Ireland's Six Nations hopes are in tatters after they fell to a second successive defeat, a comeback attempt falling short in a 15-13 loss to France.

Andy Farrell's side were undone by an early red card for Peter O'Mahony against Wales, but it was their failure to capitalise in the 10 minutes when France were down to 14 that proved key this time around.

Charles Ollivon scored the first of two France tries while they were undermanned, giving the visitors an advantage they never surrendered.

They led 15-3 five minutes before the hour and, although a spirited revival gave Ireland hope, the hosts could not complete a turnaround, meaning their championship prospects are effectively over. France, by contrast, go into the first rest weekend top of the table.

Matthieu Jalibert and Billy Burns each missed early penalties before Burns knocked a simple one over to give Ireland a 3-0 lead.

The hosts were then boosted further when Bernard Le Roux was shown a yellow card for tripping during a kick-chase.

James Lowe looked to have taken an immediate advantage when he went over in the left corner but the TMO ruled he had been pushed into touch by the scrambling France defence.

Ireland were punished for not taking that chance in stunning fashion as a wonderful France attack, in which the ball was intricately worked to the right and then back left, ended with Gael Fickou sending Ollivon over.

Jallibert added the extras and landed a penalty shortly before the interval.

France wasted a golden opportunity to go further ahead following a superb carry from Julien Marchand before Ireland's task was made more difficult when Cian Healy and Iain Henderson clashed heads in a tackle.

Ed Byrne and Ultan Dillane entered the fray as replacements for their bloodied team-mates but could not help Ireland wrest control of the game away from France.

The visitors' command was strengthened in the 57th minute when Jallibert looped a long pass out to Brice Dulin, who shrugged off a defender and fed Damian Penaud for France's second try.

Yet Jallibert failed with the conversion and, after Ollivon was penalised from the kick-off, Ronan Kelleher marked his introduction by strolling over following a fortunate bounce at a line-out.

A long-range penalty from Ross Byrne trimmed the gap to two points and Jallibert failed to respond in kind nine minutes from time as he struck the upright from 51 metres.

But as in Cardiff last week, Ireland failed to produce a dramatic final say and will likely be playing for little more than pride for the rest of the tournament.

Wayne Pivac urged Wales not to get carried away with making it two wins from two in this year's Six Nations by beating Scotland 25-24 at Murrayfield on Saturday.

Darcy Graham and Stuart Hogg put Scotland 14 points ahead in the first half, only for Louis Rees-Zammit to reduce the deficit before half-time.

Liam Williams and Wyn Jones touched down either side of a red card for Zander Fagerson to put Wales in front for the first time, before Hogg went over again for the depleted hosts.

However, Rees-Zammit scored a brilliant solo try to seal a bonus-point victory, which followed a win over 14-man Ireland on the opening weekend of the tournament.

Prior to this year's Six Nations, Wales had won just three of Pivac's first 10 Tests at the helm and he urged them to remain grounded despite the upturn in results.

"From 17-3 down against a side full a confidence, it was very, very pleasing," said Pivac.

"There were some big moments from both sides so we are just happy to come away with a win.

"We are improving each week in certain areas of the game and we showed a lot of character today.

"The squad has changed a lot since autumn, and it's tournament rugby now, a couple months is a long time to reflect.

"We cannot get carried away with this, though, and we need to build on it."

Having also set up Williams' try, Rees-Zammit has been directly involved in six tries in just five starts for Wales (four scored, two assisted).

Pivac said of the Gloucester wing: "Louis Rees-Zammit is doing some very good things with the ball. He's got things to work on, he dropped a high ball earlier and he wasn't the complete package, but he has scored some really well-worked tries."

Hogg took his Test try tally to 22, with Ian Smith and Tony Stanger (both 24) the only players to have registered more for Scotland.

He was frustrated Gregor Townsend's men let the game slip through their fingers a week after a famous victory over reigning champions England at Twickenham.

"We're bitterly disappointed. For large parts of that game we were very much in control of it. We looked the dominant side, especially in the first half, and we started to be ill-disciplined," he told the BBC.

