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6Ns The Daily Blog


Saturday 21st March 2015

EnglandENGLAND v FRANCEfrance: THE PREVIEW

IT was 2007 when France last spoiled England’s party on home turf, in a Rugby World Cup warm up match. And today, the home side and World Cup hosts have everything going for them. Home advantage, already sitting pretty at the top of the Six Nations table, last on the roster for kick off so the advantage of knowing exactly how many points they need to claim a Championship victory, a feat not achieved since 2011 - a lacklustre affair in Dublin having just lost to Ireland.

England v France head to head RBS 6 Nations 2015

France, are not without hope. They may have lost two of the four matches, and sit fourth in the table, but if Italy beat Wales, and Scotland beat Ireland, France would need to beat England by 8 points to claim the title they last took in 2010 with the Grand Slam. However, under Philippe Saint André, Les Bleus have only managed 15 wins from 36.

Some stats: England have lost just one of their last eight RBS 6 Nations matches away to Ireland in round 3;  the Englishmen have won the last eight matches at Twickenham in the Championship since Wales beat them in 2012. France beat Italy 29-0 in Rome last Sunday but have not won successive away games in the Six Nations in the same season since 2010. England have won just two of their last five round 5 encounters, but France have lost in round 5 in two of the past three seasons. France’s only win at Twickenham in the Six Nations Championship since 1997 was 18-17 in round 2 of 2005.

Head to head, the passionate nations have come face to face on 99 occasions, where England have won 53 times, France 39 and they have drawn 7 matches. Since the start of the Six Nations, England have the slight edge at nine wins to seven; the win rate for England home matches since 2000 is seven matches; France winning just twice at Twickenham.

England edge France on caps, 624 to 514, and in the starting XV, the average age is slightly younger at 26 to the French’s 28. England have scored the most tries in this tournament at 11 - more than Ireland and Wales put together, but France have conceded the least with only two. England can boast the top tackler of the Six Nations in captain, Chris Robshaw with 68, and barely 22 year old George Ford is the top offloader with 8. France have made only 390 tackles in the first four rounds almost 100 behind the next lowest country - Ireland. However their tackle efficiency is the best at 90%. France are also the top offloaders with 56 so far, seven clear of second placed England.

The prediction? England will likely need to rack up a significant points haul to claim the Six Nations title, not the easiest task since neither team has won by a margin greater than 10 points in the last five years. But the homeside has every possible element in her favour, and at 17:00 GMT, there is no reason that Twickenham cannot continue to reclaim its former title of a fortress, take France to task and win the match well.

For the matchday teams, click here...

6Ns England vs France

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Saturday 21st March 2015

THE NATIONS...THE FINAL ROUND

 

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Friday 20th March 2015

Scottish RugbySCOTLAND v IRELANDIreland: THE PREVIEW

THE only thing Scotland can hope to gain in this year’s Championship is to avoid winning the Wooden Spoon by beating an Ireland side who are on form, and wounded from the loss to Wales last weekend.

Scotland v Ireland head to head RBS 6 Nations 2015

Scotland have avoided the least triumphant title in the Six Nations for the last two years, but are on track to reclaim it after losing all four matches so far, though arguably should have beaten both Wales and Italy, both of whom they lost to with tiny margins of 2 and 3 points respectively.

Ireland are on the cusp of winning a second successive Six Nations title, second in the table but only four points short of England on 33, but there is the small matter of second billing on Super Saturday (kick off 14:30 GMT/15:30 CET), so whatever the result, England will know exactly what they need to do to prevent Ireland from winning the 2015 RBS 6 Nations.

Head to head, Scotland may have the upper hand in world rugby, beating Ireland 66 times to Ireland’s 58, with the games drawn five times, but the story is wholly different in the Six Nations. Ireland has Scotland over a barrel with 12 wins to 3. The Scots have beaten the Irish as recently as 2013, at Murrayfield, and in recent years the margins have been less than a converted try, with the exception of last year, where Scotland were trounced 28 points to 6.

Scotland have lost their last five RBS 6 Nations matches at Murrayfield, their worst run at the venue in the Championship since 1970. But Ireland’s ten match winning run in tests ended in Cardiff on Saturday against the Welsh. However, the Irishmen have not lost successive away games in the Six Nations in the same season since 2008. The last four encounters between the two nations have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst Ireland have not won at BT Murrayfield since 2011.

Scotland have scored more tries than Ireland in the tournament so far, 5 to 4, but have not scored a try against Ireland since Richie Gray did so 203 minutes ago in Dublin in 2012. And Ireland have all the experience on their side boasting 861 caps with an average age of 29 in the starting XV, whilst Scotland remain at 546 and 26.

Who will win? If recent history is anything to go by, then Scotland should have it in the bag, but on form, Ireland will walk away with the victory and Scotland with another spoon.

For the matchday teams, click here...

6Ns Scotland vs Ireland

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Friday 20th March 2015

italyITALY v WALESWales: THE PREVIEW

ITALY have encountered Wales on 22 occasions to date, 16 times in the Six Nations Championship, but have only beaten the Welsh Dragons twice, both times in Rome in 2003 and 2007. And without the captain, Sergio Parisse, who is the man mountain that holds the Azzurri together, they will have a mountain to climb at the Stadio Olimpico in the first match on Super Saturday, kicking off the day at 12:30 GMT/13:30 CET.

Italy v Wales head to head RBS 6 Nations 2015

The Azzurri still have no chance at the title, whereas Wales, +12 clear on points difference, have an outside opportunity if they trounce Italy tomorrow by far more than 25 points, which is the current deficit between third place Wales and top of the table England. Wales may have improved from their loss against England match on match this championship, but have not managed to secure a margin greater than 7 as yet. And with the improvement in the home side’s rugby acumen in the last three years, Wales’ winning margin against Italy has been progressively reduced each year, from 21 in 2012 to just 8 in 2014.

Italy may have conceded the highest number of points in the Championship so far at 121, but Wales have managed 73 themselves, and Italy have trumped the visiting side on tries, 6 to the Welsh 5.

The legendary Italian No8 may be missing, but back rower Fijian-born Samuela Vunisa is not to be taken lightly, at 19 stone, the man from Zebre -who has been signed by Premiership club Saracens next season- has speed, ball-carrying ability, physical strength and breakdown prowess.

Despite Parisse absent, Wales will have a long way to go to win the title, having no knowledge of the margin required to secure it being the first match of the day. And Italy are not the only side with players lost to injury; the Welsh front row is the most inexperienced in 22 years, where Italy boast 198 between Martin Castrogiovanni, captain Leonardo Ghiraldini and Michele Rizzo. Wales could easily have remedied this by recalling newly internationally-retired British Lion prop Adam Jones, but Head Coach Warren Gatland is a stubborn mule who is not willing to offer an olive branch, despite unceremoniously dropping him from the Wales squad just 5 caps short of his century.

Wales should win comfortably in Rome, but unless Ireland and England slip up quite monumentally, the reality of another title will elude them this year.

For the matchday teams, click here...

6Ns Italy vs Wales

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Friday 20th March 2015

O2 INSIDE LINE: ENGLAND v FRANCE PREVIEW England

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Thursday 19th March 2015

AZZURRI LOSE TALISMAN CAPTAIN FOR WALES ENCOUNTER IN ROME

ItalyJACQUES BRUNEL has announced his team to face Wales at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Saturday, March 21 at 13:30 CET in the fifth and final day of the RBS 6 Nations 2015.

The most significant loss is captain Sergio Parisse who has not recovered from his toe injury, so Samuela Vunisa moves to No.8; hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini takes the reins for the team. Mauro Bergamasco comes in on the flank.

Italy Team for Wales

On the positive, Martin Castrogiovanni steps back into his starting position in the front row, whilst Michele Rizzo joins him following the injury to Matías Aguero. Kelly Haimona is also recovered and returns to his fly half position, having proved himself in earlier matches.

"We are disappointed with our performance against France,” said Brunel. “We wanted to build on the victory in Edinburgh, but did not succeed.

“Saturday I expect a tough race, but we should present a different side of national team at the Olimpico Stadium on Sunday.”

This is the twenty-second match between Italian and Wlsh, with a win rate of 18-2 in favour of the Dragons. Italy have beaten Wales twice in Rome, and held the opposition to a draw in Cardiff in 2006.

For the full Italy matchday team, click here...

6Ns Italy vs Wales

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Thursday 19th March 2015

TWO CHANGES FOR IRELAND FOR MURRAYFIELD CLASH

IrelandTHE Ireland coaching staff has made two changes to the starting line-up for their final game of the RBS 6 Nations Championship against Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday 21st March, KO 14:30 GMT.

Luke Fitzgerald replaces Simon Zebo on the left wing and Cian Healy comes in for Jack McGrath at loose-head prop.

Captain Paul O'Connell continues his second-row partnership with Devin Toner with Healy's inclusion the only change to the front-five as both Mike Ross and Rory Best are retained.  The back-row is unchanged with No.8 Jamie Heaslip flanked by Peter O'Mahony and Sean O'Brien.

Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton are paired at half-back and the combination of Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne link up for the sixth time in midfield.   Fitzgerald joins Rob Kearney and Tommy Bowe in the back three.

McGrath takes a spot among the replacements which include: Sean Cronin, Martin Moore, Jack McGrath, Iain Henderson, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan and Felix Jones.  

Ireland currently sit second on the RBS Six Nations Table and have a points credit of +33, just four below England.

For the full Ireland matchday team, click here...

6Ns Scotland vs Ireland

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Thursday 19th March 2015

TWO CHANGES FOR VERN COTTER’S SIDE FOR IRELAND

Scottish RugbyHEAD COACH Vern Cotter has made two changes to the starting Scotland team for this Saturday's fifth and final RBS 6 Nations Test match, against Ireland, at BT Murrayfield Stadium, kick off 14:30 GMT.

Both players are promoted from the bench, with back-row Adam Ashe starting on the blind-side flank in place of Robert Harley, and Ryan Grant switching roles with Alasdair Dickinson - who starts on the bench - for his first start of the championship.

The settled selection sees the national team's backline return to start another match, with captain Greig Laidlaw partnering stand-off Finn Russell in front of Glasgow Warriors trio Mark Bennett, Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour, and Edinburgh Rugby duo Matt Scott and Dougie Fife, the latter making his home debut.

In the pack, tight-head Euan Murray makes history, alongside Ross Ford and Grant, overtaking Allan Jacobsen's record as the most capped Scotland prop with a 66th appearance.

Jonny Gray and Jim Hamilton will again start in the boiler house, with David Denton and Blair Cowan returning to the back-row, the latter one of six Scotland players to hold a starting spot in every match of the Championship, as well as Bennett, Ford, Gray, Hogg and Laidlaw.

The only other change is among the match-day substitutes; Tim Visser replaces Johnnie Beattie, reverting the selection to a five-three split among the forward and back replacements.

Scotland head coach, Vern Cotter, said: "There is a strong culture in this group. Players want to do well and set the standards high.

"We've played with a huge amount of spirit and courage, are putting teams under pressure and are scoring tries, which is encouraging, but we want to go one better this Saturday against Ireland, last year's champions.”

He continued: "Both ourselves and Ireland are hugely motivated for this game.

"Make no mistake, they are coming to Edinburgh believing they can win the title, while we will be going out there desperate to throw everything at our last Championship match to win the game and repay the support of our fans."

The only chance Scotland has of not claiming the Wooden Spoon is if they can beat Ireland.

Scotland fans won't miss a minute of Super Saturday this weekend with three big screens (as well as those in bars) around stadium grounds showing Italy v Wales (kick-off 12:30 GMT) and England v France (kick-off 17:00 GMT), either side of Scotland's game against Ireland.

The big screens will be located in the Party Zone (behind the North Stand), next to the Family Zone (behind the South Stand) and next to the new Caledonia Best Bar (behind the West Stand).

For the full Ireland matchday team, click here...

6Ns Scotland vs Ireland

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Thursday 19th March 2015

COLE REACHES 50 IN LE CRUNCH

EnglandLEICESTER TIGERS lock Geoff Parling replaces Dave Attwood in the only change to England's starting line-up for their final RBS 6 Nations encounter against France on Saturday (kick-off 5pm).

Meanwhile, Parling's Welford Road colleague Dan Cole will win his 50th England cap in the competition climax at Twickenham as the hosts look to secure their first Championship title since 2011.

Tighthead prop Cole made his international debut in a 30-17 victory over Wales in 2010 and reaches this milestone at the age of 27.

Elsewhere, Harlequin Nick Easter – another half-centurion having reached 50 Test appearances in Dublin at the start of this month – comes onto the replacements bench.

England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster said: “It’s a great achievement for Dan to win his 50th cap, especially coming back from his injury last year. He is one of the cornerstones of our squad and we all wish him all the best.

“Geoff did well off the bench against Scotland and now that he has got some games under his belt we feel it is the right time to start him and use his experience and quality in the starting line-up.

“The same goes for Nick Easter, who has really impressed in camp and with his appearances off the bench in the second row. He is a quality ball carrier and great defender – something we feel we will need in the latter stages of the game.”

Given four teams are in the hunt for silverware, those latter stages may prove crucial.

Currently, England are on top of the table by virtue of a superior points difference (+37) to Ireland (+33) and Wales (+12). However, that could easily change before kick-off at Twickenham.

In the first fixture of the day, Wales travel to Italy (kick-off 12.30pm GMT), while Ireland aim to overturn Scotland in Edinburgh at 2.30pm.

Should both lose, France will have a chance to take the tournament by beating England.

Following a 25-13 triumph in a fast-paced Calcutta Cup clash last weekend though, Lancaster's charges can feel confident.

“Finishing off the tournament at home is going to be a great occasion,” the England Head Coach continued.

“The support against Scotland last week was fantastic and this week we really need the crowd to get behind the team and drive them forward this weekend in what will be an exciting finale to this year's Championship.”

