Ireland and Leinster star Johnny Sexton has signed a new contract that will run until after the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

The 36-year-old has captained his country since January 2020, leading them to 10 wins in 13 matches in that time.

Sexton has played 103 times for Ireland in his storied career and reached the milestone of 500 points in the Six Nations in the 29-7 win over the defending champions last month.

A four-time European Champions Cup winner with Leinster, Sexton is now looking ahead to the prospect of a fourth World Cup finals appearance in France next year.

"I always said that if I am enjoying my rugby and the Ireland and Leinster set-ups believe I can add value to the environment then it would be an easy decision to sign another contract," the fly-half said.

 

"There is some great talent coming through at Leinster at present and I am excited about the prospect of competing at a fourth World Cup with Ireland and the potential for growth in this group between now and then."

David Nucifora, performance director for Irish Rugby, said: "Johnny's performances continue to be of the highest standard and he remains an integral member of the Ireland and Leinster squads.

"He has always been a leader on the field and in the past two years since taking on the Ireland captaincy his leadership off it has been top class. Johnny is a generational player and we are delighted that he has extended to 2023."

Ireland cruised to a bonus-point 57-6 win over Italy in the Six Nations after a contentious red card left the Azzurri with 13 men.

Italy were always expected to slump to a heavy defeat in Dublin, having done so against both France and England, and their hopes of an upset were essentially ended in the 19th minute when Hame Faiva, on as a replacement hooker for Gianmarco Lucchesi, was sent off.

Faiva was deemed to have made dangerous shoulder-to-chin contact in a tackle on Dan Sheehan, his subsequent dismissal and the World Rugby requirement for hooker-less Italy to be a man down in an uncontested scrum in such circumstances reducing them to 13 men.

From that point, the game was over as a contest, Ireland running in nine tries to make it two wins from three and keep their hopes of Six Nations glory firmly intact as they leapfrogged England into second behind unbeaten France.

Joey Carbery crawled over the line to open the scoring after an Ireland break in the third minute.

Italy answered through Edoardo Padovani's long-range penalty, but the game was settled for all intents and purposes when the officials decided to dismiss Faiva after a long discussion with the TMO despite a seemingly innocuous tackle appearing to have done no damage to Sheehan.

It prompted another prolonged discussion at the scrum as referee Nika Amashukeli explained Italy's secondary punishment, which was soon followed by Jamison Gibson-Park going over for Ireland's second try.

A predictable Ireland overlap saw Michael Lowry cross, the bonus-point try then coming from Peter O'Mahony before Padovani gave Italy some cheer with another penalty before the break.

The rout continued thereafter, though, James Lowe strolling over out wide before Lowry added his second and Ryan Baird charged down an Italy kick to scoop up and dot down.

Italy were then reduced to 12 men as the game finished in farce with Braam Steyn shown a yellow card for batting the ball out of play. Lowe's easy second try took Ireland to the half-century mark and Kieran Treadwell had the final say against a shattered Italy defence.

 

Unwanted century comes in ruined spectacle

Italy's defeat marked their 100th in the Six Nations, but that unwanted milestone will be overshadowed by the officiating controversy in the first half.

In the circumstances of both the red card and reducing Italy to 13 men, Amashukeli was bound by the rules, but Italy being punished twice for a decision that was marginal at best was extremely harsh and ruined the game as a spectacle.

Ireland home comforts continue

Ireland have now lost just two of their past 23 home matches in the Six Nations, and few have come easier than this victory against an outnumbered Italy side.

What's next?

Italy host Scotland in Rome on March 12, when Ireland face a pivotal blockbuster clash with England at Twickenham.

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.

England will be without Manu Tuilagi for their Six Nations clash with Wales after the centre suffered a hamstring injury.

Tuilagi had been set to return from an injury lay off to feature at Twickenham on Saturday, having been named in the team that Eddie Jones confirmed on Thursday.

However, England have been dealt a blow as scans after training revealed a hamstring problem for the 30-year-old.

England have recalled Joe Marchant, who will train with the squad on Friday. However, an updated team will not be confirmed until the day of the game.

Tuilagi had been set to play alongside Henry Slade in midfield for Jones' team, who bounced back from their defeat to Scotland in the opening match by beating Italy last time out.

