England lock Charlie Ewels has been given a three-match ban for the red card he received early on against Ireland last weekend.

The 26-year-old was dismissed just 82 seconds into Saturday's 32-15 defeat at Twickenham after clashing heads with opposite number James Ryan.

That red card was the earliest ever in the Six Nations, with each of the three quickest in the competition's history each coming in the last two editions.

Ewels will now miss England's final game of this year's tournament against France in Paris, as well as Bath's Premiership fixtures against Sale Sharks and Worcester Warriors.

However, he can undertake a Coaching Intervention Programme to have that suspension reduced to two matches, meaning he will be available to face Worcester on March 30.

Ewels was facing a possible ban of up to six weeks, but that was halved due to mitigating factors such as an early acceptance of the red and his remorse.

 

England's defeat to Ireland means they cannot finish any higher than third in this year's tournament.

Next opponents France are two points better off than Ireland, who host Scotland in the final round of fixtures, and are one win away from a first title and Grand Slam since 2010.

Two of France's three previous Grand Slams have been completed with a win over England in the final round, in 2004 and 2010.

England head to Paris aiming to avoid losing three games in a single edition of the competition for a third time under Eddie Jones, previously doing so in 2018 and 2021.

Dan Biggar and Alun Wyn Jones are in line to claim their 100th and 150th Wales caps when Wayne Pivac's side host Italy in the Six Nations on Saturday.

Wales sit fifth in the table after falling to a third defeat in four outings following a 13-9 loss to France last Friday, with their only win coming against Scotland on February 12.

However, Pivac's team will be boosted by the return of Jones, who comes back into the starting side for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury against New Zealand at the end of October.

Biggar retains the captaincy despite 36-year-old Jones returning, with the former set to become the seventh Welshman to win 100 caps for his country.

Coach Pivac, who has made seven changes to his team that lost against table-toppers France, believes the pair deserve to share their milestone appearances together.

"We've said with other players reaching 100 appearances what an achievement that is and for Dan I know he's been looking forward to this moment for a long time," Pivac told reporters on Tuesday.

"For him to achieve it with Al, who is also getting the milestone of 150 caps – which no other player has ever done – I think it's fitting for those two to share the day.

"They've played a lot of rugby together and have a healthy respect for each other. They've given so much for the game in Wales."

Gareth Davies is in line for his first start in this year's Six Nations, with Johnny McNicholl, Louis Rees-Zammit and Willis Halaholo all recalled in the backline as well.

Meanwhile, Dewi Lake, Dillon Lewis and last year's Lions captain Jones are the forwards who come in, with Ryan Elias, Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Tomas Francis,  Liam Williams, Tomos Williams and Will Rowlands dropping out of the starting side.

On the changes, Pivac added: "We've made a few changes this week. With one game to go there are some players we need to see out there and put them in the matchday 23.

"We've certainly selected a side which we think can get the job done. Clearly that's what we're here for. There's an opportunity to move up that table, so we think this is an exciting team and one we're looking forward to seeing out there.

"Italy are a side that's improving, they've had some bad luck here and there and with a new coach transitioning we know it takes a bit of time.

"But we know they've got some very good rugby players and as you saw against Scotland they troubled them in that second half and for long periods of the first. So we're going to have to be on our game and we're very much looking forward to playing at home again this weekend.

"We had a good result against Scotland, gave the fans something to cheer about and came very close against an in-form France. Obviously disappointed we couldn't get across the line for our fans there and we hope we can do that this weekend and finish on a high."

Wales team: Johnny McNicholl, Louis Rees-Zammit, Owen Watkin, Uilisi Halaholo, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Gareth Thomas, Dewi Lake, Dillon Lewis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Seb Davies, Josh Navidi, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Bradley Roberts, Wyn Jones, Leon Brown, Will Rowlands, Ross Moriarty, Kieran Hardy, Callum Sheedy, Nick Tompkins.

England head coach Eddie Jones insists questions surrounding his future are "part of the job" after defeat to Ireland at Twickenham in the Six Nations last Saturday.