For the full England matchday team, click here...

6Ns England vs France

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Thursday 19th March 2015

LES BLEUS FORCED INTO MINOR CHANGES FOR ENGLAND CLASH

FrancePHILIPPE SAINT ANDRÉ has made four changes to his matchday 23 to face England Ruby in Le Crunch, the final match of the RBS Six Nations which will be the Championship decider at Twickenham.

Last evening fly half Camille Lopez was ruled out of contention with a knee injury, and will be out of action for six weeks. Maxime Machenaud was brought into the squad, but does not feature in the matchday team, Jules Plisson promoted from the bench, and Remi Tales returns to the squad.

"We know Jules' qualities, this year he has grown in confidence and maturity," Saint-Andre said. "He was worked a lot on his physique and the particular instructions we gave him. On Sunday everything he did, he did well.

"He's got a broken nose but he is determined to play. He's OK for Saturday."

Elsewhere, injured Ben Arous is replaced with Vincent Debaty, and Uini Atonio is back on the bench.

France are still in with a shout of the title; if Scotland beats Ireland and Italy beats Wales, France would need to put England away to claim championship victory.

For the full France matchday team, click here...

6Ns England vs France

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Tuesday 17th March 2015

WALES MAKE TWO FRONT ROW CHANGES FOR ITALY

WalesWALES have made two changes in their front-row to face Italy on Saturday with Rob Evans and Aaron Jarvis coming into the starting XV.

The duo replace the injured Gethin Jenkins (hamstring) and Samson Lee (Achilles) respectively in an otherwise unchanged team which will take to the field at the Stadio Olimpico.

Evans will make his first start as he wins his second cap in Rome and will line-up alongside Ospreys duo Scott Baldwin and Jarvis.

Luke Charteris and Alun Wyn Jones continue in the second row with Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau lining up alongside captain Sam Warburton in the back-row.

The backline remains unchanged with Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar at half-back, Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies in the centre and a back-three of George North, Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny.

"It was great to get the result we wanted in front of our home supporters last weekend and to give us a chance going into the last round of action,” said Wales Head Coach Warren Gatland.

"Obviously it's disappointing for Gethin and Samson, but Rob and Aaron stepped up well last weekend and we expect the same on Saturday.

"The challenge to us is to go to Italy and win, and try and win by a significant margin, but we know that's an extremely tough ask and the first job will be to simply get the result.

"Italy build their confidence around the scrum and line-out drive and that's an area we are going to have to compete strongly in at the start of the match.”

On the bench, Ken Owens returns to the matchday squad for the first time since South Africa last summer after recovering from injury. Saracens prop Rhys Gill, who was called up to train with the squad yesterday, is named on the bench alongside Scott Andrews as the front-row cover.  Jake Ball and Justin Tipuric complete the forward replacements.  Scarlets trio Gareth Davies, Rhys Priestland and Scott Williams provide the backline cover.

For the full Wales matchday team, click here...

6Ns Italy vs Wales

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Tuesday 17th March 2015

LES ROSBIFS vs LES BLEUS…LE CRUNCH

EnglandSTUART LANCASTER is fed up of his team being the bridesmaid year on year, but never quite the bride. In this Rugby World Cup year, if England is to start off the tournament at home with credit in the bank, then losing at home now is not an option.

So far in the Six Nations, England have been almost excellent, nearly there, just short of the mark, and a host of other clichés, despite three wins from four, and for the last three years have come second. Losing the title for a fourth year is also, not an option.

Chris Robshaw Thierry Dusautoir

He says he will not be tinkering with the team much, but Lancaster name-checked both Geoff Parling and Tom Youngs as high impact players off the bench. Tightening up the lineout with two tried and tested Tigers would not be folly, and bringing Tom Wood back into the pack could only be an improvement, with Haskell seemingly haemorrhaging penalties and points since the Wales game.

With the size of the French forwards, it is fortuitous that Alex Corbisiero is back playing club rugby, and has returned to the squad fit and ready to possibly join the bench. And Mako Vunipola arrived like a bulldozer on Saturday, giving Lancaster some serious options to bulk up the front row.

England France Twickenham Six Nations

Brawn is not what England is short of. But what is lacking in the team, as former RWC winner Will Greenwood rightly pointed out last week, is the element of rugby brains. All the brute force is useless if the team do not have the wit to finish what they started. Making line breaks is excellent, but ultimately useless if the opportunity is lost to unforced errors like forward passes. Finally making a quick and positive start to the game is rendered entirely pointless when you have four try scoring opportunities staring you in the face within 15 minutes of kick off, and you come away with 7 points. Rugby nouse is what England Rugby is in short supply of, but it is not lacking in the squad, and should not be left on the bench until the final quarter.

So is there a plan? Composure from the outset, calm throughout the team, with just enough edge to turn them into beasts from kick off and not two days early, an awareness of what needs to be done to walk away with another piece of silverware to go with the Calcutta Cup, ie to score points -as many as is possible- is what it all comes down to in the end. The entire of the 2015 RBS Six Nations rests on points difference for now; presuming Ireland can put away Scotland in Murrayfield, Wales can run rings around the Azzurri in Rome, and England can play to their potential in front of a home crowd to nullify Les Bleus, it’s all about the points.

England France

But France are not without a hope; if Ireland and Wales lost, Le Crunch could be even more important with France right back in the mix. And England’s biggest obstacle is not tripping over their own feet, but a complete uncontrollable. It is France, and which one will make an appearance on the day.

France may not have looked impressive so far in 2015, but in 2014 stopped England at the outset of this championship, almost took Ireland to task losing by only 2 points, and then headed into the Autumn Tests by first trouncing Fiji by 25 points, then beating the Qantas Wallabies.

England may be blessed with no more injuries, a squad with a burning desire and a title in their sights, a plan that in theory should work, a team that if astutely picked based on rugby intelligence, can run out at Twickenham and steal the show. But that elusive element remains that could spoil the whole party, the element that will not be known until 5pm GMT on Saturday afternoon. For England’s sake, fans will hope there will be no change to France’s current form.

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Monday 16th March 2015

LES BLEUS PREPARE FOR LE CRUNCH…

FURTHER to a medical examination after France’s clash with Italy on Saturday, prop Eddy Ben Arous is the only casualty and is now included in the squad to face England for the final RBS Six Nations match. Thomas Domingo has been called in as a replacement from Clermont Auvergne.

franceFRANCE SQUAD

FORWARDS 
Uini Atonio (Stade Rochelais)
Damien Chouly (Clermont Auvergne)
Vincent Debaty (Clermont Auvergne)
Thomas Domingo (Clermont Auvergne)
THIERRY DUSAUTOIR (C, TOULOUSE)
Alexandre Flanquart (Stade Français)
Loann Goujon (Stade Rochelais)
Guilhem Guirado (RC Toulon)
Benjamin Kayser (Clermont Auvergne)
Bernard Le Roux (Racing Métro 92)
Yoann Maestri (Stade Toulousain)
Nicolas Mas (Montpellier Herault Rugby)
Yannick Nyanga (Stade Toulousain)
Louis Picamoles (Stade Toulousain)
Rabah Slimani (Stade Français)
Jocelino Suta (RC Toulon)
Romain Taofifenua (RC Toulon)

BACKS      
Marc Andreu (Racing Métro 92)
Mathieu Bastareaud (RC Toulon)
Brice Dulin (Racing Métro 92)
Gael Fickou (Stade Toulousain)
Yoann Huget (Stade Toulousain)
Rory Kockott (Castres Olympique)
Camille Lopez (Clermont Auvergne)
Maxime Mermoz (RC Toulon)
Noa Nakaitaci (Clermont Auvergne)
Jules Plisson (Stade Français)
Scott Spedding (Aviron Bayonnais)
Remi Tales (Castres Olympique)
Sebastien Tillous-Borde (RC Toulon)

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Monday 16th March 2015

CASTRO RETURNS & PARISSE HOPING TO RECOVER FOR ITALY

ItalyMEDICAL examinations in the aftermath of Italy’s nilling against France on Saturday has resulted in the following availability for the final test against Wales:

Captain Sergio Parisse has an injury to his right toe; subsequent to the MRI scan, he will be monitored in the coming days and has not been ruled out of contention.

Fly half Tommaso Allan has pulled his hamstring and will not be recovered for Saturday. Tommy has returned to his club, Perpignan for recovery and rehab.

Loose head prop Matias Aguero underwent an x-ray on his chest post-match, and rib damage means he is ruled out of the remainder of the tournament.

Legendary prop Martin Castrogiovanni has recovered enough from the dog bite on his nose to be returned to the Azzurri squad, alongside Leicester prop Michele Rizzo and Zebre centre Gonzalo Canale.

Centre Luca Morisi has been cleared of any signs head injury damage, and is back in the fold for Saturday.

italyITALY SQUAD

FORWARDS 
Robert Barbieri (Leicester Tigers)
Marco Barbini (Benetton Treviso)
Mauro Bergamasco (Zebre Rugby)
George Fabio Biagi (Zebre Rugby)
Martin Castrogiovanni (RC Toulon)
Dario Chistolini (Zebre Rugby)
Lorenzo Cittadini (London Wasps)
Alberto De Marchi (Sale Sharks)
Joshua Furno (Newcastle Falcons)
Marco Fuser (Benetton Treviso)
Leonardo Ghiraldini (Leicester Tigers)
Quintin Geldenhuys (Zebre Rugby)
Andrea Manici (Zebre Rugby)
Francesco Minto (Benetton Treviso)
SERGIO PARISSE (C STADE FRANÇAIS)
Michele Rizzo (Leicester Tigers)
Samuela Vunisa (Zebre Rugby)

BACKS      
Enrico Bacchin (Benetton Treviso)
Gonzalo Garcia (Zebre Rugby)
Edoardo Gori (Benetton Treviso)
Kelly Haimona (Zebre Rugby)
Andrea Masi (London Wasps)
Luke Mclean (Sale Sharks)
Luca Morisi (Benetton Treviso)
Luciano Orquera (Zebre Rugby)
Guglielmo Palazzani (Zebre Rugby)
Simone Ragusi* (Benetton Treviso)
Leonardo Sarto (Zebre, Rugby)
Giovambattista Venditti (Zebre Rugby)
Marcello Violi* (Cammi Calvisano)
Michele Visentin (Zebre Rugby)

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Monday 16th March 2015

ENGLAND SQUAD FOR LES BLEUS

The following England players assembled at Pennyhill Park today to prepare for the final RBS 6 Nations match against France at Twickenham on Saturday.

englandENGLAND SQUAD

FORWARDS 
Dave Attwood (Bath Rugby) 
Kieran Brookes (Newcastle Falcons) 
Calum Clark (Northampton Saints) 
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers) 
Alex Corbisiero (Northampton Saints) 
Nick Easter (Harlequins) 
Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints) 
James Haskell (Wasps) 
George Kruis (Saracens) 
Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints) 
Joe Marler (Harlequins) 
Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers) 
CHRIS ROBSHAW (C, HARLEQUINS) 
Mako Vunipola (Saracens) 
Billy Vunipola (Saracens) 
Tom Wood  (Northampton Saints) 
Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers)   

BACKS      
Mike Brown (Harlequins) 
Sam Burgess (Bath Rugby)
Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints)
Danny Care (Harlequins) 
Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks) 
Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby) 
George Ford (Bath Rugby) 
Alex Goode (Saracens) 
Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby) 
Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby) 
Stephen Myler (Northampton Saints)
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs) 
Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs)  
Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby) 
Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby) 
Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens)   
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

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Sunday 15th March 2015

SCOTLAND SQUAD UPDATE

Scottish RugbyTHE Scotland medical team provided a squad update following yesterday's RBS 6 Nations loss to England at Twickenham Stadium.

Centre Matt Scott sustained a bang to his thigh, with the resulting 'dead leg' forcing him to be replaced by Greig Tonks after the interval.

Jim Hamilton suffered a back spasm following a collision in the game and was replaced by Tim Swinson as a result.

Tommy Seymour strained his elbow after competing for the ball in the air and Blair Cowan sustained a calf contusion in a separate incident, though both were able to finish the game.

Finally, Alasdair Dickinson, has a leg injury that will require further attention in the early part of the week.

These named players will work with the medical team to ensure a speedy return to training.

A number of other players required the attention of the medical team for soft tissue complaints, but are not currently considered a cause for concern for the next, and final, RBS 6 Nations Championship match.

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Saturday 14th March 2015

WalesWALES v IRELANDIreland: THE PREVIEW

IT is quite usual for Welsh fans to support anyone but England in world rugby, or likely any other sport for that matter, but the situation this weekend is most bizarre; it is unlikely that the entire England Rugby fan base has ever collectively wanted a win for Wales so badly. Today is that day. A win for Wales will allow England to breathe a huge sigh of relief, and let them back into the Championship race. But if the result goes Ireland’s way, that’s the RBS Six Nations 2015 all wrapped up a week before the end.

So to the match…Wales have played Ireland on 120 occasions, and the homeside have the upper hand with 65 wins to 49 since their first encounter in 1882, with just six matches drawn. However, putting aside long term history, in the last decade, it’s Ireland who have the edge; in 11 encounters since 2005, the men in green have won on six occasions, whilst Wales have secured the match only twice at home at the Millennium Stadium.

Wales have not lost two home games in the same campaign since 2003, and the last time they lost a round 4 game in Cardiff was to Ireland in 2003. Meanwhile, Ireland are on the brink of setting a new Irish record of 11 successive victories, having currently tied the sequence which they set in 2002-2003. A win would see them secure the Championship for a second consecutive year, but they have not won a Grand Slam since 2009. Ireland have won their last two games against Wales, but have not won three in a row versus the Welshmen for a decade.

