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6 Nations

Scotland v Wales Preview

Can Scotland derail Welsh Grand Slam hopes?

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photo by Paul Jenkins/Action Plus via Getty Images

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

England team to face Scotland in Six Nations opener

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Ollie Hassell-Collins will make his England debut at left wing, Max Malins returns to the side at right wing and Freddie Steward is named at full back.

Owen Farrell captains the side from inside centre and is joined in the midfield by Joe Marchant. Marcus Smith is at fly-half with Jack van Poortvliet at scrum half.

The front row is made up of vice-captain Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler with Jamie George at hooker. Maro Itoje and Ollie Chessum start at lock, while Ben Curry makes his second appearance for England at open-side flanker. Lewis Ludlam and Alex Dombrandt complete the back row.

Jack Walker is in line to make his England debut after being named as a substitute, Anthony Watson could make a first England appearance since March 2021, and if Dan Cole comes off the bench he will earn a 96th Test cap.

Mako Vunipola, Nick Isiekwe, Ben Earl, Ben Youngs and Ollie Lawrence make up the remaining replacements.

“There are few fixtures in the rugby calendar that excite both players and supporters alike more than the annual Six Nations meeting of the Auld enemy as they battle for the honour of lifting the Calcutta Cup,” said Borthwick.

“Another packed Twickenham will witness the start of the next chapter of English rugby in one of the most keenly contested tournaments in the world. There is no doubt this England team shares the supporters’ sense of eager anticipation.

“To a man, the players are determined to play with the commitment, fight and desire that is at the very heart of representing England, the sort of passion that our tremendous supporters rightly expect.”

England Match Day Squad

Starting

15. Freddie Steward

14. Max Malins

13. Joe Marchant

12. Owen Farrell (C)

11. Ollie Hassell-Collins

10. Marcus Smith

9. Jack van Poortvliet

1. Ellis Genge (VC)

2. Jamie George

3. Kyle Sinckler

4. Maro Itoje

5. Ollie Chessum

6. Lewis Ludlam

7. Ben Curry

8. Alex Dombrandt

Replacements

16. Jack Walker

17. Mako Vunipola

18. Dan Cole

19. Nick Isiekwe

20. Ben Earl

21. Ben Youngs

22. Ollie Lawrence

23. Anthony Watson


Images & Content from England Rugby
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6 Nations

Scotland name team to face England in 2023 Guinness Six Nations Opener

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Head coach Gregor Townsend has named his squad to face England in the opening fixture of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations this Saturday as Scotland bid to retain the Calcutta Cup.

Leading his side in the championship for the first time, blindside flanker Jamie Ritchie is joined at openside by Luke Crosbie, whose excellent recent form is rewarded with a second start for Scotland, with Matt Fagerson completing the back row.

In the second row, the experienced Richie Gray and Grant Gilchrist, who is named as Vice Captain, resume a partnership that impressed during last year’s Autumn Nations Series.

Pierre Schoeman starts at loosehead prop in what is a 17th consecutive international since his 2021 debut, with the evergreen WP Nel – who reached 50 caps in November – selected at tighthead and George Turner named at hooker.

In the back division, scrum-half Ben White will link up with stand-off Finn Russell, a year on from his try-scoring debut in the Calcutta Cup at BT Murrayfield.

Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones are named as a centre pairing, the former having scored his first tries for Scotland in November’s win over Argentina, with the latter having notched no fewer than four tries against England in as many games against them.

In the back three, Scotland’s record try-scorer Stuart Hogg continues at full-back, with Duhan van der Merwe and Kyle Steyn lining up on the wings.

Townsend has selected a bench with a 5-3 split between forwards and backs, with Glasgow Warriors clubmates Fraser Brown, Jamie Bhatti, Simon Berghan and Jack Dempsey, alongside Jonny Gray, listed as pack replacements. George Horne, Blair Kinghorn and Chris Harris complete the matchday squad as substitute options.