The 32-15 loss means England can no longer win this year's tournament and could even finish in fifth place again if they are beaten by leaders France in Paris in their final match this weekend.

It was announced on Monday that Jack Willis has been included in the squad for the first time in over a year for Saturday's clash.

The flanker suffered a serious knee injury against Italy in February last year and only returned to action for Wasps last month.

Speaking to BBC Radio Five Live, Jones said his nationality may not help matters, but that questions of his suitability are part of the role.

"I took on the job of England and I knew this was going to be the case," he said. "I don't think it helps being an Australian but that's part of the deal. When I decided to do another [World Cup] cycle, I knew that would be more intense.

"The longer you're in the job, the more people probably don't want you to be in the job. It's all part of the job that we have."

Jones took the job in 2015 and has enjoyed success, winning three Six Nations titles and reaching the 2019 World Cup final, ultimately losing to South Africa in Japan.

The team's form has dipped since then, finishing fifth in last year's Six Nations and potentially doing the same this time.

However, Jones believes his side is developing, adding: "It's for other people to judge whether we're growing as a team.

"I've got my own internal assessment and I like what I see. I like to see the growing spirit of this team. We're moving in the right direction but I'm sure other people have their own judgement."

Ireland will have to do without James Ryan and Ryan Baird in their crunch Six Nations showdown with Scotland on Saturday.

Ryan was unable to return to the field after he was floored by a dangerous tackle from Charlie Ewels only 82 seconds into Ireland's 32-15 win over England at Twickenham last weekend.

Ewels was shown a red card for clashing heads with Ryan, who failed a subsequent head injury assessment.

Lock Ryan will not be available when Andy Farrell's side do battle with Scotland at the Aviva Stadium on the final day of the tournament.

Fellow second row Baird also missed the encounter in Dublin due to a back injury, so Ross Molony and Joe McCarthy have been called up to train with the squad.

Second-placed Ireland are two points adrift of leaders France and must win to keep their hopes of winning the title alive, with Les Bleus facing England in Paris later in the day.

 

Jack Willis has been included in England's squad for the first time in over a year for Saturday's Six Nations clash with France.

The flanker suffered a serious knee injury against Italy in February last year and only returned to action for Wasps last month.

With Tom Curry ruled out of the contest at Stade de France with a hamstring problem sustained in the 32-15 defeat to Ireland, Willis has a chance of featuring.

Kyle Sinckler was also part of the 34-player squad named by Eddie Jones on Monday and will follow return-to-play protocols after being concussed against Ireland.

England are out of contention for the Six Nations title ahead of their final match of this year's tournament after winning two and losing two of their first four games.

Opponents France are top of the standings as they seek a first title and first Grand Slam since 2010.

England players described their pride even in defeat to Ireland on Saturday after playing more than 78 minutes of the Six Nations match with 14 men.

The Red Rose's championship hopes were ended by the 32-15 reverse at Twickenham – their heaviest ever home Test loss to Ireland – but few fans had any issues with the team's fight and desire.

Charlie Ewels was shown a red card after just a minute and 22 seconds for his dangerous tackle on James Ryan – the earliest dismissal in a Six Nations match – giving England a huge uphill battle.

Eddie Jones' men still might have upset title-chasing Ireland, who were all square at 15-15 heading into the closing stages before taking the match away from their hosts.

Rather than rue their failure to take their championship challenge to Grand Slam candidates France for their fifth and final game, England's battlers preferred to reflect upon a heroic effort.

Hooker Jamie George said: "Right up to that last try, I genuinely had belief, and I think that says a huge amount about the character we have in the squad.

"This sounds ridiculous but it's one of the proudest days I've had in an England shirt. I genuinely feel that. I feel quite emotional from this game and the feedback we had from the crowd.

"Playing a team like Ireland, they're respected as one of the best teams in the world. To play like that with 14 men for 78 minutes takes some doing, and I'm proud to be part of the group."

Full-back Freddie Steward suggested this performance should set the standard for England sides moving forward.

