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Brave Scots beat England

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Scotland has ended England hope of a grand-slam in this years Six Nations when they outplayed them 25-13 on Saturday.

It was one huge performance from the Scots and they deserve every single minute of this great win.

This win also brings an end to a eight match losing streak against England.

Ireland win earlier over Wales have now put them in the pound seat to take this years Six Nations Championship.

Laidlaw gave Scotland the early lead as he kicked nine out of nine in this years championship.

Farrell leveled scores with a penalty for England after 14 minutes but Scotland then scored their first try after a driving maul in to the twenty two, Finn Russell placed a well-weighted grubber kick through which bounced fortunately for Scotland, completely bamboozling Anthony Watson as Huw Jones pounced on the ball to run through and dot down for the game’s first try. Laidlaw’s conversion made it 10-3.

England got another penalty to take their score to six

It was a gain Finn Russell that was doing his part to send Sean Maitland over in the corner.

Then came the Huw Jones moment running straight through England defence and with two English on his back had the power to get over the line

England immediately took the game to Scotland after the break, enjoying their best spell of possession of the game and the resistance was broken just four minutes in when Farrell ran a lovely line as Danny Care switched back to the blindside, catching the Scottish defence slightly off-guard.

A long period of no scoring ensued before Sam Underhill saw yellow in the 65th minute for a no-arms tackle. Russell slotted the subsequent penalty to extend the lead to 25-13.

However, Scotland showed tremendous character on defence to deny England any further scores and secure a historic victory.

The scorers:

For Scotland:
Tries: Jones 2, Maitland
Cons: Laidlaw 2
Pens: Laidlaw, Russell

For England:
Try: Farrell
Con: Farrell
Pens: Farrell 2

France get first win in Six Nations

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France outscored Italy on Friday to get their first win in the six nations with a winning score of 34-17.

The game started with allot of passion and speed from both teams as they got stuck in to the game. France had the better of the early exchanges but could not convert.

They were the first team with the points on the board as they eventually went over and led 5-0.

Great power from the Italians forced a penalty try which gave Italy the lead 7-0.

The rest of the half was a case of missed opportunities for France combined with great defence from Italy which kept them out.

France were able to knock over two penalties to take a 11-7 lead into the break.

The second half started much the same as the first with France dominating but left a few tries on the field early on.

Decision making was not great from the French, but they did kick another penalty over to take their lead to 14-7.

France did keep the scoreboard ticking with penalties in the second half and extend their lead with Italy trying to catch up. Two more tries made it to little time to catch up although they did get a consolation try with two minutes to go.

France will be happy with their first win in 8 tests, but it was far from a good enough performance to challenge any top tier team.

Scorers:

France

Tries – Mathieu Bastareaud(73′) Hugo Bonneval(60′) Paul Gabrillagues(5′)

Penalties – Maxime Machenaud(71′) Maxime Machenaud(65′) Maxime Machenaud(46′) Maxime Machenaud(40′) Maxime Machenaud(29′)

Cons –Francois Trinh-Duc(74′) Maxime Machenaud(61′)

Italy

 

Tries – Matteo Minozzi(79′) Maxime Mbanda(10′)

Penalties – Tommaso Allan(50′)

 Cons – Carlo Canna(79′)

France make five changes for Italy

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France have made five changes to their starting XV to face Italy at the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille on Friday night in Round Three of the Six Nations.

Mathieu Bastareaud returns in the midfield, where he will partner Geoffrey Doumayrou, while it is also all change in the back three.

Hugo Bonneval comes in at full-back, with Benjamin Fall and Rémy Grosso getting their first starts of the campaign on the wings.

The final change comes in the pack where Paul Gabrillagues gets the nod in the second row in place of Arthur Iturria.

There are also changes on the bench where Lyon and former France Under-20s scrum-half Baptiste Couilloud is set to make his debut.

The other changes see first championship appearances in 2018 for Romain Taofifenua, Kélian Galletier, François Trinh-Duc and Gaël Fickou.