That’s the stats out of the way, but what about reality. Well, neither team has any injury problems so are at full strength. If Ireland has a Johnny Sexton with world-class aerial skills, Wales has a George North in reply, who boasting 50 caps at the ridiculous age of 22, has three Lions caps under his belt, as well as a Leigh Halfpenny who’s boot is sublime from pretty much anywhere on the park. And as for the centres, Ireland’s Jared Payne and Robbie Henshaw are dangerous, but the Welsh dragons partnership of Jonathan Davies (the younger) and Dr Jamie Roberts is formidable and ever so hard to break. And to top it off, two British Lions captains go head to head.

Sam Warburton Paul OConnell RBS 6 Nations 2015

Who will take the scalp? It’s almost impossible to call. Ireland have the edge in rankings, run of wins, and an aerial game -though tedious to watch- hard to defend. Wales have a preposterous number of Lions, the experience to nullify a kicking game, electric backs, all the England Rugby fans behind them, and the extra man…a home crowd in the loudest stadium in the world. It will be the clash of the titans.

For the matchday teams, click here...

6Ns Wales vs Ireland

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Friday 13th March 2015

BENEATH THE BLUE: SCOTLAND PREP FOR CALCUTTA CUP Scottish Rugby

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Friday 13th March 2015

ROB KEARNEY ON WALES CLASH Ireland

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Friday 13th March 2015

italyITALY v FRANCEfrance: RECENT CLASHES

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Friday 13th March 2015

EnglandENGLAND v SCOTLANDScottish Rugby: RECENT CLASHES

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Thursday 12th March 2015

GATLAND ON THE IRELAND THREAT Wales  

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Thursday 12th March 2015

O2 INSIDE LINE: ENGLAND v SCOTLAND PREVIEW England

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Thursday 12th March 2015

JUST ONE CHANGE FOR IRELAND TO SECURE THE CHAMPIONSHIP

IrelandTHE Ireland coaching staff has made one change to the starting line-up for the Round 4 RBS 6 Nations Championship game against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday 14th March.

Jamie Heaslip returns to the side after missing the England game through injury with Jordi Murphy taking a place among the replacements.

Paul O'Connell, will captain the side and win his 100th Test cap for Ireland and lines out alongside second row partner Devin Toner. The front-row is made up of Jack McGrath, Mike Ross and Rory Best.  Heaslip is joined in the back row by Peter O'Mahony and Sean O'Brien.

The backline is unchanged with Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton, who will win his 50th cap, paired at half-back and the combination of Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne links up again in midfield.   Rob Kearney is joined in the back three by Tommy Bowe and Simon Zebo.

Tommy O'Donnell is replaced on the bench by Jordi Murphy with the remainder of the replacements unchanged: Sean Cronin, Martin Moore, Cian Healy, Iain Henderson, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan and Felix Jones.  Healy will win his 50th cap for Ireland if he comes off the bench at the Millennium Stadium.

For the full Ireland matchday team, click here...

6Ns Wales vs Ireland

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Thursday 12th March 2015

EIGHT CHANGES FOR FRANCE TO TAKE ON ITALY IN ROME

FrancePHILIPPE SAINT-ANDRÉ has a sweeping eight changes to his team which lost to Wales a fortnight ago in Paris.

In the battle to avoid the wooden spoon having lost two of three matches so far, in the forwards experienced prop Nicolas Mas returns in the front row, displacing Rabah Slimani, Alexandre Flanquart returns to the fold for banned Pascal Papé, and Loann Goujon replaces Damien Chouly at No8, whilst the latter is dropped to the bench after unimpressive performances so far.

Scott Spedding is preferred at fullback, while Gaël Fickou and Maxime Mermoz form a new centre partnership in the backs. Noa Nakaitaci makes his France debut on the wing replacing Sofiane Guitoune, and Sebastien Tillous-Borde steps in for the injured Morgan Parra.

For the full France matchday team, click here...

6Ns Italy vs France

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Thursday 12th March 2015

FIVE CHANGES FOR SCOTLAND FOR CALCUTTA CUP

Scottish RugbyHEAD coach Vern Cotter has made five changes to his starting line-up for this Saturday's Calcutta Cup clash with England at Twickenham Stadium.

Inbound Edinburgh Rugby number 8 David Denton is the only player among the quintet not to have featured in the 2015 RBS 6 Nations Championship so far. He replaces Johnnie Beattie, having returned from a calf strain sustained in January.

Denton is joined by club mates Dougie Fife – try-scorer against France in round one – and Matt Scott, who get their first starts of the campaign in place of the injured Sean Lamont and Alex Dunbar (both knee); the latter going down in training this morning.

Dunbar's knee was scanned within an hour of the injury thanks to the excellent working relationship with healthcare partner Spire Murrayfield Hospital. An update on his condition will follow in due course.

Stand-off Finn Russell starts in place of Peter Horne, following the completion of a two-week suspension, while experienced Saracens lock, Jim Hamilton, comes in for Tim Swinson.

Scotland Head Coach Vern Cotter said: "Jim comes in and will bring his physicality and understanding of English rugby to our forward pack.

"It's good to have Dave Denton back as he provides us with strong ball-carrying and strong defence. He's also a very good lineout forward and will give us a bit more physical density against a big forward pack.

"It's been tough on Finn to sit out and it's great to have him back. He's slotted straight back in to the structure we're looking for.

"Finally, Dougie came on and played well against France and has had a couple of games with his club with a few work-ons.

"We're looking for him to bring his enthusiasm, energy and high work-rate, particularly in kick-chase and receipt.”

With the four changes made, the reselection of prop Euan Murray will see the tight-head equal Allan Jacobsen's all-time appearance record for a Scotland prop (65).

He will partner Alasdair Dickinson and fit-again Ross Ford, who has recovered from the back spasm suffered against Italy to start in an experienced front-row.

Jonny Gray remains in the second-row to pack down with Hamilton, while Blair Cowan and Rob Harley start together for the sixth consecutive time in the back-row, alongside Denton.

Captain Greig Laidlaw will again partner the returning Russell from scrum-half, with the back-line completed by Glasgow Warriors trio Mark Bennett, Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg.

There are three further changes to the Scotland replacements, altering the balance in favour of the forward pack, six to two.

Swinson drops to the bench to replace Ben Toolis, however it is the inclusion of both Johnnie Beattie and Adam Ashe that leaves Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Greig Tonks as the only back replacements.

Cotter added: "This is a very important game.

"It will be played away from home at a very intense level and will allow us to assess further our ability to operate away from home in a hostile environment.

"Our focus, however, has been on ourselves and how we can perform better, by identifying the areas that we can control – like improving our skill-sets and reinforcing our cohesion - to withstand the difficult times and also apply some pressure.”

For the full Scotland matchday team, click here...

6Ns England vs Scotland

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Wednesday 11th March 2015

LAWES & BROWN BACK IN ENGLAND STARTING XV

EnglandFULL BACK Mike Brown and lock Courtney Lawes return to England's side for the RBS 6 Nations encounter against Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday.

Brown, now fully recovered from the head knock he suffered early in last month's 47-17 victory over Italy, and Lawes replace Saracens pair Alex Goode and George Kruis in two changes to the 15 that started in a 19-9 defeat to Ireland in Dublin.

Elsewhere, Leicester Tigers second row Geoff Parling and Northampton Saints back row Tom Wood are also back among the replacements for the Calcutta Cup clash.

On the back of some prominent domestic performances in the Aviva Premiership, they take over from Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers) and Nick Easter (Harlequins) respectively.

Finally, fit-again tighthead prop Kieran Brookes has overcome a hip flexor problem to be named on the bench in place of Henry Thomas.

England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster said: “There’s always a lot of competition for places and having experienced players like Courtney, Tom and Geoff available after playing well for their clubs in the last few weeks adds to our options.

“It’s been an intense two weeks of training as everyone wants to be on that field on Saturday to put things right after Dublin and we have had to make some tough selection calls.  

“Coming back to Twickenham will be huge for us and we are determined to put in a performance against a strong and motivated Scotland team.”

For the full England matchday team, click here...

6Ns England vs Scotland

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Tuesday 10th March 2015

WALES NAME UNCHANGED SIDE FOR IRELAND

WalesSAM WARBURTON will lead an unchanged Wales XV against Ireland on Saturday as he enters the record books, captaining his nation for a record 34th time.

The Cardiff Blues flanker will surpass Ryan Jones’ record of 33 as Wales look for their third victory of the RBS 6 Nations championship.

The XV players that took to the field at the Stade de France will start the penultimate fixture against the defending champions.  There are two injury-forced changes on the bench with uncapped Rob Evans and his Scarlets teammate Jake Ball coming in for Paul James and Bradley Davies respectively.

Gethin Jenkins will earn his 114th cap alongside Scott Baldwin and Samson Lee in the front-row.

Luke Charteris and Alun Wyn Jones partner in the second row with Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau lining up alongside captain Warburton.

Ospreys duo Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar continue at half-back with Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies named in the midfield.  The back-three sees Liam Williams and George North line up with Leigh Halfpenny.

“We return to the Millennium Stadium after two tough away trips with two victories and will be looking to build on that,” said Wales Head Coach Warren Gatland.

“We saw an improvement against Scotland and then saw another step up against France and we know we will need to do the same against Ireland on Saturday.

“Ireland are the form team in Europe and we know it is going to be a huge battle.

“The changes on the bench mean Rob Evans gets an opportunity.  We have been impressed with him for his region and at training.  Our strength in depth in the second-row is highlighted again as Jake comes back into the squad.

“Saturday is also a fantastic achievement and honour for Sam.  He has developed into the role fantastically and is a modern day professional.  He is a role model that will continue to get better.”

Richard Hibbard and Aaron Jarvis join Evans as the front-row contingent on the bench.  Ball and Justin Tipuric complete the forward replacements.  Mike Phillips, Rhys Priestland and Scott Williams again provide the backline cover.

For the full Wales matchday team, click here...

6Ns Wales vs Ireland

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Monday 9th March 2015

ENGLAND SQUAD FOR CALCUTTA CUP

EnglandEXETER CHIEFS fly half Henry Slade is included in the England squad preparing to face Scotland in the RBS 6 Nations clash on Saturday after Brad Barritt was ruled out of the reminder of the tournament.

The Devon-born 21 year-old, who has featured impressively at inside and outside centre for his club this term, replaces unlucky Barritt after the Saracens centre who suffered an ankle sprain against Wasps on Sunday.

With Sunday’s Leicester Tigers vs Newcastle Falcons match also affecting the availability of players to train, Bath Rugby hooker Rob Webber comes in for Tom Youngs, who will not train fully tomorrow.

Leicester flanker Tom Croft suffered a dislocated shoulder in the same game which will rule him out of the rest of the Championship. The two-time British and Irish Lion, who has suffered a series of injuries, will remain with the club medical team.

Bath Rugby tight-head prop Henry Thomas also suffered a shoulder strain against Sale Sharks on Friday night and will miss the final two matches against Scotland on March 14 and France on March 21.

Locks Geoff Parling and Courtney Lawes both completed their second 80-minute performances in as many weeks at the weekend and they are among a number of players pushing for inclusion after the 19-9 defeat to Ireland in Dublin last time out.

Stuart Lancaster admitted the coaching team have plenty to ponder after some impressive displays.

“The weekend’s games gave us plenty to think about in terms of looking at guys who will have benefitted from the additional game time,” said the England Head Coach. “It’s unfortunate that Brad was injured but Henry has been playing well for Exeter and it’s good to be able to call him in. We also wish Tom and Henry all the best for their recovery.”

"The weekend’s games gave us plenty to think about."

Lancaster also outlined positive news on full back Mike Brown, who suffered concussion during the 47-17 victory over Italy, centre Luther Burrell and Kieran Brookes.

“Mike trained fully last Friday while Luther and Brookes should be fit to train tomorrow. We are looking forward to two full days of training before we announce the side on Wednesday.

“Sam Burgess will also come into camp to further his experience of this environment as Bath have no game at the weekend.”

englandENGLAND SQUAD

FORWARDS
Dave Attwood (Bath Rugby)
Kieran Brookes (Newcastle Falcons)
Calum Clark (Northampton Saints)
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
Alex Corbisiero (Northampton Saints)
Nick Easter (Harlequins)
Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
James Haskell (Wasps)
George Kruis (Saracens)
Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints)
Joe Marler (Harlequins)
Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers)
CHRIS ROBSHAW (C, HARLEQUINS)
Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
Billy Vunipola (Saracens)
Rob Webber (Bath Rugby)
Tom Wood  (Northampton Saints)
Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

BACKS
Mike Brown (Harlequins)
Sam Burgess (Bath Rugby)
Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints)
Danny Care (Harlequins)
Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks)
Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby)
George Ford (Bath Rugby)
Alex Goode (Saracens)
Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby)
Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby)
Stephen Myler (Northampton Saints)
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs)
Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs) 
Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby)
Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby)
Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens)  
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

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Monday 9th March 2015

SEAN MAITLAND ON RETURN AND ENGLAND Scottish Rugby

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Monday 9th March 2015

ALL ON TRACK FOR IRELAND IN FINAL ROUNDS

IrelandFOLLOWING Ireland’s win over England in Round 3 of the Championship, the casualty list was not unpalatable, with concussions for Sean O'Brien and Jared Payne, who have both gone through the return to play protocols and should be fit to train this week, and Johnny Sexton’s minor hamstring injury appears to be recovering well. All three should be available for selection.

Ireland team manager, Mick Kearney said, “Jonathan Sexton continues to improve following a mild hamstring strain. As a precaution, he will have modified training in the early part of the week with an expectation that he will train fully towards the end of the week. We’re very happy with where he is at the moment. He’s hit all his markers so far.

“Jamie Heaslip is expected to train fully this week and, barring any setback, will be available for selection.

“Sean O’Brien and Jared Payne have progressed well from the return to play protocol and will be reintroduced to full training during the week.

