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6 Nations

Scotland v Wales Preview

Can Scotland derail Welsh Grand Slam hopes?

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One of the craziest weeks in recent memory in world rugby has meant that this week’s Six Nations games have slipped under the radar a little bit. Between the universally despised World League, a will-they-won’t-they merger between the Ospreys and Scarlets, allegations of Wallabies match-fixing, there’s been a lot going on.

Scotland had a bad weekend in Paris last time out. Ponderous in attack, and losing the collisions, France dominated all facets of the game. Gregor Townsend has been able to call on some reinforcements this week. Willem Nel is back in to lock down the scrum, backed up by Jonny Gray in the engine room.

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Ali Price takes the place of captain Greig Laidlaw at 9, partnered by his old mate Finn Russell, who was badly missed against France last week. Sam Johnson misses out on the 12 jersey after performing well in his previous appearances, losing his spot to Pete Horne. Edinburgh flyer Darcy Graham gets his first start on the left wing. The 21 year old will earn his third cap, after spending last season performing on the World Sevens Series. Graham will need to be on his game defensively, with the considerable frame of George North coming down his channel. The Ospreys wing has 6 inches and almost six stone on his opposite number.

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It’s a bit of a case of ‘what could have been’ for Toonie’s men this year. Losing players as important as Stuart Hogg and Huw Jones out of the backline, and the entire backrow that performed so well in the 2018 competition. John Barclay leading from the front, Hamish Watson being absolutely everywhere, and Ryan Wilson enforcing things from number 8. All three are being sorely missed this year. Hamish Watson makes his return this week, wearing the number 20 jersey. So much potential for this Scottish team, but they have failed to deliver on the hype. If they don’t win at home this week, that trip to Twickenham on Super Saturday suddenly looks a whole lot tougher.

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Wales are in quite the tricky situation. They would have been riding high after the cracking win in Cardiff but then the news of the proposed merger has sent Welsh rugby into the unknown. 13 of the 23 are (maybe this should be ‘were affected’? God only knows), but you’d wonder how this is playing on the minds of the players. Warren Gatland has made one injury-enforced change, Ospreys lock Adam Beard comes into the team in place of Cory Hill. Wales’ away form has been poor enough this Six Nations. A dire performance in France was rescued by Sebastian Vahaamahina and Yoann Huget, and that was followed by an unimpressive outing in Rome. While the games havent been pretty, the fact is Wales have still got the job done, playing way below their best. Maybe Gatland has a point when he says that Wales have “forgotten how to lose”?

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This, if it lives up to its potential will be the game of the weekend. Scotland in Murrayfield are a fearsome prospect, especially with the frontline players that have returned. Wales are many people’s favourites for the tournament, but how will the domestic turmoil affect the national team? Scotland v Wales will kick off at 2:15pm Saturday afternoon.


Prediction: Scotland by 5-10 points.

6 Nations

Jones Drops 10 for Six Nations Squad

England head coach Eddie Jones has named his Six Nations squad and has left out 10 players that were involved in the recent Rugby World Cup

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England head coach Eddie Jones has confirmed his 34-man strong squad for the upcoming Six Nations campaign, but has dropped 10 players from his recent Rugby World Cup campaign.

Of the absentees Saracens No 8 Billy Vunipola is the biggest name to miss out following the news that he will be injured for the entire tournament through injury. 

Other big hitters to be excluded are Joe Cokanasiga, Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, and veteran Dan Cole. 

However, in their absence there is a total of eight uncapped players set to be involved in Tom Dunn, Ollie Thorley, Ben Earl, Jacob Umaga, Alex Moon, George Furbank, Fraser Dingwell and Will Stuart. 

Speaking on their selection Jones admitted that they all have a chance of playing, but that he wanted them to at least be amongst the squad as they build towards the future. 

“It is always about winning the next game so we have picked the best squad available. At the same time we wanted to bring some young players in because we need to keep building our depth so for those new players it is an exciting opportunity for them,” he said. 

Meanwhile, there is also the inclusion of Josh Hodge and Alex Mitchell, who have been named as apprentices for the campaign and will be training with the first-team squad. 

Elsewhere, it is the familiar faces that make-up the squad with the likes of Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Kyle Sinckler, Courtney Lawes and Manu Tuilagi among the experienced players. 

With expectation building following their run to the World Cup final last year, Jones has confirmed that the team remain focused on one task and that is their opening game against France in a couple of weeks. 

“The Guinness Six Nations for us is all about raising the standards in terms of the way we prepare, tactically and physically how we play the game, and the way we come together off the field. But our first task is beating France in France and that is the only game we need to worry about. We will begin our preparations in Portugal, get a bit of sun, some warm conditions and get ourselves physically and mentally right for the game. The first three days will be about getting organised. We have got players from 11 clubs so we need to get everyone on the same page quickly, spend a lot of time working on our togetherness and then by Tuesday next week we are in Test preparation for France,” he added. 