"You come into a game, and you never expect that to happen," he told BBC Radio 5 Live. "The boys responded really well.

"It would have been easy for us to lose a man and for heads to drop and them to walk all over us. I think that shows the spirit of this team. We fought, we dug in, the boys gave it everything. There's a lot to learn from that."

Steward added: "We sat in at half-time and we had a genuine belief that we could go and win the game. The boys came out in that second half and wanted to do it, we wanted to do it.

"Unfortunately, on 60, 70 minutes, we ran out of steam at the end there.

"But I think this team is one that is not going to give up. We're not going to not fight, and we went to the trenches for each other today."

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend said he was "delighted" with his team's hard-fought Six Nations win against Italy in Rome on Saturday.

Chris Harris scored a first-half double as Scotland beat the Azzurri 33-22 in an entertaining encounter at the Stadio Olimpico, recovering from back-to-back defeats at the hands of Wales and France.

The victory not only secured the Cuttitta Trophy but also moved Scotland above Wales into fourth place as the visitors ran in five tries in Italy.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland after the game, Townsend said he was happy with the win, but also reserved praise for Kieran Crowley's team, who scored 22 points for the first time since also doing so against France in 2020's tournament.

"We're delighted with the win, it's been a tough venue for Scottish teams for a number of years," said Townsend.

"I felt we built the victory in the first half and the players played really well up to around the 50-minute mark. After that, we weren't as good. I have to say that's the best I've seen Italy play over the last couple of seasons.

"Maybe we expected them to crack but you have to be accurate and keep the intensity up against all opposition if you want a complete performance. That's a frustration but all credit to Italy, they were the better team in the last quarter of the game.

"It's hard when Italy come at you. I've been there as a player and a coach when we've allowed Italy to get into the game. We didn't do that today. We managed the game really well and executed at times. We just need to do that for 80 minutes."

Scotland have now won each of their past seven matches against Italy in the Six Nations, with six of those seven victories coming by 10 or more points.

Sam Johnson scored the opening try for Scotland before Harris crossed twice, with Darcy Graham and Stuart Hogg getting one each after the break.

Callum Braley grabbed his first international try for Italy in the first half, and Ange Capuozzo also scored a double on debut.

Italy's Michele Lamaro bemoaned costly errors from his team, saying after the loss: "It's tough, we have to learn from this.

"Today, Scotland knew how to put pressure on at the breakdown. In that area, they have got players who are very capable and we really struggled all game. Against Wales, it will probably be a similar situation. We will have to work hard on it this week."

Italy have lost their past 36 games in the Six Nations, the longest losing run by any nation in the competition's This was their narrowest loss in the Six Nations since losing by 11 against France in 2019.

Scotland beat 40 defenders in the win, just the sixth time any side has beaten 40 or more in a Six Nations game and just the second time any nation has managed it away from home, after France who beat 55 in Italy in 2017.

Charlie Ewels was sent off after only 82 seconds as Ireland secured a 32-15 bonus-point victory at Twickenham to stay in the hunt to win the Six Nations and end heroic England's hopes of claiming the title.

Ewels was shown the earliest red card in championship history for a dangerous tackle on James Ryan and it looked like the Red Rose would be in for a painful evening when James Lowe crossed early on.

Yet Eddie Jones' side, roared on by a raucous crowd, produced an inspired display despite being a man down, only trailing 15-9 at half-time in an absorbing contest following three Marcus Smith penalties and a Hugo Keenan try for the visitors.

Smith's fourth and fifth penalties brought a spirited England level, but a Johnny Sexton penalty 15 minutes from time put Ireland back in front before late tries from Jack Conan and Finlay Bealham sealed a victory that moved Andy Farrell's men two points adrift of leaders France.

Ireland are at home to Scotland in their last match of the tournament next Saturday and will be hoping for a favour from England when they do battle with Les Bleus in Paris. 

Ewels' participation was over soon after it started, with referee Mathieu Raynal giving the lock his marching orders after he clashed heads with Ryan attempting a tackle.

