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.

 

 

 

 

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."

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.

Stuart Hogg apologised to his Scotland team-mates after the captain's "schoolboy error" proved costly against Ireland in Saturday's Six Nations Test.

Scotland went down 19-12 in Dublin but were on top for long periods as they chased a rare away win.

The visitors repeatedly failed to convert territory into points, though, with their most glaring missed opportunity seeing Hogg - the new skipper following Greig Laidlaw's retirement - drop the ball as he crossed the try line with the scores at 13-6.

"It was just a schoolboy error. I'm gutted with how that happened," Hogg told a news conference. "But I can't change what's happened now - I just need to get on with it.

"I've apologised to the boys, but what will be will be. We have to move on.

"It's bitterly disappointing to drop the ball over the line, but we got ourselves in some good positions there. After the forwards' hard work and effort, I'm bitterly disappointed not to finish it off."

Head coach Gregor Townsend could not hide his disappointment at the time of the error but added: "[Hogg] has played rugby for a long time - you make mistakes.

"You shouldn't be ranking whether someone drops the ball over the try line or drops the ball in their own 22, it's an error that you flush and move on.

"He was outstanding on the field today. I thought his energy, his decision-making, his kicking was excellent, and he's led the team really well the last two weeks.

"We will work to get better as a coaching group and a playing group. Stuart will bounce back very quickly from that."

Scotland are on home soil in their next outing, as they welcome England to Murrayfield on Saturday.

Stuart Hogg apologised to his Scotland team-mates after the captain's "schoolboy error" proved costly against Ireland in Saturday's Six Nations Test.

Scotland went down 19-12 in Dublin but were on top for long periods as they chased a rare away win.

The visitors repeatedly failed to convert territory into points, though, with their most glaring missed opportunity seeing Hogg - the new skipper following Greig Laidlaw's retirement - drop the ball as he crossed the try line with the scores at 13-6.

"It was just a schoolboy error. I'm gutted with how that happened," Hogg told a news conference. "But I can't change what's happened now - I just need to get on with it.

"I've apologised to the boys, but what will be will be. We have to move on.

"It's bitterly disappointing to drop the ball over the line, but we got ourselves in some good positions there. After the forwards' hard work and effort, I'm bitterly disappointed not to finish it off."

Head coach Gregor Townsend could not hide his disappointment at the time of the error but added: "[Hogg] has played rugby for a long time - you make mistakes.

"You shouldn't be ranking whether someone drops the ball over the try line or drops the ball in their own 22, it's an error that you flush and move on.

"He was outstanding on the field today. I thought his energy, his decision-making, his kicking was excellent, and he's led the team really well the last two weeks.

"We will work to get better as a coaching group and a playing group. Stuart will bounce back very quickly from that."

Scotland are on home soil in their next outing, as they welcome England to Murrayfield on Saturday.

Wales coach Wayne Pivac has described Josh Adams as one of the best players in the world after his hat-trick in the 42-0 Six Nations win over Italy.

It was Adams and fly-half Dan Biggar who accounted for all of Wales' points in the opening 40 minutes as they effectively sealed victory thanks to the former's first-half brace.

Nick Tompkins added a try on his debut and, after having one ruled out by the TMO, George North touched down to clinch a bonus point, before Adams completed his hat-trick after the 80th minute.

Adams was the top try scorer at the World Cup in Japan last year and Pivac is no doubt that he is among the very best on the planet.

"On the biggest stage in world rugby he was the top try scorer, so he has got to be right up there," Pivac told a media conference. "That record speaks for itself.

"What I liked was his last try and he could have easily just parked up on his wing, but he came close to the ruck and scored late on.

"With Stephen Jones running our attack and the way we want to play the game, wingers get more opportunity potentially, so I think he will enjoy the way we play."

Pivac also praised replacement centre Tompkins, saying: "Nick showed the time he was on the field he has a lot of talent and ability. A lot of people know now who Nick Tompkins is."

Biggar pulled off a stunning pass between his legs for Adams' second try, much to the delight of Pivac.

"It just shows the confidence he has at the moment," he said. "Dan is a very confident guy and he knew exactly where his wing was and the situation, and he had the skill to execute it brilliantly. I was very pleased with Dan all around and he had a very good game.

"He was one of the guys who was leading our line speed and I thought he had a pretty good all-round game."

Italy's interim head coach Franco Smith was full of praise for Wales' display and had no complaints with the result.

"Wales are a top side," he said. "It's a pity that we had to have our first start in this way against them.

"But then again, I'd rather lose against the best the way we did than maybe just lose against another team that is not in the same form that this team is. I think Wales rugby can be proud of this group of men they've got here."

New Ireland head coach Andy Farrell was in awe of the way captain Johnny Sexton carried his side in his first appearance for club or country in almost two months.

As former assistant Farrell takes on the senior coaching role following Joe Schmidt's post-Rugby World Cup departure, Sexton is now the Ireland skipper after Rory Best retired.

