Home Nations look to gain momentum in Round Two
Round Two of the NatWest 6 Nations offers differing opportunities for all of the Home Nations involved. England, who currently occupy top spot, host a Welsh side buoyant following their opening day emphatic win over Scotland. Ireland can build on their famous last gasp win over France when they entertain Italy, while Scotland will look to make amends when they welcome France to BT Murrayfield.
Ireland v Italy, Aviva Stadium, 2:15pm Saturday 10th Feb
Ireland will go into their first home match of the campaign with huge confidence after an incredible finish in Paris last week. Having controlled the match for large parts at the Stade de France, Ireland went behind late in the game. However, after 41 phases and what seemed like an age, 2013 and 2017 Lions star fly-half Johnny Sexton kicked a drop goal from 45 metres to win and keep their Championship hopes firmly alive.
Head coach Joe Schmidt has made a number of changes ahead of their match against Italy with 12 British & Irish Lions picked into the 23-man match day squad. Powerful back-row CJ Stander drops to the bench in a move that will see Jack Conan come in at no.8. Elsewhere, Schmidt has picked the same backline from last week with the Lions contingent of Conor Murray, Jonathan Sexton, Robbie Henshaw, Keith Earls and Rob Kearney all starting. In the front row, 2013 Lion Cian Healy drops to the bench with 2017 Test Lion Jack McGrath coming in at loose-head.
England v Wales, Twickenham, 4:45pm Saturday 10th Feb
England v Wales is set to be another massive Test match with both sides going into the clash after their respective great starts last weekend!
Both sides come into the match with impressive wins in Round One with Wales beating Scotland 34-7 in Cardiff while England beat Italy 15-46 in Rome.
Wales coach Warren Gatland has resisted making any changes to the starting XV but has reshuffled the bench, bringing two time Lion George North onto the reserves bench. Alun Wyn Jones will again captain the side from the engine room with Ken Owens starting in the no.2 jersey and Ross Moriarty at no.8.
2013 player of the Lions series Leigh Halfpenny will look to control matters from full-back in a backline that includes exciting fly-half Rhys Patchell.
England have made a number of changes to their side, with one Lion swapping for another in Jonathan Joseph replacing Ben Te’o at centre, the latter being named amongst the reserves.
Danny Care comes in at scrum half to replace the injured Ben Youngs who had to go off early in Rome last week. England have plenty of Lions to their name with Anthony Watson, Owen Farrell, Mako Vunipola, Dan Cole, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Jamie George, George Kruis and Jack Nowell all included in the match day squad.
Scotland v France, BT Murrayfield, 3pm Sunday 11th Feb
Scotland welcome France to BT Murrayfield for the only match on Sunday as they look to get their campaign back on track. Coach Gregor Townsend has picked an all Lions back three who are capable of carving up even the strongest of defences in Sean Maitland, Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg.
Greig Laidlaw, who toured with the Lions last summer is recalled to the no.9 jersey this weekend with Finn Russell outside him at fly-half. Scotland have opted for a very strong back-row in captain John Barclay, Hamish Watson and Ryan Wilson.
Try scorer from last week Pete Horne gets the nod at inside centre and will partner the ever dangerous Huw Jones.
Their last outing saw Scotland suffer a 22-16 loss in Paris in 2017 but only after a strong showing by Vern Cotter’s side. They will be looking for a better outcome on this occasion.