Scotland team to face England in the Guinness Six Nations opener on Saturday, 4 February at Twickenham, kick-off 4.45pm, live on STV and ITV

15. Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs) 96 caps

14. Kyle Steyn (Glasgow Warriors) 5 caps
13. Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) 31 caps
12. Sione Tuipulotu (Glasgow Warriors) 11 caps
11. Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby) 23 caps

10. Finn Russell (Racing 92) 65 caps
9. Ben White (London Irish) 9 caps

1. Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh Rugby) 16 caps
2. George Turner (Glasgow Warriors) 30 caps
3. WP Nel (Edinburgh Rugby) 50 caps
4. Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors) 69 caps
5. Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby) – Vice Captain – 59 caps
6. Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh Rugby) – Captain – 36 caps
7. Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh Rugby) 2 caps
8. Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) 28 caps

Replacements

16. Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors) 57 caps
17. Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors) 25 caps
18. Simon Berghan (Glasgow Warriors) 31 caps
19. Jonny Gray (Exeter Chiefs) 72 caps
20. Jack Dempsey (Glasgow Warriors) 4 caps
21. George Horne (Glasgow Warriors) 18 caps
22. Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby) 38 caps
23. Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby) 39 caps

Tickets for Scotland’s match against Italy at BT Murrayfield in the Guinness Six Nations on Saturday 18 March are still available HERE

Images & Content – Scotland Rugby


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6 Nations

Wales team to face Ireland

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Wales senior men’s head coach Warren Gatland has named his team to face Ireland at a sold out Principality Stadium in the opening round of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations on Saturday 4 February (KO 2.15pm live on BBC and S4C).

Joe Hawkins, who won his first senior cap against Australia in the autumn, makes his Six Nations debut at inside centre. He partners Wales’ most-capped men’s international back George North in the midfield.

Props Gareth Thomas and Tomas Francis join captain Ken Owens in the Wales front row. Alun Wyn Jones and Adam Beard complete the tight five.

Joe Hawkins

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The back row comprises Jac Morgan at blind-side flanker, Justin Tipuric at open-side flanker and Taulupe Faletau at No. 8.

Dan Biggar, who missed the Autumn Nations Series through injury, returns to the Wales XV at fly half. Tomos Williams is at scrum half.

Full back Leigh Halfpenny is in line to make his first start for Wales since the summer of 2021 having featured as a replacement against Georgia in November. Rio Dyer and Josh Adams are selected on the wings.

Owen Williams (fly half) and Scott Baldwin (hooker) whose last appearances in a Wales jersey came in 2017 are named in the match day 23. Williams, along with fellow replacements Dafydd Jenkins and Tommy Reffell, would join Hawkins in making their Six Nations debut if appearing from the bench.

Jac Morgan, Leigh Halfpenny and Josh Adams

Rhys Carre and Dillon Lewis provide the remaining forward cover. Alex Cuthbert and Rhys Webb, who last featured for Wales in the autumn of 2020, are the other replacement backs.

Gatland said: “We’ve picked Joe at 12. He’s a lovely footballer with some great skills. I thought for his first cap he was outstanding so we’ve given him another opportunity. There’s some real competition in the midfield at the moment, so I’m really excited about that.

“There’s a mixture in the team of some experience, some younger players. We were conscious as well picking the bench. We think we’ve got a bench that can come on and have an impact.

“Ireland are the number one team in the world, so they’re going to be coming here with a lot of confidence. You don’t become the number one team in the world without having some pretty consistent performances. We know how good they are and we’re expecting a really tough contest. It’s important for us that we start well, but we need to be in the game at the last 20mins.

“We’ve only had a couple of weeks together but I’m confident that the guys will go out and give a good account of themselves. They’re pretty excited about playing this first game at home.”

Wales senior men’s team to play Ireland in the Guinness Six Nations, Saturday 4 February KO 2.15pm GMT. Live on BBC and S4C:

15. Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets – 97 caps)

14. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby – 43 caps)

13. George North (Ospreys – 109 caps)

12. Joe Hawkins (Ospreys – 1 cap)

11. Rio Dyer (Dragons – 3 caps)

10. Dan Biggar (Toulon – 103 caps)

9. Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 40 caps)

1. Gareth Thomas (Ospreys – 17 caps)

2. Ken Owens (Scarlets – 86 caps) captain

3. Tomas Francis (Ospreys – 67 caps)

4. Adam Beard (Ospreys – 41 caps)

5. Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys – 155 caps)

6. Jac Morgan (Ospreys – 6 caps)

7. Justin Tipuric (Ospreys – 89 caps)

8. Taulupe Faletau (Cardiff Rugby – 95 caps)

Replacements

16. Scott Baldwin (Ospreys – 34 caps)

17. Rhys Carre (Cardiff Rugby – 17 caps)

18. Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Rugby – 45 caps)

19. Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs – 1 cap)

20. Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers – 4 caps)

21. Rhys Webb (Ospreys – 36 caps)

22. Owen Williams (Ospreys – 3 caps)

23. Alex Cuthbert (Ospreys – 55 caps)

Images & Content – Wales Rugby


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