Jamie George scored two first-half tries as England cruised to a 33-0 bonus-point victory against Italy at Stadio Olimpico for their first win of the 2022 Six Nations.

England fell to a late 20-17 loss to Scotland in their opening match but any risk of back-to-back defeats to begin a campaign for the first time since 2005 never looked likely.

The visitors crossed over three times in the first half, with George at the double after Marcus Smith had opened the scoring inside nine minutes.

Elliot Daly and Kyle Sinckler further punished sloppy Italy, who have now lost each of their past 34 matches in the Six Nations and have still yet to beat England in the competition.

 

Italy took a shock early lead in last week's loss to France, though they were on the wrong end of an early try against England as Smith linked up with Max Malins and dived over.

England did not have to wait long for a second try, with George burying his way over from close range to finish off a move he started from a lineout.

Maro Itoje had a try ruled out for obstruction, but England were out of sight before half-time as George collected Smith's offload and grounded after dodging a couple of tackles.

Daly, brought on for Jack Nowell in the first half after the wing failed a head injury assessment, added a fourth for England when racing in down the left early in the second half.

England introduced Ben Youngs for the scrum-half's 114th cap, equalling Jason Leonard's Test record, while Ollie Chessum was handed his senior debut.

Italy pushed hard for a consolation try without finding one, and it was left to Sinckler to have the final say with a simple finish following a costly Leonardo Marin error.

Andy Farrell lamented the result but not the performance after his Ireland team just failed in a valiant comeback effort against France in the Six Nations.

Ireland, shorn of the injured Johnny Sexton, found themselves behind after just 67 seconds in Paris on Saturday, and at one point early in the second half they were 22-7 down.

Yet Josh van der Flier and Jamison Gibson-Park led an Ireland fightback and, despite Cyril Baille's try, the visitors were within three points of France when Joey Carbery kicked a penalty heading into the closing stages.

It was not to be for Ireland, though, as the excellent Melvyn Jaminet converted a France penalty after having a try ruled out.

France have now won their past three Tests against Ireland, this after winning just one of the previous nine clashes between the sides (D2 L6), but Farrell was delighted with the spirit his team showed.

"We came here to win, came here to perform, but there's another class side in France that's going to have a big say in that, and they certainly did from the start – 10 points down after six minutes certainly wasn't in the script," he told ITV Sport.

"Getting to a stage early on in the second half when it was 22-7 just says everything about our side really, the character, the guts, the fitness levels and the want to go and play and get ourselves back in the game; I couldn't be more proud.

"It shows what we're about, that we've got the courage to go put our game out there when we're under pressure. To get in front and to make sure that we start well is something we need to look at.

"The forward lads going for as long as they did, digging in, all in all it comes down to one hell of a Test match. We didn't get the points here but the courage and the character was the bonus point here."

Saturday's result was the 15th time a Six Nations clash between these nations has been decided by seven points or fewer, more than any other match-up in the Championship since 2000.

France have scored at least 30 points in each of their past four Tests – including matches against Ireland and New Zealand – the first time they have managed that since a run of five games in 2003, and they are now the only unbeaten team in this edition of the Six Nations.

However, Gregory Alldritt insists Les Bleus' full focus is on preparations for their clash with Scotland on February 26.

"This tournament is the best in the world, every weekend is a really tough game," he told ITV Sport when asked about the possibility of completing the Grand Slam.

"We're not thinking of the Grand Slam, we're just taking it step by step and a huge away game in Scotland in two weeks, so we just need to prepare for this game and not think about the rest."

Ireland's comeback efforts proved fruitless as France held their own to claim a 30-24 win in an enthralling Six Nations tussle on Saturday.

Heading to the Stade de France without injured captain Jonny Sexton, Ireland endured a tough start – including Antoine Dupont scoring the fastest try they have conceded in the Six Nations – and Melvyn Jaminet's kicking kept them at arm's length in the first half.

Josh van der Flier and Jamison Gibson-Park led an Ireland rally early in the second, but Cyril Baille's try saw France regain their composure.

Although that might have been followed by another score in a frantic finish, when TMO intervened, Les Bleus did just enough to hold on to their lead.

Ireland had been swiftly into the lead against Wales last time out but were on the wrong end of a fast start in Paris, as Dupont latched onto an offload with just over a minute played.

Jaminet added the extras and then another three French points from the tee soon after, but Ireland hit back when Sexton's replacement Joey Carbery hung the restart kick up for Mack Hansen to pounce and go over.

