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.

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.

Arsenal are seeking clarification after Kieran Tierney was told to self-isolate due to Scotland team-mate Stuart Armstrong's positive coronavirus test.

Southampton midfielder Armstrong tested positive while on international duty and will be quarantining for 10 days.

Tierney and Ryan Christie were identified as close contacts, along with two members of Scotland's support staff, and all must now self-isolate for two weeks.

The trio will miss the Euro 2020 play-off semi-final with Israel and the Nations League matches with Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

A 14-day quarantine would also see defender Tierney sit out Arsenal's Premier League clash with Manchester City on October 17.

However, the 23-year-old insists he was socially distant from Armstrong at all times and has tested negative for COVID-19.

"I'm so disappointed and frustrated to be in this situation," he said in a statement released by the Gunners.

"I have adhered to all regulations and made sure I was socially distancing from my team-mates in the hotel. I've also tested negative. I know Arsenal and the SFA [Scottish Football Association] are now in discussions with the Scottish authorities to gain a further understanding."

Arsenal said: "Our medical team have confirmed that Kieran was socially distant at all times from the player who tested positive and has broken no rules regarding COVID-19 protocols. We are currently seeking further advice and clarification of the details."

Arsenal defender Kieran Tierney is set to miss the Premier League clash with Manchester City after being told he must self-isolate due to a coronavirus case in the Scotland squad. 

Southampton midfielder Stuart Armstrong returned a positive result for a test conducted on Tuesday, the Scottish Football Association confirmed in a statement. 

Armstrong must quarantine for 10 days, meaning he will miss Scotland's Euro 2020 play-off semi-final against Israel and the Nations League matches with Slovakia and the Czech Republic. 

Tierney, Ryan Christie and two of Scotland's support staff have been identified as close contacts of Armstrong, meaning they must now self-isolate for 14 days. 

They will also sit out the coming international matches, while Tierney will miss the meeting between Arsenal and City on October 17. 

Celtic midfielder Christie will be forced to sit out the Old Firm clash with Rangers on the same day. 

Scotland head coach Steve Clarke said: "While this is obviously disappointing news the most important thing is the health and safety of the individuals involved and the wider group.  

"As soon as we were informed of the positive test, the Chief Medical Consultant immediately contacted the Scottish Government's clinical adviser, who in turn alerted the local Health Protection Team. 

"We have informed the respective clubs from whom we have borrowed the players and backroom staff and we now have to prepare for a huge match ahead tomorrow."

Andy Robertson and Steve Clarke felt Scotland were on a "hiding to nothing" as they scraped past a makeshift Czech Republic side 2-1 in Monday's Nations League clash.

The Czech Republic had to play the match with an entirely different squad and coaching team having seen two people within their delegation test positive for COVID-19 prior to a 3-1 win over Slovakia on Friday.

Jakub Pesek put the plucky hosts in front after 11 minutes in Olomouc, but Lyndon Dykes' first international goal and a Ryan Christie penalty had Scotland ahead.

There were a couple of nervy moments, including the Czech Republic twice hitting the woodwork, but Liverpool full-back Robertson said taking the points was ultimately all that mattered.

"Yeah, look we probably were [on a hiding to nothing], that's part and parcel of it," he told Sky Sports. 

"It was far from ideal for them and it wasn't ideal for us. Friday night we we're coming out of a game thinking it's cancelled and are we getting home? Then Saturday it's uncertain and Sunday we have to focus on the game. I think we did that but it's an uncertain weekend for us, not ideal at all. 

"We dealt with the cards we were given. But we're top of the group, it was a hiding to nothing, people would have found negatives in whatever we did tonight, but we're not really bothered. We got the three points, we're top of the group and five unbeaten now, let's take some positives."

Scotland manager Clarke added: "We have to pay the coach and players from the Czech Republic a big compliment, it would have been a fairy-tale night for them.

"We were always on a hiding to nothing, everyone told us we had to win the game, we won the game, so we take the points and go home."

Scotland's win followed an unconvincing draw against Israel last time out, a side they meet again next month in the play-offs for next year's rescheduled European Championship.

"We're going into a play-off where it's a one off so let's get the country behind us and let's everyone push forward to try and get us into the Euros cause that was the aim since we started this Nations League two or three years ago," Robertson added. 

"We're five unbeaten now and we look forward to a big October because it's make or break."

Scotland avoided embarrassment against a makeshift Czech Republic side but laboured to a 2-1 win in Monday's Group B2 Nations League clash in Olomouc.

The hosts had to work with an entirely different squad and backroom team after returning two positive coronavirus tests in their delegation prior to Friday's 3-1 win over Slovakia.

