Six Nations – Fixtures and team news for Week 3


After a one-week break, the Six Nations returns under a wave of uncertainty as Wales confirmed on Wednesday their match against England would take place, after talks with the players over contract disputes were resolved.

In the round’s early kickoff, Ireland head to Rome where they will look to follow up on resounding victories over Wales and France. Andy Farrell’s side have looked every bit worth their tag of world No. 1 and will hoping for a repeat performance against Italy, whose only point so far came as a bonus in their 24-point effort against France.

Elsewhere on Saturday, off-the-field issue will be spoken about just as much as anything that happens on the pitch at the Principality Stadium. England head coach Steve Borthwick is seeking his second win since taking charge in December, but it is how Wales’ players respond after threatening industrial action that will dictate the focus in Cardiff.

The final clash of the weekend could be a cracker. Scotland have put together a pair of victories over England and Wales and will hope to prove their credentials once again as they take on reigning Six Nations champions France at the Stade de France in Paris.

Italy vs, Ireland, Saturday, 2.15pm GMT, Stadio Olympic, Rome

Paolo Garbisi will play at fly-half for Italy in their Six Nations fixture against world number one Ireland in Rome on Saturday, his first start since the autumn international series late last year.

The Montpellier No. 10 missed the opening two games of the tournament with knee injury and replaces Tommaso Allan, while wing Pierre Bruno is another change from the team that lost 31-14 to England last time out.

He takes over from Tommaso Menoncello, who moves to inside centre as Luca Morisi misses out.

“Every game has a different story,” coach Kieran Crowley said. “We will face Ireland aware of what we did against France and England with the aim of improving in some areas that will make us more competitive.

“It will be a tough game against the number one team in the world and we can’t wait to face them.”

Italy have four wins in 34 previous matches against Ireland, though their only success since 1999 came in a 22-15 Six Nations victory in Rome a decade ago.

Italy: Ange Capuozzo, Edoardo Padovani, Juan Ignacio Brex, Tommaso Menoncello, Pierre Bruno, Paolo Garbisi, Stephen Varney, Lorenzo Cannone, Michele Lamaro (Captain), Sebastian Negri, Federico Ruzza, Niccolò Cannone, Simone Ferrari, Giacomo Nicotera, Danilo Fischetti.

Replacements: Luca Bigi, Federico Zani, Marco Riccioni, Edoardo Iachizzi, Giovanni Pettinelli, Alessandro Fusco, Luca Morisi, Tommaso Allan.

Ireland have made six changes for Saturday’s Six Nations trip to Italy, with each of those players having come off the bench to see off France last time out in a victory that made the world’s top-ranked team championship favourites.

With captain Johnny Sexton absent due to a leg injury, Ross Byrne earns a well deserved start at fly-half. He will be partnered by Craig Casey, who is also set to start a Six Nations game for the first time as Conor Murray drops to the bench.

Peter O’Mahony and Stuart McCloskey also move to the bench to make way for Jack Conan and Bundee Aki, while Iain Henderson comes in at lock for Tadhg Beirne who suffered a tournament-ending ankle injury in the 32-19 win over France.

Rob Herring is continuing graduated return to play protocols after suffering concussion against the French, but coach Andy Farrell’s first choice hookers are fully fit again with Ronan Kelleher starting and Dan Sheehan among the replacements.

Ireland, who remain without Robbie Henshaw, Tadhg Furlong, Jamison Gibson-Park and Cian Healy due to injury, top the standings on points difference ahead of Scotland after two matches. Italy are second-bottom in the table.

The two sides meet in Edinburgh on March 12, following Scotland’s trip to France on Sunday.

Ireland: Hugo Keenan, Mack Hansen, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, James Lowe, Ross Byrne, Craig Casey, Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, James Ryan (Captain). Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Dave Kilcoyne, Tom O’Toole, Ryan Baird, Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Jack Crowley, Stuart McCloskey.

Wales vs. England, Saturday, 4.45pm GMT, Principality Stadium, Cardiff

Wales have wielded the axe with nine changes to their side for the Six Nations showdown with England on Saturday, including a start for Owen Williams ahead of Dan Biggar at fly-half as coach Warren Gatland desperately seeks a winning formula.

The match had been under threat this week as Welsh players mulled strike action following a dispute over contracts for next season, but was given the green light on Wednesday with the squad having resumed training.

It will be a first international start for Williams at fly-half having previously played centre as Gatland also called on the cavalry with the return of a number of senior players, including number eight Taulupe Faletau, loose-forward Justin Tipuric, lock Alun Wyn Jones and fullback Leigh Halfpenny.

There is also a debut for Mason Grady at outside centre as he partners another rookie in Joe Hawkins as the midfield pairing. George North is not in the match 23.

“There’s some experience coming back into the side and then we’re mixing that with giving players an opportunity. Owen Williams coming in at 10 – we need to find out about that 10 position so Owen gets a chance,” Gatland said.

“We’ve given Mason Grady a first cap. He’s a big lad, he’s got some really lovely rugby skills and offloading ability. He’s quick, so he’s the kind of centre that I think is going to have it all going forward.”

Wales have had two heavy defeats in the Six Nations so far with the Scotland defeat preceded by a 34-10 home loss to Ireland.

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, Louis Rees-Zammit, Mason Grady, Joe Hawkins, Josh Adams, Owen Williams, Tomos Williams, Gareth Thomas, Ken Owens (Captain), Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Christ Tshiunza, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Bradley Roberts, Rhys Carre, Dillon Lewis, Dafydd Jenkins, Tommy Reffell, Kieran Hardy, Dan Biggar, Nick Tompkins.

Anthony Watson will make his first start for England in two years after being named on the wing for Saturday’s Six Nations game against Wales.

He replaces the injured Ollie Hassell-Collins on the left wing in the only change from the team who beat Italy two weeks ago.

Former captain Courtney Lawes and Ben Curry are named on the bench, along with livewire winger Henry Arundell.

Watson, who turns 29 on Sunday, missed almost a year with a knee injury but kick-started his career after moving from Bath to Leicester this season.

Curry was called up earlier in the week after his brother Tom was ruled out of the rest of the championship with a hamstring strain.mHe too played in the first game before being dropped for the Italy match.

Lawes has played only a handful of games for his club Northampton after a succession of concussion and injury issues and last featured for England in Australia last July.

“Wales v England in Cardiff is one of the iconic rugby fixtures, steeped in history and always full of passion,” coach Steve Borthwick said.

“We know the Principality Stadium crowd will be in full voice and we will have to be at our very best to repeat the success we had in the last round against Italy.

“I am delighted to have welcomed Courtney Lawes back to the squad after injury. His quality and experience has contributed to a focused training week, marked by the sort of competition and intensity we expect.”

England: Freddie Steward, Max Malins, Henry Slade, Ollie Lawrence, Anthony Watson, Owen Farrell (Captain), Jack van Poortvliet, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Ollie Chessum, Lewis Ludlam, Jack Willis, Alex Dombrandt.

Replacements: Jack Walker, Mako Vunipola, Dan Cole, Courtney Lawes, Ben Curry, Alex Mitchell, Marcus Smith, Henry Arundell.

France vs. Scotland, Saturday, 3pm GMT, Stade de France, Paris





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