Another Jaminet penalty nosed France into a six-point lead, before two more pieces of Dupont brilliance resulted in two more successfully converted kicks before half-time.

Jaminet's penalty proficiency continued with a long-range effort early in the second half, yet the momentum quickly swung Ireland's way when Van der Flier forced his way over in the corner following a successful line-out.

The gap was down to a point by the 49th minute, Gibson-Park grounding underneath the sticks, but Ireland were their own worst enemies four minutes later – an error in the ruck allowing France to capitalise through Baille.

Although Ireland were handed more hope when Carbery chipped through a 30-yard penalty, France pushed back and Jaminet sent a penalty through the sticks to seal victory having failed to ground what seemed set to be a decisive try.

Wales hooker Ryan Elias hailed his side's "never-say-die attitude" in their tense 20-17 victory over Scotland at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

After suffering a heavy loss to Ireland last weekend, Wales gave their Six Nations title defence lift-off thanks to the kicking expertise of Dan Biggar.

The fly-half kicked 15 points on what was his 100th Test outing, including a drop-goal 11 minutes from time to seal the victory for Wales in Cardiff.

Scotland were a man down at that point after Finn Russell, who himself kicked 12 points, was yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on.

Wales trailed by five points in the first half and were again behind approaching the hour mark, but they rallied to avoid successive losses to begin a campaign for the first time since 2007.

"It's huge," Elias told BBC Sport. "We needed a big reaction from last week, especially for the crowd here today.

"We didn't turn up last week physically or in a lot of aspects of the game. I don't think we fired any shots last week.

"We had a long hard look at ourselves in the week. We were physical, we had that never-say-die attitude. Hopefully we can just keep building on that now."

 

Russell's yellow card was his fourth in Test rugby, each of those coming in the Six Nations – including one in a defeat to Wales seven years ago.

Biggar took full advantage by kicking for the three points soon after, rather than playing the ball out wide as Wales closed in on the try-line.

After expertly seeing out the win, however, centurion Biggar was left to reflect on a memorable day.

"This is one of my best victories in a Welsh shirt," he said. "It's been a really difficult week. We've had to put up with a lot of flak – and rightly so. 

"To come back here and put on a show like that, to grind a result out like that, is one of the best victories in my 100 games.

"We put in a huge shift defensively, our forwards fronted up, and it laid a really strong foundation.

"Off the back of the week we've had, this team has shown if anything it's resilient and can hit back after a poor performance."

Scotland beat England 20-17 in last week's Calcutta Cup clash and started strongly through a Darcy Graham try in Cardiff.

But after failing to push on, they have now lost 10 of their 12 away matches against Wales in the Six Nations, including the last nine in a row at the Principality Stadium.

And Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg was left to reflect on an ill-disciplined display from his side in the Welsh capital.

"We're bitterly disappointed," he told BBC Sport. "The stuff that we're in control of, when we're on the front foot, we're really dangerous. At times, we weren't allowed to do that.

"We're a lot better than what we showed. That’s international rugby – you have to take your chances or you end up on the wrong side of the scoreline.

"[Poor discipline] was absolutely a factor. One penalty or knock-on is fine, but when we compound error upon error that's frustrating, because we know we're better than that.

"Credit to Wales, they were fairly good at times. It's a horrible feeling right now but that is Test match rugby."

Dan Biggar's drop goal on his 100th Test appearance gave Wales' Six Nations title defence lift-off as they battled to a 20-17 victory over Scotland at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

Wayne Pivac's side were thrashed 29-7 by Ireland in their opener but dug deep to edge out Scotland, who were seeking back-to-back wins after beating England last week.

Darcy Graham and Tom Francis crossed over in a first half that ended level and it remained all square at 17-17 late on as Biggar and Finn Russell kicked four penalties apiece.

A big moment arrived 12 minutes from time when Russell was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on and, while Wales could not add another try, Biggar's boot two minutes later proved decisive.

Biggar punished slow-starting Scotland by kicking over a couple of early penalties, but the visitors soon got going and scored the first try with 11 minutes played.

Graham outmuscled Louis Rees-Zammit to ground the ball in the corner after collecting a looping pass from Russell towards the right.

Russell was unable to add the extras but slotted over three penalties, either side of one from Biggar, to give Scotland a five-point advantage.

But the hosts were on level terms at half-time thanks to just a second try in Welsh colours for Francis, who grounded after his side drove to the line from the line-out.

