England coach Eddie Jones has lauded Ben Youngs and Jamie George as the duo prepare to make landmark appearances against Italy.

Leicester Tigers scrum-half Youngs will become just the second player, after Jason Leonard, to make it to 100 appearances for England when he takes to the field against Italy in Rome on Saturday.

England are chasing a bonus-point victory to keep them in contention for the Six Nations title, with leaders Ireland - one point better off - taking on third-place France in Saturday's later match.

Youngs is not the only player to be reaching an England milestone, with hooker George set to win his 50th cap.

The duo have been made to wait over seven months, with England having last played against Wales in March, prior to the coronavirus outbreak causing the suspension of the championship.

"I can only speak with great admiration of Ben," said Jones in a news conference.

"He had a difficult World Cup in 2015 and since then has worked extremely hard on his game. At his best he's close to the best half-back in the world.

"He's got a great running game, a good kicking game and he's an important, infectious character in our squad."

Jones added of George: "It's a great achievement for Jamie to be winning his 50th cap.

"He had a long apprenticeship but he's now fully established as our starting hooker."

Owen Farrell will captain the side, which features seven changes from the one which defeated Wales 33-30, and the Saracens fly-half echoed Jones' sentiments in regards to his team-mate Youngs.

"Everybody knows how good a player Ben is," Farrell said. "Not only or what he’s doing in recent times but for how long he's been doing it.

"He was in the England team when I was coming through, at a very young age, and he stepped up to the plate very quickly and has obviously been doing it ever since.

"He's brilliant to play with, he's a great driver of energy throughout the team which is brilliant for a scrum-half. He sees space very well and gets the team on the front foot."

Gael Fickou will move from centre to the wing in place of the injured Teddy Thomas for France's decisive Six Nations clash with Ireland in Paris on Saturday.

Racing 92 winger Thomas scored the last of France's five tries in last weekend's 38-21 victory over Wales but has been ruled out of the Ireland game at Stade de France with a hamstring injury.

Fickou shifts out wide in the absence of the clinical Thomas, with Arthur Vincent coming in at centre in the only change from the win over Wales.

Explaining his decision, France head coach Fabien Galthie said: "We know that Jonny Sexton uses his foot to put pressure on our wing. Fickou has this experience to deal with it.

"We had to manage the same thing against Wales. Arthur Retiere is also ready and is on the bench."

France are seeking their first tournament triumph in a decade as they gear up to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Les Bleus start their final game in Paris a point behind leaders Ireland and level with England, who face Italy in Rome.

"It's quite simple - we have as much chance of winning as England and Ireland," Galthie said. "But above all we try to be consistent. 

"We want consistency. We should not be weighed down with assumptions of what could happen."

Bernard le Roux again partners Paul Willemse at lock after his citing for an allegedly striking Alun Wyn Jones was dismissed by an independent panel.

The game has been given the all clear to go ahead despite French president Emmanuel Macron tightening the country's coronavirus restrictions this week.

Ireland announced their squad on Wednesday, with Robbie Henshaw replacing injured Leinster team-mate Garry Ringrose in their only change.

France: Anthony Bouthier, Vincent Rattez, Virimi Vakatawa, Arthur Vincent, Gael Fickou, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas, Bernard Le Roux, Paul Willemse, Francois Cros, Charles Ollivon (captain), Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements: Camille Chat, Jean Baptiste Gros, Demba Bamba, Romain Taofifenua, Dylan Cretin, Baptiste Serin, Arthur Retiere, Thomas Ramos.

Ben Youngs will win his 100th cap for England in their long-delayed Six Nations clash with Italy on Saturday.

The 31-year-old Leicester Tigers scrum-half will become just the second England player to tot up a century of appearances, after Jason Leonard, who won 114 caps from 1990 to 2004.

