Antoine Dupont guided France to a long-awaited Six Nations title as they saw off England to clinch the Grand Slam with a 25-13 win at the Stade de France.

Les Bleus captain Dupont led the way in Saint-Denis with a superb second-half try to help Fabien Galthie's side end a 12-year wait for their 18th championship and sixth of the Six Nations era.

Victory over England put France ahead of Ireland in the final standings after consecutive runner-up finishes in 2020 and 2021 saw them miss out on the top prize.

A year out from a home Rugby World Cup, France look the team to beat in Europe, while questions will be asked of England ahead to those finals.

Olivier Giroud has been handed a recall by France and a chance to put himself firmly back in Didier Deschamps' World Cup plans.

The Milan striker has not featured in a match for France since Les Bleus exited Euro 2020 at the hands of Switzerland last June.

He has 46 goals for his country in 110 games, which puts him only five strikes behind Thierry Henry on the team's all-time list.

It appeared Giroud's international career might be over as coach Deschamps opted against calling him into recent squads.

However, a calf injury sustained by Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema, ruling him out of Sunday's game against Barcelona, has led to Giroud landing a summons to join up with France for the upcoming friendlies against Ivory Coast and South Africa.

The French Football Federation announced the news on its website, adding that the France staff wished Benzema "a swift recovery".

Deschamps spoke about Giroud after excluding him from a 23-player squad on Thursday, pointing to the 35-year-old's impressive form for Milan.

Giroud has helped Milan top Serie A, scoring eight goals in 20 games in the league, ahead of Saturday's trip to face Cagliari.

Assessing Giroud, Deschamps said: "It's going well for him at the moment. He's scoring important goals with Milan. I'm happy for him.

"I've got decisions to make. I know what Olivier is capable of doing with us. He remains available to France even if I haven't called him up for this get-together."

Now, though, Giroud comes into the picture once again, eight months out from the World Cup in Qatar.

France play Ivory Coast in Marseille on March 25, and South Africa in Lille four days later.

England boss Eddie Jones has rung the changes ahead of the team's Six Nations trip to Paris on Saturday, as his side attempt to deny France a first Grand Slam since 2010.

George Furbank will replace Freddie Steward at full-back, with Steward moving to the wing after playing the former role in each of England's previous four games. 

The Northampton man's introduction represents one of five changes made by Eddie Jones, with Ben Youngs, Nick Isiekwe, Sam Underhill, and Will Stuart the other players to be introduced, as Tom Curry, Harry Randall, Kyle Sinckler, and the suspended Charlie Ewels all drop out.

Max Malins, meanwhile, has been dropped from the squad entirely after playing every minute of the previous four Six Nations outings, as the visitors look to salvage some pride from a disappointing campaign.

Jones, who has won three Six Nations titles since taking the England reigns in 2015, has been faced with speculation regarding his future in recent days, with the team facing the prospect of finishing fifth in consecutive Six Nations campaigns, having done so in 2021.

However, the 62-year-old, while disappointed to be out of contention for the trophy, was looking forward to seeing how his much-changed side faired against Les Blues.

"This is our strongest 23 for the game against France," he said.

"We are disappointed not to be in the contention for the trophy, but last week's effort against Ireland was full of pride, energy and tactical discipline.

"We have focused on refreshing the team this week and we are ready to empty the tank on Saturday."

Only one of the last nine Six Nations meetings between France and England has been won by the visiting team, with England prevailing 31-21 back in 2016.

 

England: George Furbank, Freddie Steward, Joe Marchant, Henry Slade, Jack Nowell, Marcus Smith, Ben Youngs; Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Will Stuart, Maro Itoje, Nick Isiekwe, Courtney Lawes, Sam Underhill, Sam Simmonds.

Replacements: Nic Dolly, Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler, Ollie Chessum, Alex Dombrandt, Harry Randal, George Ford, Elliot Daly.

All eyes will be on the Stade de France on Saturday as the 2022 Six Nations comes to a conclusion when leaders France take on England.

While the visitors can finish no higher than third place, Eddie Jones' men will revel in being the ultimate party poopers in Paris.

Victory for France in 'Le Crunch' will seal a first Grand Slam since 2010, though Les Blues could still finish top and land a first title since then should Ireland fail to beat Scotland.

