Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade are on course to be fit for England's crunch Six Nations showdown with Ireland at Twickenham on Sunday.

Tuilagi suffered a groin injury early in England's defeat to France on the opening weekend of the tournament, while Slade has been out since sustaining an ankle injury in December.

The centres trained with the Rugby World Cup runners-up on Wednesday and could face joint-leaders Ireland this weekend.

England head coach Eddie Jones said: "Manu trained fully so should be in contention for selection. It's good to have a quality player back.

"Slade also trained so we have just got to monitor his progress. He has a positive chance. He's a quality player. This gives us more options."

One player who will play no part is prop Mako Vunipola, who flew to Tonga and is not available for "family reasons".

Jones says England are well stocked to cover for the absence of the British and Irish Lion, with Joe Marler and Ellis Genge vying for a start.

The Australian said: "Mako's a quality player but we are lucky we are blessed with two outstanding loosehead props in Joe and Ellis, so we can recover the loss of Mako.

"But it's disappointing to lose him."

Genge scored the winning try in a battling 13-6 defeat of Scotland before the rest weekend. 

Andy Farrell has named an unchanged side for Ireland's mouthwatering Six Nations clash with England at Twickenham on Sunday.

Fit-again back-row Caelan Doris replaces Max Deegan on the bench in the only alteration to the 23 following the victory over Wales.

Robbie Henshaw was withdrawn just five minutes into the second half of the 24-14 win over the defending champions last time out, but the centre has been passed fit to start alongside Bundee Aki.

CJ Stander remains at number eight after another man-of-the-match display against the holders, with blindside flanker Peter O'Mahony retaining his starting berth and Doris - who suffered a head injury on his debut versus Scotland - among the replacements.

Ireland are joint-top of the table with France after winning their first two games and will be out for revenge after losing to Eddie Jones' side twice last year.

 

Ireland: Jordan Larmour, Andrew Conway, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale, Johnny Sexton (captain), Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, Caelan Doris, John Cooney, Ross Byrne, Keith Earls.

 

 

Gregor Townsend has brought in centre Chris Harris in place of Huw Jones as one of three changes to his team for Scotland's Six Nations match in Italy.

Scotland travel to Rome on Saturday with both teams looking for their first win of this year's competition.

Gloucester's Harris partners Sam Johnson at centre for his first start of the campaign, with Jones dropping out of the matchday 23.

In Scotland's other alterations, Edinburgh forwards Stuart McInally and Ben Toolis come into the team in place of Fraser Brown, who drops to the bench, and the injured Jonny Gray. 

"We believe Chris and Stuart deserve this opportunity," said Townsend. 

"They were very close to the starting XV when we entered this campaign. We think this is the right time for them to come in.

"Chris has been excellent for Gloucester this season and has continued to make improvements since the summer. He works very hard on both sides of the ball, which will be important this week.

"Stuart has shown over the past few weeks he's back to full fitness and is raring to go, and Ben gets an opportunity to start following Jonny's injury against England.

"Second-row is a position we have a lot of competition [in], with a number of very good players available for selection. 

"We are looking forward to seeing how he combines again with Scott [Cummings] after a successful outing together against Russia in the World Cup."

Flanker Matt Fagerson, who was added to the Scotland squad earlier this week, is a new name among the replacements, as are WP Nel, Grant Gilchrist and Byron McGuigan.

There is still no place for fly-half Finn Russell, due to his dispute with Scotland's management in the wake of a breach of team protocol ahead of the tournament.


Scotland: Stuart Hogg (captain), Sean Maitland, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Blair Kinghorn, Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, Stuart McInally, Zander Fagerson, Ben Toolis, Scott Cummings, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Magnus Bradbury.

Replacements: Fraser Brown, Allan Dell, WP Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Matt Fagerson, George Horne, Rory Hutchinson, Byron McGuigan.    

Wales boss Wayne Pivac has summoned Hallam Amos into his squad ahead of Saturday's Six Nations showdown with France.

