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England Name Starting XV For Scotland Clash

Eddie Jones has made three changes to his starting XV for the crucial Six Nations showdown with Scotland on Saturday afternoon.

The 124th Calcutta Cup game is set to be one of the most exciting in recent memory, with Vern Cotter’s side arriving full of confidence after victories over Ireland and Wales – meaning a win over England would seal a first Triple Crown since 1990.

The England Rugby Head Coach has resisted the urge to thrust number eight Billy Vunipola straight back into the starting line-up and will use the Saracens star as one of his ‘finishers’ from the bench – with Nathan Hughes retaining his place in the back-row.

Loosehead prop Joe Marler will win his 50th England cap at Twickenham, with Mako Vunipola set to make another impact from the bench.

Jones spoke of Marler’s achievement saying: “I congratulate Joe Marler on his 50-cap milestone. I’ve coached a lot of good players and he is certainly one of the best.

“He is an honest and committed team man and a fine individual. To have him and Mako Vunipola available together to give us 80 minutes at loose-head is an enormous advantage.”

The three changes to the starting XV come in the backline where Ben Youngs, Jonathan Joseph and Jack Nowell replace Danny Care, Ben Te’o and Jonny May respectively. Nowell makes his second start of the tournament having impressed with two scores off the bench against Italy two-weeks ago.

Star winger Anthony Watson could make his first England appearance since the summer tour against Australia, with the Bath flyer named on the bench after recovering from jaw and hamstring injuries.

Ahead of the epic encounter Jones spoke of his excitement saying: “Our preparation for Scotland has been very good.

“We had two excellent training runs in Oxford last week and followed that up this week. We’re focused on ourselves – we want to give our fans a really good performance.

“We’ve worked hard in this Six Nations and feel like a good performance is just around the corner. This is the 124th Calcutta Cup and I feel humbled and honoured to be part of such an historic rugby occasion.

“It’s the oldest international fixture and means a lot to both countries. We will treasure the experience.”

Autumn International Hospitality Now On Sale

As the Six Nations reaches its climax we turn our attention towards the 2017 Old Mutual Wealth Autumn Internationals, Eventmasters will once again be providing the finest official England Rugby hospitality packages for these three great games – please follow the links below.

England v Argentina – Autumn Internationals

England v Australia – Autumn Internationals

England v Samoa – Autumn Internationals

Billy Vunipola Returns For Calcutta Cup Clash With Scotland

England will have talismanic number eight Billy Vunipola back in the matchday squad for their Six Nations clash with Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday.

Eddie Jones has trimmed his 30-man squad down to 24 ahead of the Calcutta Cup game and after his impressive comeback for Saracens at weekend, Vunipola will make his much awaited comeback for England – after missing three months of action with a knee injury.

The 24-year-old was injured playing against Fiji in the Autumn Internationals and has missed all four England games since then.

But in 2016 there was no doubt he was the most influential player in the side; with his destructive ball carrying, powerful defence and tireless work-rate setting the tone for the men in white.

Nathan Hughes has proved to be an able deputy in the absence of Vunipola, but England are in the privileged position of being able bring the world’s best number eight back into the side.

Jones has also retained centre Jonathan Joseph and winger Anthony Watson in his squad. Joseph had been rested for the Italy game in round three – with Ben Te’o starting at 13 alongside Owen Farrell.

But the influential Bath man looks set to be recalled to the side for this huge encounter. Watson is another player recently returning from injury and many expected him to be part of the squad to face Italy, however he was released back to Bath to improve his match sharpness.

Should England beat Scotland they will equal the longest ever winning streak (18) in Test Match history, set by New Zealand between 2015 and 2016 – which was ended by Ireland in Chicago last November.

In the final game of the Six Nations, England will travel to Dublin and Joe Schmidt’s side could be in the same position they found themselves in against the All Blacks in the Autumn.

Autumn International Hospitality Now On Sale

As the Six Nations reaches its climax we turn our attention towards the 2017 Old Mutual Wealth Autumn Internationals, Eventmasters will once again be providing the finest official England Rugby hospitality packages for these three great games – please follow the links below.