Saturday's other fixture sees Wales take on pointless Italy in Cardiff and, while there may be little riding on that game, it will be a milestone occasion for a couple of players.

Ahead of the final round of fixtures, Stats Perform previews each match with help from Opta.


FRANCE V ENGLAND

FORM

The omens are good for France as two of their previous three Six Nations Grand Slams have been completed with victory over England in the final round, in 2004 and again six years later, while just one of the past nine games between these sides in the competition has been won by the visitors – England prevailing 31-21 in 2016.

Fabien Galthie's charges have lost just one of their past eight home games in the competition, with that solitary defeat coming at the hands of Scotland last year as they chased a big winning margin to pip Wales to the title.

England are aiming to avoid losing three matches in a single edition of the Six Nations for the third time in seven years playing under Eddie Jones, having also done so in 2018 and 2021, and for a fifth time overall. 


ONES TO WATCH

Damian Penaud, who has a joint-high three tries in this year's tournament, is back in France's starting XV after recovering from coronavirus, replacing the injured Yoram Moefana. France have scored seven tries from counter-attacks this year, which is at least three more than any other team, so pacey Penaud could cause some damage this weekend.

England will need to work incredibly hard if they are to stop arguably the world's top side right now and hope that their key players turn up. In Marcus Smith they boast a player who leads the way for points in 2022 with 63, 19 more than next-best Melvyn Jaminet.

 

IRELAND V SCOTLAND

FORM

Ireland must beat Scotland earlier on Saturday if they are to remain in title contention and they have a great recent record in this fixture, winning seven of their last eight Six Nations meetings.

That record is even better on home soil, meanwhile, having been victorious in 10 of the last 11 encounters in the competition, including each of the last five in a row. Scotland's only win in that run came at Croke Park in 2010.

Fourth-placed Scotland have won five of their last six away games in the tournament, however, which is as many as they had managed in their previous 43.


ONES TO WATCH

Ireland were made to work hard for their victory against an England side that played almost the entire 80 minutes with 14 men last week, but they did ultimately get the job done. Jamison Gibson-Park led the way for passes in that match with 59 – more than double any opposition player – and he has a joint-high three assists in this edition.

Finn Russell is level with Gibson-Park on three assists, but he has been surprisingly omitted from Scotland's squad for the match at the Aviva Stadium due to his growing indiscipline and poor form. Ali Price is next for Scotland on the assists list with two, and there will now be more focus on him on what is his 51st cap.



WALES V ITALY

FORM

Wales are aiming to climb two places and finish third and will be confident of fulfilling their half of the bargain by claiming a bonus-point win against bottom side Italy. The Dragons have won each of their last 14 in this fixture, last tasting defeat in 2007.

After losing at home to France in their most recent home match, Wales are aiming to avoid successive losses at the Principality Stadium in the competition for the first time in 15 years, when losing their final such game in 2006 and first in 2007.

Italy will claim the Wooden Spoon once again having lost all five games this year, stretching their record losing run in the tournament to 36 matches. The Azzurri's most recent win away from home came against Scotland in 2015.

ONES TO WATCH

This will be a special occasion for Dan Biggar, who is in line for his 100th cap, and Alun Wyn Jones, who returns for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury against New Zealand in October for his 150th appearance. That makes the Wales skipper the first player to win 150 or more caps for a single nation in history.

Ange Capuozzo has been handed a first Test start after making a big impression in an otherwise disappointing campaign for Italy. The Grenoble full-back has scored two tries in this year's Six Nations, accounting for half of Italy's total, with both of those coming in a 34-minute appearance against Scotland in round four.

France winger Damian Penaud has returned to Fabien Galthie's squad ahead of Saturday's Six Nations clash with England.

The Clermont star was ruled out of the week-four match with Wales after testing positive for COVID-19, but has now completed his isolation period and is back in the fold as France go in search of a Grand Slam.

Centre Yoram Moefana drops out of the 23-man selection as Les Bleus favour a six-two split between forwards and backs on the bench for the fixture at Stade de France.

Romain Taofifenua also returns among the replacements following his own positive coronavirus test earlier this month.

The hosts will complete a first Grand Slam since 2010 if they defeat Eddie Jones' visitors, and could still win the championship for the first time in a dozen years even in defeat.

Galthie will know what his side must do by the time they take to the field, with lone title rivals Ireland set to play before them against Scotland in Dublin.