The full-back, who also has experience of playing on the wing, comes in after recovering from an ankle injury.

That setback had kept Amos out of Pivac's initial plans, but he could now step up to play an important role over the remaining three matches.

The 25-year-old former Dragons star is looking to add to his 22 caps for Wales and takes the place of Cardiff Blues team-mate Owen Lane, who dropped out after suffering a hamstring blow.

Amos proved his fitness in Cardiff's Pro14 match against Connacht on Saturday, playing on the left wing in the Blues' 29-0 defeat.

Wales will look to return to winning ways after their 24-14 defeat to Ireland last time out, but in France they face a side who have started their campaign with purpose.

Les Bleus will be chasing a third successive victory, having already overcome England and Italy at the Stade de France.

A first away match for France promises to be their biggest test yet, with Wales having won their last three encounters, including a 20-19 success in their World Cup quarter-final in October.

England prop Mako Vunipola will miss the crunch Six Nations clash with Ireland at Twickenham on Sunday for family reasons.

Vunipola made his first appearance of the tournament in the victory over Scotland but will not face Ireland after travelling to Tonga.

Ellis Genge could be handed a start after scoring the winning try in the Calcutta Cup clash at Murrayfield. Alternatively, Joe Marler could come back into the side, with the uncapped Beno Obano offering another option.

Fit-again centres Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade were among the 33 names included by Eddie Jones for England's first home match of the tournament.

The Rugby World Cup runners-up were beaten by France in their opening match before edging out Scotland in brutal conditions in Edinburgh, while Ireland have won two out of two.

 

England squad:

Forwards: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tom Curry, Tom Dunn, Ben Earl, Charlie Ewels, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, Joe Marler, Beno Obano, Kyle Sinckler, Will Stuart, Sam Underhill, Harry Williams.
    
Backs: Elliot Daly, Ollie Devoto, Fraser Dingwall, Owen Farrell, George Ford, George Furbank, Willi Heinz, Jonathan Joseph, Jonny May, Henry Slade, Ollie Thorley, Manu Tuilagi, Jacob Umaga, Ben Youngs.

Sam Skinner and Matt Fagerson have been added to Scotland's Six Nations squad for the rest of the tournament.

Exeter Chiefs second row Skinner and Glasgow Warriors back row Fagerson were not included in Gregor Townsend's initial squad due to hamstring and rib injuries respectively.

The duo have proved their fitness in impressing showings for their clubs and are in contention to face Italy at the Stadio Olimpico next Saturday.

Skinner missed the Rugby World Cup due to his injury setback, having last featured for his country in a victory over France last August, while 21-year-old Fagerson has not played for Scotland since a hammering of Georgia almost six months ago.

Gloucester second-rower Alex Craig has been released from the squad.

Scotland will be expected to claim a first victory of the tournament in Rome following defeats to Ireland and England. 

Mushfiqur Rahim is back in the Bangladesh squad for the one-off Test against Zimbabwe – but there is no place for Mahmudullah.

Having opted out of the Test match in Pakistan earlier in February due to security concerns, wicketkeeper-batsman Mushfiqur returns for the game in Dhaka.

Uncapped duo Yasir Ali and Hasan Mahmud are also included in a 16-man party.

However, batsman Mahmudullah misses out after only posting one half-century in his last 10 Test innings. Fellow batsman Soumya Sarkar and pace-bowling duo Rubel Hossain and Al-Amin Hossain are also omitted.

Spinner Mehidy Hasan Miraz is fit again and there are recalls for left-arm seamer Mustafizur Rahman and paceman Taskin Ahmed.

"I believe we have selected the best possible Test squad under present circumstances. There is a very nice blend of experience and potential," said Panel Minhajul Abedin, Bangladesh's chairman of selectors.

The solitary Test against Zimbabwe begins at the Shere Bangla National Stadium on February 22.

