2020 Six Nations Championship


Blackleaf
#1
Josh Adams hat-trick helps Wales thrash Italy

By Gareth Griffiths
BBC Sport Wales at Principality Stadium, Cardiff

Wales 42-0 Italy



Defending champions Wales started the 2020 Six Nations with a comfortable 42-0 victory over Italy in Wayne Pivac's first Test match in charge.

A hat-trick from Josh Adams and further tries from new cap Nick Tompkins, who scored a stunning effort, and George North set up the victory.

Fly-half Dan Biggar added 13 points after being given the goalkicking duties ahead of Leigh Halfpenny.

Wales next face Ireland in Dublin on Saturday, 8 February.

Victory saw the hosts equal their record of eight successive Six Nations victories, stretching back to March 2018.

New coach Pivac had talked about evolution rather than revolution as he followed Warren Gatland's successful 12-year reign, but there were glimpses of a more expansive attacking style developing.

Adams was the beneficiary of some flowing first-half moves as he built on his success at the 2019 World Cup, which he finished as top try scorer with seven. The Cardiff Blues wing now has scored 10 tries in his past eight internationals and 14 in 22 Tests in his career.

The instinctive intent was typified by one outstanding try-scoring pass by fly-half Biggar, while half-back partner Tomos Williams excelled in a rare Test start with Gareth Davies injured.

There will be sterner tests than this with Italy now having been defeated in their past 23 Six Nations games - a tournament losing record, stretching back to 2015. Those challenges start in Dublin next Saturday.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/51318392


Ireland defeat wasteful Scotland

By Michael Morrow
BBC Sport NI at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin

Ireland 19-12 Scotland



Andy Farrell's reign as Ireland coach got off to a winning but unimpressive start as his side earned a fortunate 19-12 Six Nations win over Scotland.

New captain Johnny Sexton scored all of Ireland's points, including a first-half try, as the hosts profited from Scotland's inability to take chances.

Scotland's new skipper Stuart Hogg's knock-on over the line in the second half summed up his side's try-less day.

Man-of-the-match CJ Stander's late turnover secured Ireland's win.

It was a game that leaves both camps much to ponder before challenging matches next weekend.

The home side got the win but will know a similar performance against Wales next week will surely result in defeat.

Ireland were looking to rediscover their identify following a troubled World Cup, but this was not so much a new dawn as an indication their most glaring issues were not left in Japan.

Scotland will take little solace from the fact they dominated large parts of the game, because once again their lack of cutting edge saw a positive result slip away.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/51318880
 
Blackleaf
#2
England lose Six Nations opener in France

By Tom Fordyce
Chief sports writer at the Stade de France, Paris
BBC Sport

France 24-17 England



World Cup finalists England fell to a chastening defeat to a resurgent France as their Six Nations hopes wilted in the Parisian rain.

Coach Eddie Jones had talked of unleashing a brutal physicality upon a callow France side with an average of just 10 caps apiece.

But it was France who tenderised England in a one-sided first half, converted tries from Vincent Rattez and captain Charles Ollivon plus a Romain Ntamack penalty opening up a deserved 17-point lead.

Ollivon dived over for his second try to stretch that advantage to 24, before two brilliant solo scores from Jonny May suddenly brought hope in the final quarter.

But England could add only a late Owen Farrell penalty, their hopes of only a second Grand Slam in 17 years disintegrating in the face of a France defence superbly drilled by Shaun Edwards.

Jones said his team wanted to become the greatest team in history, but they were second-best to Fabien Galthie's new wave of Gallic talents.

In a febrile atmosphere England made early inroads when Sam Underhill capitalised on an overthrown line-out to thunder deep into the French 22 before his back-row partner Tom Curry spilt the ball in the tackle.

But it was France who struck first to light up the stadium, Teddy Thomas with a quicksilver break down the right before left wing Rattez - only in as a late replacement for Damian Penaud - cut a cute line on Ntamack's inside shoulder to crash through Ben Youngs' tackle and over.

Ntamack popped over the conversion, and when England's forwards were penalised at a ruck a few metres from their own line, the young fly-half landed his second kick to extend the lead to 10 points.

Worse was to come for the men in white. Talismanic centre Manu Tuilagi limped off, to be replaced by Jonathan Joseph, then France struck a second hammer blow.