Russell and Biggar continued their kicking battle in the second half to ensure the sides remained all square heading into a tense finale.

Alex Cuthbert had a try ruled out for being in touch but referee Nic Berry and TMO adjudged that Russell was not in a position to catch the ball in the build-up when knocking on.

Russell was subsequently yellow-carded and Wales ramped up the pressure, culminating in Biggar slotting over a three-pointer, rather than going for the line, which proved the right call as Wales held on for victory.

France and Ireland face off at the Stade de France on Saturday in a contest that may well determine exactly where the Six Nations title ends up next month.

Pre-tournament favourites France kicked off their campaign with a routine victory over Italy, while a much-fancied Ireland proved far too strong for reigning champions Wales.

Both sides picked up bonus points to lead the way at the top, setting up a mouth-watering encounter in the French capital as Ireland aim to stretch their nine-match winning run.

Wales have a chance to respond to last week's disappointment when they host a Scotland side who should be full of confidence following their Calcutta Cup win over England last time out.

The final match of the weekend takes place in Rome as perennial whipping boys Italy take on England with the aim of ending their long-running losing streak in the competition.

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

WALES v SCOTLAND

FORM

Wales have lost just two of their 11 home matches against Scotland in the Six Nations, though one of those losses did come in the last such meeting two years ago at Parc y Scarlets in Llanelli.

The last three encounters between the sides in the competition have been decided by a margin of seven points or fewer. Indeed, four of the last six clashes have seen the side losing at half-time come back to win the match.

Scotland are on their longest away winning streak in the championship, having won four on the spin – not since between 1925 and 1927 have they won five in a row on their travels. However, Wales have won nine of their last 11 Six Nations home matches.

ONES TO WATCH

Taine Basham was a rare shining light for Wales in their heavy loss to Ireland, the tournament debutant crossing over late on to prevent his side from losing to nil on a day to forget in Dublin. Basham also made 22 tackles, which is the most of any player on the opening weekend, missing none in the process.

A number of Scotland players impressed in the late win over England, not least Darcy Graham. The diminutive wing set up Ben White for the opening try, won the crucial turnover in injury time and beat six defenders – the most of any player in round one.

 


FRANCE v IRELAND

FORM

France and Ireland have played each other 100 times previously, with France victorious on 58 occasions, Ireland prevailing 35 times and seven games drawn. In the Six Nations, Les Blues edge the win record 11 to nine from their 22 previous encounters, the other two matches finishing level.

Ireland have lost their last two meetings with France in the competition, having been beaten in just one of the previous eight. Ireland's win rate of 41 per cent against Les Blues in the Six Nations is their lowest against any side.

After recovering to see off Italy last week, France are aiming to win their opening two Six Nations games for the third year in a row, this after managing it just twice in their previous eight campaigns.


ONES TO WATCH

France head coach Fabien Galthie, back involved after missing the Italy match with coronavirus, has put his faith in youth by handing Yoram Moefana his first Six Nations start. The 21-year-old impressed in his cameo role against Italy by playing a part in his side's last two tries.

Ireland will have to make do without injured skipper Johnny Sexton, who passed the 500-point mark in the Six Nations last week, so all eyes will be on Joey Carbery – the only change from the Wales game – at fly-half. The Munster number 10 is tasked with pulling the strings on his first tournament start.

 

ITALY v ENGLAND

FORM

England are the only side Italy have never managed to beat in the Six Nations, losing all 22 of their previous showdowns. England's 80-23 win in this fixture 21 years ago remains the most points scored and biggest winning margin in any fixture in the competition's history.

Italy have lost their last 33 matches in the competition – the longest losing streak by any team in the Five or Six Nations – in an unwanted run that stretches back to a win over Scotland in 2015.

Eddie Jones' visitors have lost their last two Six Nations matches, but only once over the last 15 editions have they lost three in a row, while not since 2005 have they lost their opening two games to a campaign.


ONES TO WATCH

Italy's Michele Lamaro (21 tackles) was one of just three players to make 20 or more tackles during the opening weekend, along with Basham (22) and Nick Tompkins (21). However, he also missed four tackles, which was the joint-most of any player, level with Dan Biggar.

Ben Youngs, who made the most kicks in play of any player in round one (17), is one of six players to make way for England. Should the experienced scrum-half make it off the bench, he will become England's joint-most capped player of all time alongside Jason Leonard with 114.