“In Ulster last Thursday they went through some non-contact drills, in the early part of this week they’re going to finish that off and they’ll train fully towards the end of the week. The info I’ve got from the medical team is that they’ve completed the protocols fully to date and will complete the last part of them early in the week and then they’ll train fully.”

The following players have been invited into Ireland camp to prepare for the final two games of the 2015 RBS 6 Nations Championship.

IrelandIRELAND SQUAD

FORWARDS
Michael Bent (Leinster)
Rory Best (Ulster)
Sean Cronin (Leinster)
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster)
Cian Healy (Leinster)
Jamie Heaslip (Leinster)         
Iain Henderson (Ulster)
Mike McCarthy (Leinster)
Jack McGrath (Leinster)
Martin Moore (Leinster)
Jordi Murphy (Leinster)
Sean O'Brien (Leinster)
Paul O'Connell (Munster)
Tommy O'Donnell (Munster)
Peter O'Mahony (Munster)
Mike Ross (Leinster)
Dominic Ryan (Leinster)
Richardt Strauss (Leinster)
Devin Toner (Leinster)
Dan Tuohy (Ulster)

BACKS
Isaac Boss (Leinster)                    
Tommy Bowe (Ulster)
Darren Cave (Ulster)
Keith Earls (Munster)
Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster)
Robbie Henshaw (Connacht)
Felix Jones (Munster)
David Kearney (Leinster)
Rob Kearney (Leinster)
Ian Keatley (Munster)
Ian Madigan (Leinster)
Conor Murray (Munster)
Jared Payne (Ulster)
Eoin Reddan (Leinster)
Jonathan Sexton (Racing Métro 92)
Simon Zebo (Munster)

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Friday 6th March 2015

ROUND 3 HIGHLIGHTS: 6 BEST HITS AND TACKLES  

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Friday 6th March 2015

IRELAND OPEN TRAINING SESSION AT KINGSPAN STADIUM Ireland

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Thursday 5th March 2015

FLANQUART IN SQUAD FOR BANNED PAPÉ

FranceWITH Pascal Papé’s appeal rejected by the Disciplinary Board, France have called 25 year old Alexandre Flanquart into the squad for the final two weeks of Six Nations action.

As a consequence, Clermont's Sebastien Vahaamahina has been dropped, whilst Les Bleus are desperate to turn their fortunes round after two consecutive losses. Rory Kockott and Maxime Mermoz have also been called into the squad.

"Alexandre has recovered from his physical problems and logically makes his return the second row in the squad," said forwards coach, Yannick Bru.

"His profile provides additional options to our pack. The rest of the forward group is unchanged as the collective marks are strong and we want to work on our continuity."

franceFRANCE SQUAD

FORWARDS
Uini Atonio
Eddy Ben Arous
Damien Chouly
Vincent Debaty
THIERRY DUSAUTOIR (C)
Alexandre Flanquart
Loann Goujon
Guilhem Guirado
Benjamin Kayser
Wenceslas Lauret
Bernard Le Roux
Yoann Maestri
Nicolas Mas
Yannick Nyanga
Rabah Slimani
Jocelino Suta
Romain Taofifenua

BACKS
Mathieu Bastareaud
Brice Dulin
Gaël Fickou
Sofiane Guitoune
Yoann Huget
Rory Kockott
Camille Lopez
Maxime Mermoz
Noa Nakaitaci
Jules Plisson
Scott Spedding
Rémi Tales
Sébastien Tillous-Borde

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Wednesday 4th March 2015

COTTER RECALLS THREE FOR ROUND 4 TRAINING

Scottish RugbyPLAYER injury has prompted Head Coach Vern Cotter to recall three players from club duty to train with the national team this week.

The delayed return of wing Sean Maitland from a shoulder injury, sustained in January, and ankle ligament damage suffered by back-row Alasdair Strokosch on Sunday, have necessitated the return of wing Tommy Seymour and lock Tim Swinson.

The pair will join Glasgow Warriors club mate, stand-off Finn Russell – recalled as a precaution – and eight other national team players, for two days of specialist skills and strength and conditioning training at BT Murrayfield Thursday and Friday, ahead of the next RBS 6 Nations Championship match against England at Twickenham.

The 11 players will be unavailable for this weekend's Guinness PRO12 matches, though some 22 could feature for their respective clubs sides: six with Glasgow Warriors who face Zebre at Scotstoun on Friday night (kick-off 7.35pm), nine with Edinburgh Rugby for their trip to Treviso on Saturday (kick-off 6pm GMT), and a further seven at clubs in England and France, released in accordance with regulation 9 (World Rugby legislation on player release for Test duty).

scotlandSCOTLAND SQUAD

RETURNING FORWARDS
Adam Ashe (Glasgow Warriors)
Alex Allan (Glasgow Warriors)
Johnnie Beattie (Castres)
Hugh Blake (Edinburgh Rugby)
Blair Cowan (London Irish)
Geoff Cross (London Irish)
David Denton (Edinburgh Rugby)
Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors)
Jim Hamilton (Saracens)
Rob Harley (Glasgow Warriors)
Moray Low (Exeter Chiefs)
Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan)
Ben Toolis (Edinburgh Rugby)
Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby)

RETURNING BACKS
Dougie Fife (Edinburgh Rugby)
Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh Rugby)
Peter Horne (Glasgow Warriors)
Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester)
Sean Lamont (Glasgow Warriors)
Matt Scott (Edinburgh Rugby
Greig Tonks (Edinburgh Rugby)
Tim Visser (Edinburgh Rugby)

Retained/rested players: Mark Bennett Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors) Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh Rugby) Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors) Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby) Jonny Gray Euan Murray Stuart Hogg Finn Russell Tommy Seymour Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors)

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Tuesday 3rd March 2015

ROUND 3 ROUND UP

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Tuesday 3rd March 2015

ENGLAND SQUAD UPDATE

EnglandTHE England squad assembled at Pennyhill Park today ahead of a training week in preparation for the RBS 6 Nations match against Scotland on March 14.

All the players were medically assessed following the Test against Ireland and Aviva Premiership Round 16.

England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster said: “We reviewed the game as a whole squad and trained this afternoon. Luther Burrell has a calf strain and will not train tomorrow. Mike Brown has progressed well and we hope to have him back in full training on Friday.

“The majority of the bench players and non match day 23 will be released back to their clubs over the next 24 hours and be available for this weekend’s Premiership games. We feel they will benefit from some game time and to put themselves in contention for the Scotland match and we will give an update on those players tomorrow (Wednesday).”

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Tuesday 3rd March 2015

ITALY SQUAD UPDATE

ItalyITALY Head Coach Jacques Brunel has assemble his 30-man squad for the final two matches of the Six Nations at home against France and Wales. 

Brunel is pleased at the return of back Andrea Masi after his calf injury, and Quintin Geldenhuys joins the Six Nations squad for the first time this championship following a knee ligament injury. The only omission is Martin Castrogiovanni, who is not on the injury list, but was bitten by a dog in the week previous to the Scotland match.

Following the historic win over Scotland on Saturday, only the second time the Azzurri have won a an away game in the RBS Six Nations, the national team will look to build momentum once they have convened at the Giulio Onesti Sports Centre in Rome on Sunday, 8th March, in preparation for the match with France, hoping to win the Garibaldi Trophy.

italyITALY SQUAD

FORWARDS
Matias Aguero (Zebre Rugby)
Marco Barbini (Benetton Treviso)
Mauro Bergamasco (Zebre Rugby)
George Fabio Biagi (Zebre Rugby)
Dario Chistolini (Zebre Rugby)
Lorenzo Cittadini (London Wasps)
Simone Favaro (Benetton Treviso)
Joshua Furno (Newcastle Falcons)
Marco Fuser (Benetton Treviso)
Quintin Geldenhuys (Zebre Rugby)
Leonardo Ghiraldini (Leicester Tigers)
Andrea Manici (Zebre Rugby)
Alberto de Marchi (Sale Sharks)
Francesco Minto (Benetton Treviso)
Sergio Parisse (C - Stade Français)
Samuela Vunisa (Zebre Rugby)

BACKS
Tommaso Allan (USAP Perpignan)
Enrico Bacchin (Benetton Treviso)
Giulio Bisegni (Zebre Rugby)
Edoardo Gori (Benetton Treviso)
Kelly Haimona (Zebre Rugby)
Andrea Masi (London Wasps)
Luke McLean (Sale Sharks)
Luca Morisi (Benetton Treviso)
Guglielmo Palazzani (Zebre Rugby)
Simone Ragusi* (Benetton Treviso)
Leonardo Sarto (Zebre, Rugby)
Giovambattista Venditti (Zebre Rugby)
Marcello Violi* (Cammi Calvisano)

Not considered due to injury: Michele Campagnaro (Benetton Treviso), Gonzalo Canale (Stade Rochelais), Alessandro Zanni (Benetton Treviso) 

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Monday 2nd March 2015

IRELAND v ENGLAND TUNNEL CAM Ireland

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Monday 2nd March 2015

WALES SQUAD UPDATE

Wales

TWELVE players have been released back to their respective regions by the Wales national squad.  The players will be available for selection for their region this weekend and will re-join the national squad on Monday 9th March.

Cardiff Blues
Kristian Dacey
Scott Andrew
Gareth Anscombe
Cory Allen
Alex Cuthbert

Ospreys
Aaron Jarvis
James King
Justin Tipuric

Newport Gwent Dragons
Hallam Amos

Scarlets
Gareth Davies
Rhys Priestland
Scott Williams

Paul James suffered a fractured thumb and has been ruled out of action for between 4-6 weeks, he has subsequently been released to Bath rugby for ongoing management.

Sam Warburton suffered a contusion to his knee.  He will be continued to be monitored by the medical team and will return to training later this week.

Dan Biggar suffered a contusion to his hip.  He will be continued to be monitored by the medical team and will also return to training later this week.

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Monday 2nd March 2015

O2 INSIDE LINE: IRELAND v ENGLAND...THE AFTERMATH England

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Saturday 28th February 2015

ROUND 3...BRING IT ON...

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Saturday 28th February 2015

WEEK 3...RECENT MATCH UPS

 

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Saturday 28th February 2015

O2 INSIDE LINE: IRELAND v ENGLAND PREVIEW England

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Friday 27th February 2015

TONER THE GIANT ON ENGLAND PACK Ireland

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Friday 27th February 2015

HORNE BROTHERS OF SCOTTISH CALL UPS Scottish Rugby

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Friday 27th February 2015

ONE CHANGE TO IRISH STARTING XV FROM TEAM THAT BEAT FRANCE

IrelandTHE Ireland coaching staff has named the team that will take on England in the Round 3 RBS 6 Nations Championship clash at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday 1st March.

Jordi Murphy is the only change to the starting line-up that began the game against France. Paul O'Connell, who wins his 99th cap for Ireland, will lead the side and is partnered in the second row by Devin Toner. The front-row is made up of Jack McGrath, Rory Best and Mike Ross.  Murphy, who lines out at No.8, is joined in the back row by Peter O'Mahony and Sean O'Brien.

The backline is unchanged with Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton paired at half-back and the combination of Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne is retained in midfield.   Rob Kearney wins his 60th cap and is joined in the back three by Tommy Bowe and Simon Zebo.

Eoin Reddan and Tommy O'Donnell are added to the replacements alongside Sean Cronin, Martin Moore, Cian Healy, Iain Henderson, Ian Madigan and Felix Jones.

For the full Ireland matchday team, click here...

6Ns Ireland vs England

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Friday 27th February 2015

LANCASTER MAKES TWO CHANGES TO STARTING XV FOR IRELAND

EnglandSTUART LANCASTER has named full back Alex Goode and wing Jack Nowell in his starting side to face Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday.

Saracens' Goode, who starred in the 12-6 triumph last time England were in Dublin, starts his first Test for two years after replacing Harlequins' Mike Brown, who failed to complete the graduated return to play protocol after his concussion against Italy.

Meanwhile, Nowell - in scintillating domestic form with Exeter Chiefs -  is preferred to Gloucester Rugby's Jonny May as the only two unbeaten teams in the RBS 6 Nations go head-to-head.

In the only other change to the England match-day 23 that defeated Italy 47-17, Bath Rugby’s Henry Thomas replaces Kieran Brookes on the bench. The Newcastle Falcons tighthead prop is continuing to recover from a hip flexor strain he picked up earlier this week.

Explaining the selection, Head Coach Lancaster said the two new names in his 15 had been pressing for inclusion for some time. Though Ireland are on a run of nine consecutive victories, he was wholly confident in the squad that cross the Irish Sea.

“We’ve made minimal changes as we felt the squad have performed well in the first two games,” Lancaster said.

“Alex is in good form for Saracens and has been training well over the last few weeks, as has Jack, who is also playing well for Exeter. Both have been pushing hard for selection and I am sure will seize their chance against a high quality Ireland side.

“Chris Pennell and Manu Tuilagi will also travel. Manu has been recovering with us and so it’s good to continue keeping him connected. There are no Greene King IPA Championship matches this weekend so Chris can also spend more time with the squad.”

For the full England matchday team, click here...

6Ns Ireland vs England

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Thursday 26th February 2015

HORNE HANDED KEYS TO NUMBER 10

Scottish RugbyGLASGOW WARRIORS stand-off Peter Horne has been given the chance to bring his club form to the international arena, with the starting stand-off spot for this Saturday's RBS 6 Nations match against Italy at BT Murrayfield.

Peter Horne Scottish RugbyHorne, who helped orchestrate his Guinness PRO12-leading club's back-to-back wins over Zebre and Ospreys – man of the match in the former – is a direct replacement for suspended club-mate Finn Russell, whose appeal was overruled by a Six Nations disciplinary committee on Wednesday afternoon.

He is one of four changes to the starting XV, with second-row Tim Swinson the only other to be enforced. He takes on the starting berth of the injured Richie Gray (arm).

