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6 Nations

England 6 Nations Preview

Who’s in the squad, who are the team to beat, and who to keep an eye on at the 2019 6 Nations.

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Written by Oliver Green
Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP / GETTY IMAGES

When the 2019 6 Nations begins on February 1st, England will be looking to erase the memories of a hugely disappointing campaign just under a year ago.

They will compete in what could be the most hotly-contested championships in years, with each of the six sides offering a unique challenge.

Eddie Jones’ side look as competitive as ever, following a largely successful set of Autumn internationals at the end of last year. They recorded three wins from four, including a thrashing of Australia that demonstrated how dangerous they can be when things come together.

The only setback was a narrow 15-16 defeat to southern hemisphere giants New Zealand, from which England could still take a vast number of positives.

They will face a similarly monumental task when their 6 Nations campaign begins at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday at 16:45. England will face an Ireland side ranked number two in the world, who have not lost in the 6 Nations in Dublin since 2013. Joe Schmidt’s men have won their last 12 home games, beating every tier-one nation.

Jones selected his 36-man squad last week, and England fans will be pleased to hear that second-row Joe Launchbury and flanker Brad Shields were included despite injury scares just days before. Shields’ return is much-welcomed after fellow back-rowers Chris Robshaw and Sam Underhill were ruled out through injury.

The group travelled to Portugal last week for their training camp.

Another huge boost is that rampaging number 8 Billy Vunipola will be involved in international rugby for the first time since breaking his arm three times. The 26-year-old has scored twice in three games for Saracens since returning.

Centres Jonathan Joseph and Manu Tuilagi were included in the backs, offering much-needed variety in the 12 and 13 positions. Bath’s Joseph returns after just one appearance in an injury-hit 9 months, but is still joint top try-scorer for England under Jones.

Perhaps the only concern for Jones is whether relatively inexperienced hookers Jamie George and Luke Cowan-Dickie will be able to fill the void left by co-captain Dylan Hartley. Hartley will miss at least the first couple of rounds with a knee injury.

Key man: Owen Farrell

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England hearts will have dropped when Owen Farrell pulled out of Saracens’ Heineken Champions Cup pool match with Glasgow. His importance to the national team cannot be understated.

Fortunately, successful surgery on his thumb will see him return in time for the England’s opening fixture, and the decision to omit Danny Cipriani from the squad emphasizes Eddie Jones’ confidence in the fly-halves fitness.

Farrell is quickly establishing himself as one of the best players in the world, and has been outstanding yet again for Saracens this season. If he plays at 10 at the expense of George Ford as expected, he will need to replicate the intelligence and kicking prowess that has left him at the top of the Premiership points-scorer standings.

With Farrell at his dazzling best, England have every chance of a championship victory. His leaderships skills will also be under scrutiny, after he was handed sole-captaincy following Hartley’s omission.

One to watch: Henry Slade

Centre Henry Slade made his England debut in 2015, but it wasn’t until the November tests last year that he established himself as a regular starter.

The 25-year-old started three of the four games England played at Twickenham, and his assured performances in a white shirt have left Eddie Jones with a difficult decision in the centres.

With previous favourite at 13 Jonathan Joseph returning, as well as Manu Tuilagi, Jones will have a choice of silky footwork, raw power, or defensive expertise.

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Exeter Chiefs star Slade said: “Every time I’ve played for England, I’ve felt more comfortable and confident on each occasion. I feel like I played better as the autumn went on and, hopefully, I can continue in that vein going into the Six Nations.”

Should Slade get the nod in Ireland, he has every chance of building on his classy performances in the Autumn, and could be a key part of England’s title challenge.

Team to beat: Ireland

Although every game in the 6 Nations is colossal, few would disagree that England’s opening game will be the toughest. Ireland’s 16-9 victory over the All Blacks in November will have no doubt turned the heads of their 6 Nations rivals.

Lead by inspirational hooker Rory Best, they have arguably their strongest squad in years, and have every chance of back-to-back Grand Slam’s.

To get a sense of the challenge England face, it is important to consider this; Ireland were named Team of the Year at the World Rugby Awards in November; their squad includes World Player of the Year Johnny Sexton; they are managed by Coach of the Year Joe Schmidt.

Despite the arsenal of talent at Ireland’s disposal, England boss Eddie Jones was bullish about his side’s chances.

“Ireland have got to carry the weight of pressure,” said Jones.

“I am not too worried about Ireland, to be honest. All we can do is prepare as best we can. What people think, whether we are underdogs or favourites, doesn’t affect us.”

Should England leave Dublin with a victory on Saturday, there is every chance that their clash with Wales could be a Grand Slam decider.

But of course, as seen with England’s remarkably disappointing 5th place finish last year, no result is a foregone conclusion in the 6 Nations.

Dark horses: Scotland

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Scottish fans may be sick of their side being branded as a potential ‘surprise package’ before almost every 6 Nations, but 2019 may truly be the year they compete with the ‘big boys’.  