England have made six changes to their starting line-up for Sunday's Six Nations clash with Italy in Rome.

Joe Marchant moves to outside centre, while Ben Youngs, who is one cap away from equalling Jason Leonard's national record of 114, has been dropped for Harry Randall at scrum-half.

Jack Nowell is on the wing ahead of Elliot Daly for his first England start in 1,065 days, while Alex Dombrandt comes in at eight and Charlie Ewels starts as lock alongside Nick Isiekwe.

Will Stuart and Jamie George start in the front row, the latter replacing Luke Cowan-Dickie, who drops to the bench after a costly mistake in the defeat to Scotland last week.

"We've set ourselves the target of playing really well and lighting up Rome," said coach Eddie Jones. "We've made some changes and this is the best side to face Italy. We want to start fast and take the game to them.

"It's been a difficult week, but the players have bounced back well, trained hard and are ready to put on a good performance on Sunday."

Kieran Crowley makes three changes to the Italy side that lost 37-10 to France.

Federico Mori is in at 14 for Tommaso Menoncello, with Braam Steyn replacing Sebastian Negri at flanker and Pietro Ceccarelli starting in the front row ahead of Tiziano Pasquali.

England are the only side yet to lose to Italy in the Six Nations, having won all of their previous 22 meetings.

The Azzurri are on a championship-record 33-match losing streak and have not won at home since beating Ireland 22-15 at the Stadio Olimpico in 2013.

However, Jones' men are at risk of losing their opening two rounds of the same Six Nations competition since 2005, when they were beaten by Wales and France.


England team: Freddie Steward, Max Malins, Joe Marchant, Henry Slade, Jack Nowell, Marcus Smith, Harry Randall; Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, Nick Isiekwe, Maro Itoje, Alex Dombrandt, Tom Curry. 

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler, Ollie Chessum, Sam Simmonds, Ben Youngs, George Ford, Elliot Daly.

Italy team: Edoardo Padovani, Federico Mori, Juan Ignacio Brex, Marco Zanon, Montanna Ioane, Paolo Garbisi, Stephen Varney; Danilo Fischetti, Gianmarco Lucchesi, Pietro Ceccarelli, Niccolo Cannone, Federico Ruzza, Braam Steyn, Michele Lamaro, Toa Halafihi.

Replacements: Epalahame Faiva, Cherif Traore, Tiziano Pasquali, David Sisi, Sebastian Negri, Giovanni Pettinelli, Alessandro Fusco, Leonardo Marin.

Dan Biggar and Grant Gilchrist are set to make landmark appearances when Wales and Scotland clash in the Six Nations on Saturday.

Wales skipper Biggar will make his 100th Test appearance, with Jonathan Davies in line to join him in the century club when he comes off the bench in Cardiff.

Wales boss Wayne Pivac hailed the pair's achievements at international level as he named his team on Thursday, revealing delight that both players get to reach the milestone in the same game.

"To get 100 Test matches in total for any player from any country, it's just a magnificent achievement," Pivac said. "It shows the hard work and dedication they have put in and the sacrifice they have made over a number of years to get to this stage.

"I'm very, very happy for both of those players to achieve it and to do it on the same day. They've played a lot of Test matches together in the past – it's just going to be fantastic to see them both out there at some stage."

Off the back of a humbling 29-7 defeat to Ireland in Dublin, Pivac's side to face the Scots features four changes.

Ross Moriarty, Alex Cuthbert, Owen Watkin and Jac Morgan - making his Test debut - start ahead of Aaron Wainwright, Ellis Jenkins, Johnny McNicholl and Josh Adams, with Wales facing a Scotland side who began the championship with a gutsy victory over England.

Pivac said: "We expect Scotland to come down full of confidence. They've started with a good win. Across the board, they are a very competitive and committed side that throws everything at every play."

Scotland boss Gregor Townsend makes five alterations to his team, despite clinching the Calcutta Cup 20-17 last Saturday, although Gilchrist is retained as he reaches his own milestone of 50 Scotland appearances.

Sam Skinner, Pierre Schoeman, WP Nel, Stuart McInally and Sione Tuipulotu come into the starting line-up.

Scotland team: Hogg (c), Graham, Harris, Tuipulotu, Van der Merwe, Russell, Price; Schoeman, McInally, Nel, Gray, Gilchrist, Skinner, Watson, M Fagerson.

Replacements: Turner, Sutherland, Z Fagerson, Bradbury, Darge, White, Kinghorn, Redpath.