England's starting XV for the match at Rome's Stadio Olimpico shows seven changes to the side that beat Wales 33-30 in March, before the championship was suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Most are forced on coach Eddie Jones by injury, with Elliot Daly, Manu Tuilagi, George Ford, Joe Marler, Courtney Lawes and Mark Wilson all sidelined, while George Kruis misses out as he heads to Japan to continue his career.

Hooker Jamie George wins a 50th cap, and he and Youngs will lead out the team, which will be captained by Owen Farrell.

Into the side comes full-back George Furbank, with Jonathan Joseph and Henry Slade lining up at centre as Farrell moves to fly-half, while Billy Vunipola and Mako Vunipola feature in the pack along with George and the uncapped Exeter Chiefs lock Jonny Hill.

Jones, whose side will be chasing a bonus-point win that would keep them in title contention ahead of Ireland's clash with France later in the day, said: "We've trained with good intensity this week and the squad are excited by the challenge of performing at our best against Italy.

"The team have prepared well and are looking forward to putting on an England shirt and showing what they can do.

"We will also celebrate two major achievements in Ben Youngs' and Jamie George's cap milestones.  It's testimony to their skill, hard work and love of playing for England, and there is more to come from both of them."

 

England: George Furbank, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Henry Slade, Jonny May, Owen Farrell, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Tom Dunn, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, Ben Earl, Dan Robson, Ollie Lawrence, Ollie Thorley.

Alun Wyn Jones is set to become the most-capped player in Test rugby when Wales conclude their Six Nations campaign against Scotland on Saturday.

Wales captain Jones will break the record set by New Zealand great Richie McCaw when he makes his 149th appearance at Parc y Scarlets this weekend.

The 35-year-old lock made his international debut in 2006 and has featured in 139 Tests for Wales and nine with the British and Irish Lions.

Head coach Wayne Pivac said: "It's a fantastic day for Alun Wyn, isn't it. What can you say? We don't have enough time to talk about the guy. Just a tremendous leader in this group, leads by example.

"When he speaks, everyone listens. He's always matter of fact, to the point. Just a fantastic guy to have in our environment and I'm so pleased he's going to be able to do that.

"He's had to wait longer than we anticipated with the summer tour [called] off, but certainly to do it in a Six Nations match will be special for him."

Jones will be joined in the second row against Wales by Will Rowlands, who was handed a first Wales start by Pivac as one of six changes that also saw debutant Shane Lewis-Hughes and Tomas Francis named among the forwards.

George North makes way for Liam Williams on the wing and drops out of the 23-man squad, while Gareth Davies starts at scrum-half due to Rhys Webb's injury and Owen Watkin returns at centre.

 

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, Liam Williams, Jonathan Davies, Owen Watkin, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Rhys Carre, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis, Will Rowlands, Alun Wyn Jones, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Sam Parry, Wyn Jones, Dillon Lewis, Cory Hill, James Davies, Lloyd Williams, Rhys Patchell, Nick Tompkins.

Alex Mitchell has replaced injured scrum-half Willi Heinz for title-chasing England's final match of the Six Nations against Italy on Saturday. 

Heinz has been ruled out of the clash due to a leg soft tissue injury, so Eddie Jones has called up uncapped Northampton Saints pivot Mitchell to provide cover. 

Jones also has experienced scrum-halves Ben Youngs and Dan Robson in his squad for the showdown in Rome. 

England go into the match knowing a bonus-point victory could see them crowned champions, depending on the outcome of the huge final-day battle between France and leaders Ireland in Paris. 

The Red Rose have won all 26 matches against Italy in the tournament, scoring at least four tries - which they need for a bonus-point win - in their last six meetings with the Azzurri.

Defence coach John Mitchell wants to see England set the tone in the opening stages of what will be their first match since the tournament was halted in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

He said: "Firstly, our goal is to win this Six Nations. We'll need to set the tone right at the start and we'll also need to be at our best. 

"If we keep that focus and maintain that intent and are very good, then we'll give ourselves a very good opportunity. 

