Warren Gatland has paid new Wales captain Dafydd Jenkins a major compliment by saying he expects to see him “in the mould of Alun Wyn Jones”.

Jenkins has won many admirers through his captaincy of Exeter Chiefs, with the Gallagher Premiership club in title contention and progressing to the Investec Champions Cup knockout phase.

The 21-year-old will take charge for Wales’ Guinness Six Nations opener against Scotland on February 3, with Gatland enthused by his potential.

“We’ve got a young captain who I think will be an outstanding professional,” Gatland said.

“I expect to see him in the mould of Alun Wyn Jones. He doesn’t say a lot, but he leads by example.

“He is last out of the gym, he does his analysis and he has got an edge to him. I don’t mind that. He’s got a group of good men that will be there to support him too.”

Jones made a world record 170 Test match appearances for Wales and the British and Irish Lions, ticking every box as a true great of the game.

He retired from Test rugby in May last year and, with the likes of fellow Welsh Lions Justin Tipuric, Dan Biggar and Leigh Halfpenny also exiting the international game, Jenkins now heads up a new generation.

“The edge is about someone who doesn’t back down,” Gatland added.

“You are looking for someone who doesn’t back down from anyone, someone who gets excited by challenges.

“When I look back on my time in rugby, the best player I coached in that was Lawrence Dallaglio. The bigger the occasion, the more excited he got.

“He absolutely loved it. He would get pumped up for a challenge.

“I think Daf will be like that, going forward. Whatever he is up against, he is not going to fear anything.

“I think with captains, you get different personalities and people. I suppose that is the beauty of it.

“With someone like Daf who has come into that role, it is about how much we support him from a coaching perspective as staff and also the experienced players, like Gareth (Davies) and George North.

“I think we’ve got some quality men in the team and that makes a big difference to me. What I like about this group of people is they are good people.

“If you galvanise them and bring them together, work hard and they will play for each other.”

Gregor Townsend expects Jamie Ritchie to respond positively to losing the Scotland captaincy as he challenged the Edinburgh flanker to get back to “his top level” and book himself a starting berth for the opening Guinness Six Nations match away to Wales.

The 27-year-old replaced Stuart Hogg as skipper for the 2022 autumn Tests and also led the Scots in last year’s Six Nations and at the World Cup in France.

However, with Ritchie no longer guaranteed a starting place amid intense competition in the back-row, it was revealed on Sunday that Townsend had appointed Bath stand-off Finn Russell and Glasgow flanker Rory Darge as his new co-captains ahead of the upcoming championship.

“He’s reacted really well,” said Townsend, when asked on Monday at the Six Nations launch in Dublin how Ritchie had taken the news. “I’ve been in communication for a few weeks now around his game and also the captaincy.

“He was well aware that we were going to leave this decision until the weekend. The focus for him is about getting into the team that plays Wales and he’s really determined to do that. That will be tough because the competition we have in the back-row right now is at a high level.

“We’re all optimistic that this (relinquishing the captaincy) will bring out the best in Jamie and he can be one of our best players, back at his top level.

“We saw on Friday night when he came off the bench against Scarlets, there was a real hunger and intent about how he went through his game. The competition in the back-row and the ability to just focus on that at training should be a positive for him leading into the Wales game.”

“He can be one of our best players but he is competing with some guys who are in really good form at openside and blindside. Jamie will be a key leader for us if he’s in the 23 or the XV.”

Glasgow back-rower Darge is hopeful of being fit for the start of the tournament despite concerns he might be out until late February with a knee injury sustained against Edinburgh at the end of December. The 23-year-old declared on Monday “I’m aiming for one of the first two games.”


“We got good news on Rory on Friday that he’s able to start that rehab process and we’ll assess how he goes after a week’s rehab,” said Townsend.

The prognosis is not so promising for free-scoring Edinburgh wing Darcy Graham, who will miss at least the first two games against Wales and France with a quad issue.

“He’s obviously very disappointed,” said Townsend.

“He played against Gloucester (on January 13) and was tight around the quad area so we thought it would be worth getting a scan, hoping it would be a week to two-week injury at most because that’s what happened when he had the same problem during the World Cup warm-up games.