Although they were beaten by Wales 21-10 in November, Gregor Townsend has assembled a side over the last year and a half that has become much harder to beat.

This was highlighted earlier in the Autumn tests when they narrowly lost to South Africa, despite a tremendous effort.

Captain Greig Laidlaw picked out fly-half Finn Russell, who has been in scintillating form for Racing 92 this season, as Scotland’s key man ahead of the tournament.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast, the scrum-half said: “At times, we’re going to have to look to Finn for answers and he needs to be able to give them. I believe now he’s at that point to be able to do that.

“His skill-set is phenomenal, his passing game is wonderful and his kicking game is really good as well – sometimes people forget about that. He’s got good variety and is a good attacking weapon for us.

With a very winnable opener against Italy at Murrayfield on Saturday, followed by trip to an inconsistent French side the next week, Scotland have every chance to be in the top half of the table heading into round three. When England meet the Scots on March 16th   in the final game of the 6 Nations, there could potentially be more to play for than just the Calcutta Cup.


6 Nations

England team to face Scotland in Six Nations opener

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Ollie Hassell-Collins will make his England debut at left wing, Max Malins returns to the side at right wing and Freddie Steward is named at full back.

Owen Farrell captains the side from inside centre and is joined in the midfield by Joe Marchant. Marcus Smith is at fly-half with Jack van Poortvliet at scrum half.

The front row is made up of vice-captain Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler with Jamie George at hooker. Maro Itoje and Ollie Chessum start at lock, while Ben Curry makes his second appearance for England at open-side flanker. Lewis Ludlam and Alex Dombrandt complete the back row.

Jack Walker is in line to make his England debut after being named as a substitute, Anthony Watson could make a first England appearance since March 2021, and if Dan Cole comes off the bench he will earn a 96th Test cap.

Mako Vunipola, Nick Isiekwe, Ben Earl, Ben Youngs and Ollie Lawrence make up the remaining replacements.

“There are few fixtures in the rugby calendar that excite both players and supporters alike more than the annual Six Nations meeting of the Auld enemy as they battle for the honour of lifting the Calcutta Cup,” said Borthwick.

“Another packed Twickenham will witness the start of the next chapter of English rugby in one of the most keenly contested tournaments in the world. There is no doubt this England team shares the supporters’ sense of eager anticipation.

“To a man, the players are determined to play with the commitment, fight and desire that is at the very heart of representing England, the sort of passion that our tremendous supporters rightly expect.”

England Match Day Squad

Starting

15. Freddie Steward

14. Max Malins

13. Joe Marchant

12. Owen Farrell (C)

11. Ollie Hassell-Collins

10. Marcus Smith

9. Jack van Poortvliet

1. Ellis Genge (VC)

2. Jamie George

3. Kyle Sinckler

4. Maro Itoje

5. Ollie Chessum

6. Lewis Ludlam

7. Ben Curry

8. Alex Dombrandt

Replacements

16. Jack Walker

17. Mako Vunipola

18. Dan Cole

19. Nick Isiekwe

20. Ben Earl

21. Ben Youngs

22. Ollie Lawrence

23. Anthony Watson


Images & Content from England Rugby
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6 Nations

Scotland name team to face England in 2023 Guinness Six Nations Opener

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Head coach Gregor Townsend has named his squad to face England in the opening fixture of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations this Saturday as Scotland bid to retain the Calcutta Cup.

Leading his side in the championship for the first time, blindside flanker Jamie Ritchie is joined at openside by Luke Crosbie, whose excellent recent form is rewarded with a second start for Scotland, with Matt Fagerson completing the back row.

In the second row, the experienced Richie Gray and Grant Gilchrist, who is named as Vice Captain, resume a partnership that impressed during last year’s Autumn Nations Series.

Pierre Schoeman starts at loosehead prop in what is a 17th consecutive international since his 2021 debut, with the evergreen WP Nel – who reached 50 caps in November – selected at tighthead and George Turner named at hooker.

In the back division, scrum-half Ben White will link up with stand-off Finn Russell, a year on from his try-scoring debut in the Calcutta Cup at BT Murrayfield.

Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones are named as a centre pairing, the former having scored his first tries for Scotland in November’s win over Argentina, with the latter having notched no fewer than four tries against England in as many games against them.

In the back three, Scotland’s record try-scorer Stuart Hogg continues at full-back, with Duhan van der Merwe and Kyle Steyn lining up on the wings.

Townsend has selected a bench with a 5-3 split between forwards and backs, with Glasgow Warriors clubmates Fraser Brown, Jamie Bhatti, Simon Berghan and Jack Dempsey, alongside Jonny Gray, listed as pack replacements. George Horne, Blair Kinghorn and Chris Harris complete the matchday squad as substitute options.

