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6 Nations

England vs Scotland: The Talking points.

Team news, pre-match quotes, and the championship permutations ahead of Saturday’s finale at Twickenham

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Both England and Scotland have made several changes to their starting line-ups ahead of the final round of the 2019 Six Nations on Saturday.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has made six alterations to the team that narrowly lost to Wales last week.

Sam Skinner and Hamish Watson start at six and seven respectively, replacing Josh Strauss and the injured Jamie Ritchie.

Ben Toolis comes in for Jonny Gray at second-row, completing a new-look forward pack.

Sean Maitland will start at full-back, and Byron McGuigan will join him in the back-three, with Blair Kinghorn and Tommy Seymour ruled out through injury.

Sam Johnston gets the nod ahead of Pete Horne at centre.

Meanwhile, England boss Eddie Jones has made four changes – most notably replacing Joe Cokanasiga, who was man-of-match on his debut against Italy.

Jack Nowell will start on the wing instead of 21-year-old Cokanasiga, whom Jones says he is protecting from media ‘over-hyping’ after impressing on his first England start.

“The media has an effect on the player and we need to be conscious of that,” Jones told BBC Sport.

“I think it is important, particularly in England, because I have seen so many good young players that start with this boom and then only play three or four Tests. I want him to play 100 Tests for England.”

Mark Wilson also returns in place of Brad Shields at flanker, and Ben Moon is restored at prop, at the expense of Ellis Genge.

Jones has opted for playmaker Henry Slade at centre, with the heavyweight Ben Te’o dropping out the starting XV.

What they said

England winger Jonny May, who is the competitions leading try scorer, was keen to praise Cokanasiga following his promising first England cap.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, May said; “I haven’t played with a winger like him before – he’s got so much talent and so much potential.”

“He’s brilliant now and he’s only going to get better. I’m pleased that we’ve got him.”

Cokanasiga displayed his ability to carry the ball one-handed in the game against Italy, often allowing him to find an offload, but May admitted it isn’t something he could do.

“When I see him carrying it one-handed I think, I’m not going to try that, but I think too it shows confidence,” May said. “It shows he’s a 21-year-old guy out there who’s out there on the pitch expressing himself.”

Despite the ramifications of the Wales game on Saturday, May reiterated that England’s attentions will not be on the game in Cardiff.

“For me it’s not about winning the Six Nations,” he said. “There’s a bigger purpose to what we’re doing here, and that’s the World Cup.

“We can go away feeling good about ourselves in this campaign regardless of whether we win the championship or not. If we put down the performance we want against Scotland we can feel good about ourselves.

“The main thing is doing what’s right for you. We need to get our best performance out regardless of what happens in Cardiff.”

England head coach Eddie Jones was wary of the threat the Scottish side will pose, as he spoke ahead of the game that will also decide the Calcutta Cup.

“Scotland is a difficult side, they are always at you, they play with a lot of enthusiasm and effort and have got a lot of attacking strings to their bow,” the Australian said,

“Finn Russell is an exceptional player at 10 and they have got some pace on the outside so we are going to have to defend really well against them.”

England centre Manu Tuilagi recently rejected a move to Racing 92 in France, and revealed playing for his national side was a major factor in his decision.

English players playing overseas are not considered for the national team, due the RFU’s selection policy.

Tuilagi, who moves to inside centre against Scotland, told BBC Sport;
“Playing for England is massive.”

“It’s a feeling you can’t replace. Hopefully I will keep playing for England.”

“I couldn’t be happier with the decision that I’ve made. I’m over the moon and I’m happy it’s done and I can focus on Scotland at the weekend,” he added.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has hit back at critics of side, and is confident he can orchestrate a shock result at Twickenham.

“If no-one thinks we’re going to win then that’s fine,” he said.

“We believe we can win and that’s what we’re working to do. Scotland teams tend to be underdogs on a number of occasions and it usually brings the best out in them.

Townsend also highlighted his teams performance last week against Wales as a cause for optimism.

