Johnny Sexton became the highest points scorer in Six Nations history as the Ireland captain topped Ronan O'Gara's record haul in Saturday's showdown with England.

Fly-half Sexton, who plans to retire after the Rugby World Cup later this year, remains a hugely significant part of the Ireland team who sit top of the world rankings and headed into their final fixture of this year's Six Nations with a Grand Slam in their sights.

The 37-year-old came into the match with 557 points in the Six Nations, level with former team-mate O'Gara.

He slotted over with 18 minutes on the clock against England at the Aviva Stadium to move top of the list outright.

The record held by Sexton covers the entirety of the Six Nations, as well as its previous incarnation as the Five Nations.

US president Joe Biden is backing Ireland to topple England in Saturday's final round of the Six Nations.

President Biden hosted a St Patrick's Day event at the White House on Friday.

He has strong links to Ireland, with his mother, Jean, having been of Irish descent.

He is also a distant relative of former Ireland full-back Rob Kearney, who was among the guests at the Washington, D.C. gathering.

Biden, addressing his audience, said: "We've even got a few of my distant Irish cousins here today, including the well-known Irish rugby player Rob Kearney.

"Rob stand up. I want to see you after this, pal.

"You know, Rob, I expect, we know, and this is no offence to anyone in the room, who we are rooting for in the Grand Slam match between Ireland and England."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was also present on Friday, as was former One Direction pop singer Niall Horan.

Ireland, the world's top-ranked rugby national team, will complete a Six Nations Grand Slam if they beat England in Dublin in the final match of this year's championship at the Aviva Stadium.

Ireland can make it a glorious farewell to the Six Nations for record-chasing captain Johnny Sexton as they chase a Grand Slam on Saturday, with England their visitors.

It will be Ireland's title and a clean sweep of wins if they get the better of Steve Borthwick's team at the Aviva Stadium, while Sexton's next points will make him the leading scorer in championship history. He stands level for now with former team-mate Ronan O'Gara on 557 points.

Celebrations could already be in full swing in Dublin before kick-off in the unlikely event of Wales upsetting France in Paris earlier in the day.

France are the only team who can deny Ireland Six Nations glory now, trailing by four points going into the final round of matches.

Bonus points could yet be a factor in the final reckoning, but Ireland will be optimistic they can take that out of the equation by getting the better of an England side who were thrashed last week by Les Bleus.

Scotland face Italy in the day's opening game, before attention turns to the race for the trophy.

Here, Stats Perform runs down key aspects to look at in the three games, with the help of some standout Opta data.

FRANCE v WALES

FORM

Fabien Galthie's France team were so impressive at Twickenham last week they brought a tear to the coach's eye. That 53-10 drubbing in London showed France at their best, and they have won each of their last three Six Nations matches against Wales.

The tide has turned in the rivalry, given France had lost seven of the previous eight battles between the sides in the competition. After last year's Grand Slam, France will believe they can ramp up pressure on Ireland by getting the win at the Stade de France, having won nine of their last 10 Six Nations home matches, including each of the last four.

Wales stopped a six-game run of defeats in the Six Nations by beating Italy 29-17 last time out, to the relief of coach Warren Gatland. It was their longest run without a Six Nations victory since a seven-game sequence in 2006 and 2007, when they lost six and drew one.

There are areas where Wales are still doing well. For instance, they have conceded the joint-fewest turnovers of any side in this year's Six Nations (44, level with Ireland), and only Ireland (30) have won more turnovers than Wales (23). However, it would be a surprise if France do not ramp up the pressure on Ireland with a comfortable win and perhaps a bonus point into the bargain.

ONES TO WATCH

France will look to wings Damian Penaud and Ethan Dumortier to trouble Wales. Five players in this year's Six Nations have a 50 per cent or better tackle evasion rate among those who have faced 20 or more attempted tackles, and Penaud (79 per cent) and Dumortier (51 per cent) are among them.