France: Melvyn Jaminet, Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou, Jonathan Danty, Gabin Villiere, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont, Gregory Alldritt, Anthony Jelonch, Francois Cros, Paul Willemse, Cameron Woki, Uini Atonio, Julien Marchand, Cyril Baille

Replacements: Peato Mauvaka, Jean-Baptiiste Gros, Mohamed Haouas, Romain Taofifenua, Thibaud Flament, Dylan Cretin, Maxime Lucu, Thomas Ramos

England lock Charlie Ewels has been given a three-match ban for the red card he received early on against Ireland last weekend.

The 26-year-old was dismissed just 82 seconds into Saturday's 32-15 defeat at Twickenham after clashing heads with opposite number James Ryan.

That red card was the earliest ever in the Six Nations, with each of the three quickest in the competition's history each coming in the last two editions.

Ewels will now miss England's final game of this year's tournament against France in Paris, as well as Bath's Premiership fixtures against Sale Sharks and Worcester Warriors.

However, he can undertake a Coaching Intervention Programme to have that suspension reduced to two matches, meaning he will be available to face Worcester on March 30.

Ewels was facing a possible ban of up to six weeks, but that was halved due to mitigating factors such as an early acceptance of the red and his remorse.

 

England's defeat to Ireland means they cannot finish any higher than third in this year's tournament.

Next opponents France are two points better off than Ireland, who host Scotland in the final round of fixtures, and are one win away from a first title and Grand Slam since 2010.

Two of France's three previous Grand Slams have been completed with a win over England in the final round, in 2004 and 2010.

England head to Paris aiming to avoid losing three games in a single edition of the competition for a third time under Eddie Jones, previously doing so in 2018 and 2021.

Dan Biggar and Alun Wyn Jones are in line to claim their 100th and 150th Wales caps when Wayne Pivac's side host Italy in the Six Nations on Saturday.

Wales sit fifth in the table after falling to a third defeat in four outings following a 13-9 loss to France last Friday, with their only win coming against Scotland on February 12.

However, Pivac's team will be boosted by the return of Jones, who comes back into the starting side for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury against New Zealand at the end of October.

Biggar retains the captaincy despite 36-year-old Jones returning, with the former set to become the seventh Welshman to win 100 caps for his country.

Coach Pivac, who has made seven changes to his team that lost against table-toppers France, believes the pair deserve to share their milestone appearances together.

"We've said with other players reaching 100 appearances what an achievement that is and for Dan I know he's been looking forward to this moment for a long time," Pivac told reporters on Tuesday.

"For him to achieve it with Al, who is also getting the milestone of 150 caps – which no other player has ever done – I think it's fitting for those two to share the day.

"They've played a lot of rugby together and have a healthy respect for each other. They've given so much for the game in Wales."

Gareth Davies is in line for his first start in this year's Six Nations, with Johnny McNicholl, Louis Rees-Zammit and Willis Halaholo all recalled in the backline as well.

Meanwhile, Dewi Lake, Dillon Lewis and last year's Lions captain Jones are the forwards who come in, with Ryan Elias, Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Tomas Francis,  Liam Williams, Tomos Williams and Will Rowlands dropping out of the starting side.

On the changes, Pivac added: "We've made a few changes this week. With one game to go there are some players we need to see out there and put them in the matchday 23.

"We've certainly selected a side which we think can get the job done. Clearly that's what we're here for. There's an opportunity to move up that table, so we think this is an exciting team and one we're looking forward to seeing out there.

"Italy are a side that's improving, they've had some bad luck here and there and with a new coach transitioning we know it takes a bit of time.

"But we know they've got some very good rugby players and as you saw against Scotland they troubled them in that second half and for long periods of the first. So we're going to have to be on our game and we're very much looking forward to playing at home again this weekend.

"We had a good result against Scotland, gave the fans something to cheer about and came very close against an in-form France. Obviously disappointed we couldn't get across the line for our fans there and we hope we can do that this weekend and finish on a high."

Wales team: Johnny McNicholl, Louis Rees-Zammit, Owen Watkin, Uilisi Halaholo, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Gareth Thomas, Dewi Lake, Dillon Lewis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Seb Davies, Josh Navidi, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Bradley Roberts, Wyn Jones, Leon Brown, Will Rowlands, Ross Moriarty, Kieran Hardy, Callum Sheedy, Nick Tompkins.