This will be France’s first home championship game played outside Paris, with the team having spent the week training in Aix-en-Provence to prepare for the Marseille clash.

France: 15 Hugo Bonneval, 14 Benjamin Fall, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 11 Rémy Grosso, 10 Lionel Beauxis, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Marco Tauleigne, 7 Yacouba Camara, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 4 Paul Gabrillagues, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Jefferson Poirot
Replacements: 16 Adrien Pelissié, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Cedate Gomes Sa, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Kélian Galletier, 21 Baptiste Couilloud, 22 François Trinh-Duc, 23 Gaël Fickou

Date: Friday, February 23
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Luke Pearce (England)
Television match official: David Grashoff (England)

Thanks to

Scotland unchanged for England

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Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has named an unchanged side to face England in the Calcutta Cup clash on Saturday.

The Scots fought back from a 10-point deficit on two occasions against France and scored 12 unanswered points in the final quarter to post their first win of the 2018 Six Nations, with the two-try showing rewarded with reselection for the starting XV.

There are, however, three changes to the bench with fit-again prop Willem Nel and lock Tim Swinson – both of whom returned to the squad this week – named among the replacements in place of Jon Welsh and Ben Toolis.

Centre Nick Grigg is the only change among the backs replacements as a reward for his consistency of performance for Glasgow Warriors, highlighted in his man-of-the-match winning performance for the club in their bonus-point win over Cheetahs last weekend.

Townsend said: “The players put a huge amount of effort into our win over France. They found a way to win and kept attacking the opposition up until the final whistle.

“England are the number two side in the world and have shown a very good level of consistency in the past couple of seasons. This is due to the quality of their playing and coaching staff, who have done a tremendous job.

“They have a very good defence, an excellent set-piece and like to get 10 and 12 on the ball as much as possible in attack. Taking on England is going to be a huge challenge and we are well aware that only our very best will be good enough in this fixture.

“As always our supporters will play a vital role throughout the match and we’re delighted to be back at BT Murrayfield with the backing of our home fans.”

The unchanged starting side means Scotland’s British & Irish Lions backline quintet of Stuart Hogg, Greig Laidlaw, Sean Maitland, Finn Russell and Tommy Seymour return, with the Glasgow Warriors partnership of Pete Horne and Huw Jones completing the division.

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Pete Horne, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (c), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Gordon Reid
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Willem Nel, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 David Denton, 21 Ali Price, 22 Nick Grigg, 23 Blair Kinghorn

Date: Saturday, February 24
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Andrew Brace (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)

Thanks to

Italy change six for France clash

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Italy head coach Conor O’Shea has made three changes to his team for their Six Nations clash with France on Friday night.

All are in the pack with Andrea Lovotti and Leonardo Ghiraldini coming into the front-row, while Maxime Mbanda is introduced at openside flanker.

Lovotti and Ghiraldini started the first game of this year’s championship against England and are recalled in place of Nicola Quaglio and Luca Bigi respectively.

Mbanda, meanwhile, is promoted from the bench into the back-row for Braam Steyn at openside – the latter dropping out of the matchday 23 altogether.

That means George Biagi comes onto the bench with both Renato Giammarioli and Giovanni Licata out injured.

Sergio Parisse captains the side that has an unchanged back line, with Matteo Minozzi in the back three alongside wings Tommaso Benvenuti and Mattia Bellini.

Tommaso Castello and Tommaso Boni are the centres while Tommaso Allan and Marcello Violi remain in the half-backs.

Italy: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Tommaso Boni, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 7 Maxime Mbanda, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Dean Budd, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Luca Bigi, 17 Nicola Quaglio, 18 Tiziano Pasquali 19 George Biagi, 20 Federico Ruzza, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Jayden Hayward

Date: Friday, February 23
Venue: Stade Velodrome, Marseille
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Luke Pearce (England)
TMO: David Grashoff (England)

Thanks to

Several French players drop for late night

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France head coach Jacques Brunel has dropped several players from his squad to face Italy as punishment for their “inappropriate behaviour” in Edinburgh recently.