“But it was actually more significant. We’re hopeful he’ll be available for round three (at home to England on February 24) but it all just depends how it reacts when he starts rehab again.”

Warren Gatland says he is excited about developing a new generation of talent that will start with this season’s Guinness Six Nations campaign.

Gatland has named five uncapped players in his squad for the tournament, with 21-year-old Exeter lock Dafydd Jenkins taking over from an injured Jac Morgan as captain.

Morgan and his World Cup co-skipper Dewi Lake are long-term absentees, while injury has also sidelined number eight Taulupe Faletau, star wing Louis Rees-Zammit has quit rugby to try and forge a career in American football, and the likes of Dan Biggar and Leigh Halfpenny have retired from Test rugby.

Almost half of Gatland’s 34-strong squad have not yet hit double figures in terms of caps, and that collective inexperience has contributed to Wales being written off in many quarters as genuine Six Nations contenders.

“What I have looked at with where we are at right now is we have a group of really talented young players and a couple who are injured at the moment in Jac Morgan and Dewi Lake, who I think are going to be world-class,” said Wales head coach Gatland, speaking at the Six Nations media launch in Dublin.

“I see this as a chance to mould some talented youngsters and give them an opportunity to take control of how they want this team to operate in terms of working with the coaches and setting standards. That is what really excites me.

“We go into the Six Nations with people probably not having too much expectation on us or writing us off, and that is always a nice position to be in.

“It is often said about Wales that you write us off at your peril, because we will work incredibly hard.

“It’s one game at a time, and if we start well against Scotland we will build confidence and momentum. The thing with Welsh players is they become incredibly tough to beat, and that is what I am pinning my hopes on anyway.”

Although Welsh regional rugby is currently operating in a testing financial climate that continues to hit all four professional teams, Gatland is upbeat about developing a largely new-look playing group.

Wales kick off their campaign against Scotland on February 3 – then face successive appointments with England, Ireland and France – and Gatland knows that momentum is key.

“There is a bit of doom and gloom, and people will take that narrative, but I don’t see it like that,” he added.

“I see it as a reset of the regions financially, with the support of the union (Welsh Rugby Union), and the 19, 20 and 21-year-olds now have an opportunity they wouldn’t have had in the past.

“Of all the Tier One nations we are the one with the smallest playing base, so when we see some talent sometimes we’ve got to expose them and see if you can fast-track them.

“It is not about age or experience, it is about allowing that talent to develop.

“It is definitely thinking about the future – not just for this cycle and the next World Cup, but the one after.

“We’ve got five new caps and eight who have never played in the Six Nations. They will learn and develop from that experience, but that doesn’t mean we are not taking the competition seriously.

“Our first game against Scotland is incredibly important. It is one game at a time, and the first one is hugely-important for us at home.”

Steve Borthwick admits England’s recent record in the Guinness Six Nations is unacceptable having repeatedly failed to deliver on expectations.

Borthwick offers a damning win ratio of only 50 per cent from the last six Championships – a sequence that has included two fifth-place finishes under his predecessor Eddie Jones – as evidence of underperformance.

Starting with their opener against Italy in Rome on February 3, Borthwick is determined for England to use his second Six Nations as head coach to ignite a revival.

“We want to make sure this England team is competing in every single game, which is not something you can say about recent years,” Borthwick said at the tournament launch in Dublin.

“The expectations of supporters are a lot higher than what the team have actually achieved – and quite rightly.

“The team is really well aware that we haven’t performed in the Six Nations for a period of time.

“Ireland and France have been the dominant teams and everybody is trying to compete with those two sides.

“What’s happened in the past is that lots is talked about England prior to the tournament, but England haven’t then achieved.

“Our intent is to hit the ground running in Rome the way we want with the intensity that we want to, which again is something that England have not done in recent years.

“At times we have not jumped into this tournament and have been caught in that first game.

“We want this to be a different mindset for England, a different way of approaching the game and the tournament. And we will approach our camp in Girona differently.

“We’re taking a different approach because we need different results to previous tournaments.”

England depart for their pre-Six Nations training camp in Girona on Tuesday nursing a number of minor injury concerns, especially to their back five.

