Scotland co-captain Rory Darge returns from injury to face France

By Sports Desk February 08, 2024

Recently-appointed co-captain Rory Darge will start Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations match at home to France following six weeks out with a knee injury.

The 23-year-old Glasgow flanker takes over the number seven jersey from previous skipper Jamie Ritchie, who drops out of the 23 altogether, in one of three changes – all in the forward-line – to the team that started the 27-26 win away to Wales.

Darge, who has recovered quicker than anticipated from an injury sustained away to Edinburgh on the last weekend of December, is listed as co-captain alongside stand-off Finn Russell for the Murrayfield showdown with a French side aiming to bounce back from their chastening 38-17 home defeat by Ireland.

Number eight Jack Dempsey and lock Grant Gilchrist, who was suspended last weekend, return to the side in place of Luke Crosbie and Richie Gray, both of whom picked up tournament-ending injuries in Cardiff.

The backs department is unchanged, meaning Kyle Rowe, who made his first international start in Wales, continues at full-back in the absence of the injured Blair Kinghorn.

On-form Saracens back-rower Andy Christie has been named among the subs after missing out on the 23 last weekend.

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    England ran riot against Ireland with head coach John Mitchell revealing their pivot to an all-action attack is designed to fill Twickenham.

    A crowd of 48,778 watched the Red Roses plunder 14 tries in an 88-10 victory that keeps them on course to win a sixth successive Guinness Women’s Six Nations title when they face France in a likely Grand Slam decider next weekend.

    Unstoppable wing Abby Dow and player of the match Ellie Kildunne completed hat-tricks, but there were fireworks across the field as England delivered on their promise to put on a show.

    Their ultimate aim is to run out at next year’s home World Cup in front of a sold-out Twickenham and Mitchell insisted that can only be achieved by captivating audiences with a style of play no longer based on forward dominance.

    “The girls presented a performance that went up a gear. We asked that of them during the week and they certainly delivered it,” the Kiwi said.

    “We’ve got a drive to fill the stadium on a consistent basis because we want to play here consistently.

    “If we can continue to produce performances like that it won’t be too long before we do fill all the seats. From that point of view, it’s only that style of rugby that will bring people to watch us.

    “We know we have other strengths as well, but this is a good sign and we’re only in the infancy of it.

    “It’s a testament to the girls because they go out and own it and see the rewards from it.”

    England have amassed 228 points after four rounds of the Six Nations, conceding only 20, and the lopsided scoreline at Twickenham is an ugly look for the competition.

    “I’m sure some people will chat about the competitiveness, but at the end of the day we drive ourselves in the way we prepare and that’s all we can focus on,” Mitchell said.

    “We’re not really in a position to judge the competition or its competitiveness. Our standards in the way we prepare have gone up a little bit in terms of level.”

    Ireland head coach Scott Bemand admitted his side were left “shell-shocked” by the game’s dominant force.

    “Tough day at the office. We came up against the market leaders but we’ll dust ourselves down and come back next week,” he said.

    “This was a big game for a youthful group. Could we have predicted a margin like that? Probably not.”

  • England overwhelm Ireland to keep Six Nations title hopes firmly on track England overwhelm Ireland to keep Six Nations title hopes firmly on track

    England thrilled a bumper crowd at Twickenham by overwhelming Ireland 88-10 to set up a likely Grand Slam decider against France next weekend.

    The Red Roses amassed 14 tries in front of 48,778 fans with the unstoppable Abby Dow and Ellie Kildunne completing hat-tricks, while Megan Jones and Jess Breach each crossed twice.

    For all Dow’s finishing instincts, it was full-back Kildunne who shone brightest through a captivating display in attack, and her athleticism was a constant threat to Ireland.

    It was an ugly final scoreline for the tournament but Ireland at least managed to touch down by forcing a penalty try.

    Scrum-half Natasha Hunt promised England would “put on a show” and by securing the try-scoring bonus point inside the opening quarter, they duly delivered despite losing lock Rosie Galligan to a thumb injury during the warm-up.

    Dow left a trail of green shirts on the ground to begin the onslaught and Hunt was the next to score after making a dynamic solo break.

    The tone had been set and what followed was a procession with Kildunne at the vanguard, the Harlequin’s electric running sweeping her into open space time and again.

    A cheeky dummy kick launched one gliding charge out of defence and Ireland were having to scramble furiously to contain a player who has the ambition of becoming the best in the world.

    When she crossed on the half-hour mark it was a simple finish to a move started by England’s line-out maul as the home pack asserted itself up front.

    Hooker Lark Atkin-Davies was helped off with an injury but the rout continued when sharp handling and a vast gap in the Ireland midfield invited Dow over for her second.

    The Irish ran out of defenders as Breach switched on the afterburners to race over, and just eight minutes into the second half England surpassed 50 points for the first time in this Six Nations when Sadia Kabeya powered over.

    Ireland were outclassed but showed plenty of fight against the game’s dominant force and their determination paid off when they were awarded a penalty try for seeing a driving maul thwarted illegally.

    Lucy Packer was sent to the sin-bin as a result, but England still scored next when Jones weaved a path through the opposition midfield.

    Emily Scarratt received a loud cheer when she replaced Tatyana Heard and Dow ran in her third, ushering in a traumatic final quarter for Ireland who were swamped by better conditioned opponents.

  • Mo Hunt wants Grand Slam-chasing England to put on a show at Twickenham Mo Hunt wants Grand Slam-chasing England to put on a show at Twickenham

    Mo Hunt insists England are ready to thrill a bumper audience at Twickenham when they face Ireland in the Guinness Women’s Six Nations on Saturday.

    A crowd of up to 50,000 is expected to watch the Red Roses continue their Grand Slam quest in their first match at the venue since last year’s rollercoaster victory over France that clinched the title.

    England have averaged 47 points a game in their three wins to date but Hunt wants the attack that has been enhanced under head coach John Mitchell to take another step forward.

    “We just want it to click for us. There are 47,000 in Twickenham from what I have been told and we want to put on a show,” said the Gloucester-Hartpury scrum-half, who is enjoying a Test resurgence since missing out on the 2022 World Cup.

    “The best is yet to come for us, I truly believe that. We’ve spoken about the discipline and the penalties, but also our one-team attack – every time we train it is starting to look better and better.

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    England have a 100 per cent record in the tournament despite seeing Sarah Beckett and Amy Cokayne sent off against Italy and Scotland, respectively.

    The red cards have fed into the ‘game is unfair’ mantra adopted under Mitchell as the Kiwi looks to turn the game’s dominant force into world champions by preparing them for moments when circumstances have conspired against them.

    Lydia Thompson’s dismissal for a high tackle on Portia Woodman that contributed to England’s defeat by New Zealand in the 2022 World Cup final has given Mitchell’s message powerful affirmation.

    “When Mitch put a picture up of Lyds and said ‘the game isn’t fair’, it hit so many of us in our hearts because Lyds is the most unbelievable human and obviously that moment was tough for everyone,” Hunt said.

    “I’m not saying it was the right or wrong decision, but sometimes the game is unfair and when you go down to 14 in a final you have to fight your way out of that.

    “If I’m in the thick of these decisions all the time and every time I don’t quite agree with something, that sentence genuinely rings true. I think, ‘game is unfair – move on’.”

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