For Wales, Taulupe Faletau will win his 100th cap and become the eighth man to reach that landmark for the team. Veterans George North and Alun Wyn Jones are among those coming into the starting XV, with Gatland giving the old-stagers a chance to potentially sign off their Six Nations careers in style.

IRELAND v ENGLAND

FORM

Ireland have won their last two Six Nations clashes with England, scoring exactly 32 points in each of those games, and the men in green have bagged 13 wins from their last 23 encounters with this weekend's opponents.

After finishing strongly last year, Ireland are on a seven-game winning run in the Six Nations, and an eighth win in a row would be a record for the team.

That would be cause for celebration alongside the Grand Slam, which would be a third for Ireland in the Six Nations era after 2009 and 2018 clean sweeps. They are chasing a fifth Six Nations title in all, and a seventh Triple Crown in this six-team era.

England's defeat to France last time out was their heaviest ever in the championship, so they have recalled Owen Farrell after dropping the captain, as coach Borthwick looks for a major response.

This game could yet be tight. Ireland (37) and England (34) have conceded the fewest penalties in this year's Six Nations, and they have achieved the highest share of territory per game (England – 60 per cent, Ireland – 59 per cent). Something has to give.

ONES TO WATCH

Sexton scored seven points against Scotland last weekend to move level with O'Gara, so his first kick at goal on Saturday will be a big moment. The record has been in his sights since the start of his final Six Nations, and the 37-year-old should clinch it on home soil.

Dan Cole is poised to win his 100th Test cap for England. He starts among the replacements, ready to become just the fourth player to reach a century for the England men’s team, after Jason Leonard, Ben Youngs and captain Farrell.

SCOTLAND v ITALY

FORM

The days of this fixture being a wooden spoon decider are gone for now, with Scotland much improved in recent years. Italy, too, are a stronger side than they have been for a good while, so they will be frustrated to have lost four from four so far.

Scotland have won each of their last seven Six Nations matches against Italy, their longest winning run against any nation in the championship. Their last Six Nations loss to the Azzurri was a 22-19 setback at Murrayfield in 2015, which was Italy's seventh win over the Scots in the championship. Italy have had just six wins against all other teams in the championship combined.

Italy's recent record in the Six Nations is truly dire, losing 40 of their last 41 games, with the exception among those defeats coming on the final weekend of last year's championship, when they won 22-21 in Wales.

ONES TO WATCH

Scotland's Matt Fagerson has made the most tackles of any player in the 2023 championship (70), while team-mates Jonny Gray (37), Jack Dempsey (32) and Luke Crosbie (32) are the only players to have made 30-plus tackles without missing one. Fagerson, Gray and Dempsey feature this weekend. Their prowess could be key as Scotland look to cope without injured backs Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg.

Italy's Juan Ignacio Brex and Paolo Garbisi are two of three players to have provided a championship-high six break assist passes in this year's championship, matching Ireland's Mack Hansen.

Caelan Doris and Dan Sheehan have been passed fit to start Ireland's Grand Slam decider against England at the Aviva Stadium on the final weekend of Six Nations action.

The pair were two of five Ireland players to sustain injuries in last week's 22-7 victory over Scotland, which made it four wins from four for Ireland in this year's tournament.

While Garry Ringrose and Iain Henderson had already been ruled out for Saturday's meeting with England, Doris and Sheehan have been named in Andy Farrell's starting line-up.

Centre Robbie Henshaw and lock Ryan Baird come in for Ringrose and Henderson, while Jamison Gibson-Park takes over from Conor Murray as Farrell makes three changes.

Johnny Sexton starts his final Six Nations game ahead of retiring later this year, and the Irish captain needs one point to become the competition's outright all-time leading scorer.

Ireland will clinch a third Grand Slam in the Six Nations era – the others coming in 2009 and 2018 – and their fifth title overall if they defeat England in Dublin on Saturday.

Fourth-place England are looking to respond from a record home loss against France last time out and have made four changes to their starting XV.