As Ollivon challenged for a kick ahead, England stopped, expecting referee Nigel Owens to blow for a knock-on. But the whistle never came, and Ollivon galloped 30 metres to dive into the left-hand corner.

Ntamack's nerveless conversion made it 17-0, tricolors being waved frantically all round celebrating stands as the brass band behind the England posts blasted out the Can-Can.

Under that intense aural and physical assault England's errors began to mount, debutant George Furbank dropping one pass, captain Owen Farrell knocking on another.

Not since 1988 had England been kept scoreless at half-time in a Five or Six Nations match, but the scoreline reflected a fractured and ugly display.



https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/51349854
 
Blackleaf
#3
Old rivals set for fresh plotlines in Six Nations battle



By Tom Fordyce
Chief sports writer
BBC Sport
8 February 2020

2020 Guinness Six Nations

Scotland v England

Venue: Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh

Date: Saturday, 8 February

Kick-off:
16:45 GMT

Coverage:
Watch on BBC One; listen BBC Radio 5 Live & BBC Radio Scotland; live text commentary on the BBC Sport website & app.



When a fixture has been played for longer than any other in its sport, you can feel its weight and the history of it chasing you down the years.

Scotland against England is 149 years old. It never feels tired because beneath the great narratives of rivalry and animosity and friendship lie the fresh plotlines that light up every new chapter.

There are maybe more cliches to lose yourself in around this game than any other in rugby, not least because it is so familiar.

Old enemies. Brutal battles. An atmosphere unlike anything else in the rugby world.

Sometimes, but not always. It's a match where the expected result usually comes to pass. Only one of the past 10 meetings between the two has gone Scotland's way. It often falls flat. It's a day that can feel predictable until the moment it isn't.

And then it's alive. You can wait an age for the one that no-one forgets, and that's almost the point. It's the hope that thrills you. It's the damp squibs that keep you coming back.

Strolling out of town west along Haymarket Terrace, it's scarf sellers and cans in hand. One for the road at Ryrie's Bar, on towards Roseburn Street and the little bar on the corner. People piling off the tram from the city centre, others coming in shared cars and Range Rovers up the A703 from Peebles or the A7 from Selkirk, Melrose and Galashiels, those Borders towns like a tour round memories of the Grandstand vidiprinter as club results used to come in on a Saturday afternoon.

It can feel just as cold as the most northern Six Nations city should do when the wind comes in off the Pentland Hills. The stadium itself has changed so much since the last Scottish Grand Slam, those metal girders creeping over the top of the stands, so much grey concrete to go with the dark blue seats and the white saltires, but there are still old quirks too - the cricket pitches in Roseburn Park to one side, the train tracks without a stop on the south side and the ice rink out back. Even those expensive grandstands have given the ground an idiosyncratic lop-sided feel.



Scotland will look to harness the spirit of 1990's famous victory over England

Inside everything is cramped and cosy. The press box is narrow and tight, and dangerously close to the two greenhouses where the coaches and analysts sit, cut off more than any others in the stadium from the noise and ferment.

For the well-heeled in that stand it is tartan blankets on knees and hip-flasks to hand. Elsewhere are the beers and the noise and the abuse.

For England supporters up for the scenic weekend the journey out to the south-west suburbs of the Scottish capital is a rousing one rather than a walk on the wild side. When it's bitterly cold you just spend more time in the bars. The sunny days just mean you can spend more time gawking at the impossible city-centre scenery.

Fear and loathing? 1990 had a fair amount of that, off the back of the Poll Tax and the Conservative government that introduced it north of the border before south, but there have been so many stale years since, seasons when England came and went with bodywork barely dented.

All the way to 1989 the anthem played before kick-off for the home team was God Save The Queen. Only when David Sole led his team out on that famous day did Flower of Scotland take hold.

Lewis Ludlam kicked up headlines this week when he talked of sport as conflict. "We want to be brutal. It's going to be a war, and it's something we're excited about. They hate us and we hate them."

He's a young player early in his international career. You can maybe forgive the easy descent into hyperbole. But something else he said told you almost as much about this fixture: "For my second cap away at Wales there were old ladies and kids giving you the finger going into the stadium."


Scotland's first match against England at Murrayfield was in 1925 when the home team won and went on to secure their first Grand Slam

That doesn't happen at Murrayfield, a more genteel place even for this fixture than Cardiff can be, partly because rugby union does not have the same hold over as great a proportion of the nation as it does in Wales, partly because the stadium is a 40-minute stroll from the middle of town rather than unmissable in the guts of the city like the Principality.