England v Argentina – Autumn Internationals

England v Australia – Autumn Internationals

England v Samoa – Autumn Internationals

Six Nations: England 36 – 15 Italy – Match Review

England got out of jail in the end against Italy at Twickenham to finish comfortably 36-15, but for a complete half they were totally baffled by the visitors’ tactics.

Rarely committing any men to the breakdown beyond the initial tackler, meant no ruck was formed.

As a consequence Italian defenders could stand between England’s half-backs, blocking off the pass, yet were not offside.

It created huge confusion both in white-shirted ranks, among TV commentators and in the stands.

Captain Dylan Hartley and James Haskell were reduced to asking referee Romain Poite to explain the laws of the game to them, which he did while telling them to ask their own coach if they wanted to understand how to respond.

Quite why all concerned, bar the Italians, looked blankly to the referee seemed odd.

As recently as last year’s World Cup one of the minnows, I forget who, (Uruguay was it?) employed exactly this approach.

They weren’t good enough to exploit it and ultimately neither were Italy.

England addressed it in the second period but they were slow on the uptake and their lack of speed of thought will one day cost them dear.

The home side eventually scored six tries through Cole, Care, Daly, Nowell (2), and Te’o. For once, Owen Farrell struggled with the boot but still managed three conversions.

Venditti and Campagnaro got scores for the Italians with Allan converting one and slotting a dropped goal.

So non-plussed were England that Italy led 10-5 at half-time.

Back to that lack of speed of thought, Italy’s first try came from an Allan penalty attempt which came off a post and bounced down. Following up Venditti grabbed the ball and powered over easily as England players stood like statues utterly mesmerised.

Campagnaro targeted Ford, smashed through him, stepped Brown, and made it over the line despite a despairing tackle,

Not good enough.

That saw Italy just two points adrift at 17-15.

But, helped by much-needed substitutes off the bench, and finally working out how best to combat the Italian cleverness, England turned the screw.

Nowell in particular was on fire.

So victory secured, but Eddie Jones out-thought, who would have believed it. And he didn’t take it kindly.

In my experience most rugby players have never actually read the rule book. They sort of absorb it all from an early age via coaching and game time.

So full marks to the referee for being spot on.

However, I do wish referees would implement all the rules all of the time. The rules say you must put the ball in straight at the set scrum. Referees ignore it. Increasingly they don’t bother to call out crooked throws in the lineout either. They are supposed to be there to implement the laws. What right do they have to pick and choose which ones they will officiate?

Perhaps this somewhat bizarre Six Nations contest will get others too to demand action.

Meanwhile it is form team Scotland next up for England. Another difficult one.

Should be a cracker.

2017 Old Mutual Wealth Series (Autumn Internationals) On Sale Now!

The Autumn Internationals are one of the major highlights of the international rugby calendar as the best sides from the Southern Hemisphere head to Europe for their end of season tours. In 2017 England face three crucial fixtures at Twickenham Argentina, Australia and Samoa.

Please see our Twickenham Autumn Internationals hospitality page for more information.

Vunipola and Watson in line for Six Nations return against Italy

England could have Mako Vunipola and Anthony Watson back in their starting XV for Sunday’s Six Nations clash with Italy at Twickenham on Sunday.

The pair missed the opening two victories over France and Wales, but could return as Eddie Jones and his side look to claim a second consecutive Grand Slam. Vunipola was one of England’s star performers in 2016, producing some sensational displays.

The Saracens prop has been out of action for the last nine weeks, but made a pleasing return for his club side on Friday – playing 70 minutes in their 31-23 loss at Gloucester.

Bath flyer Watson was another key player during England’s fabulous 2016, scoring three tries in the 2016 Six Nations, but he hasn’t been seen in a white shirt since suffering a jaw injury before the Autumn Internationals.

Jones stated that he was confident Watson would be fit to start against Italy, saying: “Watson ran at 95% on Friday so we are confident he will be able to play against Italy. It will be great to have him back and we will probably use him.”

The England Head Coach also offered a positive update on the fitness of talismanic number eight Billy Vunipola, who was expected to miss the entire Six Nations campaign.

However the Saracens star is ahead of schedule in his recovery according to Jones who said: “Billy might get back for Ireland. He’d be pretty useful off the bench at 150kg.”

