With matches being postponed due to the coronavirus and a possible title on offer, this weekend’s Six Nations action is set to be significant, writes ANDRE HUISAMEN.
Ireland’s clash with Italy, which was scheduled for Saturday, has been postponed as a precaution by the organisers, while England’s trip to the Azzurri next week has also been put on hold, despite original measurements made to play the match behind closed doors in Rome.
The official crowning of the Six Nations champions for this year is likely to pend for some time as Italian sport has been forced to play without the attendance of fans.
In a statement released on Thursday, the Six Nations organisers have affirmed their intention to keep assessing the impact of the situation, while the clash between Italy and England will be rescheduled for a later date.
Nonetheless, England have an all important clash with Wales to look ahead to on Saturday and Eddie Jones’ men will be keen to keep their championship hopes alive with a win. England proved too strong for Ireland in the previous round, while Wales were beaten by France on their home turf.
Mark Wilson and Anthony Watson are back in the England side and will make their first appearance since last year’s World Cup final.
In the Welsh camp Wayne Pivac has made four changes to the team that lost to France two weeks ago with Liam Williams and Josh Navidi returning, while Rob Evans and Tomos Williams have also been handed starts.
France travel to Murrayfield on Sunday, knowing a win will all but ensure they become Six Nations champions, if they don’t lose with a bonus point to Ireland in Paris next weekend.
Given the determination they’ve been playing with this year and the manner in which they came away with a win at Wales, it is going to take something very special from Scotland to stop the French.
One notable change on the Scottish bench, though, sees the uncapped South African born Kyle Steyn come in as a utility option.
England vs Wales, Saturday 7 March – Twickenham (18:45)
England – 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Johnny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Tom Curry, 7 Mark Wilson, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Joe Marler. Subs: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Charlie Ewels, 21 Ben Earl, 22 Willi Heinz, 23 Henry Slade.
Wales – 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Rob Evans, 7 Ken Owens, 6 Dillon Lewis, 5 Jake Ball, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Ross Moriarty, 2 Justin Tipuric, 1 Josh Navidi. Subs: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Aaron Shingler, 20 Taulupe Faletau, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Jarrod Evans, 23 Johnny McNicholl.
Scotland vs France, Sunday 8 March – Murrayfield (17:00)
15 Stuart Hogg (c), 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Blair Kinghorn, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Ali Price, 8 Nick Haining, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Scott Cummings, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Rory Sutherland. Subs: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Allan Dell, 18 WP Nel, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Magnus Bradbury, 21 George Horne, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Kyle Steyn.
France – 15 Anthony Bouthier, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Arthur Vincent, 11 Gael Fickou, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Gregory Alldritt, 7 Charles Ollivon (c), 6 Francois Cros, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Bernard Le Roux, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 2 Julien Marchand 1 Jefferson Poirot. Subs: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18 Demba Bamba, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Dylan Cretin, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Matthieu Jalibert, 23 Thomas Ramos.