In France, they still speak joyously of Philippe Saint-Andre's wonder try at Twickenham, that majestic blue wave that swept from one end of the great stadium to the other, resulting in a score under the posts.

What a score that was, voted many years as Twickenham's 'try of the century', Blanco to Sella to Camberabero to Saint-Andre. The punch of the air, the high fives, the hugs. The wanton joie de vivre of it all.

But it came in a losing cause, on the final day of the 1991 Five Nations, in a championship decider. Some consolation, but a consolation nonetheless.

It was Geoff Cooke's team who lifted the trophy, Will Carling the beaming captain, the champagne spraying in England's dressing room.

France were a joy to watch, those great names still resonate, and they were so close to sashaying and side-stepping their way to a glorious Grand Slam.

So close. They finished second. The first losers.

Thirty years on from that March classic and there was nothing at Twickenham on Saturday that will be remembered quite so fondly as that vintage Saint-Andre moment, but there was so nearly an outcome that could have banished many bleak French memories from trips to London. Instead, England added to that long list.

Before Maro Itoje burrowed over in the 76th minute, this was poised to be a tale of a great French win, after a captivating clash. It would have been a third win in three games in this year's championship, talk would have turned to the Grand Slam.

Delightful tries from Antoine Dupont and Damian Penaud, stemming from that great Gallic brand of running rugby, were of the sort Blanc, Sella and co would have been proud.

Suspicions of a Twickenham hex hanging over Les Bleus were about to be banished. England had won nine of their 10 previous home games against France in the Six Nations, including the last seven in a row, but their dominance was about to be halted by a French side with bulldog spirit to match their silky skills.

Fabien Galthie was on the brink of getting one over on Eddie Jones, who was facing the prospect of his Red Rose losing a third match in four.

It would have been an eighth win in their last nine Six Nations games for France.

And then along came Itoje. England were over.

Weren't they?

France clung to the hope Teddy Thomas had held Itoje up. Referee Andrew Brace felt Thomas may have done just that, but the TMO knew better.

After what felt like an age, the try was given and French hearts broke. They lost 23-20.

What an achievement it would have been for Galthie's side to cross La Manche and return to Marcoussis triumphant.

Last month's major COVID-19 outbreak in their camp was worrying from a health perspective but came in tandem with questions about conduct and protocol too, with Galthie eventually exonerated despite leaving the squad bubble to watch his son play a rugby game, and no blame apportioned.

This France side re-emerged and played with verve from the first minute - Dupont crossed after just 65 seconds following lovely work from Thomas - before Anthony Watson replied as England reined in their visitors.

France struck again in the 32nd minute, electric play from the backs in blue ending with Penaud dancing in on the right.

Owen Farrell and Matthieu Jalibert kept the score ticking along from the kicking tee, then with time running out Itoje had the determining say.

"We are playing lovely rugby," France back-rower Gregory Alldritt told ITV after the final whistle. "We are enjoying playing all together on the pitch.

"We will go back to work on Monday and have a big, big game next week and we need to prepare for this game."

France went down in this game, but they are not out. The Six Nations title could yet be heading to Paris, even if the Grand Slam will not.

Wales, now the only team left in contention for a clean sweep of wins, will aim to complete a perfect campaign in Paris next Saturday night.

Given how they took this game to England, and how close they came to a famous victory, expect Galthie's men to rise again for the challenge of the arriving Red Dragons.

This was England's day in the end, but you still got the feeling this might be a French side who in the near future won't have to settle for consolation prizes or being the first losers. That Wales game will be titanic, and revealing.

France boss Fabien Galthie said his team "lost control" against England as Maro Itoje's late try allowed the hosts to snatch a 23-20 victory at Twickenham.

In a sizzling Six Nations match, France went ahead through Antoine Dupont after just 65 seconds and led 20-13 early in the second half.

They were looking like earning a first victory in the championship in London since 2005 until England came back strongly in the closing stages.

Itoje crossed in the 76th minute, with a TMO verdict showing he had just managed to ground the ball.

Galthie told broadcaster France 2: "In the second period, we lost control of the match. We backed off. We held the line until Maro Itoje scored.

"The English ended up stronger, they managed to occupy the field more than we did. The team had a big game. 