Hot on the heels of George Martin being ruled out for a number of weeks because of a knee problem, his fellow Leicester lock Ollie Chessum failed a head injury assessment on Champions Cup duty on Saturday while flankers Ben Curry and Sam Underhill are struggling with ankle problems.

Borthwick is optimistic that each of them will be able to play full roles in preparation to face Italy, as will hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie, centre Oscar Beard and wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, who are also in the treatment room.

England’s head coach was present at the Six Nations launch in Dublin in defiance of Storm Isha, which has caused travel chaos across Great Britain and Ireland.

Borthwick’s newly-appointed captain Jamie George was prevented from travelling from London by cancelled flights, while France were unable to attend in any capacity because of the weather.

Six Nations chief executive Tom Harrison was also missing from the event, which forms the annual centrepiece of the build-up to the tournament.

Andy Farrell says he does not buy in to so-called World Cup cycles as Ireland prepare for their Guinness Six Nations title defence.

Ireland kick off the tournament against France in Marseille on February 2 – their first game since making a crushing World Cup quarter-final exit to New Zealand.

World Cup skipper Johnny Sexton and wing Keith Earls have since retired, while the likes of Ross Byrne, Dave Kilcoyne, Rob Herring, Mack Hansen and Jimmy O’Brien now miss out due to injuries.

Munster flanker Peter O’Mahony has succeeded Sexton as captain, but Ireland head coach Farrell is keen to build, rather than make a fresh post-World Cup start for Australia 2027.

And that approach is underlined by him selecting 26 players in his Six Nations squad who travelled to the World Cup in France.

“You look at the squad we have picked,” Farrell said, speaking at the Six Nations media launch in Dublin.

“Over the last couple of years we have capped a lot of players. Some of those players are under 10 caps or so, some have not been involved in the squad over the last 12-18 months, so trying to grow the squad in that sense is pretty important.

“Is this a new start? It’s not, because of everything we have been through.

“We want to continue to grow, we want to continue to evolve our game, and you don’t do that by just cutting the legs off it and going again.

“Competition for places is premium, and it has to stay that way, so this is the start of a new Six Nations.

“I don’t buy into the four-year cycle that tends to come around when World Cups are finished.”

Key to the Six Nations campaign will be 34-year-old O’Mahony, who first captained Ireland in a 15-12 win over the United States in June 2013 and has won 101 caps.

Farrell picked him for the role ahead of players like James Ryan, Iain Henderson, Garry Ringrose and Caelan Doris.

O’Mahony guided Munster to last season’s United Rugby Championship title but stepped down as skipper of his province in November after 10 years in the role.

Farrell added: “There are a few candidates because we have got some great leadership within the group, and that will continue to grow and Peter will be at the heart of that to help it.

“There are certain people that make the room feel right. It is pretty important around the place, and certainly on match-day, that you have that type of person in the dressing room, and Peter is certainly one of those.

“Just being himself and helping others to grow. I know he will do the country proud.”

And O’Mahony said: “It is a huge honour. I am incredibly grateful to be asked.

“I think I have done it on 10 occasions, but to do it for a Six Nations campaign is very special and probably the biggest honour of my career so far.

“I wasn’t expecting it, to be honest. It was a special phone call to get (from Farrell), and a huge honour.”

Glasgow back-rower Rory Darge and Bath stand-off Finn Russell have been named as Scotland’s new co-captains for the upcoming Guinness Six Nations.

It has also been revealed that free-scoring wing Darcy Graham has been ruled out of the opening two matches through injury.

Jamie Ritchie had been the skipper since replacing Stuart Hogg in the role for the 2022 Autumn series but, with the Edinburgh flanker having been hindered by shoulder and jaw injuries following last year’s World Cup, Gregor Townsend has opted to make a change in order to “further grow and develop the leadership within the squad”.

Both Russell, 31, and Darge, 23, have previous experience of captaining the team in Ritchie’s absence.

The talismanic Russell, who has been in impressive form since moving to Bath from Racing 92, is likely to lead the Scots in the opening match away to Wales as 23-year-old Darge is expected to miss the early part of the championship as he battles to recover from a knee injury sustained at the end of December.

