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RBS 6 Nations

SIX-NationsHead Coach Vern Cotter today named one change to the Scotland team to start against Wales in Cardiff this Saturday (13 February, kick-off 4.50pm UK time; 6.50 SA Time)

Both teams go into the match seeking their first win of the 2016 campaign, after the Scot’s home loss to England (15-9), and Wales’ 16-16 draw with Ireland in Dublin.

The selection of 26-year-old Saracens centre Duncan Taylor in midfield is one of two changes to the 23-man squad – promoted from the bench to partner Mark Bennett after Matt Scott injured his quad in training yesterday – with Sean Lamont taking the vacated place among the replacements.

The match will be Taylor’s fifth start in 14 caps for Scotland, and his first since the 2014 summer tour win over USA (24-6), with an untimely succession of injuries curtailing his involvement for the national team over the past two seasons.

Despite missing out on international opportunities, Taylor has excelled for his club side, building on their English Premiership title success last season with stirring performances in the current campaign.

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rugbyfunCompassionate players and officials from New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and Australia are looking for ways to send aid to their beleaguered northern brethren.

After the opening weekend of the 2016 SIX Nations saw standards of play so far below the heights reached by the likes of the All Blacks, Wallabies and Argentina in the World Cup, there is concern for the plight of the home unions, France and Italy.

“Did you see those matches?” said Keith Waters of the New Zealand Rugby Union. “It was so tough to watch. As a rugby man and a human being, how can you stand by and see Scotland trying  so hard to score a try and not feel your heart torn asunder?

“Something needs to be done to help those guys. The rugby world can’t stand by and let people play like that.”

Concern was first raised in Auckland at halftime of the France – Italy match, where neither side were able to put together much coordinated, constructed play of any note.

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We have 3 NEW SuperBru Pools for all to join!

  • The RBS 6 Nations 2016 starts on 6 February 2016, so hurry up and do not delay to register for it!
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This year we will do it a bit differently and open our Pools up to all readers of Rugby-Talk.com, but we encourage you to register as a subsciber on Rugby-Talk.com anyway, as our banter and commenting about our Pools will mostly take place here on the website and not on the SuperBru banter boards! It is so easy to register and such fun to discuss rugby here.

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SIX NationsThe Under 20 SIX Nations, not as glamorous as the SIX Nations for the senior teams, is intensely contested.

Last year England were the unbeaten winners followed, in order, by France, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Italy.

Like their senior team, England’s Under 20 captain is a hooker – Jack Walker, whose brother Chris captained the 2012 side which retained the championship.

Coach John Callard said: “The 1st game of any Championship is always tough, especially playing away in Scotland, but the players are excited about getting started.

“We’ re looking for them to use this competition to continue developing their all-round game.  For example, we want functionally fit forwards who, as well as having a strong set piece, are ball handlers and good decision makers right across the field.

“You can always come back to a tighter game but we want players to see this as an opportunity to express themselves and enjoy playing for their country.”

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John Hardie

John Hardie in World Cup action for Scotland

He doesn’t know what possessed him to visit the old Lockhart Hotel that day, but it was an experience John Hardie is never likely to forget.

“The most scared I’ve ever been,” says Scotland’s openside flanker.

The setting is a building in Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island – a holiday resort about an hour and a half from Dipton, the farming country where Hardie was born and reared.

Legend has it that there was a fire in Lockhart’s place in the late 1800’s. Three generations of the family perished.

Only a girl called Mary survived – and she haunts the place to this day. Many Kiwis have gone there over the years and many talk of the sense of foreboding that exists behind that main door.

Hardie’s now one of them. Chilled to the bone, he says. “Never going back. Never ever.”

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Richie Gray, new Scotland Contact Specialist coach

Richie Gray, new Scotland defensive contact specialist coach

Scotland head coach Vern Cotter has appointed defensive contact specialist Richie Gray on a consultancy basis for the forthcoming RBS 6 Nations Championship.

Gray joins the Scotland set-up following a 3-season spell as South Africa’s specialist breakdown coach during Heyneke Meyer’s tenure, which culminated in their bronze medal finish at 2015 World Cup.

Gray’s contract with the South African Rugby Union was not renewed after Meyer’s resignation late last year.

Gray also assisted the Springbok Sevens side.

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Dylan Hartley

Dylan Hartley has been appointed England captain and will lead the team during their Six Nations campaign despite having one of the worst disciplinary records in English rugby.