"It's an opportunity for us to put smiles on faces during a really tough time in the country – that might sound generic because you might be hearing that from all sportsmen but that time has arrived for us, and that’s really important to us." 

Meanwhile, flanker Tom Curry says the competition for places in the squad is pushing him to take his game to another level. 

He said: "In life there is stuff that you can't effect whatsoever. Obviously as rugby players you want to be playing, but sometimes that’s not the case and especially at this time. 

"I think the brilliant things about this situation is how adaptable you can be and how you can still look to get better. I think from a personal point, I feel in a really good place."

Robbie Henshaw has replaced Garry Ringrose as Ireland's only change for Saturday's decisive Six Nations clash with France in Paris.

Leinster centre Ringrose broke his jaw early in last weekend's 50-17 hammering of Italy after being caught by Edoardo Padovani's knee and will miss the next six weeks.

Fellow Leinster player Henshaw came on for Ringrose at the Aviva Stadium and will now start the crucial clash with France at the Stade de France.

Ireland head into their final match of the elongated tournament knowing that a bonus-point victory will secure a fourth title in seven years.

As a result of Henshaw dropping out of the squad, Chris Farrell has been drafted into the Ireland replacements.

Prop Cian Healy is set to win his 100th cap and Johnny Sexton will once again captain Ireland, who are a point ahead of England – whose final game is against Italy in Rome – and opponents France.

 

Ireland: Jacob Stockdale, Andrew Conway, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Hugo Keenan, Johnny Sexton (c), Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Andrew Porter, Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan, Caelan Doris, Will Connors, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Ed Byrne, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Peter O'Mahony, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ross Byrne, Chris Farrell.

Uncapped duo Jacob Umaga and Jack Willis have been included in a 36-man England squad selected by Eddie Jones.  

Fly-half Umaga and flanker Willis are rewarded after impressing for Wasps this season, while there is also a place for club colleague Dan Robson.  

The trio all started Saturday's Premiership final but were unable to help Wasps triumph at Twickenham, Exeter Chiefs instead crowned domestic champions for the 2019-20 season.  

Joe Simmonds was influential for Exeter in the 19-13 victory, kicking a conversion and four penalties, but he has not been selected. There is no place for his brother, Sam, either.  

Jack Nowell is one of several notable names absent due to injury. Elliot Daly, George Ford and Joe Marler are also missing, along with long-term absentees Courtney Lawes and Manu Tuilagi. 

However, Jones made clear he still had to make some difficult calls when putting together the final list for Saturday’s rescheduled Six Nations clash with Italy, as well as the upcoming autumn internationals.  

There are nine players yet to feature at international level on the final list. 

"It was a tough squad to pick and I know there are a number of disappointed players that have just missed out," Jones said. "We've got a good balance between experience and inexperience.  

"With nine players out injured, it does create some opportunities for the younger guys to show what they can do." 

England still have a chance of winning the Six Nations as they complete their fixtures against Italy, the tournament having been halted earlier in the year due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

They were due to face the Barbarians in a warm-up fixture beforehand, but that was cancelled due to breaches of the COVID-19 code of conduct. 

After the game with Italy, England face Georgia, Ireland and Wales as part of the Autumn Nations Cup, while there will also be a play-off Test against a nation from Group B to follow. 
 

England squad 

Backs: Joe Cokanasiga, Owen Farrell, George Furbank, Willi Heinz, Jonathan Joseph, Ollie Lawrence, Max Malins, Joe Marchant, Jonny May, Dan Robson, Henry Slade, Ollie Thorley, Jacob Umaga, Anthony Watson, Ben Youngs.

Forwards: Tom Curry, Tom Dunn, Ben Earl, Charlie Ewels, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Jonny Hill, Ted Hill, Maro Itoje, Joe Launchbury, Lewis Ludlam, Beno Obano, David Ribbans, Jack Singleton, Kyle Sinckler, Will Stuart, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola, Harry Williams, Jack Willis.