"For us, giving away a couple of penalties is fine, four on the bounce is unacceptable. We've gone from one end of the field to the other conceding seven points within a couple of minutes and that's international rugby. You can't let a team like Wales get easy, cheap field positions because they are going to punish you.

"I think, for us, it's a vital lesson to stay disciplined throughout. It hurts right now, and rightly so."

Louis Rees-Zammit's excellent second try gave Wales a narrow 25-24 bonus-point victory over 14-man Scotland in the Six Nations.

After claiming a first win at Twickenham in 38 years by beating England 11-6 on the opening weekend, Scotland stormed ahead with tries from Darcy Graham and Stuart Hogg on Saturday.

Rees-Zammit went over before half-time and set up Liam Williams to haul Wales back into the game, and they took the lead when Wyn Jones touched down after Zander Fagerson saw red.

Hogg put Scotland back in front despite their numerical disadvantage but a stunning solo effort from Rees-Zammit saw Wales follow up their win over 14-man Ireland last week with another success.

Scotland only conceded six penalties against England but had half that amount inside six minutes, with Leigh Halfpenny splitting the posts after the third.

Finn Russell restored parity and added the extras after Ali Price chipped the ball over the Wales defence for Darcy Graham to dot down in the 18th minute.

The hosts increased their advantage when Halfpenny spilled Hogg's kick over the top and the Scotland full-back took it over the line, but Rees-Zammit reduced the arrears before half-time.

Halfpenny sat out the second half due to a failed HIA and, after Gary Graham had a try ruled out for obstruction, Williams went over in the left corner.

Scotland were reduced to 14 men when Fagerson was dismissed for catching Jones on the head at the breakdown, and the Wales prop made them pay by scoring a third try.

The hosts responded with a sustained spell of pressure in front of the posts that culminated in Hogg evading Owen Watkin and Nick Tompkins to cross.

However, Rees-Zammit showed incredible pace to chase down his own kick and score the decisive points with 10 minutes remaining.

England are back to being themselves after recovering from last week's defeat to Scotland with a 41-18 victory over Italy on Saturday, according to captain Owen Farrell.

The reigning champions ran in six tries to claim a bonus-point victory at Twickenham, a week on from losing 11-6 to Calcutta Cup rivals Scotland.

Monty Ioane put Italy ahead early on but Jonny Hill gave England lift-off with their opening try and Anthony Watson crossed over either side of Jonny May's 32nd Test try.

Jack Willis touched down on his debut and, though Tommaso Allan added a second for Italy, it was plain sailing for the home side as Elliot Daly ran through down the left.

And while accepting England were far from their best against Italy, Farrell was pleased with the way they responded to their opening loss.

"We're back to being 'us' there," he told ITV. "It wasn't a perfect performance, not the best we've ever had, but in terms of the feeling, the energy and the intent, that felt back to 'us'..

"We had some honest conversations with ourselves during the week... there was excitement to get on the training field and put things right. 

"And the way that we built up showed in the way that we played. I thought we attacked the game. 

"Obviously they had an advantage to move the ball and they ended up scoring a try, which was probably a bit over over-eagerness from us

"But after that I thought our intent was brilliant. We got in behind them, probably not everything went our way, but we stuck at it and the game ended up going our way."

England have now won each of their 22 Six Nations fixtures against Italy, who have lost their last 29 matches in the competition in a run stretching back to February 2015.

The Azzurri offered promising glimpses, not least with their second-quickest ever Six Nations try through Ioane, but England ultimately proved too strong on home soil.

"Credit to Italy, they were tough, they never gave up, and we knew they were going to do that," said England prop Kyle Sinckler. 

"Up front they were strong, their forwards carried hard, their backs had good energy... it was a tough, tough test match but our boys got stuck in there and got the win."

Echoing the thoughts of skipper Farrell, Sinckler hailed England's response to last week's rare home loss.

"I think it was a step in right direction. I think our intent was a lot better today, especially up front," he said. 