Wing Henry Arundell is set to make his first start while Owen Farrell, the son of Ireland's coach, has been recalled at fly-half in place of the benched Marcus Smith.

Manu Tuilagi is also given a first start under Steve Borthwick in place of the injured Ollie Lawrence, and David Ribbans is brought in for Ollie Chessum in the other alteration.

Dan Cole is among England's replacements and will make his 100th Test appearance should he feature, making him just the fourth player to do so for the Red Rose.

England have lost their past two games against Ireland, conceding 32 points on both occasions, and have lost 13 of the past 23 encounters in the tournament.

 

Ireland XV:  Hugo Keenan, Mack Hansen, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (c), Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong, Ryan Baird, James Ryan, Peter O'Mahony, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.

Replacements:  Rob Herring, Cian Healy, Tom O'Toole, Kieran Treadwell, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Ross Byrne, Jimmy O'Brien.

England XV:  Freddie Steward, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Many Tuilagi, Henry Arundell, Owen Farrell (c), Jack van Poortvliet; Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, David Ribbans, Lewis Ludlam, Jack Willis, Alex Dombrandt.

Replacements: Jack Walker, Mako Vunipola, Dan Cole, Ben Curry, Nick Isiekwe, Alex Mitchell, Marcus Smith, Joe Marchant.

Ellis Genge has called for patience during England's transition under Steve Borthwick, with the prop vowing to deliver a response in their Six Nations finale against Ireland.

The Bristol man skippered the hosts to a miserable 53-10 loss against France at Twickenham last weekend, in their fourth game under the former Leicester Tigers boss.

Borthwick has so far struggled to turn around the squad inherited from Eddie Jones, and against Andy Farrell's Grand Slam-chasing hosts in Dublin, will face another tough test.

But Genge feels Borthwick must have time in order to bed his ideas in with the wider squad, particularly with a Rugby World Cup campaign looming later this year.

"To change the whole mindset within six or seven weeks will be difficult," Genge told BBC Sport.

"Off the back of a seven-year tenure of someone else, it is a tough ask. But it is a challenge we are welcoming with open arms.

"You will see a reaction [against Ireland]. As a team we want to see us fight for each other until the last minute."

England head across the Irish Sea to face a host nation out to claim a Grand Slam triumph on home soil for the first time.

Genge knows it will be a huge day for Ireland, but further vowed England would not roll over despite the weight of potential history against them.

"What an occasion [it is going to be]," he said.

"It would be amazing to be Irish and have England come over and have a Grand Slam opportunity when they [England] have lost by 50 points on the weekend, on St Patrick's Day.

"[It is] a day that is literally made for them. So we are going to turn up, and we are going to fight [to spoil the party]."

England fly-half Marcus Smith believes they have a "free swing" at Ireland, and also thinks Steve Borthwick's side have time to find form before the Rugby World Cup.

After a chastening 53-10 defeat at Twickenham at the hands of France on Saturday – a record home defeat for them – England could be set to win just two of their five Six Nations games for the third tournament running.

Smith – who replaced Owen Farrell in the team for that game – acknowledged England are going through a bad run, but has challenged his team-mates to use it as motivation as they prepare to face an Ireland team in Dublin who can clinch a Grand Slam.

"We're in a tough period at the minute and it's perfect for us," Smith said. "We've got to get better quickly because the challenge doesn't come much greater than Ireland away in Dublin.

"There's only one way to go now and that's to stand up and fight as hard as we can and play as hard as we can for the shirt.

"We've spoken about sticking together because there's going to be a lot of noise and a lot of pressure on us. We've got to become tighter as opposed to splinter.

"This is a big test of our togetherness as a squad and of our resolve. There's no better week for this than a free swing at Ireland."

The Rugby World Cup is less than six months away, and Smith pointed to the "characters" in the team as reason for optimism ahead of the tournament in France.

"I believe we've still got time," he said. "With the characters we've got in the group we can turn things around very quickly.

"We'll look at our individual performances and team performance because, with where we want to go in the next six months and in the years ahead, that wasn't good enough."