Wales team: L Williams, Cuthbert, Watkin, Tompkins, Rees-Zammit, Biggar (c), T Williams; Jones, Elias, Francis, Rowlands, Beard, Basham, Morgan, Moriarty.

Replacements: Lake, Thomas, Lewis, S Davies, Wainwright, G Davies, Sheedy, J Davies.

Johnny Sexton will miss Ireland's Six Nations clash with France on Saturday due to a hamstring problem.

Ireland captain Sexton surpassed 500 points in the competition last week, as he helped Andy Farrell's team to a 29-7 defeat of reigning champions Wales in Dublin.

However, the 36-year-old will not feature in Paris after sustaining an injury in training on Wednesday, and James Ryan will captain Ireland instead.

Joey Carbery will replace Sexton in Farrell's line-up, which was announced on Thursday. It is the only change Ireland have made.

Iain Henderson, Robbie Henshaw and Jack Carty have come into the squad and will be on the bench, with Ryan Baird and James Hume dropping out.

France, meanwhile, have made two alterations to their side, with Francois Cros and Yoram Moefana replacing Dylan Cretin and Jonathan Danty respectively.

Antoine Dupont was one of 11 players to assist a try across the opening weekend and now has 12 assists to his name in the Six Nations, the most of any France player.

The scrum-half will again look to dictate the play as Les Bleus aim to win their opening two games in an edition of the Six Nations for the third year in a row, this after managing it just twice in their previous eight campaigns in the Championship.

This will be the 101st meeting between the nations, with France winning 58 times and Ireland triumphing on 35 occasions.

Les Bleus have the edge in the Six Nations, winning half of their 22 encounters, including the two most recent games.

They thrashed Italy 37-10 in their opening fixture to go top of the standings after round one.

 

Ireland team:  Hugo Keenan, Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Mack Hansen, Joey Carbery, Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan, Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.

Replacements:  Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, Peter O'Mahony, Conor Murray, Jack Carty, Robbie Henshaw.

France team:  Melvyn Jaminet, Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou, Yoram Moefana, Gabin Villiere, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Gregory Alldritt, Anthony Jelonch, Francois Cros, Paul Willemse, Cameron Woki, Uini Atonio, Julien Marchand, Cyril Baille.

Replacements:  Peato Mauvaka, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Demba Bamba, Romain Taofifenua, Thibaud Flament, Dylan Cretin, Maxime Lucu, Thomas Ramos.

Gabin Villiere scored a hat-trick as France recovered from a slow start to kick off their 2022 Six Nations campaign with a 37-10 bonus-point win over Italy at the Stade de France.

The pre-tournament favourites trailed to Tommaso Menoncello's try and were again behind with half an hour played after Anthony Jelonch had temporarily put them ahead.

But Villiere crossed over either side of half-time and Damian Penaud added a fourth, before Villiere completed his treble to confirm a 33rd successive loss in the competition for Italy.

Les Blues have now won 15 successive home Tests against Italy and join next opponents Ireland on five points after the first round of fixtures.

Italy responded superbly to falling behind to Melvyn Jaminet's fourth-minute penalty as Menoncello gathered Paolo Garbisi's cross-field kick and raced through for a debut try.

Garbisi added the extras but all of Italy's hard work was undone when Stephen Varney's offload was intercepted by Jelonch, who had a simple task in splashing over.

France did not initially push on, with Garbisi and Jaminet sharing a penalty apiece, though a Villiere try following a well-worked lineout ensured Les Blues led at the break.

Jonathan Danty had a try ruled out by TMO but there was no denying Villiere five minutes later, the Toulon wing darting for the line after France turned the ball over in the maul.

Penaud broke down the right, exchanged passes with Antoine Dupont and sealed a bonus point for France, with star man Villiere adding further gloss with a free run on the back of some sustained pressure.

Menoncello makes his mark

Kieran Crowley was taking charge of his first Six Nations match as Italy boss and his decision to hand Menoncello a debut on the wing paid almost instant dividends.

At 19 years and 170 days, Menoncello is the youngest try-scorer in Six Nations history, surpassing the record previously held by France's Gael Fickou (19y, 317d).

Hat-trick hero Villiere

Penaud tried to steal the limelight by crossing over for the third Test running in France colours, but this day undoubtedly belonged to Villiere.

Not only did he score three times, the 26-year-old also led the way for metres made (121) and was second only to Gregory Alldritt (21) with his 13 carries.

What's next?