Jack Willis has been included in England's squad for the first time in over a year for Saturday's Six Nations clash with France.

The flanker suffered a serious knee injury against Italy in February last year and only returned to action for Wasps last month.

With Tom Curry ruled out of the contest at Stade de France with a hamstring problem sustained in the 32-15 defeat to Ireland, Willis has a chance of featuring.

Kyle Sinckler was also part of the 34-player squad named by Eddie Jones on Monday and will follow return-to-play protocols after being concussed against Ireland.

England are out of contention for the Six Nations title ahead of their final match of this year's tournament after winning two and losing two of their first four games.

Opponents France are top of the standings as they seek a first title and first Grand Slam since 2010.

Fabien Galthie says France are in the "dream scenario" as they stand on the brink of a Grand Slam but knows the Six Nations leaders face a massive test against England.

Anthony Jelonch scored the only try of an almighty battle with Wales at the Principality Stadium, where Les Bleus won 13-9 on Friday to maintain their 100 per cent record.

France defended magnificently to keep the holders at bay in Cardiff and have a first title since 2010 in their sights.

England will arrive at Stade de France determined to spoil the party and can also be crowned champions with a win in the French capital if they beat Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday.

France head coach Galthie sees his side as a work in progress and is prepared for a tense evening in Paris.

"The dream scenario is to win the games, Four wins after four rounds, that was our ambition. We have learned from the past, this is still a team in progress," said Galthie.

"We have managed to balance things in this competition in terms of our efforts. Four wins, that is what you dream of. Now we will turn our attention to the final match against England.

“It’s England, the finalists from the last World Cup, a huge rugby nation. We can't make a mistake about our opponent.

"We have to start the preparation in a pleasant way, while enjoying this [win over Wales] and this weekend. We will flip on Monday and prepare with our method and our conviction. There will be a match to play, as always."

It was not pretty as France dug in to defeat Wales and Galthie was delighted with the way they went about their business.

He added: "The key is to win, differently, agreed, but it's good to win. The winning streak is the hardest thing to do, especially here against a very good tactical side.

"We had a week with the players suffering from the flu and we were hit by Covid. Despite a number of players missing time, the team came and got the win and that is important.

"We won five turnovers at the breakdown, while being disciplined and conceding just eight penalties. The know-how of our defensive line, with big tackles, good entries into the rucks and playing the ball, that's a box that is ticked by the players collectively and individually."

France will go for Grand Slam glory next week after resisting a determined effort from Wales to snatch a huge 13-9 win in Cardiff.

Coach Fabien Galthie's team were pushed hard by last season's Six Nations champions, and it was their tenacity more than their flowing rugby that secured the French victory.

The only try of the contest came from Anthony Jelonch in the first half, with Wales unable to breach their opponents' line.

It means France will welcome England to the Stade de France in eight days' time for 'Le Crunch', with a first Grand Slam since 2010 in their sights.

France snatched a third-minute lead through Melvyn Jaminet's penalty after an infringement by Josh Navidi, but Wales were swiftly back on terms when captain Dan Biggar drilled a confident reply.

Jelonch's second international try arrived in the ninth minute as France's snappy running rugby brought early reward, with the flanker the man to dash in on the left wing.

Jaminet booted the extras, and Wales, who lost Tomos Williams to an early injury, struggled to contain the blue shirts for a spell, until a Biggar penalty closed the gap.

With 10 wins in their last 11 Six Nations games at the Principality Stadium, Wales were not giving this up early and began to impose pressure on the French try-line.

The hosts lost Gareth Thomas to a head blow and were twice penalised after getting close to the French posts.

But Wales' luck changed with the award of a penalty in front, which Biggar drove through the uprights to snip France's lead to one point at the break.

Jaminet nudged France into a four-point lead once more with another penalty, but the game remained in the balance, the vaunted visitors struggling to put it away.

Jonathan Davies fumbled as Wales looked to go for the line down the left, but still the home side kept pressing.

Jaminet missed a late chance to boost France's lead when his long-range kick drifted wide, but Wales could not take advantage of that let-off.

France are rolling towards a possible Grand Slam as they arrive in Cardiff for game four in their Six Nations mission, but Fabien Galthie's team must not switch off now.