He has represented England in 46 Tests so far since making his debut in 2011.

Rory Darge will make his first start for Scotland in their Six Nations clash with France on Saturday after Gregor Townsend was forced to reshuffle his pack.

The Glasgow Warriors flanker is named alongside Hamish Watson and Magnus Bradbury in an all-new back row, with the latter making his first Scotland start since 2020.

A slew of injuries have forced a clutch of players – including Cam Redpath, Rory Sutherland, Javan Sebastian, Jonny Gray and Scott Cummings – to drop out of contention.

Six more faces have been called up to the wider squad, though only prop Oli Kebble makes the matchday party from those added following Scotland's 20-17 defeat to Wales last time out.

Sam Skinner moves up to partner Grant Gilchrist at lock while WP Nel drops to the replacement bench in what is ultimately two direct changes to the starting line-up.

France meanwhile make just the one change to their starting XV, after Gabin Villiere was ruled out with a sinus fracture sustained against Ireland.

Jonathan Danty comes back into the side after dropping out for the 30-24 win over Andy Farrell's side, while Yoram Moefana moves over to the wing to cover the Toulon star Villiere's absence.

Les Bleus remain the only side unbeaten in this year's Championship, but now face consecutive matches on the road after enjoying home advantage in their first two games.

Both teams will be out to make metres, with Scotland duo Stuart Hogg (843) and Finn Russell (747) having accrued more kicking metres than any other players in the 2022 Six Nations so far.

However, it is France (2,261) who have made the most as a team, with three different players having made 500+ metres with the boot for them in Antoine Dupont (682), Melvyn Jaminet (564) and Romain Ntamack (501).

This will be the 99th clash between the two nations in all competitions, with France claiming victory on 56 occasions and Scotland winning 39 times.

However, the honours are evenly split across their last 10 meetings with both sides picking up five wins apiece during that period.

Scotland team:  Stuart Hogg, Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Sione Tuipulotu, Duhan van der Merwe, Finn Russell, Ali Price; Pierre Schoeman, Stuart McInally, Zander Fagerson, Sam Skinner, Grant Gilchrist, Rory Darge, Hamish Watson, Magnus Bradbury.

Replacements:  George Turner, Oli Kebble, WP Nel, Jamie Hodgson, Nick Haining, Ben White, Blair Kinghorn, Mark Bennett.

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

Replacements:  Peato Mauvaka, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Demba Bamba, Romain Taofifenua, Thibaud Flament, Dylan Cretin, Maxime Lucu, Thomas Ramos.

Manu Tuilagi and captain Courtney Lawes will make their returns from injury in England's Six Nations showdown with Wales at Twickenham, while forward Taulupe Faletau will make his first appearance since last year's competition for the visitors on Saturday.

Both sides have posted a win and a loss in their two games so far to trail early leaders France in the table.

England bounced back from a 20-17 loss to Scotland by thrashing Italy 33-0 last time out, while Wales beat Scotland 20-17 after opening their title defence with a 29-7 defeat in Ireland.

Lawes returns from a concussion-enforced layoff which has kept him out of action since January, and regains the captaincy he held against South Africa last Autumn, replacing stand-in Tom Curry in the role.

Tuilagi also makes a welcome return from injury, but Ben Youngs will have to wait to win a record 115th cap after being named on the bench, as Eddie Jones makes four changes to the team which impressed in Rome, with Luke Cowan-Dickie and Kyle Sinckler also coming in.

Looking ahead to the match, Jones told England Rugby that he was content with his side's preparation, and was excited ahead of the showdown.

"We've prepared very well for this game, the squad have really come together on and off the pitch," said Jones. 

"Wales are a good, tough side and Six Nations champions, and it will make for an exciting Test match in front of a full Twickenham crowd.

"We've got a talented, young, hungry squad who have trained with real intensity this week. We're ready to go at them and can't wait to play in front of our supporters again."

Ireland will be without Iain Henderson for their home clash with Italy in the Six Nations after he tested positive for COVID-19.

Andy Farrell's side sit third in the table after a 29-7 triumph over Wales preceded a 30-24 loss to leaders France in the second round.

Ireland host winless Italy at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Sunday, but they will not have second rower Henderson to call upon after confirming the 30-year-old has contracted the virus.