"We probably didn't get the rewards we wanted, but in terms of the intent, and showing how much it means to us to play for our country, I think it was a step in the right direction.

"We were obviously very frustrated with the performance last week, and we knew we had to step up and play the England way, and the way we want to dominate up front. 

"We did that at times today, but we know there's so much more to give. But like I said, it was a step in the right direction. The game's done, we move on to the next one."

Next up for England is a showdown with Wales at the Principality Stadium on February 27.

England belatedly got their 2021 Six Nations campaign up and running with a routine 41-18 bonus-point win against Italy at Twickenham.

The reigning champions suffered an opening defeat at home to Scotland last week and initially continued their slow start when Monty Ioane broke the deadlock for Italy after just two minutes and 23 seconds.

But Eddie Jones' side recovered over the course of the first half, scoring three times, including through Jonny May's 32nd Test try.

Anthony Watson's second of the match put the result beyond doubt, before Jack Willis touched down on his Six Nations debut, only to later depart with an apparently serious knee injury that put a dampener on the day.

England are the only Six Nations side never to have lost to Italy but were briefly threatened as a smart move from right to left saw Jacopo Trulla send Ioane through to score for the first time for the Azzurri.

Owen Farrell's penalty cut the deficit, however, and England led in the 14th minute when Jonny Hill forced the ball over from close range for his own maiden international try.

The hosts did not immediately pull out of sight and Paolo Garbisi's kick levelled the match, although Watson soon sauntered through a misshapen Italy defence and a spectacular May effort, leaping over Luca Sperandio's tackle and riding the left-sided corner flag, added to England's advantage.

Italy scored first again after the break through Garbisi's penalty, but Watson picked off a slack pass to race away for another try, awarded despite the TMO's interest in a prior Farrell challenge.

The scoring continued when Willis bundled over after a weaving Dan Robson run shortly before he was injured in a ruck, then the sides traded tries as Tomasso Allan ran through the middle for Italy but England responded with Elliot Daly in the clear on the left.

Ireland will be without Johnny Sexton for Sunday's visit of France in the Six Nations after their captain suffered a blow to the head against Wales. 

Sexton underwent return-to-play protocols after the incident in the loss but has not been cleared to play. 

The news comes after Sexton hit out at a French doctor who claimed the fly-half had suffered approximately 30 concussions in his career, with neurologist Dr Jean-Francois Chermann subsequently apologising. 

Billy Burns will start instead for Andy Farrell's side, who lost 21-16 in Cardiff, with Jamison Gibson-Park also in the XV as scrum-half Conor Murray sits it out with a hamstring injury. 

The captain's armband goes to Iain Henderson for the first time, with the suspended Peter O'Mahony replaced by Rhys Ruddock following his red card in the Welsh capital. 

James Ryan also sustained a blow to the head in that game and, like Sexton, will be absent this weekend.

Ireland: Hugo Keenan; Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Billy Burns, Jamison Gibson-Park; Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Andrew Porter; Tadhg Beirne, Iain Henderson; Rhys Ruddock, Josh Van der Flier, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Ed Byrne, Tadhg Furlong, Ultan Dillane, Will Connors, Craig Casey, Ross Byrne, Jordan Larmour.

 

Buoyant Scotland will go in search of back-to-back wins over Wales for the first time in 18 years and France travel to Ireland for a mouthwatering Six Nations showdown this weekend.

Scotland ended a 38-year wait for a win at Twickenham on the opening weekend with a dominant 11-6 defeat of the defending champions.

Gregor Townsend's side need to follow that up on Saturday with a victory over a Wales side that got the better of 14-man Ireland at the Principality Stadium following Peter O'Mahony's first-half red card.

France started the tournament by hammering Italy 50-10, but will face a bigger test in Dublin, while England should respond to their Calcutta Cup defeat by beating Italy at home on Saturday.

Ahead of the second round, we preview the upcoming matches with help from Opta.