The championship may yet see a France versus England title decider at the Stade de France next weekend, but whether 'Le Crunch' proves crucial will hinge on results this time around.

A mighty Welsh effort in Cardiff could knock the French juggernaut off course, while Ireland will believe they can achieve a result at Twickenham.

Scotland and Italy, meanwhile, tussle in Rome. That was once typically a Wooden Spoon decider; this time, the Scots are heavy favourites.

Ahead of the fourth round of fixtures, Stats Perform previews each match with help from Opta.

WALES V FRANCE

FORM

Wales have lost each of their last two meetings with France in the Six Nations, after winning seven of their previous eight clashes in the championship. France's 27-23 win at the Principality Stadium two years ago was their first success in Cardiff in the competition since 2010, and France have not won back-to-back away games against Wales since reeling off four in a row from 2000 to 2006.

Wayne Pivac's Wales won at home against Scotland last month but have lost on the road to Ireland and England. The Welsh have pulled off 10 wins from their last 11 matches in Cardiff in the Six Nations, with France the only side to beat them during that sequence.

This France team are living up to their billing as pre-tournament favourites and have won their last six Test matches, their best run since also winning six on the bounce in 2006. They have not won more consecutive internationals since a run of eight in 2004, which included a victory in Cardiff.

ONES TO WATCH

Among players to hit 20 or more attacking rucks in this season's Six Nations, Wales' Ross Moriarty has the best ruck effectiveness rate, cleaning out the opposition or securing possession at 96 per cent of the attacking rucks he has hit (27 of 28). Moriarty is not a starter this week, as Pivac rings the changes, but will surely have a role to play off the bench.

France's Damian Penaud would have been a strong contender here, having beaten 10 defenders in this year's Six Nations, the joint most of any player alongside Scotland's Darcy Graham, with Penaud also achieving a championship-best tackle evasion rate of 77 per cent. Penaud is ruled out by a COVID-19 positive test, so can his fellow wings Yoram Moefana and Gabin Villiere prove as elusive?

 

ITALY V SCOTLAND

FORM

There was a time when Scotland dreaded facing Italy, but those days appear long gone. The Scots have won their last six matches against the Azzurri in the Six Nations, last losing at Murrayfield in 2015. Prior to this dominant era, Scotland had won nine and Italy had won seven of their first 16 clashes in the championship. The Scots have won their last four away games against Italy.

Italy's losing run in the competition has now reached a dismal 35 games, and that Murrayfield victory seven years ago was their last success. Kieran Crowley's team have failed to score a try in their last two Six Nations games, the first time this has happened for Italy since they went on a run of three games without a try in the 2009 championship.

Ali Price is set to win his 50th cap for Scotland. The Glasgow Warriors scrum-half has scored just one try in his seven appearances against Italy, although he has four try assists across his last two Tests against the Azzurri.

ONES TO WATCH

Michele Lamaro has made 59 tackles in this year's Six Nations, at least 13 more than any other player. That is the upside. The downside is that he has also missed the most tackles of any player (13); however, only one of those missed tackles led to a break, with the other 12 seeing the opposition player tackled by a team-mate.

By contrast, Scotland's Hamish Watson has made 31 tackles without missing one so far in this year's competition. Only Ireland's Caelan Doris has made more without missing (36/36). Watson has now made 180 tackles in the championship since his last miss, which came back in 2019 against England.

 

ENGLAND V IRELAND

FORM

England have tended to like this fixture of late, having won four of their last five home games against Ireland in the Six Nations. A 24-15 defeat in 2018 was the exception in this run which started in 2012. England have also won 22 of their last 25 home matches – taking all opponents into account – in the Six Nations (D1, L2).

Yet Ireland are the only side that England have a losing record against in the Six Nations era, winning just 45 per cent of their meetings in the championship (W10, L12).

Whoever leads at half-time seems nailed on for the win. None of the previous 22 Six Nations matches between England and Ireland have seen an interval deficit overturned to bring about a victory for the trailing team.

ONES TO WATCH

England's Marcus Smith is the leading points scorer so far in this year's championship. He has 48 points, meaning Smith is two shy of becoming the fifth different England player to notch up 50 points in an edition of the Six Nations (Jonny Wilkinson 7 times, Toby Flood once, Owen Farrell 6 times, George Ford once).