England expected to experiment as Italy arrive at Twickenham

One of the key factors in England’s opening two victories has been the performances from the bench or the “finishers” as they are called by Jones. The likes of James Haskell, Jamie George and Ben Te’o have all made telling contributions in the second half and could all get the chance to start against Italy.

The coaching staff are set to experiment with the starting XV, which could see skipper Dylan Hartley dropped to the bench for George. Should that be the case the outstanding Owen Farrell would skipper the side – and many are tipping the 25-year-old to lead the British Lions on their tour of New Zealand.

Other changes could see Ben Te’o replacing Jonathan Joseph in midfield, while Haskell could return to the number seven jersey ahead of Jack Clifford.

Predicted England Starting XV vs Italy:

15 – Mike Brown

14 – Anthony Watson

13 – Elliot Daly

12 – Ben Te’o

11 – Jack Nowell

10 – Owen Farrell ©

9 – Danny Care

8 – Nathan Hughes

7 – James Haskell

6 – Maro Itoje

5 – Courtney Lawes

4 – Joe Launchbury

3 – Kyle Sinckler

2 – Jamie George

1 – Mako Vunipola

2017 Old Mutual Wealth Series (Autumn Internationals) On Sale Now!

The Autumn Internationals are one of the major highlights of the international rugby calendar as the best sides from the Southern Hemisphere head to Europe for their end of season tours. In 2017 England face three crucial fixtures at Twickenham Argentina, Australia and Samoa.

Please see our Twickenham Autumn Internationals hospitality page for more information.

 

England Remain Unbeaten Under Jones After Victory Over Wales

What a sensational and thrilling Six Nations clash. England won it 21-16 in Cardiff but it could have gone either way.

Wales will feel aggrieved having been dominant for long periods but for the most part unable to turn pressure on the White Rose line into points.

Indeed they spurned two very kickable penalties – Lee Halfpenny was as usual at his brilliant best with the boot – which would have got them home.

But it was two tries to one in England’s favour and they just about deserved to sneak it. Mind you, as with France a week before, it was the substitutes off the bench in the last 30 minutes who were the stars.

Danny Care came on for Ben Youngs who had an average game by his standards and threw an intercept on the Welsh line which nearly saw Dan Biggar go the length of the pitch.

Dylan Hartley never quite put it together either, the first to be replaced – by Jamie George.

Ben Te’o injected some pace and power in midfield, James Haskell was immense and Kyle Sinkler won the killer turnover as England looked to play out the last three minutes.

Joe Launchbury got man of the match but Courtney Lawes was immense. He was simply everywhere. Elliott Daly was excellent too.

It appeared for some while that Wales’ terrific back row led by Sam Warburton and Ross Moriarty against England’s relatively inexperienced six, seven and eight was going to make the difference.

England Make Fast Start But Wales Roar Back

After early exchanges of penalties England went into an 8-3 lead as Youngs squirmed over following heavy English pressure.

But then Wales came to the fore.

Halfpenny got another penalty and then just before half time Liam Williams struck with a planned move which saw him race from his wing to carve through a gaping hole in England’s centre-threequarters, with Jack Nowell unable to get across in time to take his man.

Was there more than a hint of crossing? No obstruction ruled the referee. From there Wales held on through the penalty exchanges and could even have gone further ahead.

Daly Scores Wonderful Try To Secure Victory

But at 16-14 down England had the better of the last 20 minutes and made it count when all seemed near lost.

With the crowd baying as the referee ignored two apparently blatant Welsh infringements, the ball was kicked clear only for England to mount a last ditch attack which saw Daly take a despairing Alex Cuthbert on the outside to cross at the corner.

Wonderful stuff from Daly but one had to feel sorrow for Cuthbert. In for the injured George North and not in the best of form, he has played many times for his country and has mostly put in solid if rarely brilliant performances. Would North have got Daly? Probably. However, ifs and buts count for nothing in sport.

Victories over Wales in Cardiff are always special.

What is it they say? If you can still win when not playing at your best you have to be a decent side, and England are.