France host Ireland in a huge showdown at the Stade de France next Saturday, while Italy are at home to England the following day.

Scotland made a winning start to the Guinness Six Nations as Finn Russell's late penalty secured a narrow 20-17 victory over England at Murrayfield.

The hosts led the 140th Calcutta Cup clash 10-6 at half-time after Ben White crossed for a try on his debut.

However, England's Marcus Smith went over after the break – taking his personal tally to 17 points – to put Eddie Jones' side in control at 17-10 up.

But there was to be a late twist with the hosts awarded a penalty try after Luke Cowan-Dickie was penalised, before Russell held his nerve to secure back-to-back wins over England for the first time since 1984.

Jones claimed earlier in the week that Scotland were "red-hot" favourites to beat England who, missing the likes of Owen Farrell and Courtney Lawes through injury, fielded seven players boasting 10 or fewer caps.

Nevertheless, the visitors controlled possession and territory throughout the first half, with Smith breaking the deadlock in the 17th minute.

The hosts responded almost immediately with Darcy Graham embarking on a powerful surge, before offloading for White – on while Ali Price received treatment for a head injury – to cross just minutes into his Test career.

The right boot of Smith kept England within touching distance at 10-9 behind, and he gratefully received Ben Youngs' offload 13 minutes into the second half; powering to the line after a solid spell of pressure.

But momentum swung in favour of Scotland, who were awarded a penalty try after the TMO ruled Cowan-Dickie deliberately knocked Russell's punt into touch with Graham lurking.

With Cowan-Dickie subsequently sin-binned, the hosts capitalised on their numerical advantage with the boot of Russell edging them back in front, and they held on despite a late surge from their opponents.

Andrew Conway helped himself to a double as Ireland eased to a 29-7 bonus-point victory over Wales in the opening game of the 2022 Six Nations to make it nine wins in a row.

Wales defied the odds to win the title last year but the injury hit visitors, without captain Alun Wyn Jones and a number of other experienced players, were outclassed in Dublin.

Ireland led 10-0 at half-time, with Bundee Aki crossing over for the only try, but their dominance truly told in the second half at the Aviva Stadium.

Conway added two more and Garry Ringrose joined the scoring, rendering Taine Basham's late try nothing more than a consolation as Ireland recorded a fifth home Test win in a row against Wales for the first time.

Ireland needed just two minutes to score the first try of the tournament through Aki, who had the simplest of run-ins after being picked out by debutant Mack Hansen.

Johnny Sexton added the extras and, after missing a couple of penalties in quick succession, the Irish skipper kicked over again to pass the 500-points mark in the Six Nations.

Conway collected an offload from Sexton early in the second half, jinked past a couple of opponents and squeezed over at full stretch, the try allowed to stand after a TMO check.

Josh Adams was sin-binned for a reckless challenge on Sexton and more misery was to follow for Wales as Conway profited from Josh van de Flier's work to double his try tally.

Ringrose breezed through to add a fourth try for Ireland, who were undone late on when Basham intercepted from Tadhg Beirne and dived down under the posts.

The Six Nations is upon us for 2022, as Wales bid to defend their crown.

Wales won in 2021 without completing the Grand Slam, just the second time they have tasted victory without beating all five opponents, as their success came at the expense of France, who were frustrated by Scotland at the last.

Wayne Pivac's men are by no means favourites this time, however. They come into this Championship without Alun Wyn Jones, their captain and a great of the game, while George North leads a glut of star names also absent through injury.

Should Wales triumph, they would match a feat previously achieved only by England, while France are looking to end a long drought of success in the tournament.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform digs into some of the most intriguing facts ahead of the Six Nations.

Wales set England's record in their sights

The past 11 editions of the Six Nations have been won by either England, Ireland or Wales.

England and Wales have won the Championship four times each during that period.

If Wales defend their title successively, they would become the second team, after England, to win the competition seven times since the turn of the century, when it became the Six Nations.

But Pivac has some big names missing – none more so than Jones. Saturday's match against Ireland will be first time since 2006 that Wales have played in the Six Nations without him, while only Sergio Parisse (also 15) has appeared in as many editions of the Championship as Jones.

Can France finally strike gold?

In total, 86 tries were scored in the 2021 edition, the most in a single edition of the tournament. However, despite the free-scoring nature of the games, eight matches were decided by margins of five points or fewer, more than in any other previous Championship.