Wales have won four Grand Slams in the past 15 years. Scotland have been waiting as long for their next as Liverpool have a league title. Unlike at Anfield, there is no realistic end in sight any time soon.

The cliches will tell you too that Scotland need the weather to unleash hell if they are to upset England, as when Duncan Hodge dived through the puddles for the winning try in 2000, as in those narrow six-point squeakers in 2006 and 2008.

But when Scotland ransacked England 25-13 two years ago it was on a flawless afternoon, all golden winter sun and unbroken blue overhead. The gales and deluge forecast for this Saturday will do little to help a home side who like to put the ball through hands with pace more than any other team in the championship.

Atmospheres can leach away at Scotland v England. Sporting logic takes over. One side has the playing and financial resources to gradually steamroller the other.

That day in 2018 it didn't. It began loud and got louder. Scottish turnovers were celebrated like tries. Supporters were leaping in their seats when England were penalised at the scrum. White-shirted knock-ons triggered wild choruses.


Centre Huw Jones scored two tries in Scotland's victory at Murrayfield in 2018

And so history taps at English ankles once more.

England have won on only three of their last seven trips to Edinburgh. Eddie Jones' men have lost five of their last seven away games in the Six Nations. When they lose at Murrayfield it can never not be a heart-breaker, as with the lost Slams of 1990 and 2000, and it can lead to an unravelling, as when they plummeted to an eventual fifth in the final table in 2018.

They should win on Saturday. That's the point. It's not stepping into a Cardiff bearpit and it's not taking on the unholy noise of Dublin.
But no-one is sure, because all those years of fighting and posturing and wondering have left an indelible mark.

"I wouldn't be able to tell you the history. It doesn't really affect me," England centre Ben Te'o said in the build-up two years ago. "You're always going to have an away fixture with a hostile crowd. You've seen one, you've seen them all."

Te'o had changed his mind by nightfall. And so you listen instead to Scotland's number eight this weekend, Magnus Bradbury, and all the old stories and fables that you absorb down the years.

"It's hard to explain, but it has more of an edge to it than any other game," he said. "It seems that everyone in Edinburgh goes a little bit mental when it's up here.

"If you're not up for this game, you're not going to be up for anything. Playing England at home at Murrayfield, it's the biggest game you'll ever play in."



https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/51415330

Other fixtures:

Ireland vs Wales (14:15GMT)



Sunday

France vs Italy (15:00 GMT)
 
Blackleaf
#4
Visitors reclaim Calcutta Cup and keep Six Nations title hopes alive



By Tom English
BBC Scotland at Murrayfield
BBC Sport

Scotland 6-13 England



England won back the Calcutta Cup and kept their Six Nations title hopes alive with a turgid victory over Scotland in awful weather conditions.

Ellis Genge barrelled home for the only try with 10 minutes remaining as driving rain and strong gusts made for a disrupted, error-ridden contest at Murrayfield.

The result meant Scotland fell short of a third-straight Calcutta Cup, but England climb level on points with second-placed Wales, four adrift of unbeaten leaders Ireland.

Captain Owen Farrell struck a penalty in either half, missing three more attempts from the tee as the weather contributed to a low-scoring affair.

Adam Hastings replied twice for Scotland, his 78th-minute kick ensuring Gregor Townsend's men pick up a second losing bonus point in as many weekends.

'Rugby from another dimension'



This was a much-needed victory for England after a bruising loss in Paris. Eddie Jones' men just about deserved it, but the contest was wretched, a million miles from the epic 38-38 draw of last season.

A losing bonus point will come as small comfort to Townsend. The Scots found it ferociously difficult to live with Sam Underhill and Tom Curry at the breakdown and impossible to catch their own ball in the line-out. The key moment was a dreadful mistake by Stuart Hogg, for the second week running.

Storm Ciara was due to blow into town in time for the kick-off and, sure enough, an hour or so before it all began, she fetched up with her rain and her gales bringing any notion of an attacking spectacle to its knees.

It was brutal out there. Scotland lost five line-outs, and precious momentum, in the opening 40 minutes - some down to crass errors, most of them due to the foul conditions. England, who couldn't have been playing more conservatively had they all taken the field with Tory party rosettes on their jerseys, lost two.