Seven les Bleus players were reportedly questioned by police following a fight that took place in Edinburgh city centre on Sunday night after France lost their Six Nations Test to Scotland on the same day.

In a statement the French rugby federation (FFR) said: “(Coach) Jacques Brunel has decided to exclude from that list the players who went out after the defeat in Scotland.

“With this inappropriate behaviour, they failed to respect their duty as international players.”

The players were taken off their plane, that was set to leave Edinburgh airport on Monday, to be questioned by the police.

Although the FFR did not name the players sanctioned, Anthony Belleau, Alexandre Lapandry, Arthur Iturria, Felix Lambey, Jonathan Danty, Louis Picamoles, Remi Lamerat and Teddy Thomas were not named in the squad for the clash with Italy on February 23 in Marseille.

France squad: Mathieu Babbilot (Castres), Mathieu Bastareaud (Toulon), Lionel Beauxis (Lyon), Eddy Ben Arous (Racing 92), Hugo Bonneval (Toulon), Yacouba Camara (Montpellier), Camille Chat (Racing 92), Henry Chavancy (Racing 92), Baptiste Couilloud (Lyon), Geoffrey Doumayrou (La Rochelle), Benjamin Fall (Montpellier), Gaël Fickou (Toulouse), Paul Gabrillagues (Stade Français), Kelian Galletier (Montpellier), Cedate Gomes Sa (Racing 92), Rémy Grosso (Clermont), Guilhem Guirado (c) (Toulon), Wenceslas Lauret (Racing 92), Bernard le Roux (Racing 92), Maxime Machenaud (Racing 92), Geoffrey Palis (Castres), Adrien Pelissie (Bordeaux-Bègles), Jefferson Poirot (Bordeaux-Bègles), Dany Priso (La Rochelle), Baptiste Serin (Bordeaux-Bègles), Rabah Slimani (Clermont), Romain Taofifenua (Toulon), Marco Tauleigne (Bordeaux-Bègles), François Trinh Duc (Toulon), Sébastien Vahaamahina (Clermont), Virimi Vakatawa (Racing 92)

Six Nations Round 2 wrap

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This weekend saw the second round of Six Nations matches which saw Ireland, England and Scotland getting wins.

Ireland cruise past Italy (Ireland 56 Italy 19)

Ireland made it two wins out of two in this year’s Six Nations when they claimed a deserved 56-19 win over Italy in Dublin on Saturday.

Joe Schmidt’s men were ruthless in the first half and went into the break leading 28-0. Despite a few defensive errors in the second, they ultimately proved too good for Conor O’Shea’s side.

After a sustained spell of pressure from the hosts, Robbie Henshaw scored the first try of the game in the 11th minute, after spotting a gap in the defence and surging through from close range.

Ireland continued to attack and only had to wait three minutes before scoring again. A magnificent pass from Jack Conan sent Conor Murray away on the left and the scrum-half finished off.

Murray turned provider in the 21st minute following an attacking lineout, which had put Ireland just short of the try-line. From there, he passed the ball to Bundee Aki, who crashed over.

14 minutes later, it was Aki’s turn to set up a try. After a clever dummy in the build-up, he passed the ball to Keith Earls, who eased over for the bonus-point try near the right touchline.

Italy shot themselves in the foot in the fourth minute of the second half, as Sergio Parisse’s sloppy pass to Tommaso Allan was intercepted by Henshaw. The centre ran through for his second try, but injured himself in the process and had to be replaced by debutant Jordan Larmour.

Captain Rory Best got in on the act in the 53rd minute, when he peeled away from a maul and crashed over for a rare try.

However, Italy hit back three minutes later, when Tommaso Castello charged through a gap in the defence and offloaded to Tommaso Allan, who scored the Azzurri’s first try.

It didn’t take long for Ireland to respond. Jacob Stockdale eased through the Azzurri defence from close range and grounded the ball near the posts in the 60th minute following another attacking lineout.