Ireland will be without Garry Ringrose and Iain Henderson for Saturday's Grand Slam decider against England in the Six Nations after the duo suffered injuries in Sunday's win in Scotland.

Andy Farrell's side are on the brink of a first Grand Slam since 2018 after following up wins over Wales, France and Italy with a 22-7 triumph over Scotland at Murrayfield.

However, Ireland's latest win was marred by a serious-looking head injury sustained by Ringrose, with the centre requiring an oxygen mask as he left the field on a stretcher.

Henderson, meanwhile, will also miss the final game of Ireland's campaign as he undergoes surgery on a forearm fracture, a medical update revealed on Monday.

"Garry Ringrose is doing well today and has returned to Dublin," the update read. "He will take no further part in this year's Championship.

"Iain Henderson is due to undergo surgery today on a fractured forearm sustained in the first half of yesterday's game. 

"The uncapped Ross Molony is added to the squad to provide additional second row cover."

Ireland said Dan Sheehan and Ronan Kelleher will be monitored ahead of Saturday's contest at the Aviva Stadium after both men sustained shoulder injuries, with Ulster’s Tom Stewart called up to the squad as cover.

Ireland's victory over Scotland was their seventh in succession in the Six Nations – their joint-best run in the Championship alongside a seven-game winning sequence between 2004 and 2005.

France still retain an outside chance of defending their title, however, and will be hoping to pile the pressure on Ireland with a bonus-point victory over Wales before Farrell's men meet England.

Full Ireland squad:

Forwards: Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Gavin Coombes, Tadhg Furlong, Caelan Doris, Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Ross Molony, Peter O'Mahony, Tom O'Toole, Andrew Porter, Cian Prendergast, James Ryan, Roman Salanoa, Dan Sheehan, Tom Stewart, Josh van der Flier.

Backs: Bundee Aki, Ross Byrne, Craig Casey, Jack Crowley, Ciaran Frawley, Jamison Gibson Park, Mack Hansen, Robbie Henshaw, Hugo Keenan, Jordan Larmour, James Lowe, Stuart McCloskey, Conor Murray, Jimmy O'Brien, Johnny Sexton, Jacob Stockdale, Nick Timoney, Kieran Treadwell.

Ollie Lawrence has been left out of England's final squad of this year's Six Nations after sustaining a hamstring injury in Saturday's thrashing by France.

Lawrence had started his country's last three Tests, but the centre has been replaced by Guy Porter as Steve Borthwick named his 36-man training camp squad for the trip to Ireland next weekend.

There are returns for George Ford, Jonny Hill and Ollie Hassell-Collins, while Will Collier is also called up and Manu Tuilagi returns from suspension.

Borthwick's men will be hoping to put in a vastly improved performance at the Aviva Stadium after they were on the end of their record home defeat at the hands of France, going down 53-10 at Twickenham.

England hooker Jamie George apologised to fans after the game, with many leaving early after seeing their team concede seven tries to Les Bleus.

"I want to apologise because I'm one of [the fans] really," he said. "I would be gutted if I'd turned up to Twickenham to see an England team play like that.

"We are sorry and we need to make sure that we get better and learn from this experience because it's clear we have a long way to go."

Ireland are on course for a Grand Slam after they beat Scotland 22-7 at Murrayfield on Sunday.

Full England squad:

Forwards: Ollie Chessum, Dan Cole, Will Collier, Ben Curry, Alex Dombrandt, Tom Dunn, Ben Earl, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Jonny Hill, Nick Isiekwe, Maro Itoje, Lewis Ludlam, David Ribbans, Bevan Rodd, Kyle Sinckler, Mako Vunipola, Jack Walker, Jack Willis.

Backs: Henry Arundell, Owen Farrell, Tommy Freeman, George Ford, Ollie Hassell-Collins, Max Malins Joe Marchant, Alex Mitchell, Cadan Murley, Guy Porter, Henry Slade, Marcus Smith, Freddie Steward, Manu Tuilagi, Jack van Poortvliet, Anthony Watson, Ben Youngs.