Scotland 'have to remedy five-minute period' - Townsend Playing against the wind, they kicked ball after ball, forcing errors from Scotland and taking the lead when the home side were done on the floor. Farrell missed his first penalty earlier, banged over his second and missed his third.

This was rugby from another dimension. Had a woolly mammoth, extinct for an age, wandered across the pitch you wouldn't have missed a beat. Had a try been scored it would have been a moment of genuine shock and awe.

Scotland wasted great field position last week in Dublin and they let a few opportunities slip here as well. England were dominant at the breakdown, but error-strewn in so many departments. Everything was understandably, but maddeningly, stop-start.



Hogg's 'howitzer mess-up'



The hosts had a bit more about them in the second half, beginning with a thunder that was sparked by big Rory Sutherland, the renaissance prop who came steaming back into Test rugby in Dublin. Sutherland's big bust of the English defence was the catalyst for Scotland drawing level.

England survived a battering, their defence holding out against Scotland surges. That home pressure didn't bring them a try - on a day when a try was always going to be good enough to get the win - but they left with three points from Hastings after Underhill was penalised for not releasing.

They came again when George Ford and Jonny May fluffed their lines in defence and more heat was piled on through hard carries from Sutherland and Zander Fagerson and their hard-running chums. England held out, perhaps a little luckily. Kyle Sinckler lifted the siege with a rip from Jonny Gray but did it while he was on the floor.

The blunder count rose high, towering over the top of the stadium. Scotland lost a seventh, and later an eighth line-out, and Farrell missed a third shot at goal. Onwards we went, ever deeper into mistake-land.

The absolute howitzer mess-up came from Hogg, a week after his spectacular spill over the Irish tryline. This was the game. The Scotland captain retreated to deal with a ball under his posts, but made a desperate hash of it. Initially, it looked like he'd spilled it to Farrell, who immediately touched down.

The TMO advised that Hogg had carried it over his line but had, indeed, grounded the ball. So, scrum England. And try England. They went through a couple of phases, got it to Genge and then launched Maro Itoje, Curry and Ben Earl in behind him to power over. Farrell converted for a 10-3 lead. Scotland were distraught.

Farrell then put over another penalty to stretch the gap to 10, Hastings rescuing a losing bonus soon after. Seventy-eight minutes had been played at that stage. Frankly, it felt like 78 hours.

Stuart Hogg just managed to ground a bobbling England kick but the visitors soon scored a try

Line-ups


Scotland: Hogg (capt); Maitland, Jones, Johnson, Kinghorn; Hastings, Price; Sutherland, Brown, Fagerson, Cummings, Gray, Ritchie, Watson, Bradbury.

Replacements: McInally, Dell, Berghan, Toolis, Haining, Horne, Hutchinson, Harris.

England: Furbank; May, Joseph, Farrell (capt), Daly; Ford, Heinz; Vunipola, George, Sinckler, Itoje, Kruis, Ludlam, Underhill, Curry.

Replacements: Dunn, Genge, Stuart, Launchbury, Lawes, Earl, Youngs, Devoto.

Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)

Touch judges: Mathieu Raynal (France) & Federico Anselmi (Argentina)

TMO: James Leckie (Australia)

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/51407067


Hosts hand holders first defeat in nine Six Nations games



By Michael Morrow
BBC Sport NI at the Aviva Stadium
BBC Sport

Ireland 24-14 Wales



Ireland sent out a statement of intent as they ran in four tries to end Wales' hopes of consecutive Grand Slams with a deserved 24-14 win in Dublin.

Tries from Jordan Larmour and Tadhg Furlong, either side of Tomos Williams' reply for Wales, saw the hosts lead 12-7 at half-time in the Six Nations game.

Josh van der Flier's score after the break and Andrew Conway's 75th-minute try sealed the home side's win.

Justin Tipuric's injury-time score provided late consolation for Wales.

The reigning Six Nations champions had chances to fight back before Conway's late finish in the corner and missed a glorious chance as, just as Stuart Hogg did last week, when Hadleigh Parkes lost control of the ball as he stretched to ground it over the try-line.

It is Wales' first Six Nations defeat since they last visited Dublin two years ago as their eight-match winning run in the competition came to an end.


Ireland produced a hugely committed display after struggling against Scotland last weekend

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/51388167