John Cooney has been called up to the Ireland squad for the decisive Six Nations clash with France on Saturday as cover for Jamison Gibson-Park.

Gibson-Park reported he is suffering from hamstring tightness after the 50-17 demolition of Italy at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

Cooney was left out for that match in Dublin after being on the bench for the defeat to England in February before the tournament was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Ulster scrum-half has been drafted in by Andy Farrell ahead of a showdown with Les Bleus in Paris which Ireland start knowing a bonus-point win would secure the title.

Wing Keith Earls is finishing his rehabilitation programme from a back injury and a decision over whether he can face France will be made in the coming days.

Centre Garry Ringrose is out for up to six weeks after suffering a broken jaw in the hammering of the Azzurri.

England trail Ireland by a point but are favourites to be crowned champions as they face Italy in Rome.

Ireland will be without Garry Ringrose for their decisive Six Nations showdown with France after the centre was ruled out for up to six weeks with a broken jaw. 

Ringrose was caught in the face by Edoardo Padovani's knee early in the 50-17 hammering of Italy when the Six Nations resumed at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday. 

The Leinster player, who was replaced by Robbie Henshaw, will miss the trip to Paris for a final match of the tournament that Ireland will start needing another bonus-point win to secure the title. 

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell said: "Garry Ringrose has broken his jaw, so bad news for us all. 

"He's been so good for us the last 10 days, he has been absolutely fantastic with his leadership and he was a big part of the reason why we got what we wanted [versus Italy]. 

"He was unfortunate with his thumb injury earlier in the Six Nations and has come back and had a setback like that which will keep him out for four to six weeks, so we're gutted for Garry."

Ringrose also looks set to sit out the Autumn Nations Cup encounters with Wales, England and Georgia in November. 

Ireland are a point ahead of France and England - who play Italy in Rome - ahead of the final round of Six Nations matches.

Hugo Keenan scored a debut double as Ireland coasted to a 50-17 bonus-point thrashing of Italy to go top of the Six Nations table on Saturday. 

Eight months after the clash in Dublin was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Andy Farrell's side secured the maximum points they needed to keep their destiny in their own hands in the battle for the title. 

CJ Stander scored the opening try when Conor Murray was in the sin bin after debutant Paolo Garbisi's penalty gave Italy an early lead behind closed doors at the Aviva Stadium. 

Wing Keenan crossed twice in the first half and had a try disallowed prior to Will Connors touching down a debut score of his own to secure the bonus point, after Edoardo Padovani finished at the other end. 

Johnny Sexton added a fifth try and booted 15 points, with Bundee Aki and Dave Heffernan also scoring before Garbisi went under the posts right at the end. 

Ireland ensured they will face France - who, along with England, they are a point clear of - in Paris next Saturday on the final weekend knowing a bonus-point win will seal the title. 

Murray was yellow carded inside three minutes for conceding a penalty just in front of his own line after Ireland were caught out by an incisive Italy break, Garbisi opening the scoring from the tee. 

Ireland took charge despite being a man down, Stander crashing over from close range before Sexton was on target with a penalty and Keenan finished superbly after Robbie Henshaw - on for the injured Garry Ringrose - picked him out with a whipped pass. 

Keenan had a try chalked off when James Ryan was penalised for obstruction, but he got on the end of scrum-half Murray's kick to round off a swift break prior to the interval and Sexton converted expertly for a third time. 

Italy did not do themselves any favours as they gave away too many penalties, but Padovani plucked a stray pass from Sexton to race away and score 15 minutes into the second half. 

Ireland had the bonus point in the bag soon after, though, Connors dotting down from the back of a driving maul after 61 minutes, then Sexton and Aki added further tries with Italy all at sea. 

Heffernan scored Ireland's seventh from a set-piece and Garbisi marked his debut by scampering away for a try with time almost up in a one-sided contest. 

The Six Nations finally resumes on Saturday with a clash between Ireland and Italy behind closed doors at the Aviva Stadium.