“We’re very motivated and full of energy. There were a lot of positive aspects against Wales, a quality team. We know we have to improve again to win at Twickenham.”

“The character and fitness the players displayed showed, in the second half, what the team is capable of against one of the best sides in the world. The next step is making that pressure count on the scoreboard, more regularly.”

Championship Permutations – Who needs what?

What do Wales need?

  • If Wales beat Ireland, Wales will secure the Grand Slam and the Championship.
  • If Ireland beat Wales without a bonus point, and Wales get the losing bonus point, and England lose, Wales will win the title .
  • If Wales lose without a bonus point, and England draw without a bonus point, Wales take the title

What do England need?

  • If Wales lose to Ireland, and England beat Scotland, England will win the title.
  • If England draw with a bonus point, and Wales lose to Ireland without a bonus point (and Ireland don’t outscore England by 64 point), England will win the title.

What do Ireland need?

  • If Ireland win with a bonus point, and England lose, Ireland will retain the title.
  • If England win with no bonus point, and Ireland score 64 points more than England, Ireland will retain the title.
  • If Ireland win with no bonus point, Wales lose without bonus point, and England draw with a bonus point, Ireland will retain the title.
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6 Nations

Pivac names squad for 2021 Six Nations

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Wales have named a 36-man squad for the forthcoming 2021 Guinness Six Nations campaign.

The squad features one uncapped player, Scarlets back-row Josh Macleod, who was named in the autumn squad last year but didn’t feature after picking up an injury before the campaign began.

Four players who made their international debuts in that campaign, Kieran Hardy, Callum Sheedy, Johnny Williams and Louis Rees-Zammit are all included.

Rhys Carre, Wyn Jones and Rhodri Jones (last appearance for Wales v South Africa in 2018) are named as the looseheads in the squad with Elliot Dee, Ryan Elias and Ken Owens (who missed the autumn campaign through injury) the hookers. Leon Brown, Tomas Francis and Dillon Lewis are the three named tight-heads.

Jake Ball, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Will Rowlands and Cory Hill are included as the second-rows.

Dan Lydiate returns to the international set-up (last appearance v Australia in 2018) and is named alongside Josh Navidi, Aaron Wainwright, Taulupe Faletau, Macleod and Justin Tipuric.

Hardy who made his debut back in November is named as one of three scrum-halves along with Gareth Davies and Tomos Williams, who has returned from injury. Dan Biggar, Jarrod Evans and Sheedy are the three fly-halves.

Johnny Williams, Jonathan Davies, Nick Tompkins and Owen Watkin are named as the centres with George North, Josh Adams, Hallam Amos, Rees-Zammit, Leigh Halfpenny and Liam Williams named as Wales’ back-three options.

“We are hugely looking forward to meeting up as a squad on Monday and to the forthcoming campaign,” said Wales head coach Wayne Pivac.

“The Guinness Six Nations is an important tournament and we have selected a squad accordingly.

“As we consistently spoke about, the autumn for us was about opportunity and development, looking ahead to RWC 2023 and it served that purpose for us.

“This campaign is different, it is tournament rugby and we are excited to get going and to play our part.

“We have picked a squad for this tournament based on form and we are excited to meet up on Monday and to get our preparation underway.”

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6 Nations

Scotland name Six Nations squad.

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Scotland Head Coach Gregor Townsend has named a 35-man squad for the 2021 Guinness Six Nations, which begins with the Calcutta Cup clash vs England on Saturday 6 February.

The group, split between 20 forwards and 15 backs, sees eight new players called up who did not feature in the group that contested the recent 2020 Autumn Nations Cup.

Players who could potentially make their Scotland debuts include Edinburgh hooker, David Cherry, Sale hooker Ewan Ashman, Gloucester forward, Alex Craig and Bath centre, Cameron Redpath.

Returning to the squad are also Newcastle Falcons back rower, Gary Graham, Sale Sharks wing, Byron McGuigan, Glasgow Warriors hooker, Grant Stewart and London Irish prop Alan Dell.

