Section: Six Nations

Six Nations: France 15-8 Scotland

France battled to a hard-earned victory over Scotland in Paris in a contest that offered much encouragement for new Scotland coach Vern Cotter in his first Six Nations match in charge.

Three penalties from Camille Lopez had France 9-3 ahead as the clock ticked towards half-time, only for Dougie Fife to complete a sweeping move by diving over in the corner for a well-deserved try for Scotland.

The intensity did not let up in the second half, with only a Lopez penalty adding to the score, even with Scotland being reduced to 14 men when John Beattie was yellow-carded. Lopez finally rounded out the win with a penalty in the final minute, much to the relief of the home crowd.

There was little in the history books to give Scotland hope ahead of their opener in Paris, but there was a definite look of confidence about Cotter’s men.

With largely the same side which did so well against Argentina, New Zealand and Tonga in the autumn, the new coach aimed to sack the French capital for the first time in 16 years.

However, Philippe Saint-Andre’s hosts felt they have shaken off the difficulties which have plagued them for the last three years, even if they did lose to the Pumas last time out.

The Scots handed tournament debuts to Blair Cowan, Finn Russell and Mark Bennett but were without the injured duo of Sean Maitland and Matt Scott, while Les Bleus – wearing a red kit for the first time in 56 years after ditching their traditional white change attire – gave South Africa-born scrum-half Rory Kockott his first cap.

There was barely a minute on the clock when Cowan gifted the hosts an early penalty and Lopez punished his indiscipline as he knocked his kick over with the help of a post.

But the Scots did not look fazed by the London Irish forward’s mistake and dug in to repel a couple of French surges.

Russell settled well, selling Lopez a lovely dummy, while Richie Gray took the initiative with some decent carries before a collapsed scrum allowed skipper Greig Laidlaw to level things with Scotland’s opening penalty.

Les Bleus – or Les Rouges as they have been dubbed – swarmed back up field from the kick-off and claimed another penalty as they stretched Cotter’s men one way then the other, with Lopez making no mistake with his kick.

With devastating power and some clever off-loads from the likes of Mathieu Bastareaud and Damien Chouly, the Scots, who replaced wing Tommy Symour with Fife after a hip injury ended his game after 17 minutes, were forced to scramble more than once as they held on.

In the face of such impressive attacking talent, Cotter’s men knew it was imperative they took their chances when they came along. Stuart Hogg tried with a penalty from two yards inside his own half while Russell went for a drop goal, but neither could slot through the posts.

The Scots were growing in confidence, though. Alex Dunbar sent a grubber through for Hogg after a catching out Wesley Fofana, but Yoann Huget came to the hosts’ rescue, but another indiscretion at the breakdown by Rob Harley allowed Lopez to boot over again.

The visitors’ response was first class. They muscled up field and, after pushing to within a yard of the whitewash, kept their composure to feed the ball wide for Bennett and then Euan Murray, who kept it simple as he made sure Fife dived over in the corner.

Laidlaw’s conversion hit the upright as the French clung on for a slender half-time lead.

The French steadied themselves as the game restarted and were able to extend their lead when Scotland’s try scorer suffered a rush of blood to the head.

Fife tried and failed to keep Lopez’s kick for touch in and after slumping to his backside petulantly threw the ball away. Welsh referee Nigel Owens was not amused – neither was Fife as Lopez nailed the penalty given against him.

Rob Harley was replaced by Alasdair Strokosch after 53 minutes – but was called back into action moments later as Cowan suffered a bump to the head.

France swept forward again but some brave Scottish resistance held them up a yard from scoring, while Lopez missed for the first time with his boot soon after.

Scotland hopes of overhauling the four-point deficit were hit, though, when they lost Beattie to the sin-bin with just under 20 minutes left.

The Castres No.8 was punished for clattering into the side of a ruck as France pressed into the Scots’ 22. It was the last thing Cotter’s team needed as they chased a historic win in the French capital.

Another Lopez penalty then put daylight between the teams and ensured Scotland would have to wait until the summer – when they return in World Cup warm-up action – to put right their Parisian track record.

Read more at ESPN

Six Nations: Italy 3-26 Ireland

Defending Six Nations champions Ireland made a winning start to the 2015 campaign, but will need to improve drastically on their performance against Italy if they are to repeat last year’s success.