Andy Farrell joked Ireland may have to borrow players from a local side's Under-12s to face England after losing five more to injury in their Six Nations victory over Scotland.

Ireland claimed a well-earned 22-7 victory at Murrayfield on Sunday to take their Grand Slam hopes down to next weekend's final game against England.

Farrell's men have now won seven matches in a row in the competition – their joint-best ever run – but their latest victory may have come at a cost.

The visitors lost three of their starting forward pack inside the first 25 minutes, with Caelan Doris, Dan Sheehan and Iain Henderson making way.

Replacement hooker Ronan Kelleher was next to exit the field, leaving prop Cian Healy at hooker and flanker Josh van der Flier the lineout thrower

Garry Ringrose then sustained a serious-looking head injury late on, potentially leaving Farrell with a major selection problem for the visit of England in six days' time.

"We'll go again. We'll have a good squad," Farrell told BBC Sport. "If we get any more injuries in the week we might have to have a look at Old Belvedere Under-12s! 

"We'll lick our wounds and go again. England will be dangerous, but it'll be one hell of a weekend on St Patrick's Day."

 

There was little between the sides after a tense first half in which Mack Hansen cancelled out Huw Jones' try, with that the Scotland centre's tournament-high fourth of 2023.

Ireland's quality eventually told, though, as James Lowe crossed over with 56 minutes played and Jack Conan powered over to put the game out of the home side's reach.

"It was an amazing Test match," Farrell said. "There was a bit of organised chaos at half-time, but everyone had a smile on their face. 

"We didn't get the try early on, then lost Caelan. It's a monumental effort, but that's what these boys expect of each other. They've earned the right to take it to the last weekend.

"The lads can do anything at this moment in time. How we looked after each other was the most impressive thing."

Scotland would have had a second try in the first period if not for a superb Hugo Keenan challenge to stop Duhan van der Merwe from reaching the line.

Just one point separated Scotland and Ireland at half-time for the seventh time in nine Tests at Murrayfield, but Ireland found a way to make it six wins in a row in this fixture.

Johnny Sexton, who kicked seven points to draw level with compatriot Ronan O'Gara in the all-time list of Six Nations points scorers, is proud of the way his side dug in.

"It was an incredibly tough game," he told BBC Sport. "Anytime you come to Murrayfield you know you're in a Test match. That was one of the toughest first halves I've played.

"We knew it would be tough, and we're delighted to come away with the win. Now we've got to get the bodies back together. 

"We'll be playing against an English team that are hurting and one that we have huge respect for. The Irish people will get behind us next week, so we're looking forward to that."

A second defeat in a row for Scotland brings and end to their campaign, and head coach Gregor Townsend accepts Ireland were the better side over the 80 minutes.

"I'd rather talk about the first half than the second half, because the second half was disappointing," he said. "We created chances in that first half.

"It was a real high energy performance – what you'd call a proper Test match. Both teams were a little fatigued at the start of the second half, it was there for us to lift the energy.

"We didn't; we weren't accurate enough. Ireland grew in confidence and were clearly the better team in the second half. We're disappointed with the fact we didn't kick on.

"What we wanted today was a complete, 80-minute performance. We only got it for 40. We know we'll have to play well next week. Italy come here with nothing to lose."

Ireland defeated Scotland 22-7 in an entertaining Six Nations contest at Murrayfield to move to within one victory of landing a first Grand Slam since 2018.

Andy Farrell's side had defeated Wales, France and Italy in the opening three rounds and were a point better off than Scotland at the end of a gripping first half in Edinburgh.

Mack Hansen cancelled out Huw Jones' try to help give the visitors their slender advantage, which James Lowe added to shortly before the hour in a crucial moment in the match.

Jack Conan gave Ireland breathing space soon after to ensure they sit four points clear of France ahead of hosting England in the final round of fixtures.