“Appointing co-captains for this year’s Guinness Six Nations allows us to further grow and develop the leadership within the squad,” head coach Townsend told Scottish Rugby on Sunday morning.

“Rory and Finn captained Scotland last summer and bring different strengths and styles of leadership to the table.

“Both are highly respected within our squad and have been part of our leadership group for some time.

“I’m sure they will thrive with this responsibility and lean on our other leaders to drive certain aspects of our preparation, mindset and performance.”

Ritchie was sidelined for a month after the World Cup due to a shoulder injury sustained in the first half of the pool-stage defeat by Ireland in October. After returning in mid-November for six Edinburgh matches, the back-rower suffered a jaw injury in the win over Glasgow on 30 December.

Townsend said last week that he was undecided on the captaincy and that he needed to see Ritchie “put his best foot forward” in Friday’s Challenge Cup match away to Scarlets.

However, the 27-year-old was restricted to a second-half substitute appearance as he made his return to action.

Russell’s appointment as captain is particularly significant as the influential fly-half has had a strained relationship with Townsend at times in the past.

Russell was cut from the squad ahead of the 2020 Six Nations after he missed a training session following a late-night drinking session and he was also controversially omitted from the initial squad for the 2022 autumn Tests as Townsend appeared intent on phasing him out before injuries prompted him to recall the former Glasgow fly-half midway through the series.

“Playing for Scotland is a huge honour and to co-captain the side is a privilege and something I am proud of,” Russell said.

“We have such a talented squad and to lead them alongside Rory represents a massive opportunity. I can’t wait to get started with this year’s championship.”

In the same update that confirmed the change of captaincy, Scottish Rugby revealed that Edinburgh wing Graham will miss the opening two matches away to Wales and at home to France with a quad injury.

The 26-year-old – Scotland’s second highest try-scorer of all time – has been replaced in the squad by Ross McCann, a 26-year-old wing who played for Scotland Under-20s before becoming a full-time Scotland 7s player.

England are enlisting retired stars such as Chris Ashton and Jonny May to help young players deal with the type of scrutiny that has compelled Owen Farrell to take a break from international rugby.

Farrell is missing the Guinness Six Nations to prioritise his and his family’s mental well-being following the World Cup and it’s build-up, during which he was heavily criticised online for being sent off for a dangerous tackle against Wales.

The Saracens fly-half may have already played his final game for England as he considers a move to Racing 92, which would make him ineligible for Test selection.

Aware of the demands on his players, especially emerging talent such as Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, Oscar Beard and Fin Smith, head coach Steve Borthwick is keen to ensure they are properly supported.

“The environment we create around the players is vital. It’s vital in any team but especially the England team,” Borthwick.

“The England team, as we all respect, has more scrutiny upon it than any other national team in world rugby.

“That’s the nature of it so creating an environment where the players are supported and cared for is really important.

“We have looked at it and are exploring how we improve that from where we were to where we are now to try and get ahead of the societal element.

“The way we work and intensity with which we work is going to be a level up so off the field I think it needs to be incredibly enjoyable.

“They need to be able to have fun and spend time with each other, relaxing with each other so that this is an environment where you get better and you improve, and it’s fun and it’s enjoyable to be around.

“We will have that and there will be the mentors that we have within the squad – the senior guys, the guys that have had many caps.

“And there are the people from outside the squad that always offer their support to help in any way, shape or form that they can.

“Chris Ashton has offered support to help in any way he can with any of the young wingers. And Jonny May has offered his support to help the young ones. That’s really important to us.”

Maro Itoje inspired a second-half fightback as Saracens secured a place in the Investec Champions Cup round of 16 by beating Lyon 39-24.

The England lock scored two tries in 11 minutes to help the three-time European champions progress from Pool One.

Scrum-half Ivan van Zyl, flanker Juan Martin Gonzalez and wing Lucio Cinti also claimed touchdowns at the StoneX Stadium, with Owen Farrell kicking four conversions and two penalties.

Lyon, without an away win in all competitions for almost a year, led by 12 points at half-time.

Centre Josiah Maraku collected a try double and wing Davit Niniashvili also scored, while Lyon skipper Leo Berdeu booted a penalty and three conversions, but Saracens ultimately avoided making a first pool-stage exit since 2011.

