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.
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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
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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
Wales Dealt Six Nations Double-Blow
Wales’ Six Nations title defence has been dealt a massive blow already with two stars facing surgery to fix injuries picked up on international duty
Davies, a key member of the Welsh squad for the past number of seasons sustained a knee injury during Wales’ recent Rugby World Cup campaign, and Scarlets have announced that he will undergo surgery on the injury.
The recovery time for the for the centre is set to be six months, meaning he will miss the entire Six Nations tournament in what could be a critical blow as they look to defend their title. While it also means that he could potentially miss the entire club season for Scarlets.
As for Patchell, things aren’t as severe as Davies, but the fly-half is still set to miss the start of the Six Nations with a shoulder injury, which he too will have surgery on.
He is expected to miss between 12-16 weeks due to the injury in what is a cruel blow for a player that has suffered with injury previously, but had shown some brilliant form in recent times.
It is a far from ideal start to life at the helm for new head coach Wayne Pivac as he heads into his first tournament with the team.
As well as these injuries there are also further concerns regarding the likes of stars Liam Williams and Josh Navidi, who are both currently sidelined through injury, with the former looking likely to miss some part of the Six Nations.
Wales are looking to bounce-back during the tournament following a fourth-place finish at the World Cup, with all players hoping to impress Warren Gatland’s successor.
Munster Star in Six Nations Fitness Race
Munster have confirmed that one of their key men is set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines which could put his Six Nations spot in doubt
Munster fly-half Joey Carbery is set for yet another spell in the sidelines according to head coach Johann van Graan due to injury.
Van Graan confirmed that Carbery is still suffering from an ankle injury which he sustained during Ireland’s Rugby World Cup warm-up game against Italy and is not able to put a return date for his comeback due to the nature of the injury.
“He is going to be out for some time. We got to make sure he gets his strength back and we get that ankle fully functional. From Joey’s point of view, obviously, he wants to play but his body is not right. Because of the type of injury he is definitely not going to be back in the next few weeks, I can tell you that,” he said on Carbery.
The out-half was selected ahead of Leinster’s Ross Byrne in Ireland’s World Cup squad despite carrying the injury. However, it was reiterated throughout the tournament that he had fully recovered, which now appears to be untrue.
His head coach also told reporters that the 23-year-old will not undergo surgery on the injury. When asked about the possibility of Carbery playing before Christmas van Graan admitted he is hopeful but he cannot be sure right now.
“I hope so. At this stage it is very difficult for the medical team to determine that. Because he has had it for quite a while the most important thing now is Joey’s health. He is a Munster player. He is under my watch now so we have got to look after him. He is very important for the national team, I believe, for the future of Irish rugby,” he added.
It is a massive blow for the Munster player who only moved from Leinster ahead of last season, and after starting brightly in the red jersey he picked up a hamstring injury that left him out for large portions of the season.
The fear for Carbery now however is that due to the nature of the injury and the inability to place a return date, he could face a race to be fit for Ireland’s Six Nations campaign at the start of February next year. Carbery will hopefully be back in action and back to match fitness by then as he will want the chance to impress new head coach Andy Farrell during his first tournament at the helm.
Japan Could Receive Six Nations Invitation
Following their incredible performances during this year’s Rugby World Cup it appears as though hosts Japan could be set for inclusion in one of the biggest international tournaments according to reports
The report by Martin Samuel claims that the World Cup host nation, who went all the way to the quarter-finals for the first time in their history, are to “receive a shock invitation” to European rugby’s elite international competition.
It was previously thought that a move to the Rugby Championship would make more sense and that it was on the cards as the Southern Hemisphere nations were impressed by the brand of rugby that Japan played.
However, it appears as though the tournament organisers are hesitant to bring them into the championship straight away, and are looking to include them within the next four or five years. Which would see them join come the end of the next World Cup cycle and see them miss out on some valuable development time ahead of the tournament.
The report is clear that although formal talks between the Brave Blossoms and the Six Nations are yet to take place that World Rugby have been made aware that leading figures within the European organisation are very interested in the prospect.
It would be a brilliant opportunity for the Japanese as they look to expand interest in the sport within the country and are in a prime position to do so with interest at an all time high following the success of the tournament in the Land of the Rising Sun.
They have earned respect especially within Europe following wins over Six Nations side’s Scotland and Ireland during the group stages of the World Cup with Japan now sitting ahead of the former in 8th position in the World Rugby rankings due to their performances.
Japan were among several tier two nations backing the making of a Nations Championship which would have allowed the likes of Fiji and themselves compete against the best nations around on an annual basis and with these developments it will raise further questions as to why the competition isn’t being developed.
We will have to wait and see how things progress over the coming weeks and months but it seems as though Japan are in with a bigger chance than ever before in being added to one of the biggest international tournaments on the planet.
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