But Scotland were caught cold by Jakub Pesek – one of nine making a first start for his country – after 11 minutes before Lyndon Dykes levelled with his first shot in international football.

Ryan Christie scored from the penalty spot, just as he did in the 1-1 draw with Israel, but Steve Clarke's ragged visitors survived several scares en route to taking three points.

Scotland were given no time to settle by their enthusiastic opponents and fell behind when Stanislav Tecl's througball was coolly slotted home by Pesek.

David Marshall pushed another Pesek effort behind, which likely would have gone wide anyway, before Scotland finally stepped it up with Ales Mandous making a double stop from Liam Palmer and Christie.

It was Palmer's fine low centre from the right from which Dykes side-footed home to open his Scotland account, but Marshall again had to be wise to deny Adam Janos' daisy-cutting drive.

Christie clinically found the bottom right-hand corner from the spot after Andy Robertson was brought down by Tomas Malinsky six minutes into the second half, with initial contact perhaps having been made outside the area.

The goal did not settle Scotland, though, and Marek Havlik's free-kick struck the outside of the left post before Marshall came to the rescue when Pesek caught Scotland napping again, with Tecl completely fluffing his lines on the follow-up.

Substitute Callum Paterson put a one-on-one wide, but Scotland just about did enough for the win despite Antonin Rusek's looping header shaving the woodwork late on.


What does it mean? Still plenty for Clarke to ponder

Football is a results business and Scotland top the pool with four points from two games, but this was an ugly, disjointed performance against a team cobbled together at the last minute.

Palmer no Czech mate

In a first half of limited threat, Sheffield Wednesday full-back Palmer was Scotland's best weapon and had tested the home goalkeeper before providing a lovely assist for Dykes to equalise.

Hosts do Holoubek proud

Under-18s coach David Holoubek stepped in for regular incumbent Jaroslav Silhavy and a team of such little experience did him proud. At times their defending was unsurprisingly found wanting but the Czech Republic were full of invention and creativity going forward and probably deserved a point.

What's next?

Scotland host Israel in a Euro 2020 play-off semi-final on October 8, while Czech Republic have a friendly with Cyprus a day before.

The Czech Republic's new squad for their Nations League game against Scotland only includes two players with prior international experience.

Positive coronavirus tests in their camp ahead of Friday's 3-1 win over Slovakia at Tehelne pole led to the Football Association of the Czech Republic (FACR) pulling out of Monday's match with Steve Clarke's men.

However, on Saturday it announced that, in order to avoid sanctions from UEFA for failing to fulfil the fixture, an entirely new delegation would be formed to face Scotland in Olomouc, with no one present in Slovakia allowed to be involved.

Stanislav Tecl and Roman Hubnik, who will captain the side, were the only previously capped players called up by David Holoubek, the Under-18s boss standing in for Jaroslav Silhavy, while Vaclav Jemelka was called up to the senior squad in 2018 but did not make an appearance.

Adam Karabec, who played for the Under-21s last week, was also named and the 17-year-old will become the Czech Republic's youngest senior player if he features.

"I would like to thank all the clubs and coaches for allowing us to select these players," said Holoubek.

"Many of them basically had a free weekend during the international break. They came here from all over the country, but it was clear they wanted to represent their country."

The Czech Republic will use an entirely different team for their Nations League meeting with Scotland on Monday after positive coronavirus tests in their delegation.

The clash in Olomouc was called off on Friday by the Football Association of the Czech Republic (FACR) following the team's 3-1 victory over Slovakia.

The game at Tehelne pole went ahead despite two positive COVID-19 results in the Czech camp, though every player was negative, and after the final whistle the FACR decided to end its preparations for Scotland with immediate effect.

However, in order to avoid potential sanctions for failing to fulfil the fixture against Scotland, the FACR reversed its decision on Saturday.

No one present in Bratislava, including players and coach Jaroslav Silhavy, will form part of the set-up for the meeting with Steve Clarke's team.

"After a debate with UEFA, it was decided that Monday's match with Scotland will take place at the original date and time," an FACR statement read.

"The FACR is now in close communication with the clubs with which it is deciding who will play for the Czech national team."

The Czech Republic have announced they will not fulfil Monday's Nations League fixture against Scotland after a COVID-19 outbreak in the squad.

Jaroslav Silhavy's side beat Slovakia 3-1 in their opener in Group 2 of League B on Friday and were due to face Scotland in Olomouc.

With Tomas Soucek and Patrik Schick self-isolating after a staff member tested positive for coronavirus, though, and Slavia Prague requesting seven of their players withdraw from the squad, the Czechs have pulled out of the game.