 

France were on the wrong end of one such fine margin, as they saw their hopes of winning the tournament for the first time since 2010 dashed in a postponed meeting with Scotland, which was played after the rest of the schedule had been completed.

Les Bleus' 11-year wait to win the Six Nations is the longest such stretch in their history, having joined the tournament in 1947.

France's squad is stacked full of talent, though. After recovering from COVID-19, Antoine Dupont is in line to play against Italy this weekend – only Wales' Louis Rees-Zammit (nine) made more clean breaks than the scrum-half last year (eight), with three other French players in the top 12 by that metric.

Dupont beat a defender on 13 occasions and topped the charts for offloads (nine) and try assists (five), ranking second for kicks in play (41) after Scotland's Finn Russell (47).

Romain Ntamack missed much of last year's tournament due to a jaw injury but is also set to feature.

Time for Scotland to step out of the shadows?

Scotland have never won the Six Nations, but they impressed in 2021. They enjoyed more possession (58 per cent) and territory (55 per cent) than any other side, as well as managing the best tackle success rate (91 per cent), and their tally of 9.8 entries into the opposition 22 per game was also the highest.

Duhan van der Merwe beat 31 defenders, surpassing Brian O'Driscoll's record for the most in a single edition of the Six Nations (30 in 2000) – it was also the first time that a Scotland player has ended a campaign as the outright top try scorer (five tries; excluding years with joint top-scorers).

 

Van der Merwe also tallied both the most metres carried (482) and the most post-contact metres (208) of any player. Hamish Watson, meanwhile, has now completed 149 tackles in a row in the Six Nations, having not missed one since 2019. Only Lionel Nallet (154) has made more consecutive tackles without missing in the history of the tournament.

England and Ireland out to prove their quality

England have won three of the six editions of the Six Nations since Eddie Jones took charge at the beginning of 2016, with only Bernard Laporte (four) having coached his team to more Championship wins this century.

Jones' team had the best lineout success rate (95 per cent) in the 2021 tournament, losing just three of 58 throws. Luke Cowan-Dickie landed 32 of 32 throws, the most ever by a player in an edition of the tournament not to miss a throw.

Yet that proficiency in the lineout was not enough to propel England to success, as they won only twice to finish a disappointing fifth. 

Ireland finished third, on the other hand, despite losing their first two games.

Andy Farrell's team converted 94 per cent of their kicks last year, the best rate of any nation, missing just one penalty goal attempt and one conversion (29 of 31). In fact, it was the best ever success rate by a team to attempt 25 or more kicks at goal in an edition of the tournament, with captain Johnny Sexton the top points scorer (65).

 

Italy just making up the numbers?

Italy lost all five games again last year, picking up a 16th wooden spoon. They have lost 32 successive Tests in the competition, the longest run in Five/Six Nations history.

The wooden spoon has been theirs in each of the past six years, this after finishing bottom of the Championship just once in the four campaigns before that.

France talisman Antoine Dupont has recovered from coronavirus in time to captain Les Bleus in their Six Nations opener against Italy on Sunday.

World Rugby Player of the Year Dupont had withdrawn from his country's initial squad for the Championship having tested positive, yet he has now been cleared to return for matchday one.

The scrum-half, who is skipper in place of the injured Charles Ollivon, was the 2020 Player of the Championship and starred again in 2021 as France came agonisingly close to the title, leading the tournament with five try assists.

Four of those assists came in last year's meeting with Italy, becoming the first player to achieve that feat in a single game in Six Nations history.

Les Bleus are not quite clear of COVID-19 for this clash, however, as coach Fabien Galthie will be absent following his positive test, meaning general manager Raphael Ibanez is in charge.

He comes up against Kieran Crowley in his first Six Nations match as Italy coach in Saint-Denis.

Crowley has named a youthful Azzurri side, including two debutants in the XV in Tommaso Menoncello and Toa Halafihi.

Italy have only won one of 24 away Tests against France – back in March 1997 – and come into this match on a record 32-game losing run in the Six Nations.

 

France team: Melvyn Jaminet, Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou, Jonathan Danty, Gabin Villiere, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont (captain); Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Uini Atonio, Cameron Woki, Paul Willemse, Anthony Jelonch, Dylan Cretin, Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements: Peato Mauvaka, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Demba Bamba, Romain Taofifenua, Francois Cros, Maxime Lucu, Yoram Moefana, Thomas Ramos.