Another spell on the sidelines will frustrate the Ulster captain, given he only returned from injury off the bench in the loss against France.

Henderson, who captained his country for the first time in February 2021, will now serve a period of self-isolation at home and will likely return for meetings with England and Scotland in March.

Ireland confirmed there were no other positive results within the squad and the group will continue to complete routine tests across the week.

Farrell will still have Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan, Kieran Treadwell and Ryan Baird as second-row options and has not yet called up a replacement for Henderson.

Scotland have called up six new players to their Six Nations squad ahead of their meeting with France after a series of injuries and withdrawals.

Gregor Townsend's side sit fourth in the table after a 20-17 opening-round win over England preceded a loss to Wales by the same scoreline.

Scotland next face leaders France on Saturday at Murrayfield, but they will be without a host of familiar faces as more names were added to their growing absentee list.

Rory Sutherland, Javan Sebastian, Jonny Gray, Scott Cummings and Cam Redpath have all returned to their respective clubs after suffering injuries.

As a result, Glasgow Warriors pair Ollie Smith and Kiran McDonald could be in line for their first international caps after being drafted in.

Simon Berghan, Oli Kebble, Marshall Sykes and James Lang are the other four introductions to the camp, with Josh Bayliss also available after missing the opening two games due to concussion.

"This is a great opportunity for the new players to impress," Townsend said after the announcement of the alterations to his playing squad.

"There are often changes made to the squad throughout the championship and it is a challenge we are much better equipped to deal with given our current squad depth."

Forward Gray is set to miss the rest of the tournament with an ankle injury, but Townsend added that the rest of the absentees will be monitored before the final two games against Italy and Ireland.

Taulupe Faletau has been called up to the Wales squad for the remainder of the Six Nations ahead of their clash with England on Saturday.

The Bath forward suffered a leg injury in the second Test between the British and Irish Lions and South Africa in July, leading to a seven-month injury lay-off.

Faletau returned to action with a brief stint against Wasps earlier in February before playing the whole game against Leicester Tigers last Saturday.

Christ Tshiunza has been sent back to Exeter Chiefs with a hamstring problem, opening the door for Faletau – who has 86 international caps to his name – to come into Wayne Pivac's squad for the visit to Twickenham.

"It was a rolled ankle, and I probably ran back too early and just had issues with my calves for a rolling two weeks that ended up being seven months," Faletau said of his previous leg injury.

"It was a rolling two weeks for a long time, then I would get to the end of that two weeks, I would run again and it would ping again. It was basically that for the whole time.

"I am just enjoying getting out there, whether it's Bath or Wales. Whatever it is, I just want to enjoy the games because seven months out wasn't fun."

The 31-year-old will leave Bath to join Cardiff Rugby at the end of the season.

Current coach Neal Hatley reserved special praise for the back rower, who he feels will be an undoubted success on the international stage again.

"He is like a chameleon," Hatley said. "You put him in a level up and he just blends in.

"He has that innate ability that, whatever the quality of the players he is playing with, he is the best player on the pitch and he has done that for ages."

Pivac's next decision will be whether to include Faletau in his matchday squad against Eddie Jones' England, after Taine Basham, Jac Morgan and Ross Moriarty all performed strongly against Scotland.

Wales sit fifth in the Six Nations table after bouncing back from a 29-7 loss against Ireland with a 20-17 victory over Scotland in round two as they look to defend their title.

Courtney Lawes and Manu Tuilagi could make a welcome return for England in their Six Nations showdown with Wales at Twickenham.

Lawes may have been installed as England skipper for the tournament if he had not been sidelined due to concussion.

The towering lock missed the loss to Scotland and a win over Italy, but head coach Eddie Jones is hopeful he can face defending champions Wales a week on Saturday.

Centre Tuilagi could also be unleashed on Wayne Pivac's side, having been back in action for Sale Sharks after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Lock Joe Launchbury (knee) and flanker Lewis Ludlam (ribs) could also be back in contention. 

"Potentially we'll have Launchbury, Tuilagi, Lawes and Ludlam," Jones said.

Tom Curry has captained England in the absence of the injured Owen Farrell and Lawes.