Matteo Minozzi was the catalyst for a well-worked attacking move which led to Italy’s second try. Parisse got the final pass to Edoardo Gori, who scored in the 66th minute.

However, once again, Italy proved their own worst enemies, as Stockdale intercepted a Castello pass and darted through on the left to score Ireland’s eighth try four minutes later.

Minozzi got a deserved try of his own with five minutes left on the clock after the ball was worked out left to him following an attacking lineout. Nevertheless, it was too little, too late, as Italy narrowly missed out on a bonus point.

The scorers:

For Ireland:
Tries: 
Henshaw 2, Murray, Aki, Earls, Best, Stockdale 2
Cons: Sexton 5, Carbery 3

For Italy:
Tries: 
Allan, Gori, Minozzi
Cons: Allan 2

England claim hard-fought win over Wales (England 12 Wales 6)

England kept their Grand Slam hopes alive when they claimed a hard-fought 12-6 victory over Wales at Twickenham on Saturday.

In a tough and uncompromising encounter, characterised by several brutal collisions, England outscored their hosts two tries to none with Jonny May crossing for a brace in the first half.

England were made to work very hard for this win but, in the end, they did enough in the first half to secure the result as a Wales penalty was the only points after half-time. although the visitors will rue some missed opportunities on attack

The hosts made a bright start and opened the scoring as early as the third minute when May gathered a bouncing crossfield kick from Owen Farrell inside Wales’ 22 before crossing the whitewash.

Farrell missed with the conversion attempt but although Wales had a chance to narrow the gap when England infringed from the restart, Rhys Patchell pushed his penalty kick wide of the posts.

England continued to dominate as the half progressed and in the 20th minute they increased their lead courtesy of May’s second try.

Farrell threw a long pass to Joe Launchbury close to Wales’ try-line. and although the big second-row still had work to do, he did well to throw an inside pass to May, who went over untouched.

Farrell succeeded with the conversion attempt which gave his side a 12-0 lead, but Wales were soon back on the attack and were unlucky not to be awarded a try.

This, after a Patchell crossfield kick bounced off Steff Evans’ knee and Gareth Anscombe appeared to ground the ball before Anthony Watson but the Television Match Official ruled that there was insufficient evidence of the grounding.

Referee Jérôme Garcès came back for an England infringement on defence and Patchell slotted the resulting penalty to open the visitors’ account.

There were several tense moments over the next 15 minutes but Patchell’s penalty was the final points of the half and although England held a nine-point lead, the game was evenly poised as the teams changed sides at the interval.

The second half was a tight affair and although the two teams spent time inside their opponents’ half, they kept each other at bay with solid defensive efforts.

Wales finished stronger, however, and did most of the attacking during the final quarter.

Just after the hour-mark, Ken Owens and George North combined brilliantly before North offloaded to Scott Williams inside England’s 22. Williams was in the clear and sailed towards the try-line from five metres out but Sam Underhill did saved the day for the hosts with a brilliant cover tackle which took Williams into touch at the corner flag.

Wales continued to attack but had nothing to show for their efforts although they secured a losing bonus-point, three minutes before full-time, when Anscombe slotted a penalty.

The scorers:

For England:
Tries:
 May 2
Con: Farrell

For Wales:
Pens: 
Patchell, Anscombe

Laidlaw boot secure Scots win over France (Scotland 32 France 26)

Greig Laidlaw kicked six second half penalties as Scotland got their Six Nations campaign back on track following a 32-26 triumph over France.

The first half was a wonderfully free-flowing encounter with the sides scoring two tries apiece. Teddy Thomas touched down twice for the French – his second taking them 17-7 clear – but Sean Maitland and Huw Jones crossed the whitewash for the hosts to leave it finely poised.

Although the second period was slightly more attritional, with three penalties from Laidlaw to two from Baptiste Serin the only scores in the third quarter, it was still an enthralling contest going into the final 20 minutes.

Laidlaw then levelled proceedings before the half-back added two more from the tee to condemn France to a second consecutive defeat.

It was a thrilling affair – quite comfortably the best game of the championship – and the early passage of play set the tone.