2017 Old Mutual Wealth Series (Autumn Internationals) On Sale Now!

The Autumn Internationals are one of the major highlights of the international rugby calendar as the best sides from the Southern Hemisphere head to Europe for their end of season tours. In 2017 England face three crucial fixtures at Twickenham Argentina, Australia and Samoa.

Please see our Twickenham Autumn Internationals hospitality page for more information.

England Name Side for Wales Six Nations Clash

Eddie Jones has made two changes to his England side as the defending Six Nations champions head to Cardiff to face Wales – for one of the most anticipated and historic fixtures in world rugby.

After a tense opener against France, where a late Ben Te’o score secured a record breaking 15th consecutive Test Match victory, Jones has recalled Jack Nowell and Jack Clifford to the side.

Nowell was one of the substitutes to make a major impact from the bench last weekend and he has ousted Jonny May on the left wing – who drops to the bench. The Exeter Chiefs flyer has been in fine form since returning from injury and his return will be a major boost to the side.

Elsewhere Clifford makes his first Six Nations start for England, with Tom Wood dropping to the bench. The Harlequins flanker will bring some much needed energy and ball carrying ability to the back-row.

Jones said on Clifford’s inclusion, “He is a hard-working, young player. He has got a good record against Wales, he had a superb game against them in May, he knows what he is going to expect and we’re looking forward to him making an impact in our back-row play.”

Alongside Maro Itoje and Nathan Hughes, Clifford will form part of an exciting but inexperienced back-row. James Haskell is not considered ready for starting position and will again be looking to make a huge impact off the bench as one of England’s ‘finishers’.

England and Jones ready for ‘one of the biggest games in world rugby’

After Ireland’s defeat to Scotland in week one of the Six Nations, England know that a victory will put them in pole position for a second Grand Slam in two-years.

And Jones says his side are ready for the challenge ahead saying: “It’s been a great week of focused preparation and we can’t wait to play Wales.

“Playing Wales in Cardiff is one of the biggest games in world rugby and we’re excited. These are the games you want to be part of as a player and a coach.

“It’s a game that is going to be decided on the basics of the game. You do the fundamentals of the game well and you win the game of rugby. We have a young team eager to play well at the great Principality Stadium.”

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Joe Marler, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 3 Dan Cole, 4 Joe Launchbury, 5 Courtney Lawes, 6 Maro Itoje, 7 Jack Clifford 8 Nathan Hughes

Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Tom Wood, 20 James Haskell, 21 Danny Care, 22 Ben Te’o, 23 Jonny May

2017 Old Mutual Wealth Series (Autumn Internationals) On Sale Now!

The Autumn Internationals are one of the major highlights of the international rugby calendar as the best sides from the Southern Hemisphere head to Europe for their end of season tours. In 2017 England face three crucial fixtures at Twickenham Argentina, Australia and Samoa.

Please see our Twickenham Autumn Internationals hospitality page for more information.

England start Six Nations title defence with win against France

England v France – Six Nations Match Report

Well, England dug out a 19-16 victory somehow against France in the Six Nations, but it wasn’t pretty.

It can hopefully only get better from here. The best you can say is that the Red Rose stuck at it and with the massive help of their substitutes just got over the line 19-16 at Twickenham.

The French must have been hugely disappointed, and deservedly so. They showed the flair in the three quarters – not quite the French of old but not far off – and England didn’t.

Some lovely breaks, while Louis Picamoles was given Man of the Match. It was a kind of game of two halves, the French in the ascendency in the first and England in the second.

9-9 at half time through penalties, both sides managed a try apiece in the second period, Rabah Slimani for the visitors and Ben Te’o touching down for England.

England started slowly and were put off their stride by a Johnny May yellow card. The injury-enforced changes in the back-row didn’t help. The hosts were extremely fortunate to go in all square after 40 minutes.

Jonathan Joseph - Twickenham Six Nations Hospitality

Jonathan Joseph takes on the French defence at Twickenham

England began to click into the second period as James Haskell came on and made a difference. But in truth England were fortunate and the French were unlucky.

Eddie Jones was diplomatic at the end but must have been quietly fuming. But, first game up, it must have been encouraging that his side had played extremely indifferently yet still won.