 

ENGLAND v ITALY

FORM

The Red Rose have won each of their 21 fixtures against Italy in the Six Nations, and they are the only team yet to suffer defeat against the Azzurri in the championship.

England have hosted Italy on 10 occasions in the Six Nations, winning each of those 10 fixtures by an average margin of 31 points and scoring 5.6 tries per game.

Italy have won just twice away from home in the Six Nations (losing 50 and drawing one), with both victories coming against Scotland at Murrayfield (2007 and 2015).

 

ONES TO WATCH

George Ford comes into the England side, with captain Owen Farrell moving to outside centre, in one of five changes to the side, and the fly-half will be ready to make a statement after being named on the bench for the loss to Scotland.

Italy endured a torrid start to the competition, but Luca Sperandio scored a fine try. The wing had seven carries and made 52 metres. The Azzurri will need to get Sperandio flying down the flank again in London.

 

SCOTLAND v WALES

FORM

Scotland were superb against England and will be aiming for consecutive wins over Wales in the Six Nations for the first time since 2002-2003.

Wales had an extra man, but Ireland could consider themselves unfortunate to go down 21-16 in Cardiff. The Welsh have lost their last six Tests away from home and will be in for another huge battle at Murrayfield.

They have conceded 30 points per game in that miserable sequence of matches on their travels.

 

ONES TO WATCH

Captain Stuart Hogg was man of the match in a rousing performance from Scotland against Eddie Jones' men. The full-back made 112 metres and had 13 carries. He was also brilliant with the boot, kicking for 367 metres.

Louis Rees-Zammit showed why he is so highly rated in Wales' win over Ireland. He dived to finish magnificently in the corner as Wayne Pivac's side made a winning start at home last Sunday.

 

IRELAND v FRANCE

FORM

Flanker O'Mahony's reckless dismissal proved to be costly for Andy Farrell's Ireland side in Cardiff. They will be looking to avoid suffer back-to-back losses to Les Bleus in the Six Nations, having not endured such a fate since 2010-11.

Ireland have won five of their last seven clashes with France in the Six Nations (L2) after winning only four of their 30 previous meetings with them in the Five/Six Nations (D3 L23).

 

ONES TO WATCH

Antoine Dupont was the player of the opening round of the tournament. The mercurial scrum-half assisted four tries, the joint-most by any player in a Six Nations match, equalling the record set by Frederic Michalak against Italy in 2006. He also scored a try of his own in a sublime performance.

Ireland lock Tadhg Beirne made the most carries (21) of any player in the opening round. He also hit the most rucks of any player (48) and was Ireland’s joint-highest tackler (10, level with CJ Stander).

Johnny Sexton has hit out at the "inaccurate and highly inappropriate" comments of a French doctor regarding the Ireland star's concussion record.

Dr Jean-Francois Chermann, who stood Sexton down from playing duties for 12 weeks at Racing 92 back in 2014, told RMC Sport on Tuesday that Sexton had suffered approximately 30 concussions in his career.

His remarks came after the fly-half sustained a blow to the head in Ireland's Six Nations loss to Wales, meaning he is undergoing return-to-play protocols ahead of Sunday's visit of France.

Sexton was angered by Chermann's words when addressing the subject in his pre-match news conference.

"I am pretty saddened and shocked by the inaccurate reports that were thrown out yesterday," he said. "We've been here before and it's very frustrating.

"For me, I just think it's totally inappropriate that a doctor that I have seen – many years ago now – felt it was appropriate to come out and talk to whoever it was and say those things.

"It's inaccurate and highly inappropriate and I am pretty disappointed but, for me, I am so used to it, it's almost like water off a duck's back, but for my wife and mum it's very upsetting.

"But that's the world we live in.

"I thought there was patient and doctor confidentiality, I am pretty sure that exists in the world, and I just can't get over the fact that someone thought it was appropriate to just come out of nowhere and just start saying things that weren't even accurate, that's the most hurtful thing."

Props Kyle Sinckler and Mako Vunipola have returned to the England squad for the Six Nations encounter with Italy at Twickenham on Saturday.