With conditions far more conducive for attacking rugby than in France’s narrow defeat to Ireland last weekend, the visitors looked to move the ball wider and enjoyed plenty of success.

Once again, Thomas, after his wonderful individual score in round one, was particularly prominent and he repeated that effort in the opening 10 minutes.

The wing virtually produced a carbon copy of that try as he picked up the ball on the right, weaved outside Finn Russell and then stepped inside Stuart Hogg for another magnificent individual touchdown.

Jacques Brunel’s men were on the front foot and Maxime Machenaud followed up converting Thomas’ score by adding a penalty.

Scotland hit back, however. Against Wales, where they conceded early and duly folded, Gregor Townsend’s men could have gone the same way at Murrayfield but, to their credit, the hosts found their composure and, more importantly, their physicality.

Both Hamish Watson and Jonny Gray had surges which dented the opposition rearguard before the ball was shifted wide and Maitland crossed the whitewash unopposed.

Townsend’s side were playing much better but so were Les Bleus and another piece of Thomas brilliance saw them restore their 10-point buffer. The hosts were exposed on the right once more and the Frenchman sprinted down the wing, kicked ahead and touched down.

Unperturbed, Scotland reduced the arrears when Jones took a brilliant line, but a second Machenaud three-pointer gave the visitors a 20-14 advantage at the interval.

Discipline was an issue in the second period with Laidlaw and replacement Serin, who came on at half-time, trading three-pointers. The kickers then repeated the trick as Brunel’s side went into the final quarter 26-20 in front.

France were beginning to make errors, however, and they started to infringe more consistently. Two of those were in kickable positions and Scotland’s scrum-half was in no mood to miss, adding a brace of penalties.

The home team sensed that their opponents were wilting and searched for the decisive breakthrough. Townsend’s men were on the front foot and the pressure eventually yielded an opportunity for their sharp-shooter, which he converted.

Scotland maintained their intensity and Laidlaw made sure that they erased memories of their woeful performance against Wales.

The scorers:

For Scotland:
Tries: Maitland, Jones
Cons: Laidlaw 2
Pens: Laidlaw 6

For France:
Tries: Thomas 2
Cons: Machenaud 2
Pens: Machenaud 2, Serin 2

Thanks to

Sexton give Ireland win over France

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Johnny Sexton was the Ireland hero as his last-minute long range drop-goal broke France hearts, snatching a dramatic 15-13 triumph at the Stade de France.

Les Bleus were playing their first game under Jacques Brunel, following the sacking of Guy Noves, and it showed in the opening 20 minutes.

The Emerald Isle were initially far more assured in what they were trying to achieve with the ball and successive Sexton penalties gave them a six-point buffer. Maxime Machenaud reduced the deficit from the tee, but the visiting pivot added another three-pointer for a 9-3 advantage at the interval.

Sexton and Machenaud then traded three-pointers after the break, leaving it finely poised going into the four quarter, but the French seemed to produce one final surge.

Joe Schmidt’s team had appeared too streetwise for an outfit still finding its feet, but Teddy Thomas weaved his way through the opposition’s rearguard for a superb try. However, Ireland are a confident side under their astute boss and they maintained their composure to win the game when Sexton dropped a goal from over 40 metres.

The visitors began confidently and went through the phases impressively and against a French team eager to get into the contest, forcing Brunel’s men to infringe.

Keith Earls was also looking particularly threatening and those two factors allowed the away side to earn a couple of kickable penalties, which Sexton converted for an early 6-0 advantage.

The 2014 and ‘15 winners remained in the ascendency and created an opportunity inside their opponents’ 22 but, to the hosts’ credit, they remained resilient in defence.

For a team that has had little preparation time under their new head coach, Les Bleus were remarkably well organised and they managed to frustrate Ireland. Schmidt’s men duly became far too narrow in attack and France profited at the breakdown, earning a pressure-relieving penalty.

Brunel’s team then got into the Ireland half and reduced the arrears via Machenaud before Sexton restored the visitors’ buffer at the interval.