"We were ahead until three minutes from the end, but that's not enough."

France had won their opening two matches before a COVID-19 outbreak in the squad caused the clash with Scotland to be postponed.

Talk of a Grand Slam would have abounded had they held on against England, but it was not to be.

Galthie added in a news conference: "The two teams delivered a great match, before a denouement that must be digested.

"It played out once again in the final minutes. But above all, I am proud of my players, of their solidarity.

"It's a game that makes you grow. We didn't win but they felt we could win it. There are two, three key moments that perhaps would have allowed us to finish it more comfortably.

"In the end, the English dispossessed us of the ball because we conceded penalties, lost balls. But that's good. The team learns."

France face Grand Slam-chasing Wales next Saturday in Paris, knowing a victory over the Red Dragons would keep hopes alive of winning the championship.

Galthie added, according to Le Figaro, that France would react "by keeping the positives".

"We will digest this result together and switch to Wales now," he said. "That match starts right away. It depends on our ability to share and experience together the frustration to plan for the match that awaits us next Saturday."

Eddie Jones was left wishing Twickenham had been packed full of fans to see England's gutsy Six Nations win over France.

The hosts ended France's dreams of a first Grand Slam since 2010 as Maro Itoje's late try secured a hard-earned 23-20 victory on Saturday.

It was a fine response from the Red Rose after disappointing losses to Scotland and Wales either side of a routine win over Italy.

But head coach Jones wanted to share in the glory with England's supporters, with coronavirus restrictions depriving them of the opportunity to witness a fine performance first-hand.

"I just wish there were 82,000 fans here," Jones told ITV, having seen his side fight back from Antoine Dupont's try after just 65 seconds.

"It was a good, tough game of rugby with good fight from both teams and a bit of drama at the end.

"Since the Scotland game we have played with a lot of fight and energy.

"We thought France would come out hard early. They haven't had a game for a while and they were fresh. We had to be with them at half-time - that was our big job.

"We thought we would get them in the second half and we did.

"We've felt since the autumn we have to change our game a bit because the laws are moving to make the game faster.

"Our plan is to go to the 2023 World Cup as a good set-piece team and a team that can move."

England conclude their 2021 Six Nations campaign in Dublin next weekend.

Maro Itoje's late try ended France's Six Nations Grand Slam hopes as England secured a hard-fought 23-20 victory at Twickenham.

Fabien Galthie's men still have two games to play in this year's competition after a coronavirus outbreak led to their match with Scotland being postponed.

But next weekend they will host a Wales side seeking to wrap up the Grand Slam – a feat now out of reach for Les Bleus, who have not managed it since 2010, after a painful loss in London.

England, beaten by Scotland and Wales either side of a routine win over Italy, have been reduced to also-rans but refused to play that part on Saturday.

Despite taking the lead through Antoine Dupont's try after just 80 seconds, France were pegged back as Anthony Watson responded in kind and the reliable Owen Farrell added eight first-half points with the boot.

However, Damian Penaud applied the finish to a stunning France try before half-time, with Matthieu Jalibert and Owen Farrell exchanging penalties before Itoje stole the headlines at the death.

With nine wins from 10 previous home meetings with France in the Six Nations, including seven in a row, the history books heavily favoured England, but it did not look that way early on.

The visitors surged into the lead as the ever-alert Dupont touched down at the end of a sweeping move that had left England all at sea.

Eddie Jones' team immediately applied the pressure and got back on level terms as some swift and precise passing found Watson wide on the right, and he marked his 50th cap with a score from which Farrell converted.

Farrell kept his cool to slot two penalties and put England 13-7 up inside 20 minutes, but France cut the arrears with a Jalibert three-pointer before reclaiming the lead ahead of the break.

It was a fine try that secured that half-time advantage, Penaud collecting a brilliant pass from Jalibert following an eye-catching Gael Fickou dummy to squeeze through in the corner after Galthie's men had sprung superbly from a lineout.

The second half was more of a tactical battle, with far fewer instances of flair and creativity; Jalibert and Farrell each splitting the posts before England had the decisive say in the closing minutes.

Itoje bundled over the line, the try awarded after a review as it was determined he had grounded the ball, breaking French hearts in the process.