But Lawes could have the honour of leading the Red Rose out once again in a battle between two sides who have won one and lost one of their matches heading into a weekend off.

The Australian added: "We'd be hopeful that by the end of next week Courtney will be training fully.

"He's making some great progress and the medical staff have done some terrific work with him. He's not far away now and we're really hopeful he'll be back in full training and able to play against Wales."

Jones said of Tuilagi: "Just having a power running centre would give us a different option.

"Everything we're doing now is about trying to create opportunities through finesse and that's through good running lines and passing.

"But to have someone who can take you forward quickly and engage two or three defenders then allows you to try and finesse extra space, which would be really useful to us.

"We've had three centres play and I think Sladey [Henry Slade] has been very good. Joe Marchant and Elliot Daly have had their moments, but we need to get more out of that and we understand that."

England are still a work in progress and can improve on the back of their morale-boosting 33-0 win over Italy, according to star performer Marcus Smith.

Following last week's 20-17 loss to Scotland, England got off the mark with their first win of the 2022 Six Nations, achieved in emphatic style in Rome.

Smith scored the first of England's five tries at Stadio Olimpico and assisted another in a standout display from the fly-half.

It is the third time Smith has both scored and assisted a try in a Test match for England, while overall he now has eight try involvements in seven Tests.

The 22-year-old beat six defenders against Italy, which is the most by an England fly-half in the Six Nations since Jonny Wilkinson's eight against Ireland in 2002.

Despite impressing in a much better all-round performance from coach Eddie Jones' team, Smith believes there is more to come ahead of hosting Wales in two weeks' time.

"We have loads to work on. We are still learning on our journey, but we will enjoy tonight and get back on the horse tomorrow," he told ITV Sport.

"We put a big emphasis on today – we were very disappointed after Murrayfield. Eddie [Jones] spoke about the next job and we have put ourselves back in it with that win.

"I've never played here before. There was a special atmosphere, with loads of England fans having come out. We had to put a show on for them.

"We were a bit scrappy and credit to Italy, but to score 33 points is always nice."

 

Jamie George crossed twice after Smith had opened the scoring, to give England a 21-0 lead at half-time – their joint-biggest ever in an away game in the Six Nations.

Elliot Daly and Kyle Sinckler extended England's lead in the second half as they achieved just a second nilling of the opposition in the competition, the other coming against Scotland in 2014.

Reflecting on a job well done by his side, head coach Jones said: "It was a good performance from us. We started the game well, got a bit of a flow, started the second half well, and defended well at the end.

"Italy are a tough team and they keep coming. If we were a bit tidier with some of our work, some running lines, it could have been a big score.

"[Italy] have played New Zealand and France and in the first halves been in the game – and they were not in the game today.

"Marcus did well, Harry Randall did some good things at the start and [Alex[ Dombrandt had a really solid game."

England have now won all 23 of their Six Nations matches against Italy and are the only side the Azzurri have never beaten in the championship.

Indeed, Italy have lost 34 matches in a row in the Six Nations in an unwanted record streak stretching back to 2015.

The Azzurri's ill-discipline, as well as some individual errors, once again cost them against England in a match in which they conceded 12 penalties.

Home skipper Michele Lamaro was left to bemoan some sloppy play from his side in their latest loss.

"We're obviously disappointed again," he said. "Discipline was a big point for us last week [when losing to France]. We had to improve this week, and we didn't really perform in that scenario.

"We have to get better in discipline, especially in the first half when we conceded too many penalties. Obviously if you concede them to 30-40 metres each time, it becomes difficult to defend.

"Last week our exits were not that good, this week our discipline wasn't pretty good. Obviously in defence we have to put something on, and I think we can improve a lot."

Jamie George scored two first-half tries as England cruised to a 33-0 bonus-point victory against Italy at Stadio Olimpico for their first win of the 2022 Six Nations.

England fell to a late 20-17 loss to Scotland in their opening match but any risk of back-to-back defeats to begin a campaign for the first time since 2005 never looked likely.

The visitors crossed over three times in the first half, with George at the double after Marcus Smith had opened the scoring inside nine minutes.

Elliot Daly and Kyle Sinckler further punished sloppy Italy, who have now lost each of their past 34 matches in the Six Nations and have still yet to beat England in the competition.