The front-line alterations are completed with the return of Glasgow Warriors wing Tommy Seymour and prop Euan Murray, who start in place of Tim Visser and Geoff Cross, having missed the Wales match through injury (hip) and because believes he cannot work on a Sunday.

 

Scotland Head Coach Vern Cotter said: "We're very wary of Italy and feel that they have improved. They are a team that will be targeting this game, so we must be prepared to roll our sleeves up and work very hard to get a result.

"They are a big, physical team – bigger than us – so we will have to be technically strong and well connected as a group to withstand what will be a strong assault on our defensive line.

"We're very focused on what we do and what we want to achieve, which is to apply pressure that yields points, create line breaks and tackle breaks and develop our speed in this game.

"If we keep developing our belief and our skill sets, and our attitude to the game and our standards we'll get what we're aiming for, which is the win."

Cotter has also made four changes to the replacements' bench, with props Ryan Grant and Cross replacing Gordon Reid (knee) and Jon Welsh (hand), who were injured against Wales.

Promising young Edinburgh Rugby duo Ben Toolis (22) and Hamish Watson (23) are poised to make their senior international debuts having taken the places of injured lock Jim Hamilton (groin) and back-row Alasdair Strokosch.

Replacement scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne today completed his graduated return to play protocol to retain his place in the squad, having shown signs of delayed concussion after the match against Wales.

For the full Scotland matchday team, click here...

6Ns Scotland vs Italy

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Thursday 26th February 2015

ZEBO ON ENGLAND THREAT Ireland

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Wednesday 25th February 2015

TWO NEW CAPS IN BRUNEL’S STARTING XV FOR ITALY AGAINST SCOTLAND

ItalyAZZURRI coach Jacques Brunel has made six changes to the starting line up to face Scotland on Saturday afternoon at Murrayfield.

In the backs, McLean and Venditti retain their starting positions at full back and wing, as do Venditti, Haimona and Gori, whilst debutants Michele Visentin (Zebre) and Enrico Bacchin (Treviso) replace the injured Leonardo Sarto and Andrea Masi.

Italy team for Scotland RBS Six Nations 2015

In the forwards, legendary captain Sergio Parisse will earn his 111th cap for Italy, with only Biagi and Ghiraldini keeping their starting positions after the 47-17 loss to England at Twickenham in Round 2 of the Six Nations. Props Matias Aguero and Dario Chistolini replace di Marchi and stalwart Castrogiovanni, the later who is recovering form a dog bite on his nose which required 14 stitches.

Elsewhere, Joshua Furno is in for injured Bortolami, Francesco Minto is shuffled over in the second row, and Simon Favaro replaces dropped Bergamasco as the openside flanker.

The Italians have the best record against the highlanders since they joined the Six Nations, beating Scotland seven times since 1998, last time in Rome in 2012, but they have not walked away with the win away in Edinburgh since 2007, though that was by their biggest margin of 20 points, 37-17. The Azzurri are hoping to avenge last year’s narrow one point defeat and secure their first win of the Championship.

For the full Italy matchday team, click here...

6Ns Scotland vs Italy

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Wednesday 25th February 2015

O'BRIEN ON ENGLAND CHALLENGE Ireland

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Wednesday 25th February 2015

SAINT-ANDRÉ MAKES FIVE CHANGES FOR THE WELSH JOUST

FrancePHILIPPE SAINT-ANDRE'S France side to take on Wales in the RBS 6 Nations shows five changes from their previous outing and the head coach is confident he has found the right blend.

Morgan Parra comes in at scrum-half to replace the injured Rory Kockott as one of four changes in the back line while in the second row Romain Taofifenua replaces the suspended Pascal Papé.

Injured winger Teddy Thomas and full-back Scott Spedding have dropped out of the matchday 23 and are replaced by Sofiane Guitoune and Brice Dulin respectively, but perhaps the biggest surprise is the powerful Mathieu Bastareaud dropping to the bench with Remi Lamerat coming into midfield.

"On Saturday we think that Bastareaud's power will help us more at the end of the match," said Saint-Andre.

"Sofiane (Guitoune) was with us in November 2013 and was even a starter. He is versatile and he likes to have the ball in his hands.

"He gets involved in the game a lot and has been playing very well for his club so he brings that freshness to the side.

"He is a finisher but also someone who can create space for others.

"Brice (Dulin) is at about 98 per cent, we all know his qualities under the high ball and his qualities on the counter attack.

"It is not that Scott Spedding has done anything wrong but we now have two full-backs of real quality."

France are in third position in the Championship table, one place above Saturday's visitors to the Stade de France, Wales, who have also recorded a defeat and a victory so far.

And despite the defeat to Ireland last time out, Saint-Andre took a number of positives from the game.

"We made twice as many passes as the Irish, we scored a try against the No.3 side in the world, the team that many are calling the best in Europe," he added.

"We are not far away and we are working hard to get there."

For the full France matchday team, click here...

6Ns France vs Wales

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Tuesday 24th February 2015

ENGLAND SQUAD FOR IRELAND

EnglandENGLAND will retain 26 players for training ahead of Sunday’s RBS 6 Nations match against Ireland.

The squad will train on Wednesday before re-assembling at Pennyhill Park on Thursday evening and flying to Dublin on Friday.

England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster said: “Preparation has gone well and we’ve had a good build up so far. The guys who played against Wales and Italy did really well and the good thing is that others who are now fit and training are pushing hard for selection.  We’ve had to make some tough decisions but it’s a good position to be in and those players going back to their clubs have another big weekend ahead to lay down a marker for later in the tournament.

“Chris Pennell is in camp for the first time since last summer so we are taking this opportunity for him to spend some additional time with us as Worcester have no Greene King IPA Championship game this weekend.”

Kieran Brookes (Newcastle Falcons) pulled up in training with a hip flexor strain so Henry Thomas (Bath Rugby) has been called in for training tomorrow. Mike Brown (Harlequins) successfully completed a running session today and should be able to take part in non-contact training with the squad tomorrow.

englandENGLAND SQUAD FOR ITALY

FORWARDS
Dave Attwood (Bath Rugby)
Kieran Brookes (Newcastle Falcons)
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers)
Nick Easter (Harlequins)
Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
James Haskell (Wasps)
George Kruis (Saracens)
Joe Marler (Harlequins)
Chris Robshaw (captain, Harlequins)
Henry Thomas (Bath Rugby)
Billy Vunipola (Saracens)
Mako Vunipola (Saracens) 
Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

BACKS
Mike Brown (Harlequins)
Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints)
Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks)
George Ford (Bath Rugby)
Alex Goode (Saracens)
Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby)
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs)
Chris Pennell (Worcester Warriors)
Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby)
Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby)
Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

Retained in camp for recovery: Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers)

Players released to Aviva Premiership clubs: Brad Barritt (Saracens), Danny Care (Harlequins), Calum Clark (Northampton Saints), Alex Corbisiero (Northampton Saints), Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby), Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers), Rob Webber (Bath Rugby), Tom Wood  (Northampton Saints)

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Tuesday 24th February 2015

GATLAND MAKES FOUR CHANGES FOR FRANCE

WalesWALES have made four changes to their side to face France on Saturday with George North, Samson Lee, Luke Charteris and Scott Baldwin all coming into the starting XV.

Charteris and Baldwin are promoted from replacement roles in the victory over Scotland to start in Paris whilst North and Lee return to the side after missing the second RSB 6 Nations encounter.

Baldwin and Lee join Gethin Jenkins to re-form the front-row that started in November’s victory against South Africa.

Charteris, who has featured from the bench in the opening two matches of the Championship, starts alongside Alun Wyn Jones.

The back-row remains unchanged with Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau lining up with captain Sam Warburton.

Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar continue their partnership at half-back with Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies named in the midfield.

North comes into the back-three to join Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny.

“We have made some tough calls and there were some tight decisions but it is a very strong team we are putting out,” said Wales Head Coach Warren Gatland.

“We have a lot of strength in depth at second-row, it is a chance for Luke Charteris to get a start and we have been impressed with Bradley Davies as well. It is nothing against Jake but we have a lot of strength in depth and it’s an opportunity to see the other two.

“It’s a chance for Scott Baldwin to start as well, the last time he started he went well in the victory over South Africa. It is great to have Samson back available and it was a tough call in the back-three but we have decided to go with Liam and George.

“We felt we improved against Scotland and we are looking for another improvement this weekend.  It’s a tough competition to go on the road and ask for that but that is what we are looking for.”

Richard Hibbard, Paul James and Aaron Jarvis are named as the front-row contingent on the bench with Bradley Davies and Justin Tipuric completing the forwards.  Mike Phillips, Rhys Priestland and Scott Williams will provide the backline cover.

For the full Wales matchday team, click here...

6Ns France vs Wales

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Tuesday 24th February 2015

SCOTTISH RUGBY DONATES A THOUSAND TICKETS FOR TROOPS

Scottish RugbySCOTTISH RUGBY has donated a thousand tickets for troops for the RBS 6 Nations game against Italy at BT Murrayfield Stadium this Saturday.

The organisation Tickets for Troops provides free tickets to the men and women of the Armed Forces for a variety of sporting, musical and cultural events, with the well-deserved opportunity to enjoy an event of their choice with their friends and families.

Scottish Rugby Tickets for Troops RBS 6 Nations 2015

Scottish Rugby has a history of providing tickets, most recently for the match against Argentina in last year's viagogo Autumn Tests.

Veronica Bamford, Director of Operations at Tickets for Troops, said: "These donations emphasise to our members that organisations across the UK understand the challenges that they face or have faced. We always get great feedback from the troops and they are always expressing their gratitude.”

The partnership is a reflection of the national team's close relationship with the Armed Forces, a relationship that began during World War One.

The Great War had an unprecedented effect on rugby union, but hit the Scottish team the hardest.

Some 30 Scottish international rugby players lost their lives during World War One, which was more than any other nation, a further 15 players were killed in World War Two.

All of the members of the Armed Forces who lost their lives in both World Wars are commemorated on the war memorial arch outside BT Murrayfield Stadium.

Two of those international stars were forward David Bedell-Sivright and scrum-half Eric Milroy.

Edinburgh-born Befell-Sivright revelled in being recognised as the roughest and toughest player in the game, and held the title of Scottish heavyweight boxing champion to back-up that reputation.

The Rugby Football Internationals' Roll of Honour quoted the 1904 British Isles captain as saying: "When I go on to that field I only see the ball, and should someone be in the road, that is his own lookout.”

On the other side of the ropes, the all-round sportsman saved lives as a doctor and naval surgeon during the war.

He died at Gallipoli on 5 September 1915, aged 34.

Eric 'Puss' Milroy, who served with the Black Watch, played his last game for Scotland as captain in the 16-15 defeat by England at Inverleith in March 1914.

Of the 30 men who took to the field that day, 11 did not survive the war.

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Monday 23rd February 2015

COTTER ADDS FIVE CAPPED PLAYERS TO SCOTLAND SQUAD

Scottish RugbyHEAD coach Vern Cotter today added five capped internationalists to Scotland's RBS 6 Nations squad, five days out from the round three Test against Italy this Saturday at BT Murrayfield.

Scrum-half Chris Cusiter and prop Moray Low have been called up from English Premiership clubs Sale Sharks and Exeter Chiefs, along with Glasgow Warriors duo Adam Ashe (No.8) and Alex Allan (prop), and Edinburgh Rugby No.8 David Denton.

Scotland new additions to squad RBS 6 Nations 2015

Cusiter (knee) and Ashe (neck) were absent from Cotter's initial squad selection due to injury, but have recovered to earn the recall, while Denton has recovered from the calf tear sustained in the national team's pre-Championship camp in Glasgow last month.

Low and Allan are direct replacements for Glasgow Warriors pair Jon Welsh (hand) and Gordon Reid (knee), who were injured in the previous match against Wales on Sunday 15 February.

The quintet began training with the squad this morning.

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Monday 23rd February 2015

EnglandSTUART LANCASTER appeared with a smile on his face at the start of Ireland week, despite having to send the gathering throng of players back home just 24 hours after they return to the England Rugby camp, no thanks to the EPS agreement to release players to their respective clubs in international week on Tuesday, even for a Sunday match.

Stuart Lancaster England Rugby presserWith the exception of full back Mike Brown (back to him shortly), the current RBS Six Nations table toppers after just two rounds of the Championship are in fine fettle injury-wise, with Chris Pennell in for Brown and Rob Webber joining in to cover Tom Youngs who is uninjured, but only played yesterday so will not be partaking in the full XV on XV training tomorrow. Geoff Parling, Tom Wood and Courtney Lawes are all returning to full training tomorrow.

Mr Angry’s return to play has not been quite as smooth-running as had been hoped, failing to complete day one of the protocol (see below) last week at Quins, and he has only restarted the process again today. Theoretically, if Brown clears every stage of the graduated return to play protocol this week, since the team will not be announced until Friday, and given he has not missed England training before the concussion acquired during the Italy match, he would be free to play on Sunday against Ireland. However, the reality is Lancaster will need to pick his matchday 23 on Tuesday before releasing players back to Premiership clubs, and can retain two extra players alongside (Chris Pennell and Rob Webber), step forward Saracens’ storming fullback Mr Alex Goode.

“He's been unlucky in the sense that the standout player in the Six Nations last year was Mike Brown in his position,” said the Head Coach of Goode.

“He's had to wait patiently for his chance again. He's a different type of player to Mike in that he's equally good under the high ball, he's very good as a positional fullback, he can play fly-half, so he offers that slightly different kicking option, but also the opportunity to be a first receiver/playmaker.”

With all the attention on concussion, and the media frenzy (rightly) surrounding it, England Rugby, presumably like the other national sides, are basing their judgement calls on medical advice.

There are a series of cognitive tests, written and verbal tests that they have to do to prove they’re fit to go onto the next stage,” said Lancaster. “It’s not as simple as a player saying I feel fine.

Hypothetically it’s very early for me to pencil him (Brown) in for a game at the moment.”