Ian Keatley landed three penalties from three attempts in a first half that saw both teams struggle to string any flowing play together. Only a Kelly Haimona penalty as time expired prevented Italy from being shutout in the first half on home turf.

However, the sin-binning of Leonardo Ghiraldini proved the catalyst for Ireland to finally make their overall superiority pay. First Conor Murray scurried over from a ruck for the first try of the match and then Tommy O’Donnell – a late replacement for Sean O’Brien who pulled a hamstring in the warm-up – burst free from 45 metres to pull Ireland clear once and for all.

Italy were denied a consolation try after the TMO ruled that Sergio Parisse had knocked on in the build-up to Kelly Haimona’s touchdown.

Keatley made his overdue Six Nations debut as Ireland took on Italy in Rome. The 27-year-old fly-half deputised for British and Irish Lions playmaker Johnny Sexton, who will return to face France in Dublin next weekend after a 12-week concussion lay-off.

Italy had back-row agitators Sergio Parisse and Alessandro Zanni back in tandem, with New Zealand-born fly-half Kelly Haimona leading the line.

Flanker O’Brien pulled out of Ireland’s line-up in the warm-up just minutes before kick-off, nursing his hamstring. The luckless Leinster man’s injury problems rumble on: the 27-year-old has still not featured in Test action since November 2013. O’Brien had ice strapped to his left hamstring as he took to the bench to watch the match.

Italy proved the architects of their own discomfort right from the off, Matias Aguero penalised for slipping his bind at the scrum.

George Biagi’s cheap knock-on gifted Ireland field position, and a pointless midfield offside allowed Keatley to open the scoring from the tee.

Jack McGrath atoned for conceding a scrum penalty by winning a fine choke-tackle turnover, in tandem with Peter O’Mahony.

Munster fly-half Keatley endured a mixed opening quarter, slotting his penalty calmly, but throwing a loose pass and also being charged down by Michele Campagnaro.

Ireland threatened through careful build-up, only for Simon Zebo to knock on Conor Murray’s ambitious inside pass.

All the fizzing electricity from England’s tournament opening 21-16 win over Wales in Cardiff turned to dismal static in a humdrum first half in Rome.

Keatley doubled his and Ireland’s tally after Luke McLean wandered offside to retrieve Andrea Masi’s knock-on.

For all their possession however, Ireland lacked any spark. Joe Schmidt’s men fought hard for fluency, but settled instead for stoic territorial control.

Keatley had to scamper to retrieve a loose miss-pass from Murray, while Robbie Henshaw knocked on out wide.

Ireland drove close from a lineout maul, but Tommy Bowe could not tap Murray’s deft chip back inside with enough space for the scrum-half to wriggle home. The visitors had to settle instead for Keatley’s third penalty of the afternoon.

Italy then set up camp in Ireland’s 22 but after one driving maul Kelly Haimona opted to strike at goal. The New Zealand-born fly-half landed the goal to cut Italy’s deficit to six points at the break.

Ireland started the second half searching for some kind of fuel injection, but still their attack misfired.

Keatley produced a neat half-break on the blindside, only to force an attempted final pass. Campagnaro knocked on trying to intercept, allowing Ireland a quick wipe of the brow.

Keatley almost cut the line again in Italy’s 22, but Parisse produced a fine ruck steal to ease the pressure.

Jared Payne raced close after Simon Zebo’s neat wide pass, but Robbie Henshaw knocked on trying to sneak through.

Payne and Henshaw noticeably picked up the pace after the break, but again Ireland turned to Keatley’s boot to extend their lead to 12-3.

Ireland dispensed with posting penalties, instead going for the jugular just past the hour, punting to the corner for an attacking line-out.

Leonardo Ghiraldini spoiled Ireland’s maul from an offside position and was duly sin-binned for his troubles.

Ireland went straight for the lineout once more and finally broke the try deadlock. Murray wriggled home after the pack drove to the whitewash, with Keatley converting for a 19-3 lead.

No sooner had Ireland scored than boss Joe Schmidt brought off Keatley, Paul O’Connell and Peter O’Mahoney, no doubt with one eye on next weekend’s France clash. Tommy O’Donnell then raced through Italy’s porous midfield to rubber-stamp Ireland’s victory.