 

Bangladesh Test squad: Mominul Haque (captain), Tamim Iqbal, Saif Hassan, Najmul Hossain Shanto, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mohammad Mithun, Liton Das, Taijul Islam, Abu Jayed Chowdhury, Nayeem Hasan, Ebadot Hossain, Taskin Ahmed, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Mustafizur Rahman, Hasan Mahmud, Yasir Ali.

England are likely to welcome back Manu Tuilagi for the crunch Six Nations clash with Ireland next week, but Anthony Watson remains out of action.

Centre Tuilagi remained with the England squad after suffering a groin injury in the opening defeat in France, although he did not feature as the Rugby World Cup finalists bounced back against Scotland.

The Leicester Tigers star should be able to feature at Twickenham a week on Sunday, though, head coach Eddie Jones revealed.

England face Ireland, who have won two matches from two so far - beating defending Grand Slam champions Wales last week - to join France at the top of the Six Nations table.

Alongside Tuilagi, England could be boosted by a return for Henry Slade, the 26-year-old having been out with an ankle injury since December.

"Manu is looking very good," Jones told Sky Sports News. "Very promising. He should be in full training by the start of next week.

"Henry Slade ran today and we've yet to get a medical report. It's definitely promising but too early to say whether he will be alright for Ireland or not."

However, Watson - another man, like Slade, yet to feature in the campaign - is still struggling with a calf injury picked up on the eve of the competition.

"Anthony Watson is still a couple of weeks away," Jones said.

Wales will have to do without Owen Williams for the remainder of their Six Nations campaign due to a hamstring injury.

Initially selected on the bench for Saturday's clash with Ireland, the Gloucester back suffered the injury while warming up ahead of kick-off at the Aviva Stadium.

The 27-year-old - who can play at fly-half or inside centre - had to withdraw from the matchday squad in Dublin, Jarrod Evans taking his place among the replacements.

Wales confirmed on Tuesday that Williams will miss the rest of the tournament following further assessment, though they are yet to name a replacement.

The reigning Six Nations champions are already without fly-halves Gareth Anscombe and Rhys Patchell, while Dan Biggar was forced off during the first half of the 24-14 defeat at the weekend after failing a head injury assessment.

Wayne Pivac's side are next in action on February 22, hosting unbeaten France in Cardiff.

Six Nations leaders France will be without wing Vincent Rattez for the remainder of the tournament after it was confirmed he had suffered a broken leg.

The 27-year-old sustained the injury during the closing stages of Sunday's 35-22 home win over Italy.

In the absence of Damian Penaud, La Rochelle star Rattez was a starter for Les Bleus in that match as well as their opening win over England, in which he scored a try.

Rattez confirmed on social media he had suffered a broken leg against Italy, a major blow for France after head coach Fabien Galthie initially hoped it would only be a sprained ankle.

After two home wins, France are away to Wales on February 22.

Gregor Townsend has questioned Finn Russell's commitment to playing for his country after the outcast fly-half stated he has no relationship with the Scotland head coach.

Russell did not feature in the Six Nations defeats to Ireland and England after being disciplined for a "breach of team protocol" in camp before the loss in Dublin on the opening weekend.

The Racing 92 playmaker was reportedly involved in a dispute with team-mates over the amount of alcohol he had drunk in the team hotel.

Russell broke his silence in an interview with the Sunday Times, suggesting there would need to be "big changes" for him to resume his Scotland career as he took a swipe at Townsend's style and man-management. 

Townsend responded on Monday by saying Russell will have to be fully on board with standards that are expected in order to play at international level again.

He said in a lengthy statement released by Scottish Rugby: "We strive to create an environment for players to be at their absolute best when playing for Scotland. To do that players must be aligned to the high standards of being involved in team sport at an elite level.

"These standards are set out through feedback from players and staff and are driven by the player leadership group or the head coach at varying times during a campaign.

"We have players who come from around a dozen different clubs and it's really important they commit to an agreed standard of behaviour, which builds trust and is at the bedrock of a high-performance environment.

"These standards don't change for one player, even if that's not what they experience in their club setting."