Hartley has spent a total of 54 weeks on sidelines through suspension over the years. Some of the offences he served suspensions for include eye-gouging, biting, punching and head-butting.

Despite these blemishes, England head coach Eddie Jones said he has faith in Hartley’s abilities as a leader.

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Sergio Parisse, Sam Warburton, Rory Best, Dylan Hartley, Greg Laidlaw and Guilhem Guirado (from left to right)

Sergio Parisse, Sam Warburton, Rory Best, Dylan Hartley, Greg Laidlaw and Guilhem Guirado (from left to right) at yesterday’s RBS 6 Nations 2016 launch

The 2016 RBS 6 Nations launched in style on Wednesday morning at the Hurlingham Club and the 6 captains present an intriguing mix of the old and the new.

There are 3 brand new skippers for this year’s Championship, which gets underway in 10 days’ time on Saturday 6 February when France welcome Italy to the Stade de France – and they are all hookers.

Rory Best takes the armband for 2-time defending champions Ireland after Paul O’Connell’s retirement, Eddie Jones’ England have Dylan Hartley at the helm and France under Guy Noves will be led by Guilhem Guirado.

Those 3 were joined by Scotland’s Greig Laidlaw, Wales’ Sam Warburton and Italy’s Sergio Parisse on Wednesday – 3 captains that have led their country with great distinction for many years.

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ScotlandHead Coach Vern Cotter  named uncapped props Zander Fagerson and Rory Sutherland in a 35-man Scotland squad for the 2016 RBS 6 Nations.

Glasgow Warriors’ tighthead prop Fagerson turned 20 yesterday (Tuesday 19 January) meaning he could become the 4th youngest prop in Scottish history, and the youngest to represent Scotland for more than half a century (since Bill Black debuted against France at Murrayfield 1948).

Fellow propping prospect Sutherland (23) plies his trade at the opposite end of the M8 and earns selection through his increasingly impressive showings for Edinburgh since signing from Gala last season.

The young pair are among 4 changes to Scotland’s front row options originally named for Rugby World Cup 2015, with 29-times capped Exeter Chiefs tighthead, Moray Low, and 6-times capped Glasgow Warriors hooker, Pat MacArthur, earning selection for the 1st time since the summer of 2014.

Scotland Head Coach Vern Cotter, said: “We’ve selected a mixture of experience with some exciting young players coming through, some of whom have experienced the Rugby World Cup and are eager to move forward, take the RBS 6 Nations head on and show that we can develop our game and be competitive.”

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Eddie Jones

Eddie Jones

England boss Eddie Jones admits an afternoon spent watching rugby fan Pep Guardiola conduct a training session at Bayern Munich left him embarrassed about his own coaching ability.

Jones met Guardiola soon after overseeing Japan’s greatest World Cup performance in hope of learning from the most in-demand manager in football, who is to step down from his post at the German champions at the end of the season.

The Australian was enthralled by the sight of Guardiola making some of the game’s biggest stars toil in freezing conditions, confirming his own view on the capacity of players to be pushed to their limits.

“I talk to a lot of people. I try to meet people who are smarter than me. Last year in November was one of the best meetings I had,” Jones said.

I went to Bayern Munich and met Pep Guardiola. It was absolutely fascinating.

“I watched him taking a training session and it made me embarrassed by my coaching – he was so bloody brilliant.”

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EnglandDanny Cipriani will be overlooked when England head coach Eddie Jones names his first elite player squad before next month’s Six Nations Championship.

Jones will name a 33-man squad on Wednesday, but is not set to reveal his captain for another 2 weeks.

Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley is a leading contender to replace Harlequins flanker Chris Robshaw as skipper, despite a poor disciplinary record.

Jones, 55, recently said he will select players who “express themselves”.

However, Sale flyhalf Cipriani is not expected to be a part of the Australian’s initial plans.

The 28-year-old, who has won 14 caps since making his debut in 2008, missed out to Saracens’ Owen Farrell and Bath’s George Ford in England’s doomed World Cup squad.

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WhistleWorld Rugby has announced the match official appointments for the RBS 6 Nations 2016, which gets underway in February.

Appointments were made by the World Rugby Match Official Selection Committee at its recent meeting in London and follow a detailed review of all performances during Rugby World Cup 2015.

The championship opener between France and Italy on Saturday 6 February in Paris will be refereed by JP Doyle of England with Welshman Nigel Owens taking charge of the last match, on Saturday 19 March between France and England at the same venue.