What's next?

France may be unwanted guests at someone else's Grand Slam party when they host Wales on Saturday, while England face a stern test as they travel to Dublin to take on Ireland.

Iain Balshaw expects "seething" England to unleash their fury on Six Nations title contenders France after the Red Rose were stunned by "calamitous" refereeing errors in the loss to Wales.

The defending champions' hopes of retaining their title were shattered by a 40-24 in Cardiff last month, but it might have been a very different story if French official Pascal Gauzere had not awarded Wales two controversial first-half tries.

Gauzere admitted he should not have allowed scores from Josh Adams and Liam Williams to stand at the Principality Stadium, but that was no consolation to the holders.

France travel to Twickenham on Saturday with two wins out of two, but former England wing Balshaw said they should beware the wounded animal.

The World Cup winner told Stats Perform News: "England's discipline really let them down against Wales, but they did a lot of good things in that match.

"If the referee had not made those two calamitous errors then it is a totally different game, as the pressure would be on Wales to chase the game. That said, it was a big worry to see the way England capitulated from 24-24.

"When England had ball in hand I thought we looked very good and dangerous every time, but it is frustrating when you see them kick so often and obviously discipline has been a problem.

"Clive Woodward always used to tell us we must keep the penalty count under 10, otherwise the likelihood of winning goes down considerably.

"You want to see running rugby, because we looked very dangerous when we had ball in hand. I honestly don't think we are far away. I think France know England will be seething and desperate to right some wrongs at Twickenham."

Balshaw says England fans should remember it is not long since Owen Farrell was lifting two trophies, and underlined that ensuring they peak at the 2023 World Cup in France is paramount.

"People are obviously frustrated with results, but it really isn't doom and gloom. Scotland played the match of their lives in a storming performance and things might have gone differently against Wales. If they beat France then it is a very different story," said the ex-Bath and Gloucester flyer.

"If you look at the last 18 months, we have been in a World Cup final, won the Six Nations and the Autumn Nations Cup. You will get bumps in the road, but the main goal is the next World Cup and I honestly believe we are in good shape."

Jamison Gibson-Park retained his place in the Ireland side, while Sean Maitland and Jamie Ritchie will return for Scotland in Sunday's Six Nations encounter at Murrayfield.

Gibson-Park started the loss to France and victory over Italy, with Conor Murray ruled out, and the scrum-half did enough to retain the number nine jersey.

Murray is back on the bench along with Jordan Larmour, who is replaced on the wing by the experienced Keith Earls.

Prop Cian Healy comes in at loosehead at the expense of Dave Kilcoyne, who is named among the replacements as Andy Farrell's men attempt to make it two wins from four in the tournament. 

Gregor Townsend has made four alterations to his line-up for Scotland's first match in a month after their clash with France was postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak in Les Bleus' camp.

Wing Maitland and flanker Ritchie return from injury, replacing Darcy Graham and Blade Thomson respectively.

Zander Fagerson's suspension gives prop WP Nel the chance to start, Sam Johnson makes his first appearance of the tournament in place of James Lang.

Grant Gilchrist and Nick Haining will be ready to feature in the 2021 Six Nations for the first time from the bench.

 

Ireland: Hugo Keenan, Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe, Johnny Sexton, Jamison Gibson-Park; Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Tadhg Furong, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, Tadhg Beirne, Will Connors, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Billy Burns, Jordan Larmour.

Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Duhan van der Merwe, Finn Russell, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, George Turner, WP Nel, Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray, Jamie Ritchie. Hamish Watson, Matt Fagerson.

Replacements: David Cherry, Jamie Bhatti, Simon Berghan, Grant Gilchrist, Nick Haining, Scott Steele, Huw Jones, Darcy Graham.

France legend Serge Betsen believes "winner" Shaun Edwards would make a great England head coach but warned "leave him with us and sort your own problems out!".

Edwards has made a big impact since he was appointed Les Bleus' defence coach in May 2019 following a hugely successful spell with Wales under Warren Gatland.

The Englishman's influence in the Fabien Galthie era has been clear to see and France travel to Twickenham on Saturday with high hopes of ending an 11-year wait for a Six Nations title, having beaten Italy and Ireland before a coronavirus outbreak in their camp led to the clash with Scotland being postponed.