 

Italy took a shock early lead in last week's loss to France, though they were on the wrong end of an early try against England as Smith linked up with Max Malins and dived over.

England did not have to wait long for a second try, with George burying his way over from close range to finish off a move he started from a lineout.

Maro Itoje had a try ruled out for obstruction, but England were out of sight before half-time as George collected Smith's offload and grounded after dodging a couple of tackles.

Daly, brought on for Jack Nowell in the first half after the wing failed a head injury assessment, added a fourth for England when racing in down the left early in the second half.

England introduced Ben Youngs for the scrum-half's 114th cap, equalling Jason Leonard's Test record, while Ollie Chessum was handed his senior debut.

Italy pushed hard for a consolation try without finding one, and it was left to Sinckler to have the final say with a simple finish following a costly Leonardo Marin error.

Andy Farrell lamented the result but not the performance after his Ireland team just failed in a valiant comeback effort against France in the Six Nations.

Ireland, shorn of the injured Johnny Sexton, found themselves behind after just 67 seconds in Paris on Saturday, and at one point early in the second half they were 22-7 down.

Yet Josh van der Flier and Jamison Gibson-Park led an Ireland fightback and, despite Cyril Baille's try, the visitors were within three points of France when Joey Carbery kicked a penalty heading into the closing stages.

It was not to be for Ireland, though, as the excellent Melvyn Jaminet converted a France penalty after having a try ruled out.

France have now won their past three Tests against Ireland, this after winning just one of the previous nine clashes between the sides (D2 L6), but Farrell was delighted with the spirit his team showed.

"We came here to win, came here to perform, but there's another class side in France that's going to have a big say in that, and they certainly did from the start – 10 points down after six minutes certainly wasn't in the script," he told ITV Sport.

"Getting to a stage early on in the second half when it was 22-7 just says everything about our side really, the character, the guts, the fitness levels and the want to go and play and get ourselves back in the game; I couldn't be more proud.

"It shows what we're about, that we've got the courage to go put our game out there when we're under pressure. To get in front and to make sure that we start well is something we need to look at.

"The forward lads going for as long as they did, digging in, all in all it comes down to one hell of a Test match. We didn't get the points here but the courage and the character was the bonus point here."

Saturday's result was the 15th time a Six Nations clash between these nations has been decided by seven points or fewer, more than any other match-up in the Championship since 2000.

France have scored at least 30 points in each of their past four Tests – including matches against Ireland and New Zealand – the first time they have managed that since a run of five games in 2003, and they are now the only unbeaten team in this edition of the Six Nations.

However, Gregory Alldritt insists Les Bleus' full focus is on preparations for their clash with Scotland on February 26.

"This tournament is the best in the world, every weekend is a really tough game," he told ITV Sport when asked about the possibility of completing the Grand Slam.

"We're not thinking of the Grand Slam, we're just taking it step by step and a huge away game in Scotland in two weeks, so we just need to prepare for this game and not think about the rest."

Dan Biggar's drop goal on his 100th Test appearance gave Wales' Six Nations title defence lift-off as they battled to a 20-17 victory over Scotland at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

Wayne Pivac's side were thrashed 29-7 by Ireland in their opener but dug deep to edge out Scotland, who were seeking back-to-back wins after beating England last week.

Darcy Graham and Tom Francis crossed over in a first half that ended level and it remained all square at 17-17 late on as Biggar and Finn Russell kicked four penalties apiece.

A big moment arrived 12 minutes from time when Russell was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on and, while Wales could not add another try, Biggar's boot two minutes later proved decisive.

Biggar punished slow-starting Scotland by kicking over a couple of early penalties, but the visitors soon got going and scored the first try with 11 minutes played.

Graham outmuscled Louis Rees-Zammit to ground the ball in the corner after collecting a looping pass from Russell towards the right.

Russell was unable to add the extras but slotted over three penalties, either side of one from Biggar, to give Scotland a five-point advantage.

But the hosts were on level terms at half-time thanks to just a second try in Welsh colours for Francis, who grounded after his side drove to the line from the line-out.

Russell and Biggar continued their kicking battle in the second half to ensure the sides remained all square heading into a tense finale.