3 Referees – Jaco Peyper of South Africa, Glen Jackson of New Zealand and France’s Romain Poite – have received 2 appointments each with a total of 12 referees involved. Australian Angus Gardner will make his championship debut when he takes charge of the Ireland vs Italy match in Dublin on 12 March. The 31-year-old from Sydney, who was an Assistant Referee at Rugby World Cup 2015, refereed his 1st full international in 2011 and already has 5 Tests under his belt.

From the Rugby World Cup panel, Gardner replaces New Zealander Chris Pollock, whose retirement from international refereeing was announced earlier this week by New Zealand Rugby. In total, Pollock took charge of 22 Tests throughout his career.

As usual, the appointments for the 15 championship fixtures feature a blend of northern and southern hemisphere Match Officials. Several of the Assistant Referees being used for this year’s Six Nations are graduates of the 2013 and 2014 Rugby World Rugby Under 20 Championship.

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Vern Cotter

Vern Cotter

Scottish Rugby is delighted to announce that Scotland Head Coach Vern Cotter has committed to the national team by extending his contract to 2017.

Since he took the reins in the summer of 2014, Cotter has brought a confident, attack-minded mentality to Scotland’s on-field approach that has sought to connect with the traditional culture of Scottish play.

He said: “I’m really happy to be able to continue working with the players, the organisation, the Board, and everyone involved.

“There are some talented players with some things to develop, and together we are focused on facing that challenge in what I think are exciting times for Scottish rugby all over.

“There’s a generation of players coming all the way from the new BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academies, Scotland under-20s and the pro clubs into the national team and I’m pleased to be part of that.”

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SIX-NationsSomewhere, shaking his cauliflower ears in dismay, a grizzled old retired prop was probably secretly wishing someone would just stick the ball up his jumper and make a cautious 3 inches.

For everyone else watching this was surely the most thrilling day that 5 or 6 Nations rugby has seen: a fantasy finale, a chest-squeezer and knee-knocker, a day to fall back in love.

There are the stats: 221 points scored across the 3 matches, the most in a single weekend – 27 tries, run in from deep and wide and everywhere in between.

There was England’s record score against France, Ireland’s biggest away win, the most tries Wales have scored in 1 championship half.

Then there was the style. This was rugby we thought had died and been laid to rest, killed by detailed analysis and the professional urge to be sensible.

Sensible? This was glorious chaos, March madness to put a spring in every watcher’s step and an ulcer in the stomach of every defence coach.

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Ireland ruthlessly wore down Scotland in a commanding 40 / 10 victory at Murrayfield on Saturday to win the Six Nations title on points difference from England.

England needed to beat France by 26 points at Twickenham in the final game of the tournament but only managed a 55 / 35 victory to leave Ireland as champions.

“It’s going to be the death of me, it was pretty tough viewing but all of this makes it worth while. The people that have stayed here represent a fantastic support base that we have,” Ireland coach Joe Schmidt told Irish television.

“We were only just glued together towards the end there because the English really put the pressure on, I’d certainly sympathise with them a little bit. I though their performance today was superb.

“Thankfully France rebounded each time England did get a bit of a differential and that allowed us to hang in and hang on to the silverwear,” Schmidt added.

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SIX NationsIt should be a 3-way fight between England, Ireland and Wales for the Six Nations title on Saturday, although France still have an outside chance.

The Top 3 are locked on 6 Points with 3 wins apiece, while England’s points difference of +37 puts them 1st, ahead of Ireland’s +33 and Wales’ +12.

France are 4th with 4 Points and a points difference of +22.

Philippe Saint-Andre’s side could still steal the title if Wales and Ireland lose and Les Bleus then beat England by a margin of 8 points or more, but it looks a remote possibility.

If teams are level on points, and match-points difference, then England are likely to win the Championship on tries scored, having crossed 11 times to Ireland’s 4 and Wales’ 5. In the highly unlikely event this was also level come Saturday night, the trophy would be shared.

Wales are in action 1st away to Italy in Rome (14:30 SA Time, 12:30 GMT), before Ireland take on Scotland at Murrayfield (16:30 SA Time, 14:30 GMT), ahead of England’s home match against France at Twickenham (19:00 SA Time, 17:00 GMT).

With the Six Nations wide open, we assess the 4 teams’ chances.

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ScotlandScotland head coach Vern Cotter has made 2 changes to the team that lost to England for this weekend’s Six Nations match against Ireland.