France coach Guy Noves, a double-take for Theresa May’s husband Philip, will be ruing how England’s Brexit rugby prevailed.

England v France – Six Nations Twickenham Stoop Hospitality Reviews

Eventmasters VIP guests were treated to a superb afternoon of corporate hospitality inside the the Twickenham Stoop.

Twickenham Stoop VIP hospitality - England v France Six Nations 2017

Guests enjoy VIP hospitality inside the Twickenham Stoop.

Ahead of the game guests were treated to fascinating insight into the game as Tim Stimpson (England & British Lions International) spoke with England hooker Rob Webber.

Alongside this clients were treated to a sumptuous four-course dining experience, complimentary bar and the finest official RFU match tickets to enjoy the action as England secured a record-breaking 15th consecutive win.

Rob Webber and Tim Stimpson

Rob Webber and Tim Stimpson offer their thoughts ahead of England v France

After the game our guests returned to the Twickenham Stoop facility and enjoyed wonderful post-match food and refreshments. The perfect way to end a superb (and sometimes nervy) afternoon of world-class international rugby.

This level of expertise makes the Twickenham Stoop hospitality packages the outstanding option for entertaining guests at England Internationals.

2017 Old Mutual Wealth Series (Autumn Internationals) On Sale Now!

The Autumn Internationals are one of the major highlights of the international rugby calendar as the best sides from the Southern Hemisphere head to Europe for their end of season tours. In 2017 England face three crucial fixtures at Twickenham Argentina, Australia and Samoa.

Please see our Twickenham Autumn Internationals hospitality page for more information.

RBS Six Nations 2017 Round One Preview

‘Rugby’s Greatest Championship’ returns this weekend as Europe’s elite sides battle it out in the opening round of the RBS Six Nations 2017. Round one of this historic tournament see’s Scotland take on Ireland, England welcoming France to Twickenham and Wales travelling to Italy.

England v France – Twickenham – Saturday 4th February 4.50pm

England enter the Six Nations as the defending Grand Slam champions and the world’s No.2 ranked side behind New Zealand.

After a perfect 2016 which saw Eddie Jones’s side register 13 consecutive Test Match victories (14 including the win over Uruguay in 2015); England know victory on Saturday will see them surpass their longest ever winning streak of 14-games, set in 2002/03.

But after a series of major injury blows, the hosts know that they face a stern examination of their credentials against an improving French side.

The loss of the Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola, Chris Robshaw and George Kruis has prompted a switch around in the pack. Nathan Hughes will continue to deputise in the absence of Billy Vunipola, while Tom Wood will continue at openside flanker.

World Rugby Young Player of the Year, Maro Itoje, will switch to blindside flanker from second row. While Joe Marler returns at prop after a remarkable recovery from a fractured leg.

The backline has a much more settled feel, with just one change from the side that faced Australia, with Elliot Daly returning on the wing. On the bench England welcome back James Haskell and Jack Nowell from injury and will be hoping for major impact from two of their finest players.

France produced some fine efforts in the Autumn Internationals and will be looking to continue that form at Twickenham. Livewire scrum-half Baptiste Serin will be one of the real danger men for the visitors.

Remi Lamerat and Gael Fickou are named as the centre partnership in the absence of the injured Wesley Fofana, with Mathieu Bastareaud omitted from the matchday 23, while Fijians Virimi Vakatawa and Noa Nakaitaci continue on the wings.

Prediction: Injuries will be no excuse for Eddie Jones, he will be expecting his side to make it 15 consecutive wins. Twickenham looks to be returning to the fortress of old and despite the recent resurgence of France, England should come out on top.

England 27-19 France

Scotland v Ireland – BT Murrayfield Saturday 4th February 2.25pm

This game has the potential to be one of the highlights of the tournament and is the perfect way to start the Six Nations 2017.

After their unbelievable autumn which saw them beat the All Blacks, Ireland and their coach Joe Schmidt will be expecting to claim another Six Nations title in March. But the men in green will begin the Six Nations without star fly-half Johnny Sexton.

In his place Ulster’s Paddy Jackson will step into the number 10 shirt. In the back row, Schmidt has been able to name arguably the strongest in the competition with CJ Stander, Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip all starting.