Both Ireland and England are at the top of their game in the Championship so far, only five points separating the number #1 and #2 spots  in points difference. 2011 was the last time Ireland took the high ground against England in Dublin, with a 24-8 drubbing. But a year later, under Stuart’s leadership, England returned the favour with 30-9 victory at Twickenham. Ever since, the winning margin has tightened significantly, and it is England with the upper hand the last three years.

However, England are under no illusion that Sunday will be a walk in the park, and following nine consecutive wins since last meeting each other in 2014, the Irish will be ready to avenge the last three years losses.

“We’ve all been involved in games where Ireland have raised their game and played unbelievably well,” noted Lancaster. “They will be hugely motivated by England coming to Dublin as we found two years ago. We’re sure it’ll be coming our way on Sunday.”

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Monday  23rd February 2015

GRADUATED RETURN TO PLAY PROTOCOL

WITH all the mystery surrounding the graduated return to play protocol post-concussion in the rugby world, here is the definitive protocol as provided by England Rugby:

As the minimum time to spend on each stage in the graduated return to play is 24 hours, the overall shortest return to play possible for an adult (professional player over the age of 19) is 6 days.

There are six stages to the GRTP as per World Rugby guidance (the same for all levels of the game):

1. Minimum rest period
2. Light aerobic exercise
3. Sport-specific exercise
4. Non-contact training drills
5. Full practice contact
6. Return to Play

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Wednesday 18th February 2015

ROUND 2 BIGGEST HITS...

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Sunday 15th February 2015

SCOTLAND WALES HIGHLIGHTS FROM SCOTTISH RUGBY Scottish Rugby

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Saturday 14th February 2015

IrelandIRELAND v FRANCEfrance TUNNELCAM

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Friday 13th February 2015

O2 INSIDE LINE: ENGLAND V ITALY PREVIEW England

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Friday 13th February 2015

WALES FORCED INTO FRONT ROW CHANGE FOR CONCUSSION

WalesAaron Jarvis Wales RugbyWALES have made one change to their side to face Scotland on Sunday with Aaron Jarvis coming into the starting XV in place of Samson Lee.

Lee was unable to complete the final component of the return to play protocol and has been ruled out of the second RSB 6 Nations fixture.
 
Jarvis' place on the bench is taken by Scott Andrews.

For the revised Wales matchday team, click here...

6Ns Scotland vs Wales

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Friday 13th February 2015

COTTER MAKES TWO CHANGES FOR WALES

Scottish RugbyHEAD COACH Vern Cotter has made two enforced changes to the starting Scotland side to face Wales at BT Murrayfield Stadium this Sunday.

Sean Lamont Scotland Rugby Glasgow Warriors wing Sean Lamont – the most capped player in Scotland's RBS 6 Nations squad with 91 appearances – has made a timely return from the calf injury that ruled him out of the nation's opening championship match against France, as a direct replacement for club-mate Tommy Seymour, who has not yet recovered fully from the hip injury sustained in Paris.

The second change sees London Irish tight-head prop Geoff Cross promoted from the bench in place of Euan Murray, who is unavailable on the Sabbath due to his religious beliefs, with Jon Welsh taking the substitute spot vacated by Cross.

Lamont's inclusion brings a further two changes to the bench, with Edinburgh Rugby duo Greig Tonks – his first call-up since his positional switch and solitary outing at full-back in 2013 – and 21-times capped centre Matt Scott who, through injury, hasn't featured for his country since the corresponding fixture last year, both coming into the squad at the expense of Peter Horne and Dougie Fife respectively.

Cotter said: "Last weekend's performance, in terms of line-breaks and heart, was encouraging. We defended well and our lineout, scrum and defence stood up to a very stern French assessment.

"I'm pleased we were in a situation to contest the match throughout, but we left the paddock very frustrated and disappointed that we didn't get more from the game – and I think that's a good measure of this squad.

"There's a huge amount of determination in this group to improve, with the challenge now to go one step further and deliver a winning performance for our home fans at a full BT Murrayfield."

He continued: "The boys love playing at home.

"The fans were outstanding throughout the autumn and we're looking forward to getting back out there, pulling on the jersey, rolling up our sleeves and having a good crack at a powerful Welsh side.”

For the full Scotland matchday team, click here...

6Ns Scotland vs Wales

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Thursday 12th February 2015

SCHMIDT MAKES TWO CHANGES FOR FRANCE

IrelandJAMIE HEASLIP and Johnny Sexton are introduced to the starting line-up for Les Bleus on Saturday afternoon, which sees two changes to the team named to start against Italy last week.  Paul O'Connell captain's the side and is partnered in the second row by Devin Toner. The front-row is made up of Jack McGrath, Mike Ross and Rory Best.

Heaslip joins Peter O'Mahony in the back-row alongside Sean O'Brien.   Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton are reunited at half-back.  Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne are the midfield partnership.   The back three sees Rob Kearney flanked by Tommy Bowe and Simon Zebo.

Cian Healy and Jordi Murphy are added to the replacements alongside Sean Cronin, Martin Moore, Iain Henderson, Isaac Boss, Ian Madigan and Felix Jones.

For the full Ireland matchday team, click here...

6Ns Ireland vs France

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Thursday 12th February 2015

LANNY NAMES UNCHANGED SIDE FOR ITALY

EnglandJONATHAN JOSEPH (Bath Rugby) and George Kruis (Saracens) will again start at Twickenham in an unchanged England side to face Italy on Saturday.

The XV that defeated Wales 21-16 at the Millennium Stadium will start England’s first home match of the RBS 6 Nations, with the same replacements also named.

England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster: “It’s always good to be able to name an unchanged team and to build some consistency. We did the same last year after France heading into the Scotland game.

“Italy are going to be fired up, they always are when they come to Twickenham, especially after last week’s loss to Ireland. We know what’s coming at us but we have prepared well and are looking forward to getting back home and playing in front of our fantastic supporters.

For the full England matchday team, click here...

6Ns England vs Italy

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Thursday 12th February 2015

INJURIES STABLE BUT CONCUSSIONS ON INCREASE

THE England Professional Rugby Injury Surveillance Project Report published today shows overall stability among the risk of match and training injuries at Premiership Rugby clubs during the 2013-14 season. Drawn from data from all 12 Premiership clubs and England Senior team matches, the RFU is taking injury, and especially concussion very seriously.

The topic of the moment, concussion, has risen for the third consecutive year as the most reported match injury. However, much is of this is due to increased awareness throughout English Rugby at least, especially since the RFU introduced a mandatory online concussion awareness module which was completed by every registered professional player, coaches and referees within two months.

George North concussion Wales England RBS 6 Nations 2015As a registered professional player, Northampton Saints winger George North would have partaken in the learning process. North would also have known he had been knocked out on Friday night when he clashed heads with Wales teammate Richard Hibbard; no rugby player has ever said he did not know he had been KO’d. And yet World Rugby is satisfied that the Welsh Rugby Union followed concussion protocol to the letter from his first kick to the head an half hour into the Wales England match, returning him to the paddock 8 minutes later, and no one, not a touch judge, not a medic, not a coach, no backroom staff, allegedly nobody saw him fall like he had just been punched by Mike Tyson.

“World Rugby accepts the WRU’s explanation that neither the team medical staff nor the independent doctor had sight of the incident and understands that the medics acted within the framework of information they had at the time and would have taken a different course of action had they had direct pitch-side visibility or access to the same broadcast footage seen by those watching on television.”

England’s Anthony Watson saw North fall and went straight to him, and the TV camera was right there too. And the coaches do have replay facilities in the box. And the TMO has everything at his finger tips, albeit ensconced in a truck in a car park nearby, but everyone is linked through comms. So how no one saw what happened is quite fascinating.

Yet having being left out from the Wales matchday squad against Scotland, North is not a happy man says Head Coach Warren Gatland, who has replaced the wing with Liam Williams.

“I can imagine that if we had not made this decision and George goes out on Sunday and gets another knock, how is that going to look for George and how’s it going to look for rugby as a whole?

“If we didn’t do this and he got another knock, it would be a bad image for the game and the amount of criticism and abuse we would probably have received afterwards from all sorts of people. I don’t think it’s worth making that decision at the moment.”

Players can rest assured that such an incident would not unfold at Twickenham or Murrayfield with pitchside replays and broadcast footage is available to all.

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Wednesday 11th February 2015

ROWNTREE PROUD BUT INSISTS THERE’S A WAY TO GO

EnglandENGLAND forwards coach, RWC-winning Graham Rowntree is immensely proud of his troops’ performance on Friday night in Cardiff, but as has become the way with this collective, he insists this is by no means the finished product.

“I was delighted with the win. I was proud of them,” he beamed. “I understand there were errors, but the way they tore into the game for 80 minutes. The numbers don't hide. Robshaw's tackling, our impact work, our carrying. The lads poured themselves into the game.

Graham Rowntree RBS Six Nations“They prepped well for two weeks. You're always anxious going to a place like that. It's a tough place to go. But we had a clear plan and the guys were hungry.

“But you know what I am like, striving for higher standards, there is always a couple of things for us to work on. The trouble is we have to do it again now.”

With Geoff Parling ruled out for the Italy game, David Wilson returned to his club to recuperate from a nerve impingement, and the same squad already named, all focus is firmly on a home match at Twickenham, and correcting the imperfections from Cardiff.

“They were very self-critical straight after the game. We didn’t have to give it the headmaster po-face because they knew themselves. Stuart put it to them to grade themselves in many areas. The lads themselves knew they weren’t perfect. It means nothing unless you do it again.”

There has been much talk of England’s world class pack already, including from fullback Mike Brown, but Rowntree’s high standards do not allow for errors. As far as this coach is concerned, the error count needs to drop to almost zero before that label holds any weight.

“We are striving for perfection in many areas and until we get that I won’t have us being labelled that.”

With the likes of Robshaw at the helm, who has been outstanding both on and off the pitch, Attwood smartly taking to his lineout leadership position, Billy Vunipola improving from every stage he performs on, Dan Cole slipping deftly back into an international front row, coupled with outstanding backs, Rowntree is sure the makings of that world class team are there.

Wales v England RBS 6 Nations 2015 Tunnelgate Chris Robshaw Mike Brown

Scrum half Ben Youngs, leading well and snapping at the heels of the lads excites the coach, as does Quins and England’s, Brown, who Rowntree calls Mr Angry.

“He is quite demanding of himself, demanding the best of others. I like that. That’s the way we want to train. We train with high intensity and so we don’t make errors. If your teammates make errors, they’ve got to know about it. He is good to have around, good at uplifting others.

“Friday was a famous night for us, probably the peak with his (Stuart’s) coaching involvement with us and our time together.

“But it means nothing unless we reach those heights again. It was a benchmark for a lot of players that they are going to have to strive to achieve again.”

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Wednesday 11th February 2015

BRUNEL MAKE CHANGES TO TAKE IN ENGLAND

ItalyAZZURRI coach Jacques Brunel has made a host of changes to the starting XV in a bid to beat England for the first time in the history of Anglo-Italian rugby.

In the backs, Andrea Masi shifts to centre moving Luca Morisi to 13, while Luke McLean moves to fullback, Giovambattista Venditti stepping into the wing’s position at 11. In the forwards, Alberto Di Marchi replaces Matías Aguero to partner Ghiraldini and Castro in the front row, George Fabio Biagi shuffles over in the second row making room for Marco Bortolami, and completes the line up with Mauro Bergamasco - both international veterans - replacing the injured Zanni.

Italy team for England RBS Six Nations 2015

Joshua Furno is relegated to the bench displacing Marco Fuser, joining Samuela Vunisa and uncapped Giulio Bisegni.

For the full Italy matchday team, click here...

6Ns England vs Italy

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Wednesday 11th February 2015

SAINT-ANDRÉ NAMES LES BLEUS FOR IRELAND

FrancePHILIPPE SAINT-ANDRÉ has been forced into a single change for his team to face Ireland on Saturday afternoon in Dublin.

Eddy Ben Arous makes his first start for France in the front row, replacing Alexandre Menini who injured his foot in the win against Scotland last weekend. Vincent Debaty, who was called up earlier this week as cover, moves to the replacements bench.

Aside from the front row, Saint-André has remained faithful to the squad that secured second place in the RBS Six Nations table in week 1 of the championship.

"It is important for us to win an away match against a major team, but to do that we have to be more effective than we were against Scotland," Saint-Andre said.

"Ireland are an extremely disciplined side. They usually give away only around eight penalties whereas the Scots give up 13 or 14.

"They are full of confidence and showed that when they seized the game by the scruff of the neck against the Italians once they were down to 14 men.

"They have won eight in a row and are the favourites for the title. We have to compete with them in every area, duels in the air where they are very strong, tackle hard and not give an inch."

For the full France matchday team, click here...

6Ns Ireland vs France

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Wednesday 11th February 2015

WALES DROP GEORGE NORTH FOR SCOTLAND

WalesWALES have made one change to their side to face Scotland on Sunday, with Liam Williams coming into the starting XV.

Scarlets back Williams will win his 20th cap at Murrayfield and replaces George North.

North is currently symptom free and whilst nearing the conclusion of the graduated return to play protocol the decision has been taken to allow him an elongated recovery period in light of his recent concussive episode in the autumn period.

The one change results in the same starting backline that beat South Africa, in the final autumn international, taking to the field this weekend.

Ospreys duo Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar continue their partnership, as do Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies in midfield.  Williams comes in to join the back three alongside Alex Cuthbert and Leigh Halfpenny.

The pack remains unchanged with a front-row of Gethin Jenkins, who will make his 50th RBS 6 Nations appearance, Richard Hibbard and Samson Lee, who is currently undergoing the graduated return to play protocol which will be concluded later in the week.

Alun Wyn Jones and Jake Ball continue in the second row alongside an unchanged back row of Dan Lydiate, captain Sam Warburton and Taulupe Faletau.