Ireland's Doris has been a 'nuisance' (slowing the opposition ball) at more rucks (7) than any other player in this year's tournament, Opta data shows.

France head coach Fabien Galthie has been forced into one change for Friday's Six Nations clash with Wales and fears others may yet be ruled out with coronavirus.

Les Blues lead the way at the top of the standings with three wins from three ahead of their trip to the Principality Stadium to face a struggling Wales side.

However, the visitors will be without wing Damian Penaud and second row Romain Taofifenua after both players tested positive for COVID-19.

Losing Penaud is a big blow for Galthie as the 25-year-old has beaten 10 defenders in this year's tournament, the joint-most of any player alongside Scotland's Darcy Graham.

Indeed, Penaud has faced just 13 tackles in total across France's three matches, with his tackle evasion rate of 77 per cent the best of any player.

Yoram Moefana will switch to the right wing in the absence of Penaud, who started the 36-17 win over Scotland last time out, with Gabin Villiere drafted into the side on the left.

After losing Penaud and Taofifenua, Galthie is now awaiting the results of further PCR tests ahead of making the trip to the Welsh capital.

"We were notified this morning that they were positive so we had to make last-minute changes," Galthie told a news conference on Wednesday.

"We are preparing for other changes. We have no additional information yet, but we need to know by Thursday [if more changes will be made]."

In more positive news for France, captain and reigning world player of the year Antoine Dupont has recovered from a knock sustained in training to make the starting XV.

Les Blues have won their last six Test matches, making this their best run of form since 2006, and have won their last two Six Nations meetings with Wales.

France's 27-23 victory on their last trip to Cardiff in 2020 was their first Six Nations victory in the Welsh capital since 2010, which was also the last time they won the tournament.

 

France team: Melvyn Jaminet, Yoram Moefana, Gael Fickou, Jonathan Danty, Gabin Villiere, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont (c); Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Uini Atonio, Cameron Woki, Paul Willemse, Francois Cros, Anthony Jelonch, Gregory Alldritt

Replacements: Peato Mauvaka, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Mohamed Haouas, Thibaud Flament, Dylan Cretin, Maxime Lucu, Thomas Ramos, Matthis Lebel.

Antoine Dupont lauded the France support for their role in a long-awaited away win against Scotland at Murrayfield.

In each of the previous two Six Nations campaigns, defeats to Scotland cost France their shot at the title, with a 2020 Grand Slam bid ending in Edinburgh.

That defeat had been the most recent of three in a row for Les Bleus at Murrayfield, where they were without a win since 2014.

But Fabien Galthie's side put that pain behind them in real style with a 36-17 triumph, their biggest against Scotland since 2008.

"There is a lot of satisfaction to be drawn from this game," said Dupont, finished with 64 metres carried after playing a key role in the opening try.

"We made a very good start, then we gave them some points. They came back but despite that, despite two or three errors in our camp, we did not panic.

"We stayed together, united collectively throughout the match, which paid off in the end.

"We didn't necessarily have very good memories here at Murrayfield. There were times when we almost thought we were at the Stade de France, the Marseillaise made a lot of noise.

"We felt supported and it felt good as soon as the bus arrived. The Scottish crowd is an incredible crowd, they kept supporting their team despite the score. It was a great feeling."

France gained revenge for two costly Six Nations defeats to Scotland with a stylish 36-17 bonus-point triumph at Murrayfield on Saturday.

Les Bleus maintained their winning start to this year's tournament against the team who cost them the title in each of the previous two campaigns.

Sublime team moves ended in early tries for Paul Willemse and Yoram Moefana, before Scotland's hopes of a fightback were all but ended by Gael Fickou on the stroke of half-time.

France scarcely let up in the second period, with Jonathan Danty and Damian Penaud adding to the scoreline, moving Les Bleus eight points clear at the top of the standings ahead of the rest of the weekend's action.

Antoine Dupont's stunning run from deep in France territory led to the breakthrough try for Willemse, with his team-mates moving the ball sharply when the captain was belatedly halted.

France worked the ball right to left for their next score, as Penaud and Cyril Baille each smartly offloaded when stopped short to allow Yoram Moefana to get over.

A strong Scotland response was rewarded with Rory Darge's try, and they should have had another when Chris Hogg failed to gather a routine pass on the counter.

