New Zealand great Dan Carter has announced his retirement from rugby at the age of 38.

The fly-half won two World Cups with the All Blacks and holds the record for the most Test points scored with 1,598, ahead of Jonny Wilkinson on 1,246.

The former Crusaders star, who also