It was a disappointing opening 40 minutes, particularly after Ireland’s bright start, and the attrional nature of the contest continued in the second period.

Both teams were trying every trick in the book to slow down opposition ball but the French stepped over the line in the 47th minute and the Emerald Isle’s pivot punished them with his fourth off the tee.

Ireland had been disciplined throughout the encounter and it kept the hosts at arm’s length, but a needless infringement allowed Machenaud to keep France in the game.

Schmidt’s men were in control and appeared to be heading for victory before Thomas picked up the ball, scythed his way through and crossed the whitewash. Anthony Belleau converted and that looked to be the game, until Sexton displayed his qualities in the final minute.

The scorers:

For France:
Try: Thomas
Con: Belleau
Pens: Machenaud 2

For Ireland:
Pens: Sexton 4
Drop-goal: Sexton

Wales to good for Scotland

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Wales exacted their revenge for last year’s defeat with a 34-7 win over Scotland in Six Nations action at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

Tries from Gareth Davies, Steff Evans and a Leigh Halfpenny brace proved too much for Scotland, who scored through Peter Horne.

Although they enjoyed superior possession and territory, Scotland were guilty of poor execution and Wales were happy to sit back and pounce on their mistakes.

Scotland also gave away too many penalties, refusing to learn their lesson and Halfpenny continued to punish them as he maintained his hundred percent kicking record throughout.

Scotland can count themselves unlucky to have gone behind against the run of play, having dominated the early exchanges. Scrum-half Ali Price was slow to clear from the ruck and opposite number Davies read his pass like a novel, snatching the ball out of mid-air before winning the foot race with Scotland outside centre Chris Harris to dot down. Halfpenny added the extras.

Wales doubled their lead six minutes later. It was sloppy from Scotland to give away the scrum in the first place. Wales fly-half Rhys Patchell made the initial break from the set-piece but was halted metres short. Wales sucked in the Scottish defence before spraying the ball out wide to the right where Wales had two men waiting on the overlap. Halfpenny didn’t even need the man on his outside as he crashed over before converting his own try to give the home side a 12th-minute 14-0 lead.

Wales came flying out the blocks in the second half and were rewarded with a Halfpenny three-pointer five minutes in after referee Pascal Gauzere ruled that Scotland captain John Barclay had stolen the ball illegally at a ruck.

Soon after, Halfpenny slotted another penalty with Barclay the culprit again; this time for not releasing the tackler. This meant Wales led 20-0 with half an hour to go.

One could tell the Scotland backroom staff were not happy with the state of affairs when Scotland coach Gregor Townsend rung the changes on the 50-minute mark. His counterpart Warren Gatland responded by making a string of changes of his own.

Ten minutes later, Wales had their third. From a five-metre attacking lineout, the ball was switched from left to right as Wales showed patience in taking the ball through the phases. The space was created courtesy of quick hands from Evans to free Halfpenny on the right flank for the full-back to grab his brace. Halfpenny added the extras for a 27-0 lead.

A powerful carry up the middle from Wales flank Aaron Shingler got Wales on the front foot and the Scotland defence scrambling. The ball was recycled out left to centre Hadleigh Parkes who did well to slip his tackler and delay the pass just enough for Evans to produce a stylish one-handed finish in the corner.

With two minutes left on the clock, Scotland scored a consolation try when substitute Horne hurdled his way through the space behind the ruck; a momentary lapse of concentration from the Wales defence denying them a clean sheet.

The scorers:

For Wales:
Tries: G Davies, S Evans, Halfpenny 2
Cons: Halfpenny 4
Pens: Halfpenny 2

For Scotland:
Try: Horne
Con: Horne

England get triple fitness boost ahead of Six Nations

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England boss Eddie Jones has received a major boost ahead of the Six Nations opener against Italy after three of his star players were passed fit.

Flanker Chris Robshaw is available after a back problem, lock Maro Itoje has recovered from his hip injury and fullback Mike Brown has shaken off blurred vision.