Ian Madigan slotted the conversion to add gloss to the scoreline, but Ireland were unable to maintain that momentum once Italy were restored to full complement.

Italy’s rally forced Ireland to defend with zeal and composure at the death when Schmidt’s men would sooner have been attempting to boost their points-difference tally.

Andrea Manici’s sloppy spilled ball dented Italy’s momentum before Haimona had a try ruled out for the slightest of knock-ons from Parisse.

Read more at ESPN

Six Nations: Wales 16-21 England

England clinched a memorable, come-from-behind victory over Wales in Cardiff as the Six Nations Championship began in spectacular fashion.

Wales leapt out to a 10-0 lead as Rhys Webb’s try added to an early Leigh Halfpenny penalty, conceded by England within a minute of kick-off.

However, England progressively found their footing in the game and Anthony Watson scored his first Test try by latching on to Mike Brown’s grubber kick.

Dan Biggar’s superb drop goal on the stroke of half-time gave Wales a 16-8 lead, but 10 unanswered points – a Jonathan Joseph try and a conversion and penalty from George Ford – put England ahead against 14-man Wales, who had Alex Cuthbert sin-binned.

An obstruction saw a Dave Attwood try disallowed after review by the TMO, but a penalty with two minutes remaining allowed Ford to seal an incredible England victory.

The roof was open as both sides had to agree to close it and England had declined to do so, and Wales immediately looked as if they had been angered by the decision.

Wales won their own kick-off and when the ball was switched back to the right they won a penalty which the ever-reliable Leigh Halfpenny landed from 40 metres.

There was even better to come for Wales after eight minutes when Dan Biggar’s cross-field kick found Halfpenny on the touch-line and the full-back chipped on to cause panic on the England line after Anthony Watson had gathered.

Wales were given the scrum and, even though it was going backwards, Toby Faletau picked up and shrugged off the tackle of James Haskell to slip in Rhys Webb at the corner.

Halfpenny converted for a 10-0 lead but England hit back after 15 minutes when pressure at the scrum set up territory and Mike Brown chipped through for the alert Watson to collect his first Test try, George Ford striking the upright with his conversion attempt.

Wales were keen to test Ford’s defensive abilities at every opportunity and send powerhouses Jamie Roberts and Alex Cuthbert down his channel but England were not giving an inch despite having come into the game as underdogs.

But Halfpenny landed another 40-metre penalty after England prop Dan Cole was penalised for going off his feet at a ruck.

Ford replied with a penalty of his own after Roberts was penalised for an early tackle on Jonny May and Wales lost George North in the same passage of play as the winger was caught by the flying boot of Dave Attwood.

North was back on the field just before the break and Biggar’s 35-metre drop goal extended Wales’ lead with the final kick of the first half.

England started the second half on the front foot and they were rewarded for their patience inside four minutes as they went through 20 phases before Joseph slipped Biggar and North to burst over, Ford’s conversion making it a one-point game at 16-15.

Wales were struggling to combat England’s positive approach but Ford spurned the opportunity to give the visitors the lead when his penalty attempt missed the target from 45 metres.

Roberts on the crash ball tried to give Wales some momentum and lift a home crowd who had been expecting an easier evening against injury-ravaged opponents.

But England managed to turn the ball over in their own ’22 and lift the pressure as the tempo paused for breath as Halfpenny required treatment following a bang on the head.

England were making the most of their advantage in the scrum to enjoy good territory and Ford’s penalty put the visitors ahead at 18-16 with Cuthbert yellow carded to reduce Wales to 14 men on the hour mark.

Wales did not concede when Cuthbert was off the field but England might have put the game to bed when centre Luther Burrell broke clear in open play.

Brown had clear grass to run into but Burrell’s pass was slightly high and behind him and the full-back was unable to hold on.

England were denied a third try when Attwood’s effort was disallowed for replacement Nick Easter blocking Biggar but Ford’s 45-metre penalty two minutes from time settled matters.

