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6 Nations

Plenty of Changes; Ireland vs Scotland Preview

Both Ireland and Scotland have been forced to make changes to their teams but who will benefit from them?

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Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ireland have made five changes to the team that lost last weekend as they hope to bounce back against a confident Scottish team in Murrayfield on Saturday.

Joe Schmidt gambled with players last weekend in Ireland’s 32-20 loss to England, but the damage has been much worse than just the result.

Most noticeably he chose to start three natural centres in Bundee Aki, Garry Ringrose, and Robbie Henshaw, who came in at full-back.

It was a bold move however, Ringrose was ruled out earlier in the week due to a tight hamstring and today it was confirmed that Henshaw has picked up a dead leg and will miss this round.

All of which has led Schmidt to pick Munster’s Chris Farrell at 13 to partner Aki. Farrell isn’t a bad option, he played one match for his country last year and picked up the man of the match award and has an unexpected opportunity to prove himself once more.

Elsewhere, the front row has remained the same with Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong joining captain Rory Best. In the second-row James Ryan is partnered by Quinn Roux, who will win his first 6 Nations start, following Devin Toner’s injury.

At the back of the pack there are two changes with Sean O’Brien getting the nod ahead of Josh Van Der Flier, who was Ireland’s standout performer last time out. He is pushed to the bench.

Jack Conan comes in to replace CJ Stander at No 8, after Stander played 62 minutes with two fractures in his cheek and eye socket against the English.

The pack is completed by Peter O’Mahony.

Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton continue in the half-back positions, while Aki and Farrell are at inside and outside centre as mentioned previously.

In back-three is made up of Jacob Stockdale, Keith Earls, and a fit again Rob Kearney, who takes over at full-back.

The bench remains largely the same as last week and will add a great amount of power when used. With the likes of Sean Cronin, Andrew Porter, Joey Carbery and Jordan Larmour to call upon. Ultan Dillane is the only change.

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The Scottish team sees four changes to the one that saw off Italy 33-20 last Saturday.

In the front-row Allan Dell and captain Stuart McInally are joined by Simon Berghan, who comes in for the injured WP Nel.

In the second-row, Ben Tollis moves to the bench as Jonny Gray plays alongside Grant Gilchrist.

There is a change in the back-row also, as Josh Struass replaces Sam skinner. Ryan Wilson and Jamie Ritchie are his partners at 6 and 7 respectively.

Greig Laidlaw and Finn Russell begin the game at scrum-half and out-half, while Sam Johnson and Huw Jones remain in the centre.

Sean Maitland has been chosen ahead of last week’s hat-trick hero Blair Kinghorn at 11, with Tommy Seymour and Staurt Hogg making up the starting XV.

There are also four new players on the bench for the hosts as Fraser Brown, Pete Horne and Rob Harley take a sit with the uncapped D’arcy Rae.

Speaking ahead of the clash Schmidt admitted his excitement at Farrell having a chance to shine.

“It’s a pretty exciting opportunity to give Chris Farrell the chance to play against Scotland. He stepped in only once last year, got man-of-the-match, and he’s a guy that’s coming back to form after the long lay-off that he’s had,” he said.

He also told the press that Ireland have to move on from last weekend’s defeat and grow into the match on Saturday.

“We have to build our way into the game, we can’t be chasing things and trying to get instant results. You’ve got to earn whatever you get up there because they give so little away. (Last week’s defeat) doesn’t change the mentality too much, we just want to take it one game at a time. We’re not going to chase a tournament when we’ve got such a tough task in front of us,” he added.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has warned his team that this will be their biggest challenge in this year’s 6 Nations.

“It’s massive. It’s probably the biggest challenge we’ll face in the Guinness Six Nations, given the way Ireland have been playing in the last few years – they are Grand Slam Champions and the number-two team in the world,” he said.

Scotland currently sit top of the table after round one due to their bonus-point victory over the Italians, but the spotlight will be firmly on last year’s Grand Slam winners, Ireland, to see how they react especially with the injuries to adding to the pressure.

What is certain is that at 14 15 on Saturday there will be two teams going all out for a confidence boosting win.

6 Nations

PREVIEW: Ireland Stick with Some Big Guns for Italy

Irish team named with a few new faces in the pack.

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ireland have confirmed their 23 to take on Italy and they are not resting a couple of big players for Sunday’s encounter in the Stadio Olimpico.

With the likes of Wales taking the opportunity against the Azzurri to rest many Ireland have decided to only change players in the pack with the back-line the same as two weeks ago.