And the Leinster fly-half was at his influential best on Saturday to secure a 19-12 victory at home to Scotland in their Six Nations opener, scoring all of Ireland's points - including the only try of the match.

Sexton had been out of action since a 45-minute shift in the European Champions Cup against Northampton Saints on December 7, and he has played just three times for Leinster in total this season.

Farrell told ITV: "He's not played for a long time, Johnny. It says a lot about a guy when he's passionate about being captain of his country in the Six Nations for the first time.

"He's trained with us for the last 10 days and that's the only real time he's been involved with team rugby, and he goes out and puts a performance in like that. He was outstanding, for me."

Sexton's team-mates did not look quite so convincing in a match that ended following a nervy stand in front of the Ireland try line, but Farrell was delighted with the team's spirit.

"There's always going to be things to work on, things we're trying to implement that are going to take time," he said. "Some of them were good, some of them were bad.

"Decision-making was up and down at times. I thought we looked quite fluent at times, but sometimes we got a little carried away with our decision-making. It's a start.

"But we asked the players all week to make sure they stand for something, and boy did they stand for a bit of grit.

"They were under the pressure in the first half on their own line quite a few times. And then you culminate that with what the last five minutes said about the team, I think it's there for all to see really."

Captain Johnny Sexton led by example with all 19 Ireland points in head coach Andy Farrell's 19-12 debut win over a wasteful Scotland in their Six Nations opener.

Talisman Sexton and former assistant Farrell were both adjusting to new roles at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday following the post-Rugby World Cup departures of Rory Best and Joe Schmidt.

But the Leinster fly-half ensured it was a winning, if not wholly convincing, start to a new era for Ireland in Dublin, where new Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg fumbled when he looked certain to score in the second half.

It was Sexton who scored the only try of the match in the first half and his boot thereafter maintained an Irish advantage on a frustrating day for Scotland, with four Adam Hastings penalties proving to be in vain

Gregor Townsend's men came flying out of the blocks and Hastings – replacing Finn Russell after he was punished for a breach of team discipline - kicked the first points with five minutes played, albeit after a lengthy stoppage as home debutant Caelan Doris had to make an early exit with a head injury.

But Ireland rallied in impressive fashion and led through Sexton's try, the new skipper stepping through a gaping hole in the visitors' defence to go over after 10 minutes.

A second Hastings penalty checked Ireland's momentum, but continued spells of Scotland pressure were not rewarded with a try, Farrell's side standing firm time and again in front of the posts.

Sexton's pinpoint penalty restored some daylight on the scoreboard, although a further missed effort moments later gave Scotland a lift heading into the break.

Optimism in the away ranks soon mellowed as the continued concession of penalties allowed Sexton to swiftly add another three points from 15 metres.

And Scotland passed up a huge opportunity with just under half an hour remaining, skipper Hogg mishandling in the corner unchallenged when a try looked inevitable.

The play was instead pulled back for a penalty, which Hastings dispatched, and the Scotland number 10 then responded to Sexton's third successful penalty with his fourth to keep his team in contention.

But an inability to cross the try line to breach a stoic defence, and Ireland's sole try was enough as Sexton again kicked well when Sam Johnson foolishly barged Andrew Conway off the ball, before a dramatic late stand sealed a scrappy victory.


O'Mahony, Henshaw show Irish depth

Farrell was dealt an early blow as he lost the uncapped Doris after just five minutes, the new man having made a bright start. But the depth of talent in this Ireland squad was evident as they could instead turn to Peter O'Mahony.

The 65-cap star won one vital turnover in front of the home try line, as Robbie Henshaw also came off the bench after an injury to Garry Ringrose.

Scots not nearly clinical enough

While 2019 will not be remembered especially fondly by Scotland fans, they did enjoy one scintillating second half in an epic draw away to England - inspired by Russell, notably absent here.

Townsend's side tore through England at will that day but badly lacked the same ruthlessness this time. A try-less first half really should have been followed by a Hogg score and they knocked out on the door in the closing stages without reward.

What's next?

Ireland are at home again next week for a mammoth clash with 2019 Grand Slam winners Wales. Scotland's task does not get any easier as they welcome World Cup runners-up England to Murrayfield.

Josh Adams scored a hat-trick as Wales eased to a routine 42-0 win over Italy at the Principality Stadium in Wayne Pivac's first Six Nations game in charge. 

Playing in their first tournament game since their fourth-place finish at the World Cup last year, Wales always had too much for the Azzurri, interim coach Franco Smith's side offering little resistance in a one-sided contest.

It was Adams and fly-half Dan Biggar who accounted for all of Wales' points in the opening 40 minutes as they effectively sealed victory thanks to the former's first-half brace.

Nick Tompkins added a try on his debut and, after having one ruled out by the TMO, George North touched down to clinch a bonus point, before Adams completed his hat-trick after the 80th minute.

Italy's indiscipline put them on the back foot in the opening stages and three Biggar penalties gave Wales control.

Wales tightened their grip on the contest with a wonderful opening try of the tournament, putting the ball through hands to send Adams free down the left before the wing finished clinically in the corner.