England will be hoping to continue their fine form that saw them pick up silver medals at the tournament in Japan and with some exciting young players having an opportunity things are looking good for Jones and his men. 

Check Out the Full 34-Man Squad Below.

Forwards:

Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 21 caps)

Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 19 caps)

Tom Dunn (Exeter Chiefs, uncapped)

Ben Earl (Saracens, uncapped)

Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 12 caps)

Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 14 caps)

Jamie George (Saracens, 45 caps)

Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors, 1 cap)

Maro Itoje (Saracens, 34 caps)

George Kruis (Saracens, 41 caps)

Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 62 caps)

Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 81 caps)

Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 6 caps)

Joe Marler (Harlequins, 68 caps)

Alex Moon (Northampton Saints, uncapped)

Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 31 caps)

Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, uncapped)

Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 15 caps)

Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 58 caps)

Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs, 18 caps)

Backs:

Elliot Daly (Saracens, 39 caps)

Ollie Devoto (Exeter Chiefs, 1 cap)

Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints, uncapped)

Owen Farrell (Saracens, 79 caps)

George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 65 caps)

George Furbank (Northampton Saints, uncapped)

Willi Heinz (Gloucester Rugby, 9 caps)

Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby, 47 caps)

Jonny May (Leicester Tigers, 52 caps)

Ollie Thorley (Gloucester Rugby, uncapped)

Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers, 40 caps)

Jacob Umaga (Wasps, uncapped)

Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 42 caps)

Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 95 caps)

Apprentice players:

Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints, uncapped)

Josh Hodge (Newcastle Falcons, uncapped)

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6 Nations

Farrell Names Ireland’s Six Nations Squad

New Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has confirmed a 35-man strong squad ahead of the upcoming Six Nations campaign

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(Photo by Ashley Western/MB Media/Getty Images)

New Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has named his first Six Nations squad ahead of the upcoming campaign with some uncapped players set to be involved.

There is a total of five uncapped players within the squad, while Farrell and his coaching staff have included a further four development players that will train with the senior squad. 

Of the uncapped players three come from Leinster in the form of Max Deegan, Caelan Doris and Ronan Kelleher, while the other two are Billy Burns and Tom O’Toole from Ulster

All of the five have been in blistering form so far this season, helping Leinster and Ulster to first and second in Conference A of the PRO14 respectively. 

Meanwhile, Leinster’s Will Connors, Harry Byrne and Ryan Baird are joined by Ulster’s Robert Baloucoune in the development programme which will see the quartet train with the squad in Portugal in the lead up to the opening round of the tournament. 

Speaking on the selections Farrell admitted that he has been impressed by the players that attended a “stock take” last month, but has told players that their places are not guaranteed throughout the entire tournament.

“As we progress through the Championship we will look to select sides that we believe are best suited to the task at the weekend. We will keep a close eye on the provincial performances in the PRO14 not just for the players in the squad that will transition back for game minutes but also for those players that were part of the wider selection discussions over the past few weeks,” he said. 

Elsewhere, Johnny Sexton has been named as captain following the retirement of Rory Best following the Rugby World Cup in Japan and Farrell believes that he is the perfect man for the job. 

“We have appointed Johnny as captain for the Six Nations Championship, you can see what it means to him and the enthusiasm he will bring to the role. He has been developing as a leader for a number of years with Ireland, Leinster and the Lions and he will be a positive voice for the group,” he added. 

There is a return to test rugby for Devin Toner, who was left out of that squad that travelled to Japan, with his replacement Jean Kleyn not being selected. Ultan Dillane is also back as a second-row option alongside stars Iain Henderson and James Ryan. 

However, despite his excellent form for Leinster Jamison Gibson-Park is not selected, with John Cooney, Luke McGrath and Conor Murray being preferred in the scrum-half department. 

Along with Gibson-Park Ulster fans will be unhappy to see centre Stuart McCloskey miss out after his fine form this season to date, with Chris Farrell, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose getting the nod ahead of him. 

The rest of the squad is as you would expect with regular players involved. 

Ireland will be hoping to get off to the perfect start in the championship when they host Scotland at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday February 1st and fans will be excited to see how many youngsters get a chance in what is the start of a new era for Irish Rugby. 

Check Out the Full 35-Man Squad Below. 