Betsen knows all about Edwards' coaching ability after working under the former rugby league star at Wasps and the ex-France flanker thinks he should be a contender to take charge of his country when Eddie Jones' reign ends.

"Shaun Edwards demands the highest standards every day," said Betsen, who won 63 caps. "He is passionate, emotional, he is a winner and wants to share the recipe of how to manage players. Also, it is very important to French people that he has made an effort to improve his French.

"He has got something very special. He had great success with Wales, he knows what he needs to do and how to go about doing it. 

"He would deserve the opportunity to coach England and he would bring incredible passion as a proud Englishman.

"I am surprised Shaun has not been employed by England, but maybe people don't know what he is about. Obviously I am happy as a Frenchman, though, leave him with us and sort your own problems out!"

The Red Rose go into Le Crunch smarting from a 40-24 defeat to Wales that shattered their hopes of retaining the title.

Pascal Gauzere admitted he was wrong to award Wales two first-half tries in that loss for the defending champions in Cardiff, but Betsen says the French official was not to blame for England's defeat.

He said: "The referee admitted to making mistakes and we all make mistakes. As players, we also make a lot of mistakes.

"Last November nobody said anything when England benefited from refereeing decisions when they won the Autumn Nations Cup final against France.

"You have to respect the decisions of the referee and can only control your own performance."

France resume their bid to win a first Six Nations title since 2010 with a trip to face wounded England at Twickenham, and Wales should made it four wins out of four this weekend.

A coronavirus outbreak in the French camp led to their clash with Scotland being postponed, but they will be back in action against the Red Rose on Saturday a month after beating Ireland.

Wales shattered England's hopes of retaining the title with a 40-24 win at the Principality Stadium and will be expected to stay perfect when they face Italy in Rome, also on Saturday.

Scotland will look to reignite their title challenge when they face Ireland at Murrayfield on Sunday.

We use Opta data to preview the round-four encounters.

 

ITALY v WALES

FORM

Wales have won their last 15 Tests against Italy, and a 16th would represent their longest ever winning run against a single opponent in Test rugby (they won 15 in a row against France from 1908 to 1927).

A win over England secured Wales' fifth Triple Crown of the Six Nations era, They completed the Grand Slam in each of their previous four Triple Crown-winning campaigns since 2000 (2005, 2008, 2012, 2019).

Italy's losing run in the competition stands at 30 games and they have lost 19 in a row at home, stretching back to a defeat of Ireland eight years ago.

ONES TO WATCH

Azzurri fly-half Paolo Garbisi has made more kicks in play (29) and recorded more kicking metres (1,142m) than any other player in this year's Six Nations.

Josh Adams marked his first match of the tournament by scoring a controversial try against England and the Wales wing will fancy his chances of touching down again in Rome.

 

ENGLAND v FRANCE

FORM

England have won nine of their 10 home games against France in the Six Nations, including the last seven in a row. Their only defeat came in February 2005, going down 18-17.

France have won seven of their last eight games in the Six Nations and will look for a fourth consecutive victory in the competition this weekend.

Les Bleus have scored the opening try of the game in 15 of their most previous 18 matches in this tournament, including their last eight in a row.

ONES TO WATCH

Wing Anthony Watson will win his 50th cap for England. He has the best average gain per carry rate (10.1 metres) of anyone to make 10 or more carries in the 2021 Six Nations and has also made the most post-contact metres (141).

France lock Paul Willemse has not missed any of his 34 tackles in the Six Nations this year and has made the joint-second most dominant tackles with four, England's Tom Curry (5) the only player to have made more.

SCOTLAND v IRELAND

FORM

Ireland have lost just three of their last 19 games against Scotland in the Six Nations, winning all the rest. Each of the men in green's defeats came by a margin of five points or fewer.

Scotland have lost their last two Test matches at Murrayfield. They have not been beaten in more consecutive games at their traditional home venue since losing four on the bounce between November 2014 and March 2015.

Gregor Townsend's side are the only team to average fewer than 10 missed tackles (8.5) per game in the Six Nations in 2021 and as a result boast the best tackle success rate of 92 per cent.