In the pack Glasgow Warriors hooker George Turner is selected and joined in the front row by Zander Fagerson and Oli Kebble from Glasgow Warriors, alongside Edinburgh Rugby representatives WP Nel, Rory Sutherland and Simon Berghan.

Glasgow Warriors’ lock pairing Richie Gray and Scott Cummings, Exeter Chief, Jonny Gray are called up, along with Edinburgh’s Grant Gilchrist who left the ANC squad with an injury before the opening match.

Hamish Watson and Jamie Ritchie, who have both recently re-signed to long-term deals to stay at Edinburgh Rugby, are joined as back-row options by Glasgow Warrior Matt Fagerson and Scarlet’s Blade Thomson.

Gregor Townsend has chosen just two scrum-half’s for this campaign with Glasgow Warriors’ Ali Price and Harlequins’ Scott Steele selected.

Linking up at half-back will be Racing 92’s Finn Russell who returns following an injury sustained in the concluding match of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations vs Wales and Edinburgh’s Jaco Van de Walt who made his Scotland debut in the ANC semi-final against Ireland.

Gloucester’s Chris Harris, Saracen Duncan Taylor, Glasgow Warrior Huw Jones and Harlequins’ James Lang are selected at centre.

In the back three Scotland Captain Stuart Hogg is joined by Edinburgh Rugby trio Blair Kinghorn, Darcy Graham and Duhan van de Merwe and Saracens’ Sean Maitland.

With an eye to the future three additional players have been invited to train with the squad during the campaign. Edinburgh Rugby back row forward, Rory Darge, Glasgow Warriors pair winger, Rufus MacLean and scrum-half, Jamie Dobie will join up with the squad, which goes into camp on Sunday.

Speaking on the squad selection Gregor Townsend said: “As coaches we have selected a group which we believe can build on the work our players put in throughout the recent Autumn Nations Cup campaign and kick on again in terms of performance levels.

“The depth we have across the squad enables us to bring in some new players who have excelled in recent weeks and others who we believe can perform at Test level.

“Our tournament gets off to a fantastic start with a fixture we look forward to every year against England and the opportunity to win back the Calcutta Cup at Twickenham.

“We are very aware how different this year’s competition will be due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but it also provides a huge amount of positivity and enjoyment for millions of supporters and we are looking forward to contesting every match and giving this championship our very best.”

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6 Nations

Paul O’Connell Joins Ireland Coaching Group

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Former Ireland captain Paul O’Connell has joined the Ireland national coaching group as forwards coach with Simon Easterby to focus on defence.

Paul was capped 108 times by Ireland and captained the team to Six Nations success in 2014.  O’Connell’s distinguished playing career also included seven Test match appearances for the British & Ireland Lions across three tours and two Heineken Cup titles with Munster.

Since retiring from playing in 2015, Paul has held coaching positions with the Munster Academy, Ireland Under-20s and Top 14 side Stade Francais.

O’Connell commented:

“I am really looking forward to working with Andy and the rest of the coaching group. I worked with Simon as a player and am looking forward to working with him again. It’s an exciting young group of players to be involved with and there are talented forwards coming through across the four provinces that will no doubt be pushing for international selection in the coming months and years.”

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell commented:

“Paul brings a wealth of rugby knowledge with him and as forwards coach he will have responsibility for the forwards including the line-out working alongside John (Fogarty). He will also be another strong voice and leader within the group.

“Simon (Easterby) has a real passion for defence and having developed Ireland’s forward play over the past six years with the additional responsibility for the defence over the past 12 months, he will now be able to focus his energy and rugby intellect on this area of our game.

“The weekend’s Interpro games and the European fixtures in the weeks ahead will give players the opportunity to push for selection for the Six Nations squad. The squad will not be selected until after the Champions Cup Round 4 fixtures have been completed.”

IRFU Performance Director, David Nucifora, commented: “Paul is a young Irish coach with a huge amount of international rugby experience. We have been keen to find the right opportunity for him within Irish Rugby and we think the fit with the national squad will work well. He joins the national coaching group with immediate effect as they prepare for the upcoming Six Nations Championship.”

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