Scotland are last in the Six Nations standings and need to beat Ireland to stand a chance of avoiding the wooden spoon after they fell to Italy earlier in the tournament.

Both of Cotter’s changes are promotions from the bench with back-row Adam Ashe starting on the blind-side flank in place of Robert Harley, and Ryan Grant switching roles with Alasdair Dickinson – who starts on the bench – for his 1st start of the championship.

The settled selection sees the national team’s backline return to start another match, with captain Greig Laidlaw partnering stand-off Finn Russell in front of Glasgow Warriors trio Mark Bennett, Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour, and Edinburgh duo Matt Scott and Dougie Fife, the latter making his home debut.

In the pack, tighthead Euan Murray makes history, alongside Ross Ford and Grant, overtaking Allan Jacobsen’s record as the most capped Scotland prop with a 66th appearance.

Jonny Gray and Jim Hamilton will again start in the boiler house, with David Denton and Blair Cowan returning to the back-row, the latter 1 of 6 Scotland players to hold a starting spot in every match of the Championship, as well as Bennett, Ford, Gray, Hogg and Laidlaw.

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FranceYoung Stade Francais flyhalf Jules Plisson has been called up for France’s final Six Nations clash with England on Saturday as coach Philippe Saint-Andre named a 16th different halfback pairing.

Plisson, 23, comes in for injured first-choice No 10 Camille Lopez, who misses the game at Twickenham due to a knee problem.

With Sebastien Tillous-Borde remaining at scrumhalf, it will be the 16th different halfback pairing Saint-Andre has picked in just over 3 years and now 37 matches at the France helm.

Clermont’s Lopez, who has been Saint-Andre’s first-choice playmaker for France’s last 7 internationals dating back to the November Tests, was on Wednesday ruled out for 4 to 6 weeks.

Saint-Andre defended his rotation, saying he had no choice in changing his halfback partnership.

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EnglandLeicester lock Geoff Parling was recalled by England coach Stuart Lancaster for Saturday’s decisive Six Nations showdown with France at Twickenham.

Parling comes into the second row in place of Dave Attwood, who drops out of the squad, in the only change to the starting 15 that overcame Scotland 25 / 13 last weekend.

Harlequins No 8 Nick Easter returns to the bench.

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WalesWales players Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Biggar, Scott Williams and the uncapped Gareth Anscombe have all signed central contracts, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) have announced on Wednesday.

Ospreys team-mates Jones and Biggar, Scarlets centre Williams and Cardiff Blues flyhalf Anscombe follow Rhys Webb in signing a National Dual Contract, taking the total number of Welsh players on central contracts to 12.

“Alun Wyn, Dan, Scott and Gareth represent a cross-section of experience, but each one of them is a player of proven talent,” said Wales head coach Warren Gatland in a statement on the WRU website.

“Within the group of 12 we have signed a mixture of emerging talent and players who have secured reputations for excellence through their appearances for their regions, Wales and the British and Irish Lions.

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Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland

Wales have made 2 changes in their front row to face Italy in their final Six Nations encounter of the season, in Rome on Saturday.

Rob Evans and Aaron Jarvis come into the starting 15, replacing the injured duo of Gethin Jenkins (hamstring) and Samson Lee (Achilles).

The team which will take to the field at the Stadio Olimpico is otherwise unchanged team.

Evans will make his first start as he wins his 2nd cap in Rome and will line-up alongside Ospreys duo Scott Baldwin and Jarvis.

Luke Charteris and Alun Wyn Jones continue in the second row with Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau lining up alongside captain Sam Warburton in the back row.

The backline remains unchanged with Rhys Webb (No 9) and Dan Biggar (No 10) at halfback, Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies in the centre and a back 3 of George North, Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny.

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Philippe Saint-Andre

Philippe Saint-Andre

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre on Monday gave a strong indication that Saturday’s game against England at Twickenham would be his last match in charge of a Six Nations game.

Asked if that would be the case he replied: “the chances are high that it will be, yes.”

“But I prefer to stay in the present and on this hugely important week ahead of us,” he added.

Saint-Andre, who won 69 caps for France as a wing, took over as France coach after the World Cup of 2011 and his present contract takes him through until the end of this year’s World Cup in England.

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WalesWales ended Ireland’s hopes of a Six Nations Grand Slam and in the process climb above Australia to 5th in the World Rugby Rankings.