 

Iain Henderson grounded early on for Ireland, only for the officials to rule out the try on a technicality as the line-out that Caelan Doris intercepted was taken with a different ball.

Ireland dominated but only had Johnny Sexton's penalty to show for it, and it was Scotland who opened the try count when Sione Tuipulotu played in Jones to dive over.

Finn Russell added the extras, but Ireland responded 10 minutes later through Hansen, who raced in down the right to ground despite Duhan van der Merwe's best efforts.

Hugo Keenan's fine challenge stopped Van der Merwe from racing through, but Ireland's problems mounted when Ronan Kelleher – a replacement for Dan Sheehan – limped off.

It remained a one-point contest until, after a few near-misses, Ireland worked the ball to the left and Lowe dotted down with 56 minutes played.

Conan showed good pace and power to score a third Irish try following good work from Hansen, with Sexton making it two successful conversions out of three.

That drew Sexton level with Ronan O'Gara for the most Six Nations points scored, but he did not have any further opportunities to edge in front as Ireland missed out on a bonus point.

Ireland travel to Scotland with their Grand Slam fate in their own hands in the penultimate round of Six Nations action, while Wales and Italy battle it out in a possible wooden spoon clash in Rome.

Andy Farrell's Ireland have defeated Wales, France and Italy in this year's edition – each secured with a bonus point – and are now two wins away from completing a clean sweep for a third time in the six team format.

Scotland, beaten by reigning champions France last time out, can get their own championship hopes back on track with victory over the leaders at Murrayfield in Sunday's standalone fixture.

That comes a day after Wales lock horns with Italy at Stadio Olimpico seeking their first victory since Warren Gatland returned as head coach. The Azzurri are themselves winless this tournament, but they are above Wales by virtue of collecting a losing bonus point.

England and France face off in this weekend's other fixture locked on 10 points apiece, with the winner still having a shot of finishing top of the pile heading into the final weekend of action.

Stats Perform previews the three games with the help of some standout Opta data.


ITALY V WALES 

FORM

Italy have finished bottom of the standings seven years running, but there is real hope of stopping the rot at Wales' expense.

Kieran Crowley's side won their most recent meeting with Wales, coming out on top 22-21 in Cardiff last year to snap a seven-year winless sequence in the tournament.

However, they have not beaten Wales at home since 2007 and are winless on their own patch in the competition in 24 outings since defeating Ireland in March 2013.

Gatland has again shuffled his pack in the hope of ending Wales' six-match losing run in the Six Nations – their worst run since losing seven on the spin between 2002 and 2003.

 

ONES TO WATCH

Ange Capuozzo was Player of the Match in this fixture last year, but he will miss Italy's remaining two matches through injury.

That opens a space for Harlequins fly-half Tommaso Allan, who ranked second for passes across Italy's first two games prior to being overlooked against Ireland.

Gatland has made six changes from the loss to England, with Rhys Webb coming into the side for his first Six Nations start since 2017.

Experienced figure Webb is back in the number nine jersey with a point to prove and a chance to hold down a place in the side ahead of the Rugby World Cup.


ENGLAND V FRANCE

FORM

England have defeated Wales and Italy, both by margins of 10-plus points, since losing to Scotland in Steve Borthwick's first game in charge.

The Red Rose are seeking a third straight win in the championship for the first time since 2020, while not since 2009-2010 have they won three in a row by double-figure margins.

France tasted defeat in their most recent away outing, going down 32-19 in a pivotal showdown with Ireland, but they have won their seven Six Nations games either side of that.

However, the home team on the day has won each of the past six tournament meetings between these sides, with France's most recent victory at Twickenham coming in 2005.

 

ONES TO WATCH

Borthwick has made a big decision in leaving out captain Owen Farrell – the first time he has been dropped for England since the 2015 World Cup – with Marcus Smith recalled.

Smith starred for Harlequins in their rout of Exeter last weekend after being released by Borthwick and he will be looking to transfer that club form onto the international stage.