Alex Cuthbert had a try ruled out for being in touch but referee Nic Berry and TMO adjudged that Russell was not in a position to catch the ball in the build-up when knocking on.

Russell was subsequently yellow-carded and Wales ramped up the pressure, culminating in Biggar slotting over a three-pointer, rather than going for the line, which proved the right call as Wales held on for victory.

France and Ireland face off at the Stade de France on Saturday in a contest that may well determine exactly where the Six Nations title ends up next month.

Pre-tournament favourites France kicked off their campaign with a routine victory over Italy, while a much-fancied Ireland proved far too strong for reigning champions Wales.

Both sides picked up bonus points to lead the way at the top, setting up a mouth-watering encounter in the French capital as Ireland aim to stretch their nine-match winning run.

Wales have a chance to respond to last week's disappointment when they host a Scotland side who should be full of confidence following their Calcutta Cup win over England last time out.

The final match of the weekend takes place in Rome as perennial whipping boys Italy take on England with the aim of ending their long-running losing streak in the competition.

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

WALES v SCOTLAND

FORM

Wales have lost just two of their 11 home matches against Scotland in the Six Nations, though one of those losses did come in the last such meeting two years ago at Parc y Scarlets in Llanelli.

The last three encounters between the sides in the competition have been decided by a margin of seven points or fewer. Indeed, four of the last six clashes have seen the side losing at half-time come back to win the match.

Scotland are on their longest away winning streak in the championship, having won four on the spin – not since between 1925 and 1927 have they won five in a row on their travels. However, Wales have won nine of their last 11 Six Nations home matches.

ONES TO WATCH

Taine Basham was a rare shining light for Wales in their heavy loss to Ireland, the tournament debutant crossing over late on to prevent his side from losing to nil on a day to forget in Dublin. Basham also made 22 tackles, which is the most of any player on the opening weekend, missing none in the process.

A number of Scotland players impressed in the late win over England, not least Darcy Graham. The diminutive wing set up Ben White for the opening try, won the crucial turnover in injury time and beat six defenders – the most of any player in round one.

 


FRANCE v IRELAND

FORM

France and Ireland have played each other 100 times previously, with France victorious on 58 occasions, Ireland prevailing 35 times and seven games drawn. In the Six Nations, Les Blues edge the win record 11 to nine from their 22 previous encounters, the other two matches finishing level.

Ireland have lost their last two meetings with France in the competition, having been beaten in just one of the previous eight. Ireland's win rate of 41 per cent against Les Blues in the Six Nations is their lowest against any side.

After recovering to see off Italy last week, France are aiming to win their opening two Six Nations games for the third year in a row, this after managing it just twice in their previous eight campaigns.


ONES TO WATCH

France head coach Fabien Galthie, back involved after missing the Italy match with coronavirus, has put his faith in youth by handing Yoram Moefana his first Six Nations start. The 21-year-old impressed in his cameo role against Italy by playing a part in his side's last two tries.

Ireland will have to make do without injured skipper Johnny Sexton, who passed the 500-point mark in the Six Nations last week, so all eyes will be on Joey Carbery – the only change from the Wales game – at fly-half. The Munster number 10 is tasked with pulling the strings on his first tournament start.

 

ITALY v ENGLAND

FORM

England are the only side Italy have never managed to beat in the Six Nations, losing all 22 of their previous showdowns. England's 80-23 win in this fixture 21 years ago remains the most points scored and biggest winning margin in any fixture in the competition's history.

Italy have lost their last 33 matches in the competition – the longest losing streak by any team in the Five or Six Nations – in an unwanted run that stretches back to a win over Scotland in 2015.

Eddie Jones' visitors have lost their last two Six Nations matches, but only once over the last 15 editions have they lost three in a row, while not since 2005 have they lost their opening two games to a campaign.


ONES TO WATCH

Italy's Michele Lamaro (21 tackles) was one of just three players to make 20 or more tackles during the opening weekend, along with Basham (22) and Nick Tompkins (21). However, he also missed four tackles, which was the joint-most of any player, level with Dan Biggar.

Ben Youngs, who made the most kicks in play of any player in round one (17), is one of six players to make way for England. Should the experienced scrum-half make it off the bench, he will become England's joint-most capped player of all time alongside Jason Leonard with 114.

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