All three have returned to training and have been given the all-clear for England’s Six Nations opener at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.

“We’ve had some miracles. There have been some great recoveries because of the fantastic work from the medical and strength and conditioning staff,” Jones said on Tuesday.

“All of them (Robshaw, Itoje, Brown) have returned. We did some stuff yesterday (Monday) and they all came through really well.”

Only Zach Mercer has dropped out of contention for the starting line-up due to a viral infection.

With Mercer out, Sam Simmonds is in pole position to start in Rome in the absence of the injured Billy Vunipola and Nathan Hughes.

“Mercer is doing okay but he’s still got a lot of work to do. Physically he’s got a lot of work to do,” Jones said.

“You put him next to James Haskell and you can see the physical work he’s got to do to be a Test player.

“He has other attributes and he’s doing well, but he’s got to get stronger. We play a very physical game and you need physical strength to play it well

More injury problems for Scotland

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Alex Dunbar and Richie Gray have added to Scotland’s injury problems with the Six Nations only a week-and-a-half away.

Dunbar came off in Glasgow Warriors’ victory over Exeter Chiefs at the weekend following a head knock, while Gray is currently nursing a calf injury.

The lock will remain with club side Toulouse to continue his rehabilitation and it appears as though the 28-year-old will miss this weekend’s Top 14 encounter against Oyonnax.

After seeing their front-row decimated with Alasdair Dickinson, WP Nel, Zander Fagerson, Allan Dell, Darryl Marfo and Simon Berghan currently absent, this will add to head coach Gregor Townsend’s frustrations.

“Richie has a calf issue. He’s in France at the moment. We’re hoping he’ll be joining us at some point in the near future,” forwards coach Dan McFarland said. “Hopefully it will be relatively soon. We were disappointed for Richie.

“When you think of all the time Richie took to come back from his [back] injury. He has played over the last two or three games and has been looking athletic. He was getting round the park as if he had never been away from that.

“There were bits of his game he was looking to improve and we had been in contact over those things. He was looking in a really good position to step on. We would have liked to have seen him play this weekend but it looks like he won’t. That was a disappointment.”

thanks to 

Gatland names two uncapped players

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Wales have named a 39-man squad for the Six Nations, led by Alun Wyn Jones and featuring two uncapped players, James Davies and Josh Adams.

The uncapped duo are called into a Wales squad for the first time and will link up with the experienced squad when they convene at the National Centre of Excellence next Monday.

Rob Evans, Wyn Jones and Nicky Smith who all featured in the recent Under Armour Series are named with Dillon Lewis, who made his debut on the 2017 Summer Tour, Tomas Francis and Samson Lee. Scott Baldwin is recalled to the squad and is named alongside Ken Owens and Elliot Dee at hooker.

57-times capped second-row Bradley Davies features alongside skipper Jones, Cory Hill, Seb Davies and Adam Beard.

In the back-row Davies joins Cardiff Blues duo Ellis Jenkins and Josh Navidi, fellow Scarlet Aaron Shingler and British & Irish Lions Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty and Taulupe Faletau.

Aled Davies, Gareth Davies and Rhys Webb are named as the scrum-halves, with Dan Biggar, Rhys Patchell, Rhys Priestland and Gareth Anscombe as fly-halves. Owen Watkin and Hadleigh Parkes, who both made their debut last autumn, feature alongside Owen and Scott Williams.

Worcester wing Adams is named alongside Hallam Amos and Steff Evans along with Lions quartet George North, Liam Williams, Alex Cuthbert and Leigh Halfpenny.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland said: “It is an exciting opportunity for the two new caps. James’ form over the last couple of years has been impressive, he’s in a competitive area but we look forward to seeing what he can do. For Josh it’s a great opportunity, he’s been on great form and the back-three is somewhere we are looking to create depth in.

“We have selected a larger squad and it is an opportunity for us to work with a wider group and continue building for the next 18 months. It’s important to have a group of players who are used to the environment, know what is expected and are familiar with things and that will really benefit us going forward.