Saracens were immediately into their stride, putting together impressive phase-play, and they went ahead after just four minutes.

England forwards Itoje and Ben Earl set up a strong attacking position, and Van Zyl took a quick penalty to cross unopposed.

Victories for Lyon over Bristol and the Bulls meant they arrived in north London having already qualified, but they stunned Saracens through an opportunist 15th-minute score.

Saracens were on the attack, but Van Zyl’s pass was intercepted by Lyon’s Georgia international wing Niniashvili, who sprinted 80 metres to claim a try that Berdeu converted.

Berdeu extended Lyon’s lead with a 26th-minute penalty, and Saracens’ initial promise had evaporated as the visitors began to assert control.

Lyon displayed composure and accuracy in attack, and it was no surprise when they extended their lead just before half-time.

Saracens found themselves in a prolonged defensive mode, with Lyon patiently creating an opportunity to strike, with Maraku touching down and Berdeu converting for a 17-5 interval lead.

Lyon were good value for their advantage, but it was cut by seven points early in the second period when Itoje pounced for a try that Farrell converted.

Just when Saracens looked like they might have some much-needed momentum, they were undone when Farrell twice had kicks charged down in rapid succession.

Lyon prop Jerome Rey blocked the first attempted clearance, then lock Joel Kpoku replicated it and Maraku gathered the bounce for his second try. Berdeu’s conversion made it 24-12 before Farrell kicked a short-range penalty.

And when Saracens decided to go route-one, it was rewarded as Itoje collected his second try, this time from a lineout drive, and Farrell’s conversion left his team just two points behind.

The fly-half then kicked another penalty as Saracens edged in front, before Gonzalez’s score finally ended an impressive Lyon challenge and Cinti added try number five.

Former Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has been announced by Rugby Australia as the new Wallabies head coach.

Schmidt coached Ireland from 2013-2019 where he won the Six Nations and was recognised as the World Rugby coach of the year in 2018. Prior to that he was a multiple trophy winner with Leinster.

More recently he was an assistant coach for the All Blacks from 2022 and during their runners-up finish in the World Cup last year.

Schmidt signed a two-year deal with Australia and takes over from former England coach Eddie Jones who left the role after the World Cup.

Rugby Australia (RA) chief Phil Waugh said Schmidt’s coaching background and experience was a significant reason for his appointment.

He said: “Given our stated plan to build a unified Australian Rugby system, Joe’s experience with Ireland and New Zealand – two of the most aligned Rugby nations in the world – will no doubt prove valuable as we move forward.

“He has a global view of the game from his experience in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, and his appointment puts us in a strong position as we build towards the 2025 British and Irish Lions Tour.”

Schmidt said he is looking forward to starting in the role after a slump in Australian rugby in recent years.

He said: “I am conscious that the Wallabies have weathered a difficult period, and I am keen to help them build a way forward, with greater alignment and clear direction from RA.

“The upcoming Test matches against Wales will arrive quickly, post-Super Rugby, and the program through to the British and Irish Lions Tour next year presents plenty of opportunities and challenges – which I am sure will invigorate players and staff.”

The Wallabies failed to progress through the group stage in the World Cup, losing to Wales and Fiji, and have won just three of their last 10 matches.

Topsy Ojo believes now is the right time for Steve Borthwick to freshen up his England squad with one eye looking ahead to the 2027 Rugby World Cup in Australia.

On Wednesday, Borthwick named seven uncapped players in the 35-man training camp ahead of next month’s Guinness Six Nations.

Broadcaster Ojo, who won two England caps in 2008, admitted the likes of Billy Vunipola and Kyle Sinckler will be disappointed at missing out on selection, but the introduction of young talent will strengthen their World Cup bid in three years’ time.

He said: “Now is the time to have something new and do something fresh and if you look at the guys he’s (Steve Borthwick) picked, they’re all there on merit and have played incredibly well.

“It’s an exciting squad. There’s a continuity of leadership and emerging young talent.

“Sinckler and Vunipola will be disappointed and you know they’ll go away and fight tooth and nail to get their shirts back.