He added: "Our team leaders made the decision there would be no drinking after our opening match of the Six Nations and they have been working closely with me on improving other aspects of our environment."

Townsend, who said he has "loved" working with Russell, continued: "Finn left camp on the Sunday night because of a disagreement over alcohol with fellow players and chose to miss the following day's (Monday) training and meetings. I arranged to meet with him that evening. It was a really positive meeting where we talked openly about life, rugby and what it means to play for Scotland.

"I left that meeting, after almost three hours, really optimistic that Finn would play a major part in our environment and be a committed team member. Unfortunately, things have not unfolded as well as we would have hoped.

"To play for Scotland takes total commitment. A lot of people make great sacrifices for the opportunity to represent 150 years of history and be among a special group of people who have had the honour of representing their nation.

"A lot of times, everything is not always how you'd like it to be. You might not agree with everything that is there, maybe because it's a different coach than the one you have at club level or a different way of preparing or playing. What is important is that you commit to the what has been agreed and put the best interests of the team first.

"In the Six Nations and this season we are playing teams in the top five or six in the world and the effort, planning and standards that go into preparing people physically and mentally are really important, as are the bonds that bring people together and the trust that must be created within the group.

"The door will be open to any player with the required level of ability – if they commit to being a trusted member of the team. It's been made clear that Finn could be a part of that future.

"However, he stated at the weekend that everything else has to change for him to come back, rather than accept and adhere to the standards currently being lived by the group.

"I hope this situation can be resolved but our focus is on working with the squad and building on the positive work that's gone in from the players for our first two games."

Scotland lock Jonny Gray will miss the rest of the Six Nations due to a hand injury.

The Glasgow Warriors forward was hurt during the 13-6 defeat to England at Murrayfield on Saturday.

Scottish Rugby confirmed in a statement that Gray will return to his club side for further treatment.

The 25-year-old, who started the losses to England and Ireland, will sit out the remaining Tests away to Italy and Wales and at home against France.

Gregor Townsend's side earned two losing bonus points from their opening matches.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) described reports linking Rassie Erasmus with the England job as "100 per cent inaccurate", insisting no approach has been made for the South African to replace head coach Eddie Jones.

Speculation emerged from South Africa that England were lining up Rugby World Cup-winning Springboks coach Erasmus to succeed Jones.

Erasmus, who reverted back to his position as director of rugby after overseeing South Africa's victory over England in Japan last November, attended Saturday's Six Nations clash between Jones' side and Scotland at Murrayfield.

However, the RFU distanced itself from speculation after England boss Jones ended a run of back-to-back defeats.

"The reports are 100 per cent inaccurate. There has been no meeting. There have been no talks whatsoever about any position at the RFU," said RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney.

Jones and England kick-started their Six Nations campaign with a 13-6 win over rivals Scotland in Edinburgh.

England now have blockbuster clashes looming against Ireland and Wales in Europe's annual six-team Test competition, which could be in line for change.

South Africa are reportedly in line to join the Six Nations after the 2023 World Cup, but Jones is against the proposal.

"It's called the greatest rugby tournament in the world and I think it is," Jones said. "So why would you want to add other teams that are going to decrease the level of competition? I can only talk from experience.

"Super Rugby was the golden egg of rugby: 12 teams, brilliant, competitive. As soon as it expanded it lost its allure. You want the best teams playing against each other.

"There's something about the Six Nations – because of the history of the relationships between the nations – that makes it outstanding. There is a lot of meaning to a lot of people for a game like this."

France wing Teddy Thomas rued lacking the pace of Usain Bolt after he failed to stop Matteo Minozzi scoring a try for Italy in their Six Nations clash on Sunday.

Thomas was the first of five France players to touch down in a 35-22 bonus-point victory over Italy at the Stade de France, latching onto Romain Ntamack's grubber kick in the seventh minute.

Charles Ollivon burrowed over on the left to give Les Bleus a 13-0 lead, but Minozzi capitalised on Thomas rushing forward and leaving space in behind to reduce the deficit.