Andy Farrell's side and the Azzurri were due to do battle in Dublin late in February, but the round four game was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ireland were beaten 24-12 by England at Twickenham last time out, but remain in contention for the title, with a trip to face France to come in their final match of the tournament next weekend.

Farrell's men will lift the trophy if they secured bonus-point victories in both matches.

Italy, who will have 20-year-old fly-half Paolo Garbisi in the starting line-up have not won a Six Nations game since beating Scotland in 2015.

We use Opta facts to preview the only round four match that could not be played before the tournament was halted due to the COVID-19 crisis.

- Italy have lost two games in this year's tournament without scoring a point, the first time any side has suffered this fate in the history of the Six Nations.

- Ireland have averaged just 7.7 turnovers conceded per game due to a handling error in the 2020 Six Nations, fewer than any other side. Italy, meanwhile, are the only side to average over 15 total turnovers conceded per game in this championship (15.7).

- Italy have lost each of their last 25 games in the competition, the longest losing run by any side in Five-Six Nations history; only on two occasions in that spell have Italy lost by a single- figure margin (v France 2016, v Scotland 2018).

- Since the start of the 2014 Six Nations, Ireland have lost just one of 17 home games in the championship (against England last year)

- Ireland have won 19 of their 20 Six Nations matches against Italy, a 22-15 shock in 2013 at the Stadio Olimpico the only loss.

- Italy have just two wins across their 52 away games in the Six Nations, both of those victories coming at Murrayfield against Scotland (2007 and 2015).

 

Ireland full-back Jordan Larmour will miss the conclusion of the Six Nations and the Autumn Nations Cup after suffering a dislocated shoulder.

Larmour will undergo surgery this week, having sustained the injury in Leinster's Pro14 win at Benetton Rugby on Saturday.

The versatile 23-year-old will not be available to Andy Farrell for the Six Nations encounter with Italy at the Aviva Stadium on October 24 nor the final match of the tournament against France at Stade de France seven days later.

Larmour has also been ruled out of the internationals against Wales, England and Georgia next month.

Leinster on Monday stated that no timeframe had been put on a potential return for the influential Larmour.

Ryan Baird will be assessed this week after the lock suffered an adductor strain in the victory at the weekend.

Finn Russell looks set to feature for Scotland for the first time since the 2019 World Cup after being named in Gregor Townsend's latest squad. 

The Racing 92 playmaker played no part in the Six Nations before the coronavirus-enforced break after being disciplined for a "breach of team protocol" ahead of the opening match against Ireland in Dublin.

It appeared there would be no way back for Russell under Townsend after he told the Sunday Times there would need to be "big changes" for him to resume his Scotland career, taking a dig at the head coach's style and man-management.

Townsend then responded by questioning the number 10's commitment to playing for his country, with Russell also having stated the pair have "no relationship".

Their issues have seemingly been resolved, though, after 28-year-old Russell was named in the 40-man squad for the conclusion of their Six Nations campaign against Wales and the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup. 

The squad, captained by Stuart Hogg, features three uncapped players in Glasgow Warriors prop Oli Kebble, Edinburgh winger Duhan van der Merwe and Harlequins scrum-half Scott Steele.

Townsend told Scottish Rugby's official website: "The squad we have selected is formed by the majority of the players we worked with in the Six Nations alongside players who have grabbed their opportunity in the past few weeks and have been in form for their respective teams."

Scotland begin their autumn Test matches at Murrayfield against Georgia on October 23 before facing Wales in Llanelli on October 31 for the conclusion of their Six Nations.

They will then take on France and Fiji in Pool B of the new Autumn Nations Cup, as well as an away Test match against Italy.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has urged his team to come out firing for their crucial final two matches in the Six Nations.

After a seven-month delay, Ireland will get to finish their campaign when they face Italy in Dublin on October 24 and France in Paris seven days later.

Should they win both matches and take a bonus point each time, Ireland will be assured of the championship, having won two of their three matches to date.