ONES TO WATCH

Hamish Watson has been an influential performer for Scotland, winning three turnovers and getting through a huge amount of work in the back row.

Ireland back-row Tadhg Beirne has recorded the most ruck arrivals (117) in the tournament, hitting the most rucks of anyone in both attack (87) and defence (30).

Max Malins will make his first Test start and Virimi Vakatawa returns to the France side for Saturday's mouthwatering Six Nations showdown at Twickenham.

Malins gets the nod at full-back, with Elliot Daly dropping to the bench in three changes made to the side by Eddie Jones.

Hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie is preferred to Jamie George, while Charlie Ewels takes Jonny Hill's place in the second row in an England side that will not be retaining their title after a defeat to Wales last time out.

Anthony Watson will win his 50th Test cap as the defending champions attempt to strike a blow to France's bid to claim the title with a victory in Le Crunch.

France return to action a month after they made it two wins out of two with a defeat of Ireland in Dublin, with their clash against Scotland postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak in the camp.

Head coach Fabien Galthie, who was among those to test positive for COVID-19, has named fit-again centre Vakatawa in midfield alongside Gael Fickou, with Arthur Vincent unavailable.

Teddy Thomas returns on the wing in place of the injured Gabin Villier, while Romain Taofifenua comes into the team after Bernard Le Roux was ruled out.

Dylan Cretin is preferred to Anthony Jelonch in the back row as the fit-again Romain Ntamack has to settle for a place on the bench when France go in search of a first win at Twickehham since 2007.

 

England: Max Malins, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell, Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Charlie Ewels, Mark Wilson, Tom Curry, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Jamie George, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Jonny Hill, Ben Earl, Dan Robson, Ollie Lawrence, Elliot Daly

 

France: Brice Dulin, Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa, Gael Fickou, Damian Penaud, Matthieu Jalibert, Antoine Dupont; Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas, Romain Taofifenua, Paul Willemse, Dylan Cretin, Charles Ollivon, Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements: Camille Chat, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Dorian Aldegheri, Cyril Cazeaux, Cameron Woki, Anthony Jelonch, Baptiste Serin, Romain Ntamack.

England flanker Jack Willis could be out for a year after suffering a serious knee injury in the Six Nations victory over Italy last month.

Willis scored a try in a 41-18 win at Twickenham but was later taken off on a medical cart following lengthy treatment.

Scans showed the 24-year-old sustained ligament damage and he is now facing a long spell on the sidelines.

He said in a video on Instagram: "I've torn my MCL [medial collateral ligament] off the bone at the bottom, torn a bit off the top as well, so I am going to need that fully repaired.

"Torn both meniscus, the medial meniscus from the root one side. Pretty gutted, I could be out for up to a year."

It is another cruel blow for Willis, who missed the Red Rose's tour of South Africa in 2018 due to a knee injury.

Kieran Hardy has been released from the Wales squad after suffering a hamstring problem and Dan Biggar is also nursing an injury following the Six Nations victory over England last weekend.

The scrum-half scored a try in the leaders' 40-24 win at the Principality Stadium on Saturday, but also sustained an injury.

Hardy has returned to the Scarlets to continue his rehabilitation, with a weekend off to come before a trip to face bottom side Italy at Stadio Olimpico a week on Saturday.

Wales attack coach Stephen Jones said: "It's unfortunate [for Hardy] after having a wonderful performance against England.

"We've got three scrum-halves left who are good to go."

 Jones also confirmed fly-half Biggar is carrying an injury, but is "very optimistic" he can face the Azzurri.

Aaron Wainwright and Owen Watkin have been released to play for the Dragons and the Ospreys respectively this weekend. The duo will return to link up with the national team after featuring for their regions.

Wales wrapped up the Triple Crown with a defeat of the defending champions and lead France, who have a game in hand against Scotland, by five points.

France and Wales are set to do battle at Stade de France on March 20.

Wayne Pivac shrugged off the suggestion Wales had luck on their side as they overcame England 40-24 to wrap up a Six Nations triple crown.

Wales have now beaten Ireland, Scotland and England across their opening three matches to take a five-point lead at the top of the standings, though second-placed France have a game in hand.

Saturday's victory was not without its contentious moments, however, as the calls of referee Pascal Gauzere took centre stage in the first half.