In the centres all eyes will be on the pairing of Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw. The highly-rate Ringrose has been compared to Brian O’Driscoll and makes his first Six Nations start. While Henshaw will be looking to cement his status as the best inside centre in the British Isles.

Scotland also enjoyed a fine autumn series and are many peoples outside tips for tournament success. In Vern Cotter’s final Six Nations, Scotland will be finally looking to deliver on the promise of recent performances.

Centre Huw Jones returns to the side after injury, and will feature in a talented back division alongside Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Finn Russell and Sean Maitland. The talented Gray brothers continue in the engine room, while Ryan Wilson, Hamish Watson and Josh Strauss complete the back-row.

Prediction: A game filled with stars, both sides have bags of attacking potential. Ireland are one of the tournament favourites and have the pedigree to go all the way, whereas Scotland will be looking to fulfil their potential. But Ireland should just edge a tight encounter.

Scotland 24 – Ireland 26

Italy v Wales – Stadio Olimpico Sunday 5th February 2.00pm

The final game of the weekend see’s Wales travel to Rome to face Conor O’Shea’s Italy in a fascinating encounter.

With Warren Gatland away on Lions duty, Rob Howley has taken temporary charge of Wales. With Alun Wyn-Jones now leading the side, Sam Warburton switches to blindside flanker with Justin Tipuric starts at number seven.

At inside centre Scott Williams is preferred to the experienced Jamie Roberts, and will partner Jonathan Davies. While Rhys Webb returns at scrum-half and will play alongside Dan Biggar.

Conor O’Shea enters his first Six Nations in charge of Italy and after a historic victory over South Africa, he will be hoping to build a level of consistency that has been lacking for a number of years.

Prediction: This is a potential banana-skin for Wales despite fielding a near full strength side. Italy showed in the Autumn they are trying to expand their game and O’Shea will have them fully primed and firing for this game. Italy could cause an upset.

Italy 23-20 Wales

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England name side for Six Nations opener at Twickenham

Eddie Jones has named his starting XV for England’s Six Nations opener with France at Twickenham on Saturday.

The Australian has recalled Elliot Daly, Joe Launchbury and Maro Itoje to his side – with the Itoje making his first Test Match start at blindside flanker.

Daly returns to the left wing, in what will be his first England start since his red card against Argentina in the Old Mutual Wealth Autumn Internationals. Launchbury also returns from an England ban, after missing the final two games of the autumn series.

Injuries have forced Jones to reshuffle his side, with Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola, George Kruis, Chris Robshaw and Anthony Watson all missing.

In the absence of the Vunipola brothers, Nathan Hughes will start at number eight, while Joe Marler returns to the side at loosehead prop – just one month after fracturing his leg playing for Harlequins.

On the bench there are recalls for Jack Nowell and James Haskell, who haven’t featured for England since the summer tour of Australia, which saw the side claim a historic series whitewash.

Many had expected Exeter winger Nowell to come straight into the starting XV, but after missing two days of training in the week for personal reasons, Jones has opted to use the livewire back as a replacement.

Jones Ready For Physical French Challenge At Twickenham

England enter Saturday’s clash knowing that a 15th consecutive would see them break their all-time record, set in 2002/03.

But Jones knows that the French will pose a major challenge to England’s perfect record – especially given their revival during the Autumn Internationals.

“Guy Noves likes a big team. He picks a traditional French forward pack with squat front-rowers who scrummage well, big locks who give a lot of ballast and athletic back-rowers.

“It’s based on size and crunching that gain line, getting an offload and then playing with flair.

“Of course, this gives you an opportunity when you’ve got a big forward pack against you and we intend to exploit that.”

England team to face France: Mike Brown; Jonny May, Jonathan Joseph, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly; George Ford, Ben Youngs; Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley (captain), Dan Cole; Joe Launchbury; Courtney Lawes; Maro Itoje, Tom Wood, Nathan Hughes.

Replacements: Jamie George, Matt Mullan, Kyle Sinckler, Teimana Harrison, James Haskell, Danny Care, Ben Te’o, Jack Nowell.