With a dazed Ryan unable to continue, Sexton slotted over the resulting penalty and Lowe raced down the left to score the opening try in a dramatic start after taking a pass from Josh van der Flier.

Caelan Doris had a try ruled out due to a Garry Ringrose knock-on and Tom Curry limped off before England started to dictate the game despite being a man down, Smith reducing the deficit with two penalties and also missing one.

The Red Rose pack dominated – wing Jack Nowell playing his part in the scrum – but Jamison Gibson-Park's quick free-kick opened the door for Keenan to crash over before Smith's third penalty on the stroke of half-time made it 15-9.

There was another blow for England when Kyle Sinckler failed a head injury assessment at half-time, Will Stuart replacing him, but another Smith penalty left them only three points down.

Fly-half Smith brought them level midway through the second half with another penalty won in a ferocious scrum, but Sexton booted Ireland back into the lead and converted after Conan crashed over from close range after 71 minutes.

Bealham added insult to injury as the pressure told on weary England late on, barging over in the corner and Sexton took his points tally with the boot to 12 by adding the extras.

Ewels gives England a mountain to climb

After a huge build-up to what Eddie Jones had billed as a semi-final, losing Ewels right at the start meant England were always going to be up against it.

Although there was no malice in his tackle on Ryan, French official Raynal felt he had no option but to dismiss the England man. The Red Rose, driven on by a powerful pack, showed great character to make a brilliant game of it and the scoreline did not tell the full story.

Gibson-Park makes Ireland tick

This was certainly not a vintage Ireland performance as they made far too many errors and showed indiscipline, but they looked dangerous every time they attacked and were ruthless as England tired.

Gibson-Park made them tick and has been a revelation at scrum-half, making 59 passes and setting up a try for Keenan that came at an important time late in the first half.

What's next?

Ireland take on Scotland at the Aviva Stadium in the second game of the final weekend before England do battle with Les Bleus in a decisive last match in Paris.

Chris Harris scored a first-half double as Scotland beat Italy 33-22 in an entertaining Six Nations encounter at the Stadio Olimpico.

Smarting from defeats at the hands of Wales and France, Gregor Townsend's side ran in five tries to win the Cuttitta Trophy in Rome on Saturday and move above Wales into fourth place.

Sam Johnson scored the opening try before Harris crossed twice, with Darcy Graham and Stuart Hogg getting in on the act after the break.

Callum Braley went in for a first international try in the first half and Ange Capuozzo scored a debut double, but the Azzurri's losing Six Nations run was extended to 36 matches on the penultimate weekend of the tournament.

Paolo Garbisi's penalty gave Italy an early lead, but Scotland were in front when Johnson finished in the right corner after George Turner had powered down the other flank to put Italy on the back foot.

Ali Price was the architect for a second try on the break after 21 minutes, intercepting Braley's pass deep inside his own half and bursting forward before whipping a pass out to Kyle Steyn, whose clever kick over the top enabled Harris to touch down.

Finn Russell added the extras, but Italy cut the gap to only two points after Pierre Bruno's brilliant offload on the touchline in the right corner put a try on a plate for Braley and Garbisi sent an excellent conversion between the posts.

Italy's joy was short-lived, though, as Harris surged over for his second score late in the first half to round off a well-executed Scotland move.

Graham showed pace and power when racing through the middle to reward more Scotland pressure with another try early in the second half and Hogg darted over in the left corner after taking a fine pass from the impressive Price.

Russell expertly converted from wide on the left for a fourth time and the points continued to come, with Capuozzo wriggling his way over twice in a promising cameo off the bench, but Scotland were comfortable winners.

Italy pay the Price

Scrum-half Price was outstanding as he made Scotland tick before he was replaced late on.

The number nine showed great awareness for the interception that led to Harris' opening try and threw a great pass for Hogg to score, pulling the strings in a lively display.

Clinical Harris

Harris was on hand to help himself to a brace, firstly showing great speed to get on the end of Steyn's well-weighted kick over the top and then running a great line for his second score.