Gregory Alldritt went over before half-time, while Ntamack and replacement scrum-half Baptiste Serin scored wonderful solo tries either side of Federico Zani's score.

Mattia Bellini got a third try for Italy but they were unable to earn a bonus point at the death as they succumbed to a 24th straight loss in the Six Nations.

Asked about his defending on the Azzurri's first, Thomas said: "I got up to close down quickly but the Italian number 10 has the right to play well.

"He managed to get out a pretty amazing pass and it was too late to turn around and get back. Unfortunately, I'm not Usain Bolt.

"It's up to me to adapt to the system."

Having beaten Rugby World Cup finalists England in their opening game, France sit top of the Six Nations standings with two wins from as many matches.

However, for the second game running they lost concentration in the second half and came under increasing pressure.

"Even if everything was not perfect, we must remember the positives. It would be pretentious not to be satisfied after a win, regardless of the opponent," said Thomas.

"It's not perfect, otherwise we would've taken 10 points from a possible 10. But nine out of 10 is still good enough.

"We are unable to say, 'We're going to win this tournament.' What we are aiming for, first of all, is to keep our discipline for 80 minutes instead of 50 or 60.

"What is really nice is that we are creating a good team spirit. It has often been said you can get bored in Marcoussis but the opposite is the case.

"We are happy to train together, happy to share moments off the field."

The exiled Finn Russell has sharply criticised Scotland's style of play and team environment under head coach Gregor Townsend, suggesting he will only represent his country again when he can see "big changes" have been made.

Russell played no part in Scotland's first two Six Nations games, having been disciplined for a "breach of team protocol" in camp prior to the opening-round loss to Ireland.

Townsend suggested earlier this week he would reassess the influential fly-half's potential involvement following Saturday's Calcutta Cup clash with England at Murrayfield, which they went on to lose 13-6.

However, the prospect of Russell making a swift return to national team duties appear remote after the Racing 92 playmaker highlighted a number of grievances in an interview with the Sunday Times.

"I'd love to play for Scotland again because I love playing for my country. But until I see or feel the big changes that I need to get back to playing my best, it's going to be very hard for me to do it," said Russell.

"The current situation, set-up and environment, I don't think I want to play in that. I don't think it’s good for me as a person or as a player. I've felt like this for more than a year, and the last three weeks have shown me that it doesn't seem to be changing at all."

Discussing Townsend, who was also previously his club boss at Glasgow Warriors, Russell added: "Eight years I've had him as a coach, and I don't really know him at all. We've not got a personal relationship.

"I want the best for Scotland and so I've questioned the environment to try and make it better. We have clashed quite a lot, him saying one thing and me saying another.

"It's come to a point where I'm saying, 'You can be you and I'm going to be me - that's how this relationship is going to be'. Well, it's not really a relationship."

In a further dig at Townsend, Russell said: "A lot our game plan last year revolved around stats and kicking, and for me, that's not rugby. Some of the meetings last year, it was like, 'What are actually trying to do here?'

"It’s hard for the other boys to say anything. They're contracted to the SRU [Scottish Rugby Union]."

Russell's breach of team protocol reportedly related to a late-night drinking session at the team hotel, but the 27-year-old insists he only had "two beers with dinner" before ordering one more in a move that apparently infuriated some of his team-mates.

"The players at dinner were like, 'No more drinking'," Russell explained. "These are guys I know well, so I said, 'What’s the problem, I've just played [for Racing], I just want a couple of beers', and they said that's what the leaders had agreed.

"I'm part of the leaders group, but they'd had the meeting before I got there. I'd not had a say. So for me, straight away, it was set up pretty poorly.

"This whole situation with Scotland has been made out to be about me wanting to have a drink, when in actual fact, it’s about control, respect and trust, on and off the pitch.

"I'm not turning my back on my country or the boys, this is a personal thing between me and Gregor. I want to be with them. But just now it's not really possible for me to be involved."

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