"The response from the players has been very positive in training this week and we are looking forward to having the opportunity to right last weekend's wrongs,” said Warren Gatland.

"Scotland started the tournament well against France, building on their autumn campaign and they will be looking forward to welcoming us to Edinburgh this weekend.

"We know what we need to do and we hope our performance can reflect that.”

Scott Baldwin, Paul James and Aaron Jarvis form the front-row cover on the bench, with Luke Charteris and Justin Tipuric completing the forward contingent. Mike Phillips, Rhys Priestland and Scott Williams provide the backline cover.

The following players return to their clubs/regions after training today: Rob Evans (Scarlets), Kristian Dacey (Cardiff Blues), Bradley Davies (Wanted), James King (Ospreys), Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Cory Allen (Cardiff Blues), Hallam Amos (Newport Gwent Dragons).

For the full Wales matchday team, click here...

6Ns Scotland vs Wales

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Tuesday 10th February 2015

ENGLAND NAME UNCHANGED SQUAD FOR ITALY

EnglandENGLAND Head Coach Stuart Lancaster has named an unchanged match day squad for Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations match against Italy at Twickenham KO 2.30pm GMT.

The 23 players will re-assemble at Pennyhill Park on Wednesday evening, with the starting XV and replacements announced at 9.45am GMT on Thursday.

Lancaster said: “We’ll name the team on Thursday but we’ve gone for the same squad that played against Wales as we look to build consistent performances. There are many players pushing hard for selection and we are looking forward to watching their club games this weekend.”

england ENGLAND 23 FOR ITALY

FORWARDS
Dave Attwood (Bath Rugby) 
Kieran Brookes (Newcastle Falcons) 
Nick Easter (Harlequins) 
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers) 
Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers) 
Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints) 
James Haskell (Wasps) 
George Kruis (Saracens) 
Joe Marler (Harlequins) 
Chris Robshaw (captain, Harlequins) 
Billy Vunipola (Saracens) 
Mako Vunipola (Saracens) 
Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers)  

BACKS
Mike Brown (Harlequins) 
Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints) 
Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks) 
George Ford (Bath Rugby) 
Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby) 
Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby) 
Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby) 
Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby) 
Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens) 
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

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Monday 9th February 2015

LANCASTER BUOYANT AT START OF ITALY WEEK

EnglandITALY is a team that has caused Stuart Lancaster headaches since he has been at the helm of England Rugby. The red rose side may have won all 20 of the encounters between the two fiery teams, but the margin has been tight on more than one occasion, especially at Twickenham, defying logic.

2014 was the first time under Lanny that the winning digits rose to double figures, and that too an impressive 41 points in an 11-52 point victory. But complacency is not a word in the England coach’s vocabulary.

Despite a first team injury list totalling 14 players, England switched up their game to a new level on Friday night in Cardiff, and took the Welsh Dragons to task for a 21-16 triumph. And one has to believe the adage, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. So despite having the luxury of experienced British Lions, Brad Barritt and Geoff Parling returning to full training this afternoon, alongside the dynamic centre Kyle Eastmond, Lancaster is loath to tinker with what is already producing results, though maybe Parling will make an appearance from the bench.

With the World Cup now just seven months away, consistency and nurturing has to be the aim, not playing out ‘what if’ scenarios with centre partnerships or the back row. Lancaster has proved he has developed the depth he was striving for, and it appears England Rugby has finally come of age, the team bearing the fruits of Lanny's style of coaching.

Chris Robshaw Mike Brown tunnel Wales England RBS Six Nations 2015And no one has come of age more so than Chris Robshaw, who on Friday night, firmly stamped his authority on anyone who dared defy him with the impressive stand off in the tunnel pre-match. It has been seen as his Johnno moment, when no longer were England going to be pushed around, and left to stand like lemons on a darkened pitch, long minutes before Wales deigned to turn up to pompous fanfare more akin to Millennium night celebrations than the start of a sporting event.

With that authority has come the news that Lancaster’s World Cup captain will be Chris Robshaw, though in his usual cautious fashion, the coach has but hinted at the fact so far.

“It would take a big change of heart now to move from the direction we're going with Chris,” said Lancaster, who has consistently named Robshaw as captain since the start of his tenure as coach, but only on a tournament by tournament basis.

“Chris has been excellent and we need to make sure we continue to back him. We certainly will in this Six Nations and, fingers crossed, he'll be fit and available for June.

“Chris represents the collective which is great, he does it brilliantly. But he’s backed up by some pretty strong foot soldiers now which is what we want. If you go back to the 2003 team you had Johnno as captain but there was also Dallaglio, Back, Hill and those guys in the same category. I’d like to think we have that type of group growing together.”

Though, like many until a later replay, Lancaster missed the entire tunnel incident: “I was in the lift in the way up to the box so I missed it. It was all lost on me.”

As for the mood in camp after such a monumental psychological win at the weekend, England are under no illusion that there is a long way to go, having consistently come second in the Six Nation Championship since 2012.

Stuart Lancaster England Rugby“We are pleased, but ultimately we are only one step towards the goal - which is not to come second in the Championship again. I think inwardly we have had -and we still do- a lot of confidence in what we are doing. For me, what’s nice is to have the win under your belt, in a difficult situation, to confirm to the players that we are in the right direction. That is the biggest step forward, re-emphasise what got us the win, keep our feet on the ground, hard work, players buying into what we are about.

“I’d like to think there was no arrogance in the team but a confidence growing. The psychology in Rome last year was to win the game first and foremost, build a score, build the pressure. The psychology will be very much the same this year. We didn’t set out to score 50 points, we set out to take the points when they were on offer, take the chances when they came.

“At the end of the day, there aren’t bonus points for 4 tries. All you need to do is win the next 4 games.”

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Monday 9th February 2015

ITALY LOSE KEY PLAYERS FOR SIX NATIONS

ItalyCENTRE Michele Campagnaro and flanker Alessandro Zanni have both been ruled out of further participation in the Six Nations.

Following MRI scans today, Campagnaro has sustained medial ligament damage in his left knee, with an estimated recovery time of approximately six weeks, whilst Zanni has a tear in his right anterior cruciate ligament. The recovery programme for Zanni is yet to be determined after supervision over the next few days.

Zebre flanker Samuela Vunisa, who has a single Azzurri cap to his name, and , who has made one Italy appearance, and uncapped 22 year old centre Mogliano Tommaso Boni have been brought in as cover in preparation for the match against England on Saturday afternoon.

Veteran Italian fullback, Andrea Masi, who plies his club trade at Wasps, admits "We need to play a different type of game if we hope to beat England."

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Sunday 8th February 2015

LANCASTER REFUSING TO GET CARRIED AWAY WITH WALES WIN

EnglandENGLAND trained on Wednesday to hymns and arias blaring, crowd noise and Max Boyce pumped in to the state-of-the-art training facility in Surrey; likely coach Stuart Lancaster refrained from playing an entire stadium booing as the soon-to-be winning side ran out to the over the top fanfare in Cardiff in Friday night. But all the mind games, shenanigans in the tunnel and the like could not hold back the visitors from surviving a mediocre first half, swiftly followed by 13 unanswered points in the second to silence the Millennium Stadium.

However, despite a second consecutive win over Wales, true to his reputation as a no-nonsense northerner, Lancaster is under no illusion that his job is done.

“We’ve been in the championship under me for three years and come second three times,” said Lancaster. “I won’t be getting carried away by victory over Wales, even though it is right up there after the experience we had two years ago. I will be getting the players’ feet back on the ground on Monday because we need to be better against Italy. We will certainly not be thinking about Ireland.

England coaches Wales England RBS 6 Nations 2015“It’s good to be in the stadium here listening to Swing Low,” Lancaster said post match.

“I remember getting interviewed on the touchline two years ago and it was the lowest point of my coaching career. Today’s win is up there with the highest because of the challenges we had, because of what happened two years ago and because of the lessons we learnt. We didn’t just focus on the performance two years ago, we focused on last year’s win and drew confidence from that and the win against Australia in November gave us belief.

“To go 10-0 down against a side as good as Wales is a big hole and to go in at 16-8 we had some work to do and there was pressure to chase the game but we held our nerve. We upped our intensity with the power and physicality we brought in the second half. We created three or four different opportunities but the one JJ took was very special.”

Lancaster has recalled the following England players assembling at Pennyhill Park this evening to train for Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations game against Italy at Twickenham. The only notable omission is Henry Slade.

englandENGLAND SQUAD FOR ITALY

FORWARDS
Dave Attwood (Bath Rugby)
Kieran Brookes (Newcastle Falcons)
Calum Clark (Northampton Saints)
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
Alex Corbisiero (Northampton Saints)
Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers)
Nick Easter (Harlequins)
Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
James Haskell (Wasps)
Graham Kitchener (Leicester Tigers)
George Kruis (Saracens)
Joe Marler (Harlequins)
Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers)
Chris Robshaw (captain, Harlequins)
Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
Billy Vunipola (Saracens)
Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers)   

BACKS
Brad Barritt (Saracens)
Mike Brown (Harlequins)
Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints)
Danny Care (Harlequins)
Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks)
Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby)
George Ford (Bath Rugby)
Alex Goode (Saracens)
Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby)
Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby)
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs)
Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby)
Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby)
Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers) 

Manu Tuilagi, Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood and David Wilson will also be in camp continuing their recovery from injury

How England laid down a marker to Wales pre-RWC2015...

6Ns Wales vs England

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Sunday 8th February 2015

AZZURRI INJURY UPDATE

ItalyAFTER the defeat to Ireland at the Stadio Olimpico, the Italian Rugby Union (FIR) has issued a medical bulletin ahead of regrouping in camp for the next RBS 6 Nations match to be played against England on Saturday at Twickenham.

Centre Michele Campagnaro (Benetton Treviso, 13 caps) reported an injured left knee, likely a medial ligament sprain.

Flanker Alessandro Zanni (Benetton Treviso, 87 caps) also shows signs of a sprained right knee ligament, and both players will be assessed at the Villa Stuart Sport Clinic on Monday.  

Flanker Robert Barbieri (Leicester Tigers, 38 caps) underwent an ultrasound check yesterday to check the status of the injury to the right hamstring that prevented him being included against Ireland. Barbieri is showing signs of improvement and will continue with his rehabilitation program as instructed by the FIR medics.

Second row Marco Bortolami (Zebre, 110 caps) is much improved after assessment of the ultrasound yesterday on his hip, and should be training with the squad in time to be considered for selection for the England clash.

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Sunday 8th February 2015

SAINT-ANDRÉ PREPARED FOR THE IRISH CHALLENGE

FranceFOLLOWING not a try in sight for Philippe Saint-André’s Les Bleus, the unpredictable French side still managed to eek  out a positive result against Scotland at the Stade de France, enough to put them second in the RBS Six Nations table after a first mixed bag weekend of the world’s greatest rugby  championship.

Philippe Saint Andre Thierry Dusautoir RBS 6 Nations Launch 2015But for Camille Lopez’s boot, the result may have swung Scotland’s way; with just one miss from 6, it was enough. However, the French coach made no excuses, and fully understands what is required to beat the harder opposition.

"We need to play one or two extra phases if we want to take something meaningful from all our periods of dominance," he said.

"When we've got the ball we need to make it count on the scoreboard.

"It's just a question of patience and that will come, we are working on it. There are plenty of elements we need to improve on and we know exactly what they are.

"On a positive, this is a game that we would have lost two years ago. We could have done better but we've got the win and that's the important thing."

Ready to take his team away for the first of three away matches, Saint-André has named his squad to face last year’s champions, Ireland, in Dublin, who so far have produced a decidedly lacklustre performance.

Saint-André has called up Vincent Debaty and Jocelino Suta to replaced injured Alexandre Flanquart, struggling with a neck injury, and Alexandre Menini who injured his foot. Gaël Fickou has returned to to his club, Toulouse.

franceFRANCE SQUAD FOR IRELAND

FORWARDS
Uini Atonio (La Rochelle)
Eddy Ben Arous (Racing Métro)
Damian Chouly (Clermont Auvergne)
Vincent Debaty (Clermont Auvergne)
THIERRY DUSAUTOIR (TOULOUSE, C)
Loann Goujon (La Rochelle)
Guilhem Guirado (Toulon)
Benjamin Kayser (Clermont Auvergne)
Wenceslas Lauret (Racing Métro)
Bernard Le Roux (Racing Métro)
Yoann Maestri (Toulouse)
Nicolas Mas (Montpellier)
Yannick Nyanga (Toulouse)
Pascal Papé (Stade Français)
Rabah Slimani (Stade Français)
Jocelino Suta (Toulon)
Romain Taofifenua (Toulon)

BACKS
Mathieu Bastareaud (Toulon)
Brice Dulin (Racing Métro)
Wesley Fofana (Clermont Auvergne)
Sofiane Guitoune (Bordeaux)
Yoann Huget (Toulouse)
Rory Kockott (Castres)
Remi Lamerat (Castres)
Camille Lopez (Clermont Auvergne)
Noa Nakaitaci (Clermont Auvergne)
Morgan Parra (Clermont Auvergne)
Scott Spedding (Bayonne)
Remi Tales (Castres)
Teddy Thomas (Racing Métro)

How France saw off Scotland in Paris...

6Ns France vs Scotland

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Sunday 8th February 2015

SCOTLAND INJURY UPDATE

Scottish RugbyTHE Scotland medical team have provided the following player update after yesterday's RBS 6 Nations loss to France in Paris.

Wing Tommy Seymour sustained a hip injury in the 18th minute of the match and will require further assessment on his return to Edinburgh.

At this stage it is uncertain if he will be passed fit for this Sunday's round two RBS 6 Nations match against Wales at BT Murrayfield (kick-off 3pm).