British and Irish Lions duo Sinckler and Vunipola missed the 11-6 Calcutta Cup defeat to Scotland on the opening day of the tournament due to suspension and an Achilles injury respectively.

They will be available to beef up the defending champions' pack against an Azzurri side smarting from a 50-10 hammering at the hands of a rampant France at Stadio Olimpico.

Harry Williams and Tom West will not feature for Eddie Jones' side after they were released to return to their clubs.

The Red Rose never got going in a poor performance versus dominant Scotland, but they won the tournament last year after losing their opening match to France and number eight Billy Vunipola said they can respond again.

He said: "It is frustrating. I won't lie. But this happened last year, and we managed to pull it back so it's massive for all of us to make sure we get around each other and whatever we need to fix this week we do as soon as possible.

"We only have a week to do it, which is probably the best thing for us. We don't have a fallow week to let that settle in and frustrate us.

"You never really forget these days, you never really forget these moments, and to be honest I don't really want to forget them.

"I want to move on from it, but I don't want to forget it as it keeps you sharp. Losing like this at Twickenham is never what you dream of."

Uncapped duo George Taylor and Charlie Shiel have been called up to the Scotland squad for the Six Nations clash against Wales along with D'Arcy Rae.

Gregor Townsend drafted in centre Taylor, scrum-half Shiel and prop Rae for the round-two encounter at Murrayfield on Saturday between two sides on a high following winning starts.

Rae earned his only cap against Ireland in 2019, coming off the bench in a 22-13 loss.

Ewan Ashman, Blair Kinghorn, Jamie Dobie and Rufus McLean have been released back to their clubs.

Scotland dominated defending champions England on the opening day of the tournament, ending a 38-year wait for a win at Twickenham with an 11-6 victory on Saturday.

Captain Stuart Hogg said they will remain grounded after regaining the Calcutta Cup.

The full-back, who was named man of the match in the defeat of Eddie Jones' side, said: "We are not going to get ahead of ourselves. We will enjoy this one, no doubt, but then it is on to Wales next week.

"We'll get back on the horse and ready to go because next week is another challenge for us and one we're really excited about."

Eddie Jones questioned whether Scotland could handle the "weight of expectation" and they provided the sweetest of answers by ending a 38-year wait for a win at Twickenham.

Time and again Scotland had failed to beat their fierce rivals in their own backyard, but that elusive victory finally came as they regained the Calcutta Cup on a wet Saturday evening in London.

Gregor Townsend's side dominated the Six Nations champions on the opening day of the tournament, winning 11-6 to leave England head coach Jones with a face like thunder.

Jones will be asking why his ill-disciplined side started the defence of their title with such a flat, insipid performance in a game that marked the 150th anniversary of rugby's oldest fixture

Scotland had produced a sensational fightback to draw 38-38 at the same venue two years ago, before being denied an astonishing victory late on.

They never looked like suffering more heartbreak on this occasion, Stuart Hogg leading by example as they won at the famous stadium for the first time since 1983 to leave England shellshocked.

Scotland certainly did not resemble a team who might be feeling the pressure as they bossed the game from start to finish.

The Red Rose, starting the tournament with a depleted pack, were guilty of indiscipline time and again, with referee Andrew Brace losing patience when he sent Billy Vunipola to the sin bin.

Finn Russell deservedly put Scotland in front with a penalty early on and almost set up a try for Duhan van der Merwe with a clever kick, but the leaping wing was unable to grab a high bouncing ball and touch down.

Van der Merwe was not to be denied soon after, fending off Mark Wilson's tackle to put Scotland 8-0 up on the half-hour mark, but Scotland suffered a blow when Russell was yellow-carded just before the break for tripping Ben Youngs.

The boot of Farrell reduced the deficit to two points at the interval, with Scotland surely heading to the dressing room thinking they should have been further ahead after being frustrated by resolute England defending.

Russell returned with Scotland still leading and they continued to boss possession, managing the game superbly, and the fly-half's second penalty put them 11-6 up before he missed another shot at goal.