If that was impressive, the set-up for Adams' second was nothing short of incredible as Biggar sent him over in the same area of the field with an instinctive pass through his legs.

After missing his first conversion attempt, Biggar made no mistake with the second to make it 21-0 at the interval.

Tompkins raced clear after a superb sidestep for his first international try on the hour mark and Wales did not take their foot of the gas.

North was denied after the TMO spotted a knock-on in the build-up to his 63rd-minute effort, but the centre secured maximum points for Wales when he worked his way over from close range.

There was still time for Adams to provide further reason to celebrate as he came in from the left and barged over to complete his treble in a match that provided little indication as to how Wales will fare in next week's meeting with Ireland.

When Gregor Townsend signed a contract extension in 2018, he declared Scotland were entering a "crucial and exciting time".

Townsend added that he expected "improvements across the board" after being handed a new deal just over a year after replacing Vern Cotter as head coach.

Yet on the eve of their Six Nations opener against Ireland in Dublin, Scotland fans could be forgiven feeling more than a modicum of apprehension over what is to come in the next six weeks.

There was no shortage of excitement at Twickenham when Townsend's men conjured up a stunning second-half fightback to hold fierce rivals England to an incredible 38-38 Calcutta Cup draw last March.

A glance at the Six Nations table offered a reality check ahead of the Rugby World Cup, though, given Scotland finished second-bottom - their only victory coming against perennial wooden spoon recipients Italy.

There was much more misery to come when a defeat in a do-or-die clash with hosts Japan sent Scotland crashing out of the World Cup with a whimper after failing to make the quarter-finals.

Townsend was backed to stay on despite that early exit and defiantly stated "there's a lot more in this team". 

That team was already shorn of talismanic captain and scrum-half Greig Laidlaw following his international retirement, so there would be even more onus on Finn Russell to be at his mercurial best.

But as the squad stepped up their preparations for their showdown at the Aviva Stadium this Saturday, Russell was pulling the strings for Racing 92 in a Top 14 victory at Castres last weekend.

Disciplined for a breach of team protocol following an incident at the team hotel, it is not clear whether the brilliant fly-half will play any part in the Six Nations. 

Townsend, also without injured in-form wing Darcy Graham, has put his faith in Adam Hastings to fill Russell's huge shoes against an Ireland side that beat Scotland 27-3 in the World Cup just over just over four months ago.

There was plenty of positive talk from the former Glasgow Warriors boss this week despite turmoil even before the first ball is kicked.

"I don't know if we have a point to prove. What I can say is that the team have prepared really well, the intensity levels and communication in training have been excellent." he said.

"Things have gone well, but we know mindset has a big part to play in high-level sport."

While expectations may be limited, Scotland must show the fight Townsend has called for without the soft centre that has been exploited all too often during his reign.

Scotland have proven they can be great entertainers in the Townsend era, but they must make the case for the defence or the 46-year-old's tenure could be cut short.

Andy Farrell set his stall out when he named "a hell of a team" for his first game as Ireland head coach against Scotland in the Six Nations on Saturday.

There had been much debate over who would get the nod at the start of Farrell's reign following the agony of Ireland's Rugby World Cup failure.

Just over three months after Joe Schmidt's reign ended with a 46-14 World Cup quarter-final drubbing at the hands of New Zealand, Farrell showed he is ready to do things his own way when revealing his hand for the clash at the Aviva Stadium this weekend.

The dual-code international put his cards on the table ahead of schedule, handing a start to uncapped number eight Caelan Doris with Ronan Kelleher poised to make his debut off the bench.

Conor Murray kept his place over the in-form John Cooney, with Johnny Sexton leading the side following Rory Best's retirement.

While the names in the 23 were always going to be the main topic of discussion, Farrell very much made a statement with his tone and timing of the delivery.

He has had plenty of time to consider his approach to being a head coach after serving as an assistant, having been named as Schmidt's successor in November 2018.

Asked about naming his first team earlier than expected, the straight-talking Englishman replied: "I'd rather just get it out there and get on with the week."

The 44-year-old added: "There is a little bit of paralysis through analysis. You can look too much into things the whole time.

"It doesn't bother me about putting a team out there because that's all I’m bothered about, our team. Backing ourselves. You've got to make a decision and we've got a hell of a team going into Scotland."

There has been talk around the Ireland camp about a freshness that Farrell has brought after Schmidt's glorious spell in charge came to an anticlimactic end.

Ireland headed into the World Cup on top of the rankings and it is only two years since they won the Grand Slam.

Although they were unable to live up to expectations in Japan, you only have to look at the bench for the showdown with Scotland to see the strength in depth Farrell can call upon.

Peter O'Mahony, Cooney, Robbie Henshaw, Andrew Conway and the recalled Devin Toner are among the replacements.

Farrell has spoken of his intention to take Ireland in a "new direction", and there is surely no doubt he has the experience and passion to make a seamless step up to the top job.

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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