“It’s the start of a new cycle. Who will benefit from being exposed now? Out of the uncapped players, we need to think who will be playing in Australia in 2027 with 30 caps under their belts and are battle-ready and experienced in international rugby. There’s that long-term vision ahead and it starts now.”

Borthwick, who replaced Eddie Jones in December 2022, had a rocky start to his tenure as England head coach but finished 2023 with a third-placed finish at the World Cup.

Ojo believes the 44-year-old is still the right man to take the side forward.

“Yes, 100 per cent,” Ojo said. “It was a difficult time for him to come in because a lot of the other teams were settled in their processes.

“He’s been through some painful experiences, but ultimately he’s taken this team to a World Cup semi and a bronze-place finish.

“If you look at the squad he’s picked now, he has the talent at his disposal to make England a success.

“Will there be some teething problems early on? Yes. That’s the nature of sport, but it’s a challenge he’ll look forward to and embrace. So is he the man to do it. Absolutely.”

Exeter wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, who was born in Cardiff and eligible to play for Wales, is among the new additions and Ojo talked up the 21-year-old.

He said: “I’m happy to see Feyi-Waboso in there. He’s electric and I’m happy to see him exposed at the next level. He’s not played that many senior games but he’s shown enough.”

Exeter boss Rob Baxter has backed “calm character” Immanuel Feyi-Waboso to make the most of his opportunity with England.

The 21-year-old Exeter wing was born in Cardiff and spoke with Wales defence coach Mike Forshaw ahead of this season’s Guinness Six Nations Championship.

But Feyi-Waboso also qualified for England, and he has taken that route, being named among seven uncapped players in Steve Borthwick’s squad for the tournament.

The Exeter University medical student has excelled in Chiefs colours this season, scoring some memorable tries and consistently proving a handful for opposition defences.

Feyi-Waboso will potentially be up against the likes of Elliot Daly and Tommy Freeman for a starting place against England’s opening Six Nations opponents Italy on February 3.

And Baxter believes he will thrive in the England environment, having impressed him at every turn this term.

“He has maintained decent form on the field, hence his call-up, and he is a calm character on the whole. I would like to think he will take it in his stride,” Baxter said.

“At the same time, you get relatively short time in the England camps to prove a point, so he is going to have to step in there and get on with things and drive his own opportunity.

“I think he is just the kind of guy who might well do that. I don’t have any fears for him.

“I think he is a guy with a very bright future in the game, and this is just one of those steps for him.

“One of his dreams is playing international rugby, winning trophies and playing Premiership rugby, but another big part of his dream is qualifying to be a doctor. It is not just always about rugby.

“He is settled at Exeter University and is happy the way the course is going, and with us. Once he goes to play for Wales, that is it, there is no get-out for him.

“If he wants to keep playing internationally, he has to go back to Wales, there is no leeway there for him.

“These are things people have to take into account when they wonder what he is doing. He has got big decisions to make, and it is not all one country over another.

“He has got himself up and running in his medical career. From what I can gather, England were in contact with him earlier than Wales, so there are a few factors.”

Feyi-Waboso will report for England duty next week alongside his Exeter colleagues Ethan Roots and Henry Slade, with Slade being recalled after missing out on the World Cup in France.

Baxter added: “The biggest thing I will say before they leave us after this weekend will be to make sure they are confident being themselves, and the qualities they have shown are the reason they got selected.

“If someone wants to pick you because of the way you play in club rugby, those are the attributes you have to show when you play.

“I always look at 100-cap international players, and nine times out of 10 when you watch them play they play pretty much the same when they play in a club game.

“They have that confidence in the way they play at club level, and if they do that well it transposes well into the international game.

“Henry getting back into the England set-up is a celebration for him, but it is a celebration for the team as well, and I really hope the team feel like that.

“He has almost, not reinvented himself, because he hasn’t had to because he is a very, very good player, but he has certainly reinvigorated himself.

“He is certainly playing with a pace, energy, enthusiasm and drive that is very evident.”

Jamie George has been told to put his own stamp on the captaincy after being entrusted to lead a revamped England squad into the Guinness Six Nations.

George takes charge of team for the first time after filling the vacancy created by Owen Farrell’s decision to miss the Championship in order to prioritise his and his family’s mental wellbeing.