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Sides Ready To Do Battle in RBS Six Nations 2017

The RBS Six Nations Championship kicks off with Northern Hemisphere rugby in decent shape.

England won all their autumn internationals, defeating Argentina, South Africa, Fiji, and Australia, while Ireland turned over New Zealand, an absolutely magnificent performance.

And this is Lions year, with a tour of the Land of the Long White Cloud in prospect. That means players will be looking to perform out of their skins to stake their place and follow the legends in what is an iconic tradition.

England looking for second Six Nations Grand Slam – but injuries could make it tough for Eddie Jones

For England, it will be important that the pack goes well and they can overcome a spate of injuries which has taken out the likes of Mako and Billy Vunipola, while in the backs there is no Manu Tuilagi – the Leicester and England battering ram is gone for the season with serious knee damage.

Much will depend on brilliant forward Maro Itoje and the George Ford-Owen Farrell partnership. James Haskell and George Kruis return.

However there is concern at prop and it will be interesting to see how England go in the tight scrum.

Captain and hooker Dylan Hartley told the RBS Six Nations launch event: “Last year there were a lot of column inches about Maro Itoje and George Kruis, Jack Nowell and Anthony Watson. We didn’t have those guys (in some of the November Tests) but with that opportunity comes for others, Jonny May came into the team, Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes stepped up. We’ve got good depth and a good squad.”

First up for England is the French, Le Crunch.

French skipper Guilhem Guirado, believes Les Bleus have some unfinished business.

He said: “We were very frustrated at the result of the RBS 6 Nations last year. We had a good start with two wins over Italy and Ireland. We were extremely disappointed that we couldn’t finish with a win against England after two defeats against the other teams. We have built our side from that.”

France are showing definite signs of improvement but have their own injury troubles. Veteran Toulon centre, burly Mathieu Bastareaud is back after being called up to replace Henry Chavancy.

Wales looking to regain Six Nations title under leadership of Alun Wyn Jones

New captain of Wales, the outstanding Alun Wyn Jones, will be looking to make his mark. Widely tipped for the Lions captaincy, he will demand maximum effort from his team.

Wales are without head coach Warren Gatland, who will lead the British & Irish Lions, but having won the Championship four years ago under Rob Howley, Jones is confident they can perform under him once more.

The Welsh are at their most dangerous in Lions years.

Wales head to Rome for their opening game, taking on an Italian side brimming with confidence from a first victory over South Africa in November.

Parisse will again be the main man for Italy

For Sergio Parisse, it is will be his 56th Six Nations contest; for Italy’s new boss Conor O’Shea it will be his first.

Parisse said: “I’m very excited every time to play this tournament. For me and Italy it’s a huge honour. We started a new chapter of our history with Conor O’Shea, the win against South Africa was special for the team and all the Italian players and supporters. As a nation we have to change a few things to be really competitive. We have to perform in every single match.”

O’Shea is a wily customer and he will improve the Italians.

Scotland prepare for their final Six Nations Championship with Vern Cotter in charge

They will rely heavily on the boot of captain Greig Laidlaw but the squad, once really thin, is much improved. Laidlaw said: “We’re excited about going into the Championship, the manner in which Glasgow qualified for the Champions Cup was brilliant. Their players who have come in have brought a lot of confidence into the squad and we’re trying to spread that confidence throughout.

“We’d like to see Vern off with a great championship.”

Ireland hoping to build on fantastic Autumn Campaign with Six Nations title

Ireland enter the RBS 6 Nations as one of the favourites, still basking in that first ever win over New Zealand in November. Indeed, seeing off Australia, South Africa and New Zealand in a calendar year.

Skipper Rory Best, battling for the Lions captaincy himself, believes the team are in good spirits. Much will depend on keeping quality half backs Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton fit.

Previously opponents have looked to nobble Sexton in the belief that this could be decisive in restricting Ireland’s play. But these days there is a more than capable deputy in Ian Madigan. CJ Stander is the outstanding forward.

The destination of this year’s Championship could go down to the wire, Ireland v England on March 18 in Dublin.

That is going to be a cracker.

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England will be looking to make history in their opening Six Nations encounter, as a victory will see them break their longest ever winning streak of 14-games.

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