A furious Jones marched from the stands to the touchline to try and turn the tide, replacing Jamie George and Youngs with Luke Cowan-Dickie and Dan Robson before the hour-mark.

The excellent Hogg kept them on the back foot with a sublime, mammoth kick into the corner - not for the first time - and England were warned over their penalty count again, but more desperate defence denied Scotland a second try as they continue to hammer at the door.

Lacklustre England's day was summed up when Jonny May knocked on under no pressure in the closing stages.

Hogg said Scotland felt ready to "create a little bit of history" and start a "new chapter" this weekend and, as they finally celebrated on the Twickenham turf, it was evident the Red Rose had failed to live up to expectations.

England start their quest to retain the Six Nations title against Scotland on Saturday just over three months after they were crowned champions. 

The Red Rose dethroned Wales at the end of October, pipping France on points difference in a dramatic finale to a tournament that ended almost nine months after it started due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Eddie Jones' side are favourites to win the competition again, but Les Bleus are also well fancied to end an 11-year wait for Six Nations glory and face Italy in the first match. 

England do battle with Scotland for the Calcutta Cup at Twickenham, with Wales and Ireland locking horns in Cardiff on Sunday. 

Ahead of the opening round, we preview the upcoming matches with help from Opta.

ITALY v FRANCE

FORM

France have won 19 of their 21 previous Six Nations matches against Italy (L2), including their last seven in a row. Their two defeats in that time both came in Rome, in 2011 and 2013.  

Italy have lost their last 27 Six Nations matches, the longest losing streak in the history of the competition. Their last victory came at Murrayfield against Scotland in 2015, while they have not won at home since 2013. 

Les Bleus achieved a cumulative points difference of +31 in the first 20 minutes of their 2020 Six Nations matches. No other side managed a positive double-digit points difference in that period of matches, but Italy had a -39 difference. 

ONES TO WATCH

France wing Teddy Thomas scored a try in his last Test against Italy and is capable of lighting up the tournament. He can get off to a storming start in Rome.

Paolo Garbisi caught the eye at fly-half last year after being handed his debut against Ireland in October. Hopefully for his country, there is still much more to come from the 20-year-old.

ENGLAND v SCOTLAND

FORM

The last time England hosted Scotland in the Six Nations they drew 38-38 two years ago. Scotland clawed back the biggest ever half-time deficit (-24 pts, 7-31) by a side to avoid defeat in the tournament’s history, almost snatching victory before a late George Ford try denied them. 

Scotland have never beaten England at Twickenham in the Six Nations (D1, L9), their last victory against them the Red Rose at the London venue came in 1983 in the Five Nations (22-12).  

Gregor Townsend's side concluded the 2020 edition by winning their last three games in a row, their best run in the Championship since Italy joined in 2000. 

ONES TO WATCH

England captain Owen Farrell has scored exactly 1,000 Test points, one of just six men to reach that milestone. He is just four points away from reaching a century against Scotland.

Finn Russell returns to the Scotland side and the creativity provided by the fly-half will be key for Townsend's men.

WALES v IRELAND

FORM

Wales have lost their last two home games in the Six Nations, the last time they suffered three consecutive defeats at home was in 2002-03. Wayne Pivac's side have lost their last four games in the competition, their worst streak since 2006-07 (L5).  

No team scored more tries than Ireland in the Six Nations last year (17, along with France), four of those were launched from the back of a scrum. Wales (2) were the only other side to score multiple tries following a scrum.  

Ireland scored seven tries in the final quarter of their fixtures in 2020, more than any other side. Wales, meanwhile, scored the joint-second most in that period (6, level with England). 

ONES TO WATCH

Louis Rees-Zammit turned 20 this week and the Wales wing can celebrate in style with a livewire display at the Principality Stadium.

Ireland centre Garry Ringrose had terrible luck with injuries last year, but he is ready to fire on all cylinders in 2021.