Wales have climbed 1 place to 5th in the latest World Rugby Rankings after their 23 / 16 victory over Ireland, setting up a thrilling climax to the RBS 6 Nations with 3 sides tied on 6 Log points.

The Welsh victory, in a match which saw Sam Warburton surpass Ryan Jones’s record for the most tests as captain, leaves them, Ireland and England battling for the title this coming Saturday.

Wales’ climb comes at the expense of Australia, who have now fallen to their lowest ever position since the World Rugby Rankings were introduced in October 2003.

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ScotlandScotland’s coaching staff and players remain upbeat, despite having a growing injury list heading into their final Six Nations match of the season.

Scotland, without a win and stuck at the bottom of the standings, host title-chasing Ireland in Edinburgh on Saturday.

Matt Scott (thigh), Jim Hamilton (back spasm), Tommy Seymour (elbow), Blair Cowan (calf) and Alasdair Dickinson (leg) all suffered injuries in the 13 / 25 loss to England Twickenham this past weekend – setbacks that put them on the doubtful list for the final match of the season.

Mark Bennett insisted Scottish team morale is not at rock-bottom, despite a fourth consecutive Six Nations defeat in the Calcutta Cup clash at the weekend.

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WalesA resilient Wales side withstood a 2nd half battering to blow the RBS 6 Nations wide open and end holders Ireland’s grand slam hopes with a 23 / 16 victory on Saturday.

After an opening home defeat by England, Wales have hit back with 3 successive wins and by defeating previously undefeated Ireland they have a shot at the title, heading into the final round next week.

Despite losing both props to injury in the 1st half, Wales wobbled but did not wilt in the face of fierce Irish pressure and even a late Penalty Try, which set up a grandstand finale proved insufficient.

“An absolutely unbelievable effort,” Sam Warburton, captaining Wales for a record 34th time, said.

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ScotlandScotland head coach Vern Cotter has named a team with five changes for their penultimate Six Nations Championship match against England at Twickenham on Saturday.

Cotter has brought back David Denton, Dougie Fife, Matt Scott, Jim Hamilton and Finn Russell to a Scotland team that are still looking for their first victory this year.

The five players come in to the starting team to replace Johnnie Beattie, knee injury victims Sean Lamont and Alex Dunbar, and Tim Swinson and Peter Horne.

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WalesWales will field an unchanged starting lineup for the Six Nations showdown with Ireland in Cardiff on Saturday.

Coach Warren Gatland was pleased with his side’s 20 / 13 win over France in Paris which kept alive their hopes of winning the tournament and had no problem giving the same 15 men a vote of confidence.

Flanker Sam Warburton, who went off after taking a blow to his knee during the French clash, has regained his fitness and will be able to break Ryan Jones’ record when he captains Wales for the 34th time at the Millennium Stadium.

The only 2 changes to the Paris lineup are due to injuries and come on the bench.

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EnglandLock Courtney Lawes and fullback Mike Brown have been recalled for England’s Six Nations clash with Scotland on Saturday, after recovering from injury, head coach Stuart Lancaster announced on Wednesday.

Northampton forward Lawes has returned to fitness after an ankle problem and is in line to make his first international appearance since England’s 26 / 17 victory over Australia last November.

Harlequins No 15 Brown sat out England’s 9 / 19 defeat by Ireland last time out, after suffering concussion in the 47 / 17 win over Italy, with Alex Goode having taken his place.

Goode drops to the bench, where tighthead prop Kieran Brookes, second row forward Geoff Parling and flank Tom Wood have all been drafted into the matchday squad.

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ScotlandScotland captain Greig Laidlaw has revealed that he and his team-mates have seen a different side of head coach Vern Cotter this week.

The New Zealander has generally been very supportive of his players since taking up the post last summer but, after 3 successive losses in the Six Nations Championship, his patience has worn thin. As the countdown to Saturday’s match against England at Twickenham reaches its final stages, Cotter has become more demanding of the squad, as well as changing his approach to analysing what has been going wrong.

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Rory Kockott

Rory Kockott

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre on Thursday called up prop Nicolas Mas, scrumhalf Rory Kockott and centre Maxime Mermoz for his 30-strong squad to prepare for the Six Nations match against Italy.

The French were left reeling last weekend when they lost 13 / 20 to Wales at the Stade de France – ending any hopes they had of winning this year’s tournament.

Saint-Andre subsequently launched a bitter attack on his players saying that some of them were “prima-donnas” who failed to live up to their responsibilities on the field.

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