Dave Kilcoyne and Sean Cronin come into the front row in place of Cian Healy and Rory Best respectively. Remarkably this will be Cronin’s 68th test but his first ever 6 Nations start. Completing the trio is the ever-reliable Tadhg Furlong.

Behind them Ultan Dillane slots joins Quinn Roux, after his brilliant performance off the bench against the Scots and his man of the match performance for Connacht last weekend.

In the back-row, Peter O’Mahony is captain with Best on the bench, with Sean O’Brien on the opposite side, while Jordi Murphy has a chance at eight as Jack Conan is suffering from abdominal tightness.

The backs are the same as two weeks ago against Scotland with Conor Murray at scrum-half and Johnny Sexton at fly-half, with Bundee Aki and Chris Farrell continuing their partnership in the centre.

Jacob Stockdale and Keith Earls remain on the wings, with Rob Kearney finishing up the XV.

On the bench Ireland have some serious firepower with Jack McGrath, Iain Henderson and Andrew Conway returning to the squad. While Jack Carty could make his 6 Nations debut if he comes on.

The Italian’s who are missing star captain Sergio Parisse, announced their team earlier and Ireland will have to be wary of some key men in the line-up.

Andrea Lovotti, Leonardo Ghiraldini, and Simone Ferrari start in the front-row, with Federico Ruzza and Dean Budd behind them.

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The pack is made up by Jimmy Tuivaiti, Mazime Mbanda, and the hugely impressive Abraham Steyn, who will look to lead the team in the absence of Parisse.

Tito Tebaldi is at scrum-half and will be partnered by Tomasso Allan at fly-half, while Luca Morisi slots in beside the electric Michele Campagnaro in the centre.

Angelo Esposito and Edoardo Padovani are on the wings with Jayden Hayward making up the XV at full-back.

Irish-born Ian McKinley may have a part to play from the bench if he gets on.

It had been questioned whether there would be a vast amount of changes to the team that won last time out, but it seems as though there wasn’t much choice for Ireland.

Head coach Joe Schmidt confirmed that Joey Carbery has a slight hamstring problem and therefore is unable to take part in the game.

As mentioned above Conan is injured too, while Robbie Henshaw is still getting back up to top nick and Jordan Larmour injured his finger during the week and they are resting him.

Schmidt explained that even if Carbery was fit Sexton would have probably started ahead of him in Rome.

“I think we probably would have started Johnny anyway, to be honest. He’s had very little game time since the Munster game in December, whereas Joey has been really resilient this season and has had plenty of game time,” he said.

He also told the media how some players have earned their way into the team, while saying others deserved a rest.

“Some of it (the selection) is to offer an opportunity, to offer a reward to what we’ve seen in training so far like Dave Kilcoyne and Ultan Dillane – it gives us a little bit more confidence when Ultan goes back to Connacht last week and get the man of the match. Across the board those guys have earned their opportunity – and it gives us the opportunity to give some guys the weekend off,” he added.

The two sides last met in November when Ireland ran out 54-7 winners in Chicago.

Ireland are currently fourth in the table after the opening two rounds and will be looking to build on their win in Murrayfield last time out while Italy will be hoping to avoid a 20th straight defeat in the competition when they host the reigning champions.

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6 Nations

Schmidt rings the changes for Italy Clash

Lots of changes in the pack.

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

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Peter O’Mahony will captain the team – the first time he will lead Ireland in the Championship. He first captained Ireland on the summer tour to North America in 2013 and recently led the tour party in Australia.

O’Mahony is joined in the back row by Sean O’Brien and Jordi Murphy. Quinn Roux is partnered by Ultan Dillane in the second row with Dave Kilcoyne, Sean Cronin and Tadhg Furlong making up the front-row. This will be Cronin’s first start in a Six Nations Championship.

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Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton start in the half backs with Bundee Aki and Chris Farrell filling the centre berths. Rob Kearney is joined in the backfield by Jacob Stockdale and Keith Earls.

Carty is named in the replacements and alongside John Cooney and Andrew Conway. Niall Scannell, Jack McGrath and John Ryan are the front row cover with Iain Henderson and Josh van der Flier also named.

Schmidt confirmed at the announcement that Carberry, Conan and Larmour are currently injured, Robbie Henshaw was close to being in contention but has not ‘had enough running’.

Connor O’Shea has named his team:

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6 Nations

Wales v England – The Key Battles

Six Nations Round 3: Wales vs England

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Written by Oliver Green
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Two sides looking to maintain their unbeaten starts to the 2019 Six Nations will meet at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.

Eddie Jones’ England have already beaten majority favourites Ireland in their own back yard in round one, and swept aside France two weeks ago at Twickenham.