The promotion capped a special day for the 33-year-old having also signed a new two-year deal with Saracens that is to be accompanied by a central contract with the Rugby Football Union.

As undisputed first choice hooker, as well as an influential player in the English game, George was chosen ahead of nearest rivals Ellis Genge and Maro Itoje.

An element of the appointment process was instigated by Belgium manager and former Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany and now that he has risen to the top, Steve Borthwick insists George must lead in his own image.

“I was asked by somebody ‘have you given Jamie, any advice?’” said head coach Borthwick, who captained England 21 times as a second-row.

“The one thing I said is: ‘I want you to lead as you.’ And that one year, many many years from now, you will reflect and want to say you led as you.

“I’d say during my time as England captain, I don’t think I led as me. I want him to bring all his personality to it.

“Prior to the World Cup we did this study. We will do something similar again in the near future. It was a network analysis, for want of a better term. It was actually an idea given to me by Vincent Kompany.

“You basically give the players a series of questions. And then put the top three players you turn to in this situation.

“What it effectively produces is this network of how everybody connects and who connects with who the most.

“You could tell in different elements – in tactical elements, high pressure circumstances, off the field – you connect with different people.

“So I had this incredible amount of information and it said ‘I know where people turn to’. You’d be able to see and tell me who they turn to, who Ellis and Maro would turn to. And the number of people who connected with Jamie George is immense.

“He has this ability, across the whole squad, to make people understand him. That stood out to me as being exceptional.

“He’s a great people person. He’s got a positive nature. There’s always a smile very close in the way he is. And I want him to bring all of that into this role as the captain.”

Even allowing for retirement and injury, Borthwick has completed a significant overhaul in naming a 36-man squad for the Six Nations to begin the next World Cup cycle.

Kyle Sinckler and Billy Vunipola have been dropped, Henry Slade and Alex Dombrandt are back in favour and there are first time appearances in an England squad for some exciting rookies such as Immanuel Feyi-Waboso and Ethan Roots.

Only 17 of the 34 who helped England finish third in last autumn’s World Cup are present.

“I look at this as the next step that we need to take. It’s the next competition and in terms of the development of the team, it’s important that we build on our game,” Borthwick said.

Peter O’Mahony says being selected to succeed Johnny Sexton as Ireland captain is one of the proudest moments of his life.

The vastly-experienced Munster flanker will steer his country through the forthcoming Guinness Six Nations after Sexton retired following last year’s World Cup quarter-final exit to New Zealand.

O’Mahony, who first skippered Ireland in a 15-12 win over the United States in June 2013, has won 101 Test caps for his country, plus one for the British and Irish Lions.

Head coach Andy Farrell picked the 34-year-old for the role ahead of the likes of James Ryan, Iain Henderson, Garry Ringrose and Caelan Doris.

“Ever since I was a boy starting off in the game, I have always dreamed of captaining Ireland,” said O’Mahony.

“I have been asked to lead Ireland on a number of occasions previously and each of those 10 matches were special days.

“To be now asked to captain Ireland ahead of the Six Nations is without doubt one of the proudest moments of my life and I would like to thank Andy for this show of faith in me.”

O’Mahony guided Munster to last season’s United Rugby Championship title but stepped down as skipper of his province in November after 10 years in the role.

He also captained the Lions in their opening Test against the All Blacks in 2017.

O’Mahony’s future has been subject to speculation due to his central contract with the Irish Rugby Football Union being set to expire at the end of the season.

Yet Farrell, whose 34-man selection features no uncapped players and no real surprises, had little hesitation in choosing him to spearhead Ireland’s title defence.

“He is a born leader and someone who has been an influential figure for Munster and Ireland for many years,” said Farrell.

“I am confident that the squad will continue to benefit from his leadership skills, both on and off the field.

“He is thoroughly deserving of this honour and I know that he will relish working closely with the wider leadership group and squad over the coming campaign.”

Farrell has kept faith with 26 of the players who travelled to the World Cup in France.

Jack Crowley, who has just nine caps, is likely to step into Sexton’s shoes as Ireland’s first-choice fly-half, with inexperienced Leinster pair Ciaran Frawley and Harry Byrne providing back up.