“We have included a couple of players who are carrying injuries. With Taulupe we are hoping he will be available towards the end of the campaign and Rhys (Priestland) picked up a knock at the weekend so we will see where he is at. It’s useful to have these experienced guys around camp and to have them included and to work with them.

“Last autumn was about exposing and developing players as part of the two-year countdown to the RWC, the next couple of months are about testing those players in tournament rugby – we know how important the Six Nations is.”

Wales squad:

Forwards: Rob Evans, Wyn Jones, Nicky Smith, Scott Baldwin, Elliot Dee, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Samson Lee, Dillon Lewis, Adam Beard, Bradley Davies, Seb Davies, Cory Hill, Alun Wyn Jones (c), James Davies, Taulupe Faletau, Ellis Jenkins, Ross Moriarty, Josh Navidi, Aaron Shingler, Justin Tipuric

Backs: Aled Davies, Gareth Davies, Rhys Webb, Gareth Anscombe, Dan Biggar, Rhys Patchell, Rhys Priestland, Hadleigh Parkes, Owen Watkin, Owen Williams, Scott Williams, Josh Adams, Hallam Amos, Alex Cuthbert, Steff Evans, Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Liam Williams

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Four uncapped players for Scotland in Six Nations

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Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has named four uncapped players in a 40-man squad ahead of this year’s Six Nations Championship.

The potential debutants are Edinburgh trio Blair Kinghorn (full-back), scrum-half Nathan Fowles and prop Murray McCallum, plus Glasgow Warriors prop D’arcy Rae.

Kinghorn, McCallum and Rae are all graduates of the BT Sport Academy.

The squad is also boosted by the return of several experienced players, absent from recent campaigns, including scrum-half Greig Laidlaw (Clermont), lock Richie Gray (Toulouse), centres Mark Bennett (Edinburgh) and Duncan Taylor (Saracens); and Worcester Warriors back-row David Denton.

Laidlaw, Gray and Bennett haven’t featured for the dark blues since last year’s championship, while it was 2015 when returning prop Jon Welsh last saw international action and longer still for veteran hooker Scott Lawson (2014).

A sequence of untimely injuries has meant Denton has been absent from test duty since the 2016 summer tour to Japan, while Taylor and London Irish prop Gordon Reid missed the 2017 year-end Test campaign with a knee and head injury respectively.

Scarlets back-row John Barclay will continue to captain the side since taking on the mantle from Laidlaw in last year’s championship, leading Scotland to victories in six of nine Test matches.

“With the announcement of this 40-man squad, we are now entering the key stages of our preparation for this year’s NatWest 6 Nations Championship,” said Townsend.

“It’s a bigger squad than we originally planned –which is largely down to the competition for places – with a number of players having performed well in the Autumn Tests and a few others putting their hands up for selection in recent weeks.

“We welcome Blair Kinghorn into our group for the first time, who has been in excellent form with Edinburgh this season, and also three of our most experienced players in Richie Gray, Greig Laidlaw and Scott Lawson.

“We are looking forward to working with them and the rest of the squad to ensure that we build on the momentum the players generated in 2017.”

In addition to the squad, three players have been invited to train with the group: Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh), Darcy Graham (Edinburgh) and Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors).

Scotland squad

Backs: Mark Bennett, Alex Dunbar, Nick Grigg, Chris Harris, Stuart Hogg, Pete Horne, Ruaridh Jackson, Huw Jones, Lee Jones, Blair Kinghorn, Greig Laidlaw, Sean Maitland, Byron McGuigan, Ali Price, Henry Pyrgos, Finn Russell, Tommy Seymour, Duncan Taylor, Nathan Fowles

Forwards: John Barclay (c), Simon Berghan, Jamie Bhatti, Magnus Bradbury, David Denton, Cornell Du Preez, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, Richie Gray, Luke Hamilton, Rob Harley, Scott Lawson, Murray McCallum, Stuart McInally, Gordon Reid, D’arcy Rae, Ben Toolis, George Turner, Hamish Watson, Jon Welsh, Ryan Wilson

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