What's next?

Scotland end their campaign with a trip to face Ireland at the Aviva Stadium next Saturday, when Italy take on Wales in Cardiff.

Fabien Galthie says France are in the "dream scenario" as they stand on the brink of a Grand Slam but knows the Six Nations leaders face a massive test against England.

Anthony Jelonch scored the only try of an almighty battle with Wales at the Principality Stadium, where Les Bleus won 13-9 on Friday to maintain their 100 per cent record.

France defended magnificently to keep the holders at bay in Cardiff and have a first title since 2010 in their sights.

England will arrive at Stade de France determined to spoil the party and can also be crowned champions with a win in the French capital if they beat Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday.

France head coach Galthie sees his side as a work in progress and is prepared for a tense evening in Paris.

"The dream scenario is to win the games, Four wins after four rounds, that was our ambition. We have learned from the past, this is still a team in progress," said Galthie.

"We have managed to balance things in this competition in terms of our efforts. Four wins, that is what you dream of. Now we will turn our attention to the final match against England.

“It’s England, the finalists from the last World Cup, a huge rugby nation. We can't make a mistake about our opponent.

"We have to start the preparation in a pleasant way, while enjoying this [win over Wales] and this weekend. We will flip on Monday and prepare with our method and our conviction. There will be a match to play, as always."

It was not pretty as France dug in to defeat Wales and Galthie was delighted with the way they went about their business.

He added: "The key is to win, differently, agreed, but it's good to win. The winning streak is the hardest thing to do, especially here against a very good tactical side.

"We had a week with the players suffering from the flu and we were hit by Covid. Despite a number of players missing time, the team came and got the win and that is important.

"We won five turnovers at the breakdown, while being disciplined and conceding just eight penalties. The know-how of our defensive line, with big tackles, good entries into the rucks and playing the ball, that's a box that is ticked by the players collectively and individually."

France captain Antoine Dupont said his side are embracing the spotlight surrounding next Saturday's fixture against England to complete the Six Nations Grand Slam.

Les Blues have only completed the Grand Slam once since 2004 – in 2010 – while more recently Ireland achieved the feat in 2018, followed by Wales in 2019.
 
After beating Wales 13-9, Dupont spoke about the strength of the French defence and its ability to win tough contests, before looking forward to the big clash against England.
 
"We felt that we could count on our defense," he said. "They often came to our camp with our faults and their long kicking game. 
 
"We were able to cope, and it's something that has carried us for several matches – we have to continue on that. 

"It wasn't the most beautiful match we've had to watch, but you have to know how to win like that too. 
 
"We try to turn this pressure into motivation – we said we wanted to have the cards in hand for the last match, it's done. 
 
"We will be able to devote ourselves fully to it and we hope that it will work. The party tonight is going to be very light. We're going to wait a week and hope to be able to party.
 
"In the dressing room, there was a mix of emotions, joy and pride intertwined, but with the England game in the back of my mind. 
 
"We're going to enjoy tonight, but we're all looking forward to Saturday night [against England]. 
 
"The Grand Slam? From now on, we can talk about it. 
 
"It's going to be on everyone's lips and in the media this week. It's up to us to make sure we win this match, and we know what will come of it."

England are still in contention to win the Six Nations, but they must beat Ireland in Saturday's clash at Twickenham.

England are "really optimistic" Maro Itoje will be fit for Saturday's Six Nations showdown with Ireland.

The British and Irish Lions lock has been struggling with illness ahead of the round four clash at Twickenham.

Red Rose forwards coach Matt Proudfoot provided an encouraging update on Itoje on the eve of the game.

He said: "Maro was a little sick overnight so we're just giving him an opportunity to recover, but we're really optimistic he’ll be alright."

England prop Kyle Sinckler recovered from a back injury and will start against second-placed Ireland.

"Kyle fully trained. He had a great training session and looked really good," Proudfoot said.

England and Ireland have won two and lost one of their three matches ahead of a huge encounter in London.

Proudfoot says Eddie Jones' side are in great shape as they battle to win the title.