Meanwhile Wales, led by Warren Gatland, produced a remarkable comeback to scrape past the French in Paris, and stumbled to victory over Italy with a much-changed side.

With both sides’ prospects of a Grand Slam on the line, this historic rivalry looks set to be reignited once again.

Ahead of this monumental clash, we’ve taken a look at some of the key battles where this game could be won and lost.

Rob Evans vs Ben Moon

With Mako Vunipola injured, Ben Moon is one of two enforced changes for England. He will take on the returning Rob Evans at loosehead, who was seemingly ‘rested’ for Wales’ game against Italy.

Moon has played just 37 minutes so far this campaign; during the emphatic victory over France. The Exeter Chiefs man only made his England debut during the autumn internationals, and has just 5 caps to his name.

In contrast, Evans made his first appearance for Wales four years ago, and has made 32 appearances for his national side.

With that being said, it is clear that the Welshman has experience on his side in this matchup. He will have also benefited from missing the Italy game, and be in peak condition for Saturday.

Moon was a surprise call-up to the England squad for some, and he will have to assert his dominance in the early stages in Cardiff if he wants to prove his doubters wrong.

Evans may be superior in the scrum, but if Moon can replicate his industrious, hard-working performances he has put in for Exeter this season, he may come out on top in terms of metres and tackles made across the course of the game.

Gareth Anscombe vs Owen Farrell

Owen Farrell’s displays in the first two games of this competition have further cemented his status as one of the world’s best fly-halves.

With no disrespect to Gareth Anscombe, who is a tremendously intelligent number ten, it would take a serious performance from Welshman to outshine Eddie Jones’ golden boy.

Farrell’s stats so far dwarf those of his counterpart – he has already racked up 29 points compared to Anscombe’s 6, he has a higher goal-kicking accuracy (71% compared to 60%), and he has a higher average gain (27.5m compared to 18m).

It is not just Farrell’s attacking prowess that makes him such a daunting opponent; his defensive play has improved massively over the last few seasons. He has already made 22 tackles across the first two rounds.

Anscombe has however shown what positive impact he can have on this Wales team. Prior to his introduction against Italy, Wales were lacklustre in attack and looked pedestrian at times. With Anscombe’s kicking from hand, the Welsh backs looked far more dangerous and dynamic.

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Gatland’s decision to select Anscombe ahead of Dan Biggar for such a crucial game highlights his trust in the 27-year-old.

If Anscombe is to come out on top in this battle though, he will primarily have to be more clinical from the tee. A 60% kick success rate against this England side will not go unpunished.

George North vs Jonny May

Jonny May is yet another England player who seems to be hitting their best form in this year’s Six Nations. He currently leads the way in the try-scoring charts with four, and was electric in England’s demolition of France.

In comparison, George North is beginning to look back to his rampaging best after a difficult period with injuries. His brace against France in round one demonstrated his devastating pace, power and finishing ability.

He was one of the victims of Warren Gatland’s many changes for the game against Italy, so the game on Saturday will be his first chance to add to his tally.

North’s defensive ability will also be under scrutiny against England, should Jones’ side be as dominant as they have in the first two games. His sheer physical presence may offer a different challenge for England’s back three who have been so fluid so far this competition.

Although May and North may not be playing directly opposite each other on the pitch, their roles as their respective team’s talisman makes this a key battle.

It may be the case that the winger that is more clinical when they get the chance, and whoever scores more points on Saturday, is on the winning side.

Gareth Davies vs Ben Youngs

Ben Youngs seems to have finally established himself as Eddie Jones’ first-choice scrum-half, amid stiff competition in the position during the head coaches reign.

The Leicester Tigers man has started both games in the Six Nations, and has missed just 11 minutes across the two rounds.

In comparison, Gareth Davies is Warren Gatland’s third different starting number nine. Davies has played just 46 minutes across Wales’ first two games, with Tomos Williams and Aled Davies favoured ahead of the Scarlets man.

Despite this, Davies has managed to gain more metres than Youngs so far in the competition – The Welshman has made 22m, compared to the Englishman’s 17m.

Youngs however, has been much more secure in possession. Davies has twice as many handling errors (4) than Youngs (2), in a much shorter space of time.

This highlights a new Ben Youngs that Eddie Jones has moulded; he has cut out silly mistakes from his game, albeit at the expense of some the poaching he was known for in his younger years.

His change in style may have negatively impacted his individual stats, but his overall contribution to the team has been massively positive.

Davies will try to be as much of a nuisance to the England back-row as he can in Cardiff, and if he is able to retain possession, his small gains may prove to be vital to any Wales success.

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