Fellow number 10 Ross Byrne, front-row forwards Dave Kilcoyne and Rob Herring and backs Mack Hansen and Jimmy O’Brien miss out due to injuries, while Sexton and Keith Earls have retired.

In addition to Frawley and Harry Byrne, there are recalls for their provincial team-mates Cian Healy and Jordan Larmour, Ulster trio Tom Stewart, Nick Timoney and Jacob Stockdale and Munster wing Calvin Nash.

Munster pair Oli Jager and Thomas Ahern and Leinster’s Sam Prendergast are uncapped training panellists.

Reigning Grand Slam champions Ireland begin the tournament on February 2 against France in Marseille.

“We have a strong core of leaders who will all play a key role in driving the highest standards for the team over the coming weeks,” added new skipper O’Mahony.

“Competition is red-hot across the squad and we’re all hugely motivated to work hard when we meet up next week ahead of the opening game in Marseille.”

Gloucester boss George Skivington believes that star wing Louis Rees-Zammit’s move to American football is not a “reflection on rugby”.

Rees-Zammit has rocked the rugby world by quitting a sport which brought him 32 Wales caps and a starring role for the British and Irish Lions on their 2021 tour of South Africa.

Wales and Gloucester, though, must now prepare for life without their prolific try-scorer as he heads to the United States, where the NFL’s International Player Pathway awaits him in his quest to forge a new career.

Skivington, though, does not think the sport losing such a box-office figure will start alarm bells ringing.

“I don’t think there are many people who have actually left the sport, really,” he said.

“This happens very rarely – Christian Wade would be the last time someone tried to move in this direction.

“I don’t think it is anything to do with rugby, his (Rees-Zammit’s) decision. It is just something he has always wanted to do.

“I don’t think it is a reflection on rugby at all, I think it is one person’s dream and the opportunity is there.

“I don’t foresee many rugby players going in that direction as a result of it. If it doesn’t work out, he will be back in the game, but I don’t think it is any reflection on rugby itself.”

Skivington confirmed that Gloucester would have discussions with Rees-Zammit, who made his Premiership debut for them as an 18-year-old, if things do not work out in the US.

In the meantime, though, he must plot the remainder of Gloucester’s season without a player whose dazzling try-scoring ability won worldwide admirers.

“We would talk to ‘Zam’ if things fall through, but his mindset is that he won’t be coming back and I think he has to have that mindset to go and do what he is going to try and do,” Skivington added.

“If it all changes, we will see where we are at.

“We would always welcome him back. If he comes back to rugby of course there will be conversations but his mindset as of Monday was very much that he is moving on from rugby and he is going to rip into American football.

“He desperately wants to go and do it and we are not going to stand in the way of someone with what is a pretty unique opportunity.

“He is changing sport. If it doesn’t work out, he might come back to rugby, but his mindset is he is leaving rugby for good.

“He is definitely not taking it lightly. He has got a 10-week programme and then hopefully he gets selected and he gets his foot in the door.

“We all hope he makes it, because it will be a great story if he does.”

Ireland boss Andy Farrell has selected Peter O’Mahony as captain for the Guinness Six Nations.

Munster flanker O’Mahony takes on the role from Johnny Sexton, who retired following last year’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final defeat to New Zealand in Paris.

The 34-year-old, who first skippered Ireland in a 15-12 win over the United States in June 2013, has won 101 Test caps for his country, plus one for the British and Irish Lions.

“Ever since I was a boy starting off in the game, I have always dreamed of captaining Ireland,” said O’Mahony.

“I have been asked to lead Ireland on a number of occasions previously, and each of those 10 matches were special days.

“To be now asked to captain Ireland ahead of the Six Nations is without doubt one of the proudest moments of my life and I would like to thank Andy for this show of faith in me.”

Head coach Farrell’s 34-man selection does not include any uncapped players.

However, there are recalls for Leinster quartet Cian Healy, Harry Byrne, Ciaran Frawley and Jordan Larmour, Ulster trio Tom Stewart, Nick Timoney and Jacob Stockdale, and Munster wing Calvin Nash.

Reigning Grand Slam champions Ireland begin the championship on February 2 against France in Marseille.

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