First, the French official allowed Josh Adams' opening try to stand, despite having given England little time to set themselves from a Wales penalty, with the referee having asked Owen Farrell to speak to his team.

Gauzere then made the on-field decision to award Liam Williams' try, with TMO unable to definitively prove that Louis Rees-Zammit had knocked on in the build-up.

Wales benefitted from a red card in their wins over Ireland and Scotland, but Pivac put the victory against England in Cardiff down to his team's application.

"Some people are going to say that, they'll say it's been on our side for the last three matches, but you've got to be in games to win them," Pivac told BBC Sport.

"England put a lot of pressure on us and came back, each time we hit them they came back again, so it was a hell of a game and a lot of resilience shown from our boys."

Asked if he had any sympathy for England, Pivac added: "I think when you give away that many penalties – one player giving away five penalties – I think you’re lucky not to concede a yellow card to be honest. I suppose you could argue either way."

Wales lost four of their five games in last season's Six Nations campaign, finishing fifth above winless Italy, yet now look on course for a Grand Slam.

"Time. A bit of time," was Pivac's explanation when asked how his team have turned their fortunes around.

"We've picked a squad to get results in this tournament and we had a good look at some players in the last tournament that we've well and truly documented, but certainly time together and I think you can see there's a good bond growing in this group.

"They enjoy winning things, as they did under Warren [Gatland]. Hopefully we can press on."

As ruthless Wales celebrated winning the Triple Crown, Eddie Jones might have been regretting saying the pressure would be on referee Pascal Gauzere in Cardiff.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac endured a difficult start to his reign after succeeding Warren Gatland, but his side are two victories from a Grand Slam after beating the defending champions 40-24.

England, on the other hand, saw the Six Nations title all-but slip through their fingers as they were left to rue poor discipline and two controversial first-half tries for Wales.

Red Rose boss Jones has previous with Gauzere and spoke to World Rugby about an incident involving the French official during Wales' win over Scotland in 2018.

The Australian was his usually outspoken self ahead of Saturday's clash at the Principality Stadium.

He said: "Unfortunately, there are no fans but the intensity of the clash I think over the last four or five years, the games I have been involved in, the points difference is six points. They always go down to the wire, so the pressure is going to be on the referee to make the right decisions."

So when Gauzere twice took centre stage in the first half by awarding tries for Josh Adams and Liam Williams, Jones may have been thinking he had made the wrong decision by putting the spotlight on the referee.

Jones should also be pointing the finger at his players, who he said had become more "street-smart" than they were when losing to Wales at the same stadium two years ago.

They were their own worst enemies, conceding 14 penalties as they lost for the second time in three matches, but Gauzere left them up against it and resurgent Wales took full advantage.

Owen Farrell has come in for criticism for having too much to say to referees, but he was understandably aggrieved when Adams was awarded an opening try 16 minutes in.

Gauzere had called time out after instructing the skipper to warn his team-mates about their indiscipline, only to give Dan Biggar the green light to pick out Adams with a pinpoint cross-field kick soon after with the majority of Red Rose caught out in a huddle.

Farrell exchanged words with Gauzere before reducing the deficit to 10-6 with his second penalty, yet the French official took centre stage once again when he raised his arm to signal a try for Williams with half an hour on the clock.

Louis Rees-Zammit was shaking his head in frustration after knocking the ball forward prior to Williams dotting down, but Gauzere opted against changing his decision after consulting the TMO as the ball struck the wing's leg prior to hitting the ground after he knocked it forward.

Rees-Zammit raised eyebrows over the verdict and England responded with a well-finished try from Anthony Watson before Farrell made it 17-14 just before the break.

Kieran Hardy caught England napping early in the second half with a sharp turn of foot to score a third Wales try but Farrell made it a seven-point game when he was on target with the boot again.

England were showing the sort of inventive play they were so badly lacking in the defeat to Scotland and the quick-thinking Ben Youngs nipped in for a superb try, which Farrell converted to level at 24-24 with 17 minutes to go.

The Red Rose continued to give away far too many penalties, though, and Callum Sheedy punished them on three occasion to put Pivac's men 33-24 up with six minutes remaining.