Josh Adams has been suspended for Wales' Six Nations games against Ireland and Scotland after breaching COVID-19 protocols.

Wayne Pivac's squad were released from their training camp on Saturday and wing Adams attended a gathering the following day, where his immediate family were present.

That breach of the rules came to light when the squad returned for international duty on Tuesday, with Adams missing Wales' first Six Nations game against Ireland at the Principality Stadium on Sunday and the trip to Murrayfield six days later.

Adams said: "I would like to apologise unreservedly. When out of camp, at the weekend, I made an error of judgement. I attended a small gathering of immediate family to celebrate a family milestone.

"It was wrong to do this. I'm aware that everyone needs to follow the rules and being in the public eye I have a responsibility to lead by example and I've fallen short on this occasion.

"I'd like to apologise to my team-mates and to our supporters for my mistake."

Wales head coach Pivac said: "We are extremely disappointed with the breach and have acted robustly and swiftly to take all appropriate measures.

"All players and management have received detailed briefings and education regarding our protocols, and everyone has a responsibility to abide by the rules.

"On this occasion, Josh has made an error of judgement, he made a mistake and he has shown immediate remorse. He was present at a small, immediate family gathering to celebrate a milestone with those close to him but that is against the rules and action had to be taken.

"All members of the national squad have received extensive COVID-19 protocol briefings and education. We will continue with our programme, which has been very effective to date, and remind everyone of their responsibility to not only adhere to the extensive measures in place but also to set an example.

"We will work with Josh in relation to his integration back into camp following a further testing and re-education process."

New Zealand Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will switch codes at the end of the 2021 NRL season with the aim of playing for the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup.

Talismanic full-back Tuivasa-Sheck, 27, has been granted an early release from his Warriors contract to try and force his way into the New Zealand squad for the 2023 showpiece in France.

The 2018 Dally M Player of the Year and two-time Dally M Fullback of the Year expressed gratitude to the Warriors for allowing him to move to the 15-man format.

"This will be my last year with the club and yes, I will be moving to NZ rugby next year," Tuivasa-Sheck said during a press conference on Saturday.

"The club has been supportive in the request and giving me the option to explore.

"Rugby [union] has been the game I've grown up playing. It's always been there in the background. It's always been there, it's no secret. 

"To do it now in a time like this and have the club's support, that's why I chose it now. But rugby is down the line and all that stuff will happen later in the year.

"2021 is my focus, I'm excited about this year and so should the Warriors and NRL fans be.

"There's still a lot of goals I'm chasing [in league] and that's what I'm trying to do this year with the club. We've got a great group here and coaching staff to do something special this year."

Eddie Jones says Joe Marler's decision to withdraw from England's Six Nations squad does not mean his Test career is over.

Marler on Monday revealed he has opted against playing in the upcoming tournament so he can remain with his family during the coronavirus pandemic.

He tweeted: "Always grateful for the opportunity so not an easy decision, but want to do right by my family in these crazy times and won't be meeting up with the squad for this tournament. Look forward to watching the team rip in. Go well."

Marler announced his international retirement in 2018 in order to spend more time with his family but has gone on to take his tally of caps to 72 after reversing that decision.

England head coach Jones said the 30-year-old Harlequins prop, who also made himself unavailable for the tour of Australia in 2016 as he needed a rest, will be considered when he is ready to play for his country again.

"Joe has made a decision that we 100 per cent support," Jones said at the 2021 virtual Six Nations launch.

"When he decides to make himself available again we will have another look at selection. And that's how we look at it - 100 per cent. No ifs or buts, it's as clear as day.

"There will be some time in the future when he's ready to come back and will get selected. We'll take that when it comes.

"Joe has been an outstanding player during my time with England and I'm sure he was outstanding before that.

"He is tough, abrasive, a good defender, a great guy off the field. He's a bit nutty, but we like that, it's good to have characters like that in the squad."

England have also lost Sam Underhill (hip) and Joe Launchbury (fibula stress fracture) for the defence of their title, which they start against Scotland at Twickenham a week on Saturday.

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