Read more at ESPN

Six Nations: Fixtures

Date Match

February 2015

Fri 6 Wales v England, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
20:05 local, 20:05 GMT
Sat 7 Italy v Ireland, Olimpico Stadium, Rome
15:30 local, 14:30 GMT
Sat 7 France v Scotland, Stade de France, Paris
18:00 local, 17:00 GMT
Sat 14 England v Italy, Twickenham Stadium, London
14:30 local, 14:30 GMT
Sat 14 Ireland v France, Lansdowne Road, Dublin
17:00 local, 17:00 GMT
Sun 15 Scotland v Wales, Murrayfield, Edinburgh
15:00 local, 15:00 GMT
Sat 28 Scotland v Italy, Murrayfield, Edinburgh
14:30 local, 14:30 GMT
Sat 28 France v Wales, Stade de France, Paris
18:00 local, 17:00 GMT

March 2015

Sun 1 Ireland v England, Lansdowne Road, Dublin
15:00 local, 15:00 GMT
Sat 14 Wales v Ireland, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
14:30 local, 14:30 GMT
Sat 14 England v Scotland, Twickenham Stadium, London
17:00 local, 17:00 GMT
Sun 15 Italy v France, Olimpico Stadium, Rome
16:00 local, 15:00 GMT
Sat 21 Italy v Wales, Olimpico Stadium, Rome
13:30 local, 12:30 GMT
Sat 21 Scotland v Ireland, Murrayfield, Edinburgh
14:30 local, 14:30 GMT
Sat 21 England v France, Twickenham Stadium, London
17:00 local, 17:00 GMT

Six Nations: Wales v England

Wales winger George North returns to the starting XV for the Six Nations opener against England.

Richard Hibbard is back at hooker in the only other change to the side that beat South Africa in November.

England coach Stuart Lancaster, who has battled a lengthy injury list in his squad, has selected Luther Burrell and Jonathan Joseph to play as centres.

Prop Dan Cole returns after nearly a year out, while Danny Cipriani and Nick Easter are recalled to the bench.


15-Leigh Halfpenny, 14-Alex Cuthbert, 13-Jonathan Davies, 12-Jamie Roberts, 11-George North, 10-Dan Biggar, 9-Rhys Webb; 1-Gethin Jenkins, 2-Richard Hibbard, 3-Sampson Lee, 4-Jake Ball, 5-Alun-Wyn Jones, 6-Dan Lydiate, 7-Sam Warburton, 8-Taulupe Faletau

Replacements: 16-Scott Baldwin, 17-Paul James, 18-Aaron Jarvis, 19-Luke Charteris, 20-Justin Tipuric, 21-Mike Phillips, 22-Rhys Priestland, 23-Liam Williams.

England :

15-Mike Brown, 14-Anthony Watson, 13-Jonathan Joseph, 12-Luther Burrell, 11-Jonny May, 10-George Ford, 9-Ben Youngs-; 1-Joe Marler, 2-Dylan Hartley, 3-Dan Cole, 4-Dave Attwood, 5-George Kruis, 6-James Haskell, 7-Chris Robshaw (captain), 8-Billy Vunipola

Replacements: 16-Tom Youngs, 17-Mako Vunipola, 18-Kieran Brookes, 19-Tom Croft, 20-Nick Easter, 21-Richard Wigglesworth, 22-Danny Cipriani, 23-Billy Twelvetrees

Match Preview

Hostile, intimidating, unforgiving – there are few more daunting sporting citadels than the one England will walk into on Friday night.

No fixture fires up the inner Welsh dragon more than the arrival of the Red Rose across the Severn Bridge, and Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium will be rocking. It’s a baptism of fire for a youthful and injury-hit England team.

Five of the back division have 11 caps or fewer and the popular opinion is that another new centre partnership of Jonathan Joseph and Luther Burrell, plus fly-half George Ford, will be targeted by the Welsh in a return to their ruthlessly effective ‘Warrenball’ style of play.

Read more at BBC Sport

Six Nations: France v Scotland

Scotland coach Vern Cotter has handed out three Six Nations debuts to Finn Russell, Mark Bennett and Blair Cowan ahead of Saturday’s match against France in Paris.

The team shows just two changes from the team that saw off Tonga in November with Bennett and Euan Murray starting. The back five features four Glasgow players with Edinburgh’s Tim Visser the fifth.

Greig Laidlaw skippers the team at scrum-half with Finn Russell at fly-half. Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford and Murray pack down in the front-row with Richie Gray partnering Jonny Gray in the locks. Rob Harley, Cowan and Johnnie Beattie make up the back-row.

“Seeing the passion and desire among our players in the build up to the tournament has been special,” Cotter said. “The players really enjoy the atmosphere of these big occasions, and the pressure of having to perform for their country, in front of huge crowds.