Ireland had been due to face Italy in early March and France later in the month, but the emerging COVID-19 threat saw those fixtures postponed.

Farrell, who named a 35-man squad on Thursday, must cope without prop Tadhg Furlong, who started Ireland's opening three matches in the championship, after he suffered a calf injury on duty with Leinster.

John Cooney has also missed out, with the Ulster scrum-half paying the price for a dip in form with Ulster, while Farrell has summoned six uncapped players, including New Zealand-born half-back Jamison Gibson-Park.

Farrell named his latest squad on the day his predecessor in the Ireland top job, Joe Schmidt, was named as World Rugby's new director of rugby and high performance.

With half an eye on the Autumn Nations Cup, Farrell said: "We have two competitions to play in over the coming months but will focus first on a strong finish to the Six Nations Championships.

"The return to rugby has not been without its challenges as some players have suffered injury setbacks and there has been limited playing opportunities ahead of a busy and exciting international window.

"We will be closely monitoring the form and fitness of players competing in the Guinness Pro14 over the coming weeks."

Farrell praised the "huge effort" that has gone into allowing professional rugby to resume in Ireland, saying it was "greatly appreciated by the national management".

He added: "We have protocols in place to safeguard the welfare of the players and staff and are looking forward to completing the Six Nations Championships."

Ireland squad:

Backs: Bundee Aki (Connacht), Ross Byrne (Leinster), Jack Carty (Connacht), Andrew Conway (Munster), Shane Daly (Munster), Chris Farrell (Munster), Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster), Robbie Henshaw (Leinster), Hugo Keenan (Leinster), Jordan Larmour (Leinster), Kieran Marmion (Connacht), Stuart McCloskey (Ulster), Conor Murray (Munster), Garry Ringrose (Leinster), Johnny Sexton (Leinster, captain), Jacob Stockdale (Ulster)

Forwards: Ryan Baird (Leinster), Finlay Bealham (Connacht), Tadhg Beirne (Munster), Ed Byrne (Leinster), Will Connors (Leinster), Jack Conan (Leinster), Caelan Doris (Leinster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Dave Heffernan (Connacht), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Rob Herring (Ulster), Ronan Kelleher (Leinster), Peter O’Mahony (Munster), Andrew Porter (Leinster), Quinn Roux (Connacht), James Ryan (Leinster), John Ryan (Munster), CJ Stander (Munster), Josh van der Flier (Leinster)

England may lose three players from their training squad because of issues relating to coronavirus, head coach Eddie Jones has revealed.

After a 28-man pool including 12 uncapped players was selected on Monday, Jones is concerned over a trio of unnamed stars.

Jones was already unable to pick from the top four teams in the English Premiership ahead of the semi-finals and restrictions also applied to Sale and Worcester players after their clash was re-arranged due to COVID-19 cases at the Sharks.

Now there may need to be further alterations to his plans.

"Well, I really don't know what's happened, all I try to do is select the players that are available, so that's all I've been worried about," said Jones when asked if the Sale situation would disrupt England.

"We are looking at three players [on Tuesday] whether they will be available to be selected, we'll find out this morning and then we'll just wait and see.

"Look, I think this is going to be the way it is at the moment.

"I just saw in the football England had three players unavailable this morning, they can't go into Gareth Southgate's camp.

"It's a fact of life at the moment, that's what we have to deal with, we can't get too worried about it, we're not too obsessed about it.

"We'll just take the players that are available, and work with those players."

England are preparing for the conclusion of the Six Nations – they next face Italy on October 31 – as well as the Autumn Nations Cup, but centre Manu Tuilagi is not involved after tearing his Achilles tendon.

Jones added: "Manu was the focal point of our attack, and we have to find other ways of having focal points of our attack.

"We will miss Manu greatly, he's been a terrific team-mate, terrific team player, and we feel for him. 

"But we move on, we'll find other alternatives and other ways of playing."

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