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6 Nations

Scotland: Predicted Starting XV v Italy

Few big calls for Gregor to make.

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Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

There is a lot of optimism surrounding Scottish rugby at the moment. Gregor Townsend has built on the great work done by Vern Cotter, turning Scotland from perennial wooden spoon contenders to a potential championship contenders. With three games at the Murrayfield fortress this year, Scotland will be eyeing the Italy game as a way to make a statement on opening weekend.

Back three

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Full-back can only go to one man: Stuart Hogg. The Exeter bound full-back is pretty much the best in the business, and is one of Scotland’s most important players. Right wing is a tight call, with Blair Kinghorn coming very close but Gregor Townsend will probably stick with tried and tested for his wingers, with Tommy Seymour on one, and Sean Maitland on the other. Kinghorn will more than likely get on the pitch, and Darcy Graham will bring some Sevens magic if he gets some gametime

Midfield

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13 is likely to go to Huw Jones. The former Stormer has made the Scotland outside centre spot his own since he arrived back from South Africa. Jones is one of the best in the world, but will face competition from Nick Grigg. The 12 jersey is a harder call. Sam Johnson was in pole position to make his Scotland debut, and could still do so, but is in doubt for the opening rounds as he is recovering from a concussion. Until then, Townsend will likely stick with Pete Horne.

Half-Backs

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The dream team. The eccentric maverick kept in check by the calm, calculated general. The old cliche about France can also be applied to Finn Russell. You never know which Finn is going to turn up. Six Nations last year a case in point. Has a stinker against France, gets hooked for Greig Laidlaw of all people to go to 10. Next game, has the performance of his life to help Scotland win the Calcutta Cup. Greig Laidlaw has his critics: in the eyes of many his delivery is as slow as a wet Monday, but the fact is, Scotland are a much better team when Laidlaw plays.

Back Row

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Scotland have been absolutely slaughtered by injuries to their flankers. Townsend’s first choice trio of Johnny Barclay, Hamish Watson and Ryan Wilson are all injured, with the latter likely to make a return late in the tournament. Jamie Ritchie is likely to get one flank. The Edinburgh man played both sides in the Autumn, but will probably take the blindside spot to accommodate the return of John Hardie. Hardie is back in business at Newcastle Falcons after some months out of the game. The Kiwi born flanker was first choice before his enforced sabbatical from the game and will be dying for the opportunity to get back on the international stage. Number 8 is a harder question. Josh Strauss has been there in the past, but has a tendency to be lazy, even if his ballcarrying is some of the best available to Scotland. It will be between Strauss and David Denton, fitness dependent on both counts.

Second Row

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Jonny Gray is one of the most reliable players in the game. Nobody works harder, and tackles non stop, almost going a whole season without missing one. Sam Skinner is new to the Scotland setup, and looks like he’ll be there for years to come. The Exeter Chief put in a man of the match performance on his first start in the Autumn, and looks likely to beat Grant Gilchrist to the starting spot.

Front Row

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The most exciting news here is at tighthead; WP Nel is back. The Edinburgh prop was making a name for himself as one of the best in the world before his run of injuries set him back. Nel will turn the Scottish scrum into an absolute weapon. All-action hooker Stuart McInally will take the 2 jersey, with Allan Dell likely to round out the front row.

15. Stuart Hogg         

14. Tommy Seymour

13. Huw Jones

12. Pete Horne

11. Sean Maitland

10. Finn Russell  

9. Greig Laidlaw

8. Josh Strauss

7. John Hardie

6. Jamie Ritchie

5. Jonny Gray

4. Sam Skinner

3. Willem Nel

2. Stuart McInally

1. Allan Dell


6 Nations

Ireland Make Seven Changes For Italy

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(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

The Ireland coaching group have made seven changes to the side that started against France in round 2 of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championship. There are two uncapped players in the replacements.

Craig Casey, who was on the bench for the game against France, and Ryan Baird are in line for their first international caps in Stadio Olimpico on Saturday afternoon.

Johnny Sexton returns to captain the side and partners Jamison Gibson Park in the halfbacks.

This weekend has come too soon for Conor Murray who is continuing his hamstring rehab.

Robbie Henshaw, who earns his 50th cap for Ireland, will again partner Garry Ringrose in the midfield. Henshaw made his Ireland debut against USA on the 2013 Summer Tour, a few days before his 20th birthday.

Hugo Keenan retains the No.15 jersey with James Lowe on the left wing and Jordan Larmour coming in on the right hand side.

A new front row combination of Dave Kilcoyne, Ronan Kelleher and Tadgh Furlong is set to start.

James Ryan returns to the second row to partner  Iain Henderson.

Tadgh Beirne shifts to the backrow filling the blindside role with Will Connors at openside and CJ Stander at No.8.