“They’re looking forward to getting out there. France will be tough. They played well in the autumn series but remain frustrated with past results in the Six Nations. They will be very difficult to contain so we’ll have to stay tight as a unit, work hard for each other and try to apply some pressure. It’ll be a very tough start to the championship, but we’re looking forward to that challenge.”


Stuart Hogg, Tim Visser, Alex Dunbar, Mark Bennett, Tommy Seymour, Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (captain); Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford, Euan Murray, Richie Gray, Jonny Gray, Rob Harley, Blair Cowan, Johnnie Beattie

Replacements: Fraser Brown, Gordon Reid, Geoff Cross, Jim Hamilton, Alasdair Strokosch, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Peter Horne, Dougie Fife

Read more at ESPN

Six Nations: Italy v Ireland

Sean O’Brien will start Ireland’s Six Nations opener in Rome just eight days after his first action in five months.

The combative British and Irish Lions flanker will play his first Test since November 2013 against Italy on Saturday, to offset the absence of Jamie Heaslip. The Leinster No.8 misses out through shoulder trouble, so O’Brien’s experience will ease the pressure on four-cap number eight Jordi Murphy – a Six Nations debutant.

Munster’s Ian Keatley has held off the challenge of Ian Madigan to start at fly-half, the 27-year-old taking his Six Nations bow in what will be his fourth cap.

Leinster flanker O’Brien featured in Ireland Wolfhounds’ 18-9 defeat to England Saxons in Cork on January 30, ending 14 months battling two shoulder reconstructions. Now he can reignite a Test career that has stalled since he first damaged his shoulder in Ireland’s 24-22 New Zealand defeat in the autumn of 2013.

Leinster’s hugely talented back-rower Murphy slots in for Heaslip, with Ireland keen not to risk one of their most experienced stars as he recovers from a shoulder niggle. Ulster’s Jared Payne partners Connacht battering ram Robbie Henshaw in the centres, with Ireland boss Joe Schmidt confirming the duo as his first-choice midfield pairing for the first time.

Payne and Henshaw worked in tandem in the autumn, but Gordon D’Arcy’s injury absence allowed Ireland to defer the decision on the long-term replacement for the now-retired Brian O’Driscoll.

Henshaw has long been pencilled in as record caps holder O’Driscoll’s successor, but could now ultimately end up replacing D’Arcy in Schmidt’s greater scheme.

New Zealand-born Payne has featured at full-back most regularly for Ulster this term, but will pick up where he left off from Ireland’s autumn at outside centre.

Veteran midfielder D’Arcy’s omission from the entire match squad indicates the size of the task facing the 34-year-old to force his way back into contention.

Stalwart front-rower Mike Ross starts at tighthead despite lagging behind Marty Moore in Leinster’s pecking order in recent weeks. The 35-year-old remains Ireland’s only ever-present selection under Kiwi boss Schmidt.

Ross fended off a month of groin trouble to feature in all three autumn Tests, and continues to remain one of Schmidt’s most trusted lieutenants.


R Kearney (Leinster), T Bowe, J Payne (both Ulster), R Henshaw (Connacht), S Zebo, I Keatley, C Murray (all Munster), J McGrath (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M Ross, D Toner (both Leinster), P O’Connell (capt), P O’Mahony (both Munster), S O’Brien, J Murphy (both Leinster).

Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), J Cronin (Munster), M Moore (Leinster), I Henderson (Ulster), T O’Donnell (Munster), I Boss, I Madigan (both Leinster), F Jones (Munster).
Read more at ESPN

Six Nations: Danny Cipriani & Nick Easter in England squad v Wales

Sale Sharks fly-half Danny Cipriani has been named in the England squad for the Six Nations opener against Wales.

The 27-year-old, who has not featured since last summer’s tour of New Zealand, is set to start on the bench.

Harlequins number eight Nick Easter, 36, returns for the first time since the 2011 World Cup.

Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff 
Date: Friday, 6 February 
Kick-off:20:05 GMT

Leicester Tigers trio Dan Cole, Tom Croft and Tom Youngs and Saracens prop Mako Vunipola are also named in Stuart Lancaster’s 25-man party.

Bath centre Jonathan Joseph returns to the squad for the first time since the 2013 tour to Argentina.