Scotland team RBS 6 Nations 2015

There are a number of other players who also require management and assessment by the medical team early in the week, they include: Mark Bennett (leg), Geoff Cross (leg), Alex Dunbar (neck/shoulder), Robert Harley (leg) and Alasdair Strokosch (leg).

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Sunday 8th February 2015

IrelandIRELAND LEGENDS vs ENGLAND LEGENDSEngland 28 FEBRUARY DUBLIN

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Sunday 8th February 2015

SCOTTISH RUGBY'S COTTER & LAIDLAW POST FRANCE v SCOTLAND Scottish Rugby

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Saturday 7th February 2015

WORLD RUGBY INVESTIGATING GEORGE NORTH CONCUSSION PROTOCOL

World RugbyAN accidental kick to the head of George North from the boot of Dave Attwood in the 31st minute of Wales vs England warranted a full concussion check. The Welsh Rugby Union, protest that full concussion protocol was followed, and the star winger was back on the pitch before half time.

 

No further precautions were taken, and in the 61st minute, as ‘Swing Low’ reverberated around the Millennium Stadium as loud as at a home match, following an entertaining moment where Wales produced a 16th man in the post protector which James Haskell smashed straight into and bounced off, preventing an otherwise certain try, North clashed heads with teammate, Richard Hibbard whilst tackling Mike Brown to the ground, and was knocked out, cold.

As was clear to 73,815 spectators in the stadium watching the big screen slow motion replay, and the 8 million+ TV viewers around the globe, North fell like a sack of potatoes. But Wales let him play on, not even taking him off for a moment.

With all the discussions around concussion in contact sport globally, World Rugby (formally the International Rugby Board), have stepped in and demanded answers from the WRU as to how George North was even allowed to play on. The WRU claim the management and medical team were completely unaware of the issue, though it was quite clear they were as he was attended to on the pitch.

Time for Warren Gatland and the WRU to concentrate on rugby rather than petulant bear-baiting and showmanship?

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Friday 6th February 2015

LIONS LEGEND SCOTT QUINNELL ON WALES ENGLAND

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Friday 6th February 2015

AUNTIE'S OPENING GAMBIT...#GoT STYLE

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Friday 6th February 2015

THE 6 NATIONS: WHAT THE HACKS THINK...

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Thursday 5th February 2015

BRUNEL TRUSTS EXPERIENCE FOR THE IRISH INVASION

ItalyITALY head coach Jacques Brunel has named an experienced side to take on champions Ireland in their 2015 RBS 6 Nations opener in Rome on Saturday.

Legendary No.8 Sergio Parisse leads a side that boasts 660 caps and shows only two changes, both injury-enforced, from their last outing - a 22-6 defeat to South Africa in November.

George Fabio Biagi comes into the second row alongside Josh Furno, replacing Quintin Geldenhuys, while Francesco Minto replaces Samuela Vunisa at openside, Alessandro Zanni completing the back row.

The backline is unchanged, Kelly Haimona making his first start in the RBS 6 Nations outside the experienced Edoardo Gori.

Luca Morisi and Michele Campagnaro link up in the midfield, with Luke McLean, Leonardo Sarto and Andrea Masi the back three.

Up front the irrepressible Martin Castrogiovanni packs down alongside Leonardo Ghiraldini and Matias Aguero.

The Italians will be hoping for a repeat of Ireland's last visit to the Stadio Olimpico, a 22-15 victory for the Azzurri, though last year the Irish exacted revenge with a comprehensive 46-7 win.

Brunel said: "It is not the easiest challenge. Ireland are the tournament favourites, but two years ago we beat them and we hope to have the right attitude this time. And this is the start of a tournament, so anything can happen.

"Two years ago we dominated the game, last year it was impossible to avoid their domination when all the statistics, like possession and tackles, were so negative. Something has to change and we will try to do so."

For the full Italy matchday team, click here...

6Ns Italy vs Ireland

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Thursday 5th February 2015

IRELAND PREPPED TO TAKE ON THE AZZURRI

IrelandTHE Ireland coaching staff has named the team that will line out in its opening fixture of the 2015 RBS 6 Nations Championship.

Paul O'Connell captain's the side on his 97th cap for his country and is partnered in the second row by Devin Toner. The front-row is made up of Jack McGrath, Rory Best and Mike Ross.

The back-row consists of Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien and Jordi Murphy with Conor Murray and Ian Keatley filling the half-back slots.  Robbie Henshaw will line out at inside-centre alongside Jared Payne who will fill the No.13 jersey.

The back three sees Rob Kearney flanked by Tommy Bowe and Simon Zebo.

Among the replacements are Sean Cronin, James Cronin, Martin Moore, Iain Henderson, Tommy O'Donnell, Isaac Boss, Ian Madigan and Felix Jones.

For the full Ireland matchday team, click here...

6Ns Italy vs Ireland

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Thursday 5th February 2015

O'CONNELL ON DEFENDING THE TITLE...& BABIES Ireland

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Thursday 5th February 2015

COTTER READY FOR THE CHALLENGE OF LES BLEUS

Scottish RugbyHEAD COACH Vern Cotter today named the Scotland squad for this Saturday's RBS 6 Nations opener against France at the Stade de France in Paris.

The starting team features just two changes to that which defeated Tonga 37-12 in the final viagogo Autumn Test, and three championship debutants in Finn Russell, Mark Bennett and Blair Cowan.

Bennett returns from the hamstring injury that ruled him out of the third, while fellow Warrior, tight-head prop Euan Murray, steps in for Geoff Cross who starts on the bench.

A blend of experience and youth will once again orchestrate the back division as captain Greig Laidlaw and stand-off Russell start their fifth Test match together.

Centre Alex Dunbar will partner Warriors teammate Bennett in midfield, in front of a potent back division of full-back Stuart Hogg, and wings Tim Visser and Tommy Seymour, who scored a try in each of the viagogo Autumn Tests.

A similarly-settled pack will also run out at the Stade de France, with Alasdair Dickinson and Ross Ford packing down with Murray in an experienced front-row that boasts 181 international caps.

Second-row brothers Richie and Jonny Gray will again form the boiler house in their fourth consecutive start for their country together, with Rob Harley, Johnnie Beattie and Cowan in the back-row.

Scotland head coach Vern Cotter, said: "Seeing the passion and desire among our players in the build up to the tournament has been special.”

He added: "France will be tough. They played well in the autumn series but remain frustrated with past results in the RBS 6 Nations.

"They will be very difficult to contain so we'll have to stay tight as a unit, work hard for each other and try to apply some pressure.

"It'll be a very tough start to the championship, but we're looking forward to that challenge.”

Scotland's remaining changes appear on the bench, with 57-times capped lock Jim Hamilton coming in for Kieran Low, while the back replacements are all changed to feature uncapped Edinburgh Rugby scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Dougie Fife and Peter Horne.

Hidalgo-Clyne and Horne are among a further four potential tournament debutants, with hooker Fraser Brown and loose-head prop Gordon Reid also in-line to make their first outing in the world's greatest championship.

Backs Sean Lamont, Henry Pyrgos and Matt Scott were not considered for the match having been unable to recover from calf, knee and shoulder injuries sustained in training.

For the full Scotland matchday team, click here...

6Ns France vs Scotland

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Thursday 5th February 2015

O2 INSIDE LINE: ENGLAND V WALES PREVIEW England

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Wednesday 4th February 2015

IRFU LOSES IRELAND FRANCE TICKETS

IrelandTHE Irish Rugby Football Union advises fans seeking tickets for the sold out Ireland - France match on the 14th February not to buy tickets from unofficial sellers after 144 tickets destined for Irish clubs were lost in transit.

The Union will now cancel and re-issue the tickets to clubs and advised that any person arriving at the AVIVA with a cancelled ticket will not gain entry to the stadium.

An Post is investigating this issue as a matter of urgency.

A list of the specific seats is available here...

IRFU click here

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Wednesday 4th February 2015

ENGLAND READY TO PUT 2013 FIRMLY IN HISTORY ON FRIDAY NIGHT

EnglandLUTHER BURRELL and Jonathan Joseph form yet another midfield partnership for England's RBS 6 Nations opener with head coach Stuart Lancaster excited to see them in action.

Burrell and Joseph take up the centre berths in the only changes to the backs as Ben Youngs, George Ford, Jonny May, Anthony Watson and Mike Brown are all retained by Lancaster from the autumn victory over Australia.

However, up front, Dan Cole starts at tighthead in the place of the injured David Wilson and that is one of four changes to England's pack for the trip to Wales.

 

Lock George Kruis and blindside flanker James Haskell replace injured Northampton Saints duo Tom Wood and Courtney Lawes, with Billy Vunipola taking over from Ben Morgan at No.8 with the latter recovering from a broken leg.

Among the replacements are British & Irish Lions Tom Youngs, Tom Croft and Mako Vunipola, all three having played some part in England's 30-3 defeat at the Millennium Stadium in the 2013 RBS 6 Nations meaning they will be eager to get on the pitch to help set the record straight.

Nick Easter, Danny Cipriani, Kieran Brookes, Richard Wigglesworth and Billy Twelvetrees complete the bench and Lancaster admitted he had some tough decisions to make.

"We've had to make some tight calls but we are excited about the side selected for what will be a big challenge," he said.

"JJ has been one of the form centres in the country. He and Luther have trained well together and this is a big opportunity for both of them.

"Billy Vunipola has also been playing well for Saracens and it's good to be able to give George Kruis his first international start after his impressive run off the bench in November.

"Dan Cole and James Haskell bring a lot of experience, as do the bench, and their contribution will be crucial on Friday night."

For the full England matchday team, click here...

6Ns Wales vs England

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Wednesday 4th February 2015

LAIDLAW & COWAN CHAT SCOTTISH FRENCH RUGBY Scottish Rugby

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Wednesday 4th February 2015

SAINT-ANDRÉ NAMES LES BLEUS TO FACE SCOTLAND

FranceRORY KOCKOTT will make his first start for France when Les Bleus host Scotland in the opening round of the 2015 RBS 6 Nations.

The Castres scrum-half has been picked ahead of Morgan Parra by head coach Philippe Saint-Andre for the clash at the Stade de France.

South African-born Kockott will link up with fly-half Camille Lopez to form the halfback pairing, the 14th different starting duo since Saint-Andre took over after the last World Cup.

In the pack Saint-André has opted for Rabah Slimani at tighthead meaning Nicolas Mas falls out of the matchday squad altogether.

Elsewhere Teddy Thomas, who scored four tries in only two Tests in the autumn, will start on the right wing after missing the defeat to Argentina at the end of November.

Thierry Dusautoir, who missed the whole of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations with injury, returns as skipper for Les Bleus while Scott Spedding is preferred to Brice Dulin at full-back.

On the replacements bench Loann Goujon is set to make his France debut if introduced.

For the full France matchday team, click here...

6Ns France vs Scotland

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Tuesday 3rd February 2015

AZZURRI LEGEND LE CICERO ON ITALY'S 6Ns CHANCES italy

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Monday 2nd February 2015

WARBURTON TO WIN 50th CAP IN 6 NATIONS OPENER

WalesCAPTAIN Sam Warburton will win his 50th cap against England on Friday evening as he leads a Wales side that contains two changes from the XV that beat South Africa in their last outing.

Warren Gatland has named his team this morning, 48 hours ahead of schedule, and it sees the return of British and Irish Lions Richard Hibbard and George North to the starting line-up.

Hibbard will line-up in the front-row with Gethin Jenkins and Samson Lee, with Jake Ball and Alun Wyn Jones packing down behind. Warburton is named in a familiar back row with Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau. Ospreys duo Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar continue at half-back with Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies continuing their partnership in midfield.

Wales 6Ns Squad photo 2015

North is the only change in backline and lines up in a back three along with Alex Cuthbert and Leigh Halfpenny.

"We decided to name the team early to give the players the best possible chance of preparation”, said Gatland.

"It was a tough call on the two changes we have made from the side that beat South Africa, but its good to have these and other tough selection decisions and it's a strong position to be in.

"We are excited about kicking the tournament off on Friday against a strong England side in front of a packed Millennium Stadium.”

Scott Baldwin, Paul James and Aaron Jarvis form the front-row cover on the bench, with Luke Charteris and Justin Tipuric completing the forward contingent. Mike Phillips, Rhys Priestland and Liam Williams provide the backline cover.

For the full Wales matchday team, click here...

6Ns Wales vs England

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Thursday 29th January 2015

IN CAMP WITH WALES RUGBY Wales

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Wednesday 28th January 2015

AND SO IT BEGINS...WITH A STUNNING NEW TROPHY AS THE PRIZE

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Wednesday 28th January 2015

RUGBY'S GREATEST CHAMPIONSHIP

RBS 6 Nations TrophyTHE oldest rugby union Championship in the world returns in 2015 and the RBS 6 Nations is bigger and better than ever.
 
Last year it was Ireland's turn to lift the famous trophy – the second time they have done so since Italy joined the Championship to complete the full complement 15 years ago.
 
They did so in triumphant style at the Stade de France, beating Les Blues 22-20 to give Brian O'Driscoll the perfect international send-off in front of 78,337 supporters in the French capital.

That crowd is nothing out of the ordinary for the RBS 6 Nations, the best-attended rugby event in the world – with an average attendance of 72,000 per match.
 
And it is not just the supporters in the stadiums who turn out in force, with millions of viewers tuning in from the comfort of their own homes and in pubs all over the world.


 
Broadcast in more than 190 countries and streamed live in another 20, the RBS 6 Nations doesn't just boast the best players in world rugby, but also the title of most watched annual rugby Championship on the planet.
 
And today the 2015 RBS Six Nations Championship launched was again at West London’s premiere private members club, The Hurlingham. So here’s a sneak peak behind the scenes...

 

The day was launched with a casual Q&A with all six captains, admirably marshalled by the BBC’s Andrew Cotter, and the unveiling of the new RBS Six Nations Trophy.

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Fixtures

RBS Six Nations 2015

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