The replacements for the weekend are Rob Herring, Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, Jack Conan, Billy Burns, Keith Earls and the uncapped duo of Baird and Casey

IRELAND Team & Replacements (v Italy, 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championship, Stadio Olimpico , Saturday, February 27, kick-off 2:15pm):

Player/Club/Province/Caps –

15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 8 caps
14. Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 26 caps
13. Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 32 caps
12. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 49 caps
11. James Lowe (Leinster) 4 caps
10. Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 96 caps CAPTAIN
9.
 Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 7 caps
1. Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 40 caps
2. Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 8 caps
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 46 caps
4. Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 60 caps
5. James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 33 caps
6. Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 19 caps
7. Will Connors (Leinster/UCD) 7 caps
8. CJ Stander (Munster/Shannon) 48 caps

Replacements

16. Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 18 caps
17. Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 106 caps
18. Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 34 caps
19. Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) uncapped
20. Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 17 caps
21. Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) uncapped
22. Billy Burns (Ulster) 5 caps
23. Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 90 caps

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6 Nations

England name team for Round 3 v Wales

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(Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Eddie Jones has named his side for this weekend’s key Guinness Six Nations match against Wales.

England will travel to Cardiff to take on Wales at the Principality Stadium on Saturday 27 February (4.45pm KO).

Elliot Daly is set to make his 50th appearance for England, at full back.  Daly made his England debut in February 2016 in a 21-10 victory over Ireland.

Captain Owen Farrell is at inside centre, Henry Slade at outside centre and George Ford stays at fly half.  Ben Youngs continues at scrum half, with Jonny May (left) and Anthony Watson (right) on the wings.

Jamie George returns at hooker, with Mako Vunipola and Kyle Sinckler as props alongside in the front row.  Maro Itoje and Jonny Hill stay in the second row.

Mark Wilson starts as blind-side flanker, Tom Curry is open-side flanker and Billy Vunipola continues at No. 8.

George Martin could make his England debut after being named as finisher.  Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, Ben Earl, Dan Robson and Max Malins make up the finishers.

Eddie Jones said: “Wales is a really special fixture and rivalry.  There is a long history between the two nations and the game means a lot to both countries.

“We know we’ll be up against a strong Welsh challenge on Saturday, but we’ve worked really hard in training this week and have got a very good team to face it.

“We want to show people what we are capable of, keep building our performances and the best is yet to come from this England team.”

In their remaining championship fixtures, England will then play France at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday 13 March (4.45pm KO) before travelling to Dublin to take on Ireland on Saturday 20 March (4.45pm KO).

Wales v England is live on BBC One and BBC Radio 5 Live.

England XV Starters
15. Elliot Daly (Saracens, 49 caps)
14. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 48 caps)
13. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 36 caps)
12. Owen Farrell (Saracens, 90 caps)
11. Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 63 caps)
10. George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 74 caps)
9. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 106 caps)
1. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 64 caps)
2. Jamie George (Saracens, 56 caps)
3. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 41 caps)
4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, 45 caps)
5. Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, 6 caps)
6. Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons, 20 caps)
7. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 30 caps)
8. Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 58 caps)
 
Finishers
16. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 28 caps)
17. Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 25 caps)
18. Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 10 caps)
19. Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 18 caps)
20. George Martin (Leicester Tigers, uncapped)
21. Ben Earl (Bristol Bears, 10 caps)
22. Dan Robson (Wasps, 9 caps)
23. Max Malins (Bristol Bears, 5 caps)
ENDS

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6 Nations

Huge boost for Ulster & Ireland as Henderson signs new deal

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Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ulster captain, Iain Henderson, who has represented the province on 116 occasions, has secured his future with the club for the next two years.

Craigavon-born Henderson, who took up the role of Ulster captain in 2019, has progressed through the Ulster development system. Starting with mini rugby at Academy RFC, his early playing career saw him reach the final of the Danske Bank Schools Cup in 2010 with Belfast Royal Academy, represent Queen’s University Belfast as well as Ireland at Age-Grade level, before quickly rising through the ranks of senior professional rugby in the province.

Iain, who captained Ireland for the first time against France in this year’s Guinness Six Nations, made his international debut against South Africa in November 2012 and has won 60 caps to date for his country. 

A Lions tourist in 2017, Iain succeeded Rory Best as Ulster captain in 2019.  

David Nucifora, IRFU Performance Director, commented,

“Over the past few seasons Iain has really developed into a leader within both the Ireland and Ulster squads. He is part of the national leadership group, captaining Ireland recently for the first time and we are delighted to have ensured that he continues his career in Ireland.”

Iain Henderson, commented,

“It has been a great honour to captain both Ulster and Ireland in recent times. Irish rugby is in a good place despite the disruption the sport has experienced during the pandemic. As professionals, we have been in a privileged position to be able to continue playing and I know we all hope to see supporters back in the Aviva and Kingspan in the near future.”

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