"For us it's a great opportunity to go after them. The team has trained really, really well and every week it’s got more and more competitive," he said.

"The preparation has been great and when they walked off the field today (Friday), you could see the confidence in the eyes of the players.

"We know we've got to go after them. Ireland have been together for a big part of the year because of their large Leinster contingent, so we know they have that as an advantage, but we're eager for the opportunity.

"It tends to be the deeper you go into the Six Nations, it gets more and more intense. This is probably going to be the most intense game we've played since the Springboks."

France are rolling towards a possible Grand Slam as they arrive in Cardiff for game four in their Six Nations mission, but Fabien Galthie's team must not switch off now.

The championship may yet see a France versus England title decider at the Stade de France next weekend, but whether 'Le Crunch' proves crucial will hinge on results this time around.

A mighty Welsh effort in Cardiff could knock the French juggernaut off course, while Ireland will believe they can achieve a result at Twickenham.

Scotland and Italy, meanwhile, tussle in Rome. That was once typically a Wooden Spoon decider; this time, the Scots are heavy favourites.

Ahead of the fourth round of fixtures, Stats Perform previews each match with help from Opta.

WALES V FRANCE

FORM

Wales have lost each of their last two meetings with France in the Six Nations, after winning seven of their previous eight clashes in the championship. France's 27-23 win at the Principality Stadium two years ago was their first success in Cardiff in the competition since 2010, and France have not won back-to-back away games against Wales since reeling off four in a row from 2000 to 2006.

Wayne Pivac's Wales won at home against Scotland last month but have lost on the road to Ireland and England. The Welsh have pulled off 10 wins from their last 11 matches in Cardiff in the Six Nations, with France the only side to beat them during that sequence.

This France team are living up to their billing as pre-tournament favourites and have won their last six Test matches, their best run since also winning six on the bounce in 2006. They have not won more consecutive internationals since a run of eight in 2004, which included a victory in Cardiff.

ONES TO WATCH

Among players to hit 20 or more attacking rucks in this season's Six Nations, Wales' Ross Moriarty has the best ruck effectiveness rate, cleaning out the opposition or securing possession at 96 per cent of the attacking rucks he has hit (27 of 28). Moriarty is not a starter this week, as Pivac rings the changes, but will surely have a role to play off the bench.

France's Damian Penaud would have been a strong contender here, having beaten 10 defenders in this year's Six Nations, the joint most of any player alongside Scotland's Darcy Graham, with Penaud also achieving a championship-best tackle evasion rate of 77 per cent. Penaud is ruled out by a COVID-19 positive test, so can his fellow wings Yoram Moefana and Gabin Villiere prove as elusive?

 

ITALY V SCOTLAND

FORM

There was a time when Scotland dreaded facing Italy, but those days appear long gone. The Scots have won their last six matches against the Azzurri in the Six Nations, last losing at Murrayfield in 2015. Prior to this dominant era, Scotland had won nine and Italy had won seven of their first 16 clashes in the championship. The Scots have won their last four away games against Italy.

Italy's losing run in the competition has now reached a dismal 35 games, and that Murrayfield victory seven years ago was their last success. Kieran Crowley's team have failed to score a try in their last two Six Nations games, the first time this has happened for Italy since they went on a run of three games without a try in the 2009 championship.

Ali Price is set to win his 50th cap for Scotland. The Glasgow Warriors scrum-half has scored just one try in his seven appearances against Italy, although he has four try assists across his last two Tests against the Azzurri.

ONES TO WATCH

Michele Lamaro has made 59 tackles in this year's Six Nations, at least 13 more than any other player. That is the upside. The downside is that he has also missed the most tackles of any player (13); however, only one of those missed tackles led to a break, with the other 12 seeing the opposition player tackled by a team-mate.

By contrast, Scotland's Hamish Watson has made 31 tackles without missing one so far in this year's competition. Only Ireland's Caelan Doris has made more without missing (36/36). Watson has now made 180 tackles in the championship since his last miss, which came back in 2019 against England.