Italy team: Edoardo Padovani, Tommaso Menoncello, Juan Ignacio Brex, Marco Zanon, Montanna Ioane, Paolo Garbisi, Stephen Varney; Danilo Fischetti, Gianmarco Lucchesi, Tiziano Pasquali, Niccolo Cannone, Federico Ruzza, Sebastian Negri, Michele Lamaro (captain), Toa Halafihi.

Replacements: Epalahame Faiva, Ivan Nemer, Giosue Zilocchi, Marco Fuser, Giovanni Pettinelli, Manuel Zuliani, Callum Braley, Leonardo Marin.

The 2022 Six Nations campaign begins with a mouth-watering contest between defending champions Wales and a well fancied Ireland side at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday. 

Wales won the championship for a sixth time last March, narrowly missing out on a Grand Slam with defeat to France in their final game, but they enter this year's tournament as outsiders in the eyes of many.

Much like Ireland, France will be eyeing top spot after going 12 years since their most recent triumph – Les Bleus' longest-such run since joining the Five Nations in 1947 – with their campaign beginning at home to an Italy side without a win in 32 games in the competition.

A relatively inexperienced England side do battle with perennial dark horses Scotland at Murrayfield for the Calcutta Cup, meanwhile, with the hosts looking to record back-to-back wins in this fixture for the first time since 1984.

Ahead of the opening round, Stats Perform previews the upcoming matches with help from Opta.


IRELAND v WALES

FORM

Ireland have won four of their last five meetings with Wales, though their solitary defeat in that run came in the most recent match between the sides in last year's Six Nations when going down 21-16.

Wales have lost their last four away games against Ireland, their worst-such run since losing four in a row between 2002 and 2006, but never before have they lost five in a row away to Ireland.

Ireland have won 27 of their last 29 Tests at the Aviva Stadium, including their last six in a row, with their only defeats coming against England in 2019 and France in 2021 – both in the Six Nations.


ONES TO WATCH

Johnny Sexton will win his 102nd international cap for Ireland this weekend and remains a key player for his country. The 36-year-old recorded the best goal kicking success rate of any player (minimum of three kicks) in last year's Six Nations, finding the target from 25 out of 26 (96 per cent).

Wales are without a long list of players due to injury, most notably skipper Alun Wyn Jones. It's set to be the first Six Nations the Dragons have played without Jones since 2006, with fly-half Dan Biggar being left with big shoes to fill in his first game as captain.

 

SCOTLAND v ENGLAND

FORM

Scotland have won five of their last six Test matches, with their solitary defeat in that run coming against the world champions South Africa in November.

England have won 15 of their last 18 Tests, including their last five in a row, although their three defeats in that spell all came in last year's Six Nations – just the fourth time they had lost more than twice in an edition of the tournament since 2000 (also lost three in 2005, 2006 and 2018).

This will be the 140th Test between the rival nations in a fixture that dates back to the first ever rugby international back in 1871. Scotland have won on 44 occasions, compared to 76 victories for England, with the other 19 ending all square.


ONES TO WATCH

Scotland have named a near-identical XV to the one that ended last year's Six Nations, Duhan van der Merwe among them. The British and Irish Lions wing beat 31 defenders in the 2021 edition, surpassing Brian O'Driscoll's record for the most in a single Six Nations (30 in 2000).

In the absence of Owen Farrell and Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry will captain England at the age of just 23, making him the youngest player to do so since Will Carling in 1988.

 

FRANCE v ITALY

FORM

France and Italy have met on 45 occasions, with Les Bleus winning 42 of those matches. That 93 per cent win rate is their highest against any nation they have faced more than five times.

Italy have lost 23 of their last 24 away games with France in Test rugby, including their last 14 in a row. The Azzurri's only victory in France came in Grenoble in 1997.

France have won 12 of their last 13 Test matches at home, although their solitary defeat in that run came in their most recent Six Nations game against Scotland. They have not trailed at half-time in a home game since February 2018, going into the break ahead (17 times) or level (twice) in each of their last 19 such games.

ONES TO WATCH

Captain and recently crowned World Rugby Player of the Year Antoine Dupont will be looking to pick up from where he left off in 2021. He was directly involved in eight tries during the last Six Nations, more than any other player, scoring three and assisting a Championship-high five.

Sebastian Negri made 64 carries and 68 tackles during the 2021 tournament, his combined tally of 132 carries and tackles being the second most of any player in the Championship, behind only Taulupe Faletau (140). Italy could do with more of the same here to help avoid another loss.

 

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