The starting XV is due to be confirmed on Wednesday morning and the two players expected to miss out on the matchday squad of 23 are Bath prop Henry Thomas and Exeter’s Jack Nowell.

England have lost six players to injury ahead of Friday’s match. with Owen Farrell, David Wilson, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood and Ben Morgan all unavailable, but head coach Lancaster is happy with the quality of the players he has brought in.

“Everyone named is fit and ready to go and we are looking forward to finalising our preparations over the next few days,” he said.

“While we have certain players unavailable through injury, it’s great to be able to welcome back guys who missed the autumn internationals, such as Dan Cole, Mako Vunipola and Tom Youngs.

“Their experience, alongside that of players like Tom Croft and Nick Easter, will be invaluable against a strong Welsh team.”

England, who beat Wales 29-18 at Twickenham in last year’s Six Nations, finished second in the table behind Ireland on points difference.

England squad to face Wales:

Forwards: Dave Attwood (Bath Rugby), Kieran Brookes (Newcastle Falcons), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers), Nick Easter (Harlequins), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), James Haskell (Wasps), George Kruis (Saracens), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, captain), Henry Thomas (Bath Rugby) Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

Backs: Mike Brown (Harlequins), Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints), Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks), George Ford (Bath Rugby), Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby), Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby), Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs), Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby), Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby), Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

Read more at BBC Sport

Six Nations: England fly-half Owen Farrell ruled out of entire series

England fly-half Owen Farrell has been ruled out of the entire Six Nations with a knee injury.

Specialists have confirmed Farrell, 23, has suffered a high-grade medial ligament strain.

The Saracens player hurt his left knee in a European Champions Cup defeat by Clermont on Sunday.

England head coach Stuart Lancaster said: “It’s a real shame for Owen that he sustained this injury and we wish him the best for his recovery.”

Farrell is the latest addition to a list of absentees in England’s squad as they prepare for their opening Six Nations match against Wales in Cardiff on 6 February.

In the absence of Farrell, Bath’s George Ford – who started the final two autumn Tests – is likely to retain the number 10 jersey, with Sale’s Danny Cipriani and Northampton’s Stephen Myler also competing for a place in the match-day squad against Wales.

“We are fortunate to have three other number 10s in the squad in what is a very competitive position,” Lancaster added.

Leicester lock Geoff Parling and Saracens centre Brad Barritt are continuing to receive treatment for knee medial ligament strains.

Northampton Saints flanker Tom Wood also has an ankle injury, while Bath centre Kyle Eastmond has a shoulder strain.

Read more at BBC Sport

Six Nations: Danny Cipriani to make England training squad

Danny Cipriani and Nick Easter are set to be included in an England training squad for the Six Nations opener against Wales.

Head coach Stuart Lancaster will name a party of approximately 34 players at 11:00 GMT on Wednesday ahead of a camp next week.

Sale’s Cipriani is understood to be one of four fly-halves in the group, along with George Ford, Owen Farrell and Stephen Myler.

England will play Wales on 6 February.

Barring injury, Ford and Farrell are likely to be the two stand-offs involved against Wales in Cardiff, but both Myler and Cipriani have a chance to impress in training.

Meanwhile the England management are set include 36-year-old number eight Easter, who won the last of his 47 caps in the 2011 World Cup.

Easter has been in outstanding form for his club Harlequins and earlier this month told BBC 5 live that he was “desperate” to play for England again and was “100%” confident he could still perform at international level.

A host of British and Irish Lions who missed the Autumn internationals through injury are set for recalls, with forwards Alex Corbisiero, Mako Vunipola, Tom Youngs and Geoff Parling among those expected to be included – although centre Manu Tuilagi is likely to miss the whole championship because of his groin injury.

Jonathan Joseph will be rewarded for a string of impressive performances for Bath with a place in the senior training squad, while his club team-mate Sam Burgess will be named in the England Saxons squad for the game against the Irish Wolfhounds in Cork on 30 January.

Gloucester number eight Ben Morgan is definitely out of the Six Nations with a leg injury, while Northampton Saints full-back Ben Foden misses out for the second successive year because of a knee injury.

On the Monday or Tuesday before the Wales game, the training squad will be cut to the matchday 23, with the rest released back to their clubs.

Read more at BBC Sport