Instead, France stretched their advantage heading into the break as Fickou powered over in the corner, and the bonus point was secured within two minutes of the restart courtesy of a generous bounce for Danty.

Les Bleus controlled the match from there and created opportunities for Penaud to get his name on the scoresheet twice, sauntering in for number five and then gathering a crossfield kick in plenty of space for their sixth and final try.

Duhan van der Merwe got a late Scotland consolation, although unlike when he crossed in the 85th minute in Paris last year, it was France who celebrated at full-time.

Scotland denied France glory in last year's Six Nations, with their dramatic victory in Paris meaning Les Bleus missed out on the title.

Now, France will be out for vengeance as they head to Edinburgh at the top of the standings with two victories from their opening two matches.

England, meanwhile, bounced back from their defeat to Scotland in round one with a hammering of Italy, and Eddie Jones' second-placed team host Wales at Twickenham. 

Wales lost convincingly to Ireland in their first game, yet defeated Scotland 20-17 last time out, though the defending champions are down in fifth place as it stands.

The final match of the weekend sees Ireland take on Italy in Dublin. The Azzurri are staring down the barrel of a 100th Six Nations defeat.

Ahead of the third round of fixtures, Stats Perform previews each match with help from Opta.

SCOTLAND V FRANCE

FORM

Scotland have won four of their last six games against France in the Championship, including the last two in a row and a first win in Paris since 1999. They have not won three in a row against Les Bleus in the tournament since 1956-1958.

This will be the 99th meeting between Scotland and France in all competitions, with Les Bleus leading the head to head with 56 wins (L39, D3). However, honours are even across the last 10 clashes, with both sides picking up five wins each.

France opened their campaign with a pair of wins, something they also managed in 2021. The only time since 2011 when they have won their opening three games was in 2020, when they missed out on the title and a Grand Slam after a fourth-round defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield.

 

ONES TO WATCH

Darcy Graham has beaten a Championship-high nine defenders so far. He is just ahead of French duo Gabin Villiere, Damian Penaud, and Marcus Smith.

France's Gregory Alldritt has made more carries (30) than any other player, while he has also gained 83 post-contact metres, the most of any forward and fourth most of any player, after Ireland's Mack Hansen (107), Scotland's Graham (86) and team-mate Penaud (84), as well as hitting 10 more defensive rucks (36) than anyone else.

ENGLAND V WALES

FORM

The last four Six Nations matches between these sides have been won by the home side on the day. Indeed, England have won their last four home games against Wales in the Championship, only once since 1930 have they enjoyed a longer such streak, a nine-game run between 1990 and 2006.

England have lost just two of their last 24 home games in the Six Nations (W21, D1), defeats to Ireland in 2018 and Scotland in 2021. Wales' last win at Twickenham in the Championship was in 2012. Since the start of the 2016 tournament, Wales have picked up just one away victory outside of Scotland or Italy, a 24-19 win in Paris in 2019.

England (49) and Wales (34) have made more maul metres than any other sides so far in this edition of the Six Nations.

ONES TO WATCH

Jones has named Ben Youngs on England's bench. If he comes on, Youngs will win his 115th Test cap, overtaking Jason Leonard as the country's most capped men's player. The scrum-half has been involved in five tries in his last six starts against Wales (three tries, two assists).

Alex Cuthbert is set to play for Wales for a 50th time.  He is looking to score his first try in the Six Nations since crossing against Italy in 2014.

 

IRELAND V ITALY

FORM

Ireland have won 21 of their 22 previous Six Nations matches against Italy, their sole defeat coming in 2013 (15-22), in what was the Azzurri's last home victory in the Championship.

Italy's next defeat will be their 100th in the Championship, they are currently on a record 34 match losing run, almost seven years since last claiming a victory (22-19 v Scotland, 28 Feb 2015).

Ireland hold a 100 per cent win rate against Italy at home in the Six Nations (W11), with the Azzurri the only side that has never won at the Aviva Stadium or Croke Park. Indeed, Ireland have scored 50 or more points in each of their last three home games against the tournament's whipping boys.

ONES TO WATCH

Hansen, Jamison Gibson-Park and Bundee Aki are three of just six players to both score and assist a try, the trio all scoring once and assisting one try after two rounds.

Italy's Federico Ruzza has won more lineouts (16) than any other player, including one steal, and team-mate Michele Lamaro has made the most tackles (41) in the tournament.

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