Jonathan Danty comes in for his first start of the tournament for France as one of three changes, but it is Thibaud Flament who will have England's attention.

The 25-year-old, who has previously spent time living in England, has made the most tackles of any player in this year's Six Nations with 58 to his name.


SCOTLAND V IRELAND

FORM

Ireland have lived up to their pre-tournament favourites tag with three wins from three in 2023, while going further back they have won 10 of their past 11 Six Nations games.

Farrell's side have also won each of their last five games at Murrayfield, preventing their opponents from scoring more than one try in four of those five victories.

But Scotland have performed well this year, the only blemish coming in defeat to France last time out, and they have won three of their past four home games in the tournament.

Ireland may have had the better of this fixture in recent times, but seven of the last eight matches between the sides in Edinburgh have been decided by single-figure margins.

ONES TO WATCH

Stuart Hogg has been handed another start in a Scotland side showing two changes – Jonny Gray and Jack Dempsey coming in – for what will be his 100th Test appearance.

That makes the full-back, who is also his country's record try-scorer, one of four men to reach triple figures in a Scotland shirt after Ross Ford, Chris Paterson and Sean Lamont.

It could also be a milestone day for Johnny Sexton, who has recovered from a knock to return to an Ireland side that also contains fit-again Garry Ringrose and Tadhg Furlong.

Ireland captain Sexton requires eight points to overtake former team-mate Ronan O'Gara (557) as the top scorer in the history of the Six Nations.

Captain Johnny Sexton is one of a number of key players to return to Ireland's starting line-up for Sunday's Six Nations showdown with Scotland at Murrayfield.

Sexton sat out Ireland's 34-20 victory away to Italy two weeks ago with a knock sustained in the win against France in the previous round.

The Leinster fly-half requires just eight more points to overtake former team-mate Ronan O'Gara (557) as the top scorer in Six Nations history.

Ireland also welcome back Garry Ringrose and Tadhg Furlong from injury, while Conor Murray, Dan Sheehan and Peter O'Mahony are recalled as Andy Farrell makes six changes.

Centre Robbie Henshaw and scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park are fit enough to be named among the replacements.

Farrell's side have won 10 of their past 11 games in the competition and are on for a first Grand Slam since 2018, having so far overcome Wales, France and Italy.

 

Scotland's title hopes were damaged in a 32-21 loss to reigning champions France last time out, coming on the back of wins over England and Wales in the first two rounds.

Gregor Townsend has made two changes from the defeat in Paris, with Jack Dempsey and Jonny Gray named in the XV.

Gray joins his brother Richie in an experienced second row, with Grant Gilchrist unavailable through suspension after being sent off against France. 

Hamish Watson is the other player to make way for Scotland, who have won three of their past four home games in the Six Nations.

Sunday's contest in Edinburgh will be a special occasion for Stuart Hogg, as he is set to become only the fourth Scotland player to make a century of appearances.

"We had to make a change with Grant banned, and with the back row we feel Jack has done really well off the bench and been training at a really high level," Townsend said.

"Jack has been very consistent in his play, and integrated well with the group, and we feel it is the right time and the right opposition for him to start.

"Scott Cummings and Hamish can add real speed off the bench."

Ireland have won 19 of their 23 matches against Scotland in the Six Nations (L4), including each of their past five in a row.

 

Teams:

Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Kyle Steyn, Huw Jones, Sione Tuipulotu, Duhan van der Merwe, Finn Russell, Ben White; Pierre Schoeman, George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Richie Gray, Jonny Gray, Matt Fagerson, Jamie Ritchie (c), Jack Dempsey.

Replacements: Fraser Brown, Jamie Bhatti, Simon Berghan, Scott Cummings, Hamish Watson, Ali Price, Blair Kinghorn, Chris Harris.

Ireland: Hugo Keenan, Mack Hansen, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, James Lowe, Johnny Sexton (c), Conor Murray; Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, Peter O'Mahony, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Tom O'Toole, Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ross Byrne, Robbie Henshaw.