 

ENGLAND V IRELAND

FORM

England have tended to like this fixture of late, having won four of their last five home games against Ireland in the Six Nations. A 24-15 defeat in 2018 was the exception in this run which started in 2012. England have also won 22 of their last 25 home matches – taking all opponents into account – in the Six Nations (D1, L2).

Yet Ireland are the only side that England have a losing record against in the Six Nations era, winning just 45 per cent of their meetings in the championship (W10, L12).

Whoever leads at half-time seems nailed on for the win. None of the previous 22 Six Nations matches between England and Ireland have seen an interval deficit overturned to bring about a victory for the trailing team.

ONES TO WATCH

England's Marcus Smith is the leading points scorer so far in this year's championship. He has 48 points, meaning Smith is two shy of becoming the fifth different England player to notch up 50 points in an edition of the Six Nations (Jonny Wilkinson 7 times, Toby Flood once, Owen Farrell 6 times, George Ford once).

Ireland's Doris has been a 'nuisance' (slowing the opposition ball) at more rucks (7) than any other player in this year's tournament, Opta data shows.

Josh Navidi has been passed fit to start his first Test for almost a year when Wales face leaders France in the Six Nations on Friday.

Navidi last played for his country against Les Bleus in the 2021 Six Nations, but will start at open-side flanker at the Principality Stadium after recovering from a shoulder injury.

Seb Davies comes in at blindside flanker, as Ross Moriarty and Taine Basham drop out of the side following a defeat to England at Twickenham that leaves the holders in fifth place.

Prop Gareth Thomas and centre Jonathan Davies also get the nod for the round-four showdown in Cardiff.

Tomas Francis and Josh Adams have been given the green light to start after coming through the return to play protocols.

Nick Tompkins will not feature after suffering a concussion in Saracens' win over Leicester Tigers last weekend. Wing Louis Rees-Zammit returns, but will be among the replacements.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac said: "Josh is a fantastic player and has played well for us in the past.

"He’s come back before straight back into the side so having 80 minutes under his belt for Cardiff we think that’s enough for him and we look forward to him being back out there bringing that experience.

"He’s a very good player and has played at this level on many occasions so that’s going to be great for us.

"Seb at six just gives us a little bit more size. It helps the lineout, but also in the wider channels where he often runs he’s got the skill set to trouble a few defenders out wide.

"I think Gareth made a really big impact for us last week as did a number of players and so he gets to start."

 

Wales team: Liam Williams, Alex Cuthbert, Owen Watkin, Jonathan Davies, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar (captain), Tomos Williams; Gareth Thomas, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis, Will Rowlands, Adam Beard, Seb Davies, Josh Navidi, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Dewi Lake, Wyn Jones, Dillon Lewis, Ross Moriarty, Jac Morgan, Kieran Hardy, Gareth Anscombe, Louis Rees-Zammit.

Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton will retire after the 2023 World Cup despite signing a new deal with Irish Rugby.

The 36-year-old, who earned his 100th cap in November and won the 2018 World Player of the Year, wants to go out on a high at next year's World Cup in France.

Irish Rugby confirmed on Tuesday that Sexton had signed a new contract up until the 2023 event but the 103-cap veteran said he would finish up after that.

“Yeah, finished, 2023 World Cup – it’s up to me to work hard, get the body and mind in the best shape possible and attack the last 18 months,” he said.

“I’m still very driven to get there and perform at the World Cup. I always said that if I am enjoying my rugby and the Ireland and Leinster set-ups believe I can add value to the environment then it would be an easy decision to sign another contract.

“There is some great talent coming through at Leinster at present and I am excited about the prospect of competing at a fourth World Cup with Ireland and the potential for growth in this group between now and then.”

Sexton has played 103 times for Ireland in his storied career and reached the milestone of 500 points in the Six Nations in the 29-7 win over the defending champions last month.

A four-time European Champions Cup winner with Leinster, Sexton is now looking ahead to the prospect of a fourth World Cup finals appearance in France next year.

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