A message on the Czech Republic's official Twitter page on Friday read: "The national team will not play against Scotland on Monday due to representatives' decision and the current situation with the COVID-19. 

"The national team ends current preparations with the immediate effect straight after the win against Slovakia."

Should the Czech Republic fail to turn up for Monday's game, Scotland – who drew 1-1 with Israel in their opening match – are expected to be handed a 3-0 walkover win.

Eran Zahavi scored a superb equaliser as Israel fought back to draw 1-1 with Scotland in a dress rehearsal for their upcoming European Championship play-off.

Israel are Scotland's opponents in the postponed play-offs – which take place in October – for next year's tournament, which was pushed back to 2021 due to coronavirus.

In a twist of fate, they were drawn together in Nations League Group B2, and it looked as though Steve Clarke's side would get their campaign off to a winning start thanks to Ryan Christie's first-half penalty.

However, a stunning strike from Zahavi, who scored 11 goals in Israel's Euro 2020 qualification campaign, secured a share of the spoils for the visitors at Hampden Park.

It took until the 42nd minute for the match to spark into life – Marshall making an excellent stop to deny Munas Dabbur from close range.

Yet Scotland struck first when John McGinn was adjudged to have been bundled over in the Israel area, with Christie drilling a fine finish into the left-hand corner.

Christie's persistence helped to create a chance for McGregor to double Scotland's lead early in the second half, but the midfielder's strike was blocked.

Eli Dasa's wicked cross caused havoc for the home defence with just under 20 minutes remaining, but no Israel attacker was able to tuck it home.

Zahavi made no such mistake with Israel's next opportunity, thumping a brilliant finish beyond Marshall on the half-volley to deny Scotland an edge ahead of next month's crucial clash.

 

What does it mean? Another bump in the road for faltering Clarke

Scotland won their last three qualifying matches, claiming victories over San Marino, Cyprus and Kazakhstan. However, up against better opposition, Clarke's side struggled to impose themselves and managed just two shots on target.

Christie's magnificent seven

With his excellently taken opener from the spot, Celtic attacker Christie – who looked sharp in a front three on Friday – has now scored seven goals in his past seven starts for Scotland and was one bright spot for the hosts.

Tibi gifts Scotland

McGinn was hardly a danger when Israel's Eytan Tibi decided to pull him back, but the centre-back's recklessness gave referee Slavko Vincic a decision to make and handed Scotland the chance to go ahead.

What's next? 

Scotland face the Czech Republic in their next Nations League outing on Monday, while Israel are in action against Slovakia.

Former Scotland captain John Barclay has announced his retirement at the age of 33. 

The back-rower won 76 caps for his country and played in three Rugby World Cups during an illustrious 16-year professional career. 

Barclay played for Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh either side of a spell with the Scarlets, winning the Pro14 title with the Welsh region in 2017. 

Edinburgh announced in April that Barclay would be leaving the club and he has now decided to hang up his boots.

Barclay told Scottishrugby.org: "After much thought I've decided to call time on my career. When you know, you know and whilst COVID-19 has left a frustrating finish, the end isn't about the fairytale. The whole story has been a fairytale. 

"The opportunity to get to do the thing I loved as a job for 16 years has provided me with enough memories to last a lifetime. 

"Whilst there are games that were particularly memorable, and undoubtedly I will miss the physical brutality of the game, what I'll miss more than anything is the camaraderie and sense of fulfilment after a game, that comes from sharing a joint goal and purpose with friends. The memories off the pitch were as remarkable as the ones on it. 

"To get capped was beyond my wildest dream as a child growing up. To be able to captain my country will be something I will be eternally proud of beyond anything else. 

"To know I will never run out at Murrayfield does leave me with a tinge of sadness, but I was a supporter before I played for the team and I will be there as the team's most fervent supporter."

Six Nations has confirmed the tournament will be completed in October and guidance on potential spectator attendance will follow "in due course".

The World Rugby Council last week approved for Ireland to face Italy on October 24, with the final round of matches taking place a week later.

Ireland will stage bottom side Italy at the Aviva Stadium in a showdown that should have taken place on March 7, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Wales will take on Scotland on October 31 at a venue that has not yet been confirmed, with England travelling to face Italy at Stadio Olimpico and France doing battle with Ireland at Stade de France on the same day. 

England were above France on points difference when the vast majority of sport worldwide was halted in March and it remains to be seen whether fans will be allowed in to see the conclusion of the competition.

A Six Nations statement released on Wednesday said: "In rescheduling these matches, the health and safety of players, associated staff and supporters has been at the forefront of our thinking.