Finlay Bealham has been ruled out of Ireland's remaining two Six Nations games with a knee injury.

The 31-year-old prop started Ireland's wins over Wales, France and Italy, but he twisted his knee during Saturday's 34-20 victory in Rome.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) confirmed on Monday that Bealham will play no further part in the 2023 tournament.

However, Bealham's lay-off coincides with Tadhg Furlong's return to the Ireland squad for this week's mini-camp.

Furlong has recovered from a calf injury that has ruled him out of his side's opening three games, while scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Parker is back from a hamstring problem.

Skipper Johnny Sexton and centres Robbie Henshaw and Gary Ringrose are also part of Andy Farrell's 27-man training squad.

Ireland top the Six Nations standings and are on course for a first Grand Slam since 2018 ahead of facing Scotland at Murrayfield on March 12.

The world's top-ranked side conclude their campaign against England at the Aviva Stadium six days later.

Andy Farrell was relieved Ireland "found a way" to overcome an impressive Italy side as his team stayed on course for a Grand Slam by winning 34-20 in Rome.

Mack Hansen crossed for two tries, including a late clincher to end Italian hopes, with James Ryan, Hugo Keenan and Bundee Aki also going over as the visitors picked up a bonus point.

It means Ireland are three-fifths of the way to a clean sweep in this season's Six Nations, with Scotland away in a fortnight's time followed by England coming to Dublin.

Head coach Farrell could not be sure his team would survive unscathed against Italy until the closing stages, and he gave the hosts plenty of credit for that.

Farrell said: "I suppose the positive is the chances we did create, but the negative is we didn't take them all.

"What was it, four or five tries we left out there? But all credit must go to Italy, that was a proper Test match, that was tough, they're a proper side.

"Everyone can see the progression, but when you're here and you're facing it... they were tough, they were resilient, and the forwards gave us absolutely nothing.

"Defending their own line they were very physical, and in attack they were cutting us open from time to time, so congratulations to them, I thought they were great.

"We let them into the game through lack of discipline at times and didn't control the game as well as we should do in that regard.

"But Test match rugby doesn't go your way the whole time, and we found a way, even though we threw away four or five tries. It's nice the bonus-point win away from home."

Scotland, who tackle France on Sunday in Paris, have also begun this championship with successive wins.

It could, depending on Scotland's performance this weekend, be a clash between two unbeaten sides in Edinburgh on March 12.

"Going to Murrayfield is a really tough place to go," said Farrell, "as is here in Rome."

Ireland kept their Six Nations Grand Slam charge on track after a 34-20 victory over a spirited Italy in Rome.

Mack Hansen crossed twice while stand-in captain James Ryan, Hugo Keenan and Bundee Aki also went over at Stadio Olimpico for Andy Farrell's side, who recorded their third straight bonus-point win in this year’s tournament.

Although without the injured Johnny Sexton, the visitors registered their 23rd Six Nations win over Italy in 24 attempts – and 10th on the bounce.

Despite a determined display, the hosts continued their dismal record on home soil, where they have now suffered 24 successive defeats since beating Ireland 10 years ago.

Ireland came flying out the blocks, and although TMO denied James Lowe the opening try after just 90 seconds, the Leinster wing soon turned provider for Ryan to cross.

Having pushed reigning champions France all the way in their Six Nations opener, Italy responded with Stephen Varney going over after a rapid burst from Lorenzo Cannone.

But the visitors soon established control. Keenan broke through and rode challenges to regain the lead, while a series of sharp offloads enabled Aki and Hansen to cross in the corners.

Italy gave themselves hope before the break as Pierre Bruno intercepted Aki's offload on halfway to dash for the line.

A tight second half ensued with the hosts drawing on all their defensive resolve to prevent Ireland from extending their advantage as Paolo Garbisi and Ross Byrne exchanged kicks.

But the visitors finally put the result beyond doubt nine minutes from time when a neat offload released Hansen, who made no mistake in claiming his second try.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.