Scotland team to face England in the Guinness Six Nations opener on Saturday, 4 February at Twickenham, kick-off 4.45pm, live on STV and ITV

15. Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs) 96 caps

14. Kyle Steyn (Glasgow Warriors) 5 caps
13. Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) 31 caps
12. Sione Tuipulotu (Glasgow Warriors) 11 caps
11. Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby) 23 caps

10. Finn Russell (Racing 92) 65 caps
9. Ben White (London Irish) 9 caps

1. Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh Rugby) 16 caps
2. George Turner (Glasgow Warriors) 30 caps
3. WP Nel (Edinburgh Rugby) 50 caps
4. Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors) 69 caps
5. Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby) – Vice Captain – 59 caps
6. Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh Rugby) – Captain – 36 caps
7. Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh Rugby) 2 caps
8. Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) 28 caps

Replacements

16. Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors) 57 caps
17. Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors) 25 caps
18. Simon Berghan (Glasgow Warriors) 31 caps
19. Jonny Gray (Exeter Chiefs) 72 caps
20. Jack Dempsey (Glasgow Warriors) 4 caps
21. George Horne (Glasgow Warriors) 18 caps
22. Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby) 38 caps
23. Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby) 39 caps

Tickets for Scotland’s match against Italy at BT Murrayfield in the Guinness Six Nations on Saturday 18 March are still available HERE

Images & Content – Scotland Rugby


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6 Nations

Wales team to face Ireland

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Wales senior men’s head coach Warren Gatland has named his team to face Ireland at a sold out Principality Stadium in the opening round of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations on Saturday 4 February (KO 2.15pm live on BBC and S4C).

Joe Hawkins, who won his first senior cap against Australia in the autumn, makes his Six Nations debut at inside centre. He partners Wales’ most-capped men’s international back George North in the midfield.

Props Gareth Thomas and Tomas Francis join captain Ken Owens in the Wales front row. Alun Wyn Jones and Adam Beard complete the tight five.

Joe Hawkins

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The back row comprises Jac Morgan at blind-side flanker, Justin Tipuric at open-side flanker and Taulupe Faletau at No. 8.

Dan Biggar, who missed the Autumn Nations Series through injury, returns to the Wales XV at fly half. Tomos Williams is at scrum half.

Full back Leigh Halfpenny is in line to make his first start for Wales since the summer of 2021 having featured as a replacement against Georgia in November. Rio Dyer and Josh Adams are selected on the wings.

Owen Williams (fly half) and Scott Baldwin (hooker) whose last appearances in a Wales jersey came in 2017 are named in the match day 23. Williams, along with fellow replacements Dafydd Jenkins and Tommy Reffell, would join Hawkins in making their Six Nations debut if appearing from the bench.

Jac Morgan, Leigh Halfpenny and Josh Adams

Rhys Carre and Dillon Lewis provide the remaining forward cover. Alex Cuthbert and Rhys Webb, who last featured for Wales in the autumn of 2020, are the other replacement backs.

Gatland said: “We’ve picked Joe at 12. He’s a lovely footballer with some great skills. I thought for his first cap he was outstanding so we’ve given him another opportunity. There’s some real competition in the midfield at the moment, so I’m really excited about that.

“There’s a mixture in the team of some experience, some younger players. We were conscious as well picking the bench. We think we’ve got a bench that can come on and have an impact.

“Ireland are the number one team in the world, so they’re going to be coming here with a lot of confidence. You don’t become the number one team in the world without having some pretty consistent performances. We know how good they are and we’re expecting a really tough contest. It’s important for us that we start well, but we need to be in the game at the last 20mins.

“We’ve only had a couple of weeks together but I’m confident that the guys will go out and give a good account of themselves. They’re pretty excited about playing this first game at home.”

Wales senior men’s team to play Ireland in the Guinness Six Nations, Saturday 4 February KO 2.15pm GMT. Live on BBC and S4C:

15. Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets – 97 caps)

14. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby – 43 caps)

13. George North (Ospreys – 109 caps)

12. Joe Hawkins (Ospreys – 1 cap)

11. Rio Dyer (Dragons – 3 caps)

10. Dan Biggar (Toulon – 103 caps)

9. Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 40 caps)

1. Gareth Thomas (Ospreys – 17 caps)

2. Ken Owens (Scarlets – 86 caps) captain

3. Tomas Francis (Ospreys – 67 caps)

4. Adam Beard (Ospreys – 41 caps)

5. Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys – 155 caps)

6. Jac Morgan (Ospreys – 6 caps)

7. Justin Tipuric (Ospreys – 89 caps)

8. Taulupe Faletau (Cardiff Rugby – 95 caps)

Replacements

16. Scott Baldwin (Ospreys – 34 caps)

17. Rhys Carre (Cardiff Rugby – 17 caps)

18. Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Rugby – 45 caps)

19. Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs – 1 cap)

20. Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers – 4 caps)

21. Rhys Webb (Ospreys – 36 caps)

22. Owen Williams (Ospreys – 3 caps)

23. Alex Cuthbert (Ospreys – 55 caps)

Images & Content – Wales Rugby


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