will have plenty of experience under his belt for his first role as head coach after replacing Joe Schmidt.

Who's the key man?

James Ryan has been outstanding for Ireland and Leinster, and Farrell will rely on the towering lock to maintain his high standards, with powerful ball-carrying and set-piece acumen.

What can they achieve?

After the disappointment of bowing out of the World Cup at the quarter-final stage and failing to retain their Six Nations title last year, Ireland will be a major danger if they can hit the ground running under Farrell.

The 2018 champions have strength in depth and should mount a strong challenge, with a home clash against Wales in the second round followed by a trip to Twickenham potentially decisive. 

 

ITALY

Who's in charge?

South African Smith stepped in for the Six Nations after a successful spell with the Cheetahs, taking over from Conor O'Shea.

Who's the key man?

Luca Bigi has been handed the captaincy with Sergio Parisse, set to make his swansong at Stadio Olimpico, retiring, and the hooker must drive the perennial recipients of the wooden spoon on and show they are up for the battle.

What can they achieve ?

A victory would be an achievement in itself given Italy have not come out on top in a Six Nations match since stunning Scotland in 2015.

 

SCOTLAND 

Who's in charge?

Gregor Townsend is under pressure to turn Scotland's fortunes around after they failed to qualify for the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

Who's the key man?

Stuart Hogg has taken over as skipper, and the full-back must show the sort of form that made him a British and Irish Lion.

What can they achieve?

There is no doubt Scotland have plenty of talent to call upon and can be a joy to watch on their day, but they have been shown to have a soft centre time and again.

Finn Russell will be a big loss for the first game against Ireland after he was sent home for disciplinary reasons.

 

WALES

Who's in charge?

Pivac succeeded long-serving fellow New Zealander Warren Gatland after the World Cup, and the former Scarlets boss has a hard act to follow.

Who's the key man?

Liam Williams will miss the first match of the tournament against Italy, but the inspirational full-back should be fit for the trip to face Ireland the following week, and Wales will need him to stay fit in their quest for back-to-back titles.

What can they achieve?

Depending on how they adapt to life under Pivac, Wales ought to mount a strong defence of their crown after securing a Grand Slam last year but face tough away assignments against Ireland and England.

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