"We remain in close contact with all relevant authorities across the respective jurisdictions to ensure these matches take place in a safe environment and we will announce further details of health and safety protocols and guidance on spectator attendance in due course."

Six Nations chief executive Ben Morel said: "Public health remains the number one priority and while we must continue to be vigilant and cognisant of the dynamic and fast changing external environment, we are nonetheless extremely pleased to be moving in the right direction."

World Rugby has proposed the introduction of a temporary international window before the end of 2020, a move that would allow this year's Six Nations to be completed.

The governing body's executive committee is keen for international fixtures to be staged again to aid the sport as it tries to deal with the off-field impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Having held discussions with all international and club competitions, as well as players and national unions, World Rugby wants a window that will start in late October and run into December.

The revised calendar would allow for the 2020 Six Nations tournament - suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak in March - to stage the final four fixtures still outstanding, followed by Test matches in Europe organised by the individual unions.

As for the Rugby Championship, the 2020 edition would take place in one country over a six-week period spanning November 7 to December 12.

"Recognising the importance of a balanced and shared compromise among all stakeholders, a temporary international window between October 24 and December 5 has been recommended," said a statement from World Rugby.

"In the north, this window will accommodate the postponed men's and women's Six Nations matches at the end of October, a rest weekend on November 7 and a programme of international matches involving the Six Nations and invited teams hosted in Europe from November 14 through to December 5."

With the Rugby Championship, "special" measures would be put in place to cope with travel restrictions, while the changes to the schedule allows leading players to be available for their clubs.

"With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to impact international travel and borders across southern hemisphere unions, on an exceptional basis the Rugby Championship 2020 will be hosted in full in a single country over a reduced six-week period between November 7 and December 12," the statement continued.

"Special measures will be implemented to deal with any government-required quarantine period prior to the start of the competition.

"The rescheduling of the domestic, European and international calendars will accommodate the ability for the professional clubs to have access to their star southern hemisphere international players for the completion of the postponed and rescheduled 2019-20 seasons at a time in which they would have ordinarily been on international duty in August and September."

The recommendations will need to receive approval at next week's meeting of the World Rugby Council.

World Rugby has ruled out the possibility of holding an international invitational tournament in the United Kingdom and Ireland in 2021 to provide relief following the coronavirus pandemic.

Former Rugby Football Union chief executive Francis Baron had proposed the one-off 16-team competition to raise money "for keeping the game of rugby alive around the world", with sport suspended in recent months due to the global crisis.

The event, held in the UK in order to avoid disrupting France's 2023 Rugby World Cup preparations, would see 31 matches across June and July and prompt the postponement of the British and Irish Lions' tour of South Africa.

The suggested tournament - dubbed the 'Coronavirus Cup of World Rugby' as Baron revealed his plan to the Telegraph - would reportedly aim to bring in up to £250million to support the sport as it recovers from the pandemic.

However, the  idea has been dismissed by governing body World Rugby.

A statement read: "World Rugby notes a proposal by former RFU CEO Francis Baron suggesting the organisation of a major international rugby event in the UK in 2021 to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on global rugby.

"World Rugby does not intend to pursue such a proposal.

"All stakeholders continue to progress productive discussions regarding the immediate global COVID-19 financial relief strategy and international rugby calendar optimisation, both of which will further the success of Rugby World Cup 2023 in France."

World Rugby has already postponed all July Tests and set aside a $100million relief fund in a bid to assist those struggling the most.

Ten of the leading international rugby union teams are exploring the possibility of a new aligned schedule.

South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina - the nations that make up SANZAAR - and the half a dozen countries that compete in the Six Nations are aiming to collaborate for the sport's benefit.

Several unions have been affected by the impact of coronavirus, with World Rugby having postponed all July Tests and setting aside a $100million relief fund in a bid to assist those struggling the most.

Now discussions are ongoing between SANZAAR and Six Nations boards over a new calendar designed to limit club-versus-country rows and create more lucrative games between the world's best teams.

A joint statement read: "Even though there may be different preferences, from the outset the nations have adopted a mindset that has sought to eliminate self-interest and recognise that the international and club game have shared mutual benefits that if approached and managed correctly can enable both to flourish."

It added: "The nations, together with other key stakeholders, remain open to shape the options that have been developed in an effort to resolve an issue that has held the game back for many years and are committed to putting rugby on a progressive path."

Last month World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont suggested a Nations Championship - similar to cricket's recently formed ICC Test Championship - could get off the ground after being met with initial resistance.

 

Page 1 of 7
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.