Cory Hill put the icing on the cake as it was Wales who proved to be more "street-smart”, with Pivac celebrating gleefully as his side took a big stride on the road towards another title.

Wales go in search of a Triple Crown in a blockbuster battle against England, but France will not have an opportunity to make it three Six Nations wins out of three this weekend.

Wayne Pivac's Wales side are level on nine points with Les Bleus following victories over Ireland and Scotland, both of whom had a man sent off.

George North will become the youngest player in history to win 100 caps, but defending champions England will be determined to spoil the Wales centre's big occasion at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

The Red Rose beat Italy 41-18 last time out, following a loss to Scotland at Twickenham.

Winless Ireland will be expected to defeat the Azzurri to get up and running in the opening match of round three at Stadio Olimpico.

Sunday's planned showdown between France and Scotland was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the French squad.

We preview the matches in Rome and Cardiff with help from Opta.

ITALY v IRELAND

FORM

Ireland have scored 45 tries across their last seven games against Italy in the Six Nations (6.4 per game), scoring eight or more tries in three of their last five clashes.

Italy have conceded a try-scoring bonus point in 17 of their 22 matches since those incentives were introduced to the Six Nations in 2017; only England (9) have picked up more bonus points in the championship than Ireland (8). The Azzurri are the only side yet to register one.

Ireland have lost their opening two games of a Six Nations campaign for the first time. The last time they lost their opening three matches was in 1998, when they were beaten in all four Five Nations clashes.

ONES TO WATCH

Sebastian Negri has made 96 metres and made 21 tackles combined in Italy's losses to France and England. Franco Smith will need another strong showing from the flanker.

Ireland back-row CJ Stander has made more carries (36) than any other player in the 2021 Six Nations. He has topped the final rankings for this category in three of the last four editions of the championship.

WALES v ENGLAND

FORM

England have won six of their last seven Six Nations matches against Wales, with the last six of those fixtures all decided by a single-figure margin.

Wales have won their opening two games of the tournament for a sixth time. On four of the previous five occasions when they have started with back-to-back victories, they have gone on to win a Grand Slam (2005, 2008, 2012, 2019, not in 2009).

This weekend's visitors are the only team to have never conceded more than two tries in a Six Nations game played in Wales. They have scored 19 tries in Wales during the Six Nations, no visiting team have scored more (Ireland also 19).

ONES TO WATCH

North will become only the sixth Wales player to win a century of caps. The 28-year-old will form a new pairing with Jonathan Davies and will be looking to bring up his hundred with an all-action display.

Elliot Daly will win his 50th cap for England and coach Eddie Jones will expect the full-back to repay the faith he has shown in him after a slow start to the tournament.

George North will become the youngest player in world rugby to reach 100 caps after being named in Wales' starting line-up for Saturday's Six Nations showdown with England.

The 28-year-old, who won his first cap in November 2010, returns to the side at outside centre as one of five changes from the 25-24 win over Scotland on February 13.

Wing Josh Adams is back from suspension while Josh Navidi, Jonathan Davies and scrum-half Kieran Hardy are also included in the XV, the latter making his first Six Nations start.

Wales have won their opening two games in this year's tournament and are three points ahead of England, who beat Italy 41-18 last time out after losing to Scotland in their opener.

Eddie Jones makes two changes to the England line-up, with hooker Jamie George and flanker Mark Wilson replacing Luke Cowan-Dickie and the injured Courtney Lawes respectively.

Elliot Daly retains his place and is set to win his 50th cap for England, who have named the uncapped George Martin among their replacements for the Principality Stadium clash. 

"We know we'll be up against a strong Welsh challenge on Saturday, but we've worked really hard in training this week and have got a very good team to face it," Jones said.

"We want to show people what we are capable of, keep building our performances and show the best is yet to come from this England team."

 

Wales XV: Liam Williams; Louis Rees-Zammit, George North, Jonathan Davies, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar, Kieran Hardy; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rhodri Jones, Leon Brown, Cory Hill, James Botham, Gareth Davies, Callum Sheedy, Uilisi Halaholo.

England XV: Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell, Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Mark Wilson, Tom Curry, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, George Martin, Ben Earl, Dan Robson, Max Malins.

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