Forwards (19):

Max Deegan (Lansdowne/Leinster) 0 caps

Caelan Doris (UCD/Leinster) 0 caps

Ultan Dillane (Corinthians/Connacht) 14 caps

Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster) 41 caps

Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 95 caps

Dave Heffernan (Buccaneers/Connacht) 1 cap

Iain Henderson (Academy/Ulster) 53 caps

Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 8 caps

Ronan Kelleher (Lansdowne/Leinster) 0 caps

Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster) 36 caps

Jack McGrath (St Mary’s College/Ulster) 56 caps

Jack O’Donoghue (UL Bohemians/Munster) 2 caps

Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) 64 caps

Tom O’Toole (Banbridge/Ulster) 0 caps

Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster) 23 caps

James Ryan (UCD/Leinster) 23 caps

CJ Stander (Shannon/Munster) 38 caps

Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster) 67 caps

Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster) 23 caps

Backs (16):

Will Addison (Enniskillen/Ulster) 4 caps

Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht) 23 caps

Billy Burns (Ulster) 0 caps

Ross Byrne (UCD/Leinster) 3 caps

Andrew Conway (Garryowen/Munster) 18 caps

John Cooney (Terenure College/Ulster) 8 caps

Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster) 82 caps

Chris Farrell (Young Munster/Munster) 9 caps

Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster) 40 caps

Dave Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster) 19 caps

Jordan Larmour (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 21 caps

Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster) 19 caps

Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 78 caps

Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster) 28 caps

Jonathan Sexton (St Marys College/Leinster) 88 caps CAPTAIN

Jacob Stockdale (Lurgan/Ulster) 25 caps

Development Players:

Ryan Baird (Dublin University/Leinster)

Robert Baloucoune (Enniskillen/Ulster)

Harry Byrne (Lansdowne/Leinster)

Will Connors (UCD/Leinster).

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6 Nations

Scotland Confirm Six Nations Squad

Scotland have confirmed their 38-man squad for this year’s Six Nations championship

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(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has announced his 38-man squad for this year’s Six Nations with six uncapped players among the players involved.

There are four forwards included in the uncapped bracket with Edinburgh back-rowers Luke Crosbie and Nick Haining being joined by lock Alex Craig and back-row Tom Gordon. 

Gordon is one of three uncapped players to come from Glasgow Warriors with Kyle Steyn and Ratu Tagive the two backs selected. 

However, despite the youngsters being selected, there is a long-serving player leading the squad as Stuart Hogg has been named as captain of the team. 

With 72 caps to his name, he is the most experienced player within the squad and has been named player of the tournament twice before in 2016 and 2017. Townsend thinks that Hogg is he perfect man for the job. 

“Stuart is very passionate about playing for Scotland and he’s determined to do all he can to improve Scotland. He really cares about playing for his country, what the jersey represents and also getting the best out of his teammates. He’s a really intelligent rugby player who’s is learning and improving with every season. He’s very good at bringing others into the game and building relationships with those around him. He’s very well respected by our coaching and playing group but that isn’t based on the accolades he’s earned. It’s more about what he does every day at training. He brings energy, is very accurate, he stays out longer to work on his game and more often than not he’s the loudest player on the field, guiding or congratulating his teammates,” he said. 

Elsewhere in the squad Townsend has selected the likes of Finn Russell, Sean Maitland, Jonny Gray and Fraser Brown to help guide a relatively inexperienced side. 

Scotland take on Ireland in the first round of this year’s tournament and will hope to hit the ground running following a poor Rugby World Cup campaign in which they failed to progress from their pool. 

Check Out the Full 38-Man Squad Below. 

Forwards (21):

Simon Berghan (Edinburgh) – 24 caps

Jamie Bhatti (Edinburgh) – 15 caps

Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh) – 11 caps

Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors) – 46 caps

Alex Craig (Gloucester) – uncapped

Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh) – uncapped

Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors) – 8 caps

Allan Dell (London Irish) – 28 caps

Cornell du Preez (Worcester Warriors) – 6 caps

Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) – 25 caps

Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh) – 40 caps

Tom Gordon (Glasgow Warriors) – uncapped

Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors) – 55 caps

Nick Haining (Edinburgh) – uncapped

Stuart McInally (Edinburgh) – 33 caps

Willem Nel (Edinburgh) – 35 caps

Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh) – 14 caps

Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh) – 3 caps

Ben Toolis (Edinburgh) – 22 caps

George Turner (Glasgow Warriors) – 9 caps

Hamish Watson (Edinburgh) – 28 caps

Backs (17):

Darcy Graham (Edinburgh) – 11 caps

Chris Harris (Gloucester) – 14 caps

Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors) – 16 caps

Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs) CAPTAIN – 72 caps

George Horne (Glasgow Warriors) – 10 caps

Rory Hutchinson (Northampton Saints) – 3 caps

Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors) – 9 caps

Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) – 23 caps

Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh) – 17 caps

Sean Maitland (Saracens) – 44 caps

Byron McGuigan (Sale Sharks) – 9 caps

Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) – 28 caps

Henry Pyrgos (Edinburgh) – 28 caps

Finn Russell (Racing 92) – 49 caps

Matt Scott (Edinburgh) – 39 caps

Kyle Steyn (Glasgow Warriors) – uncapped

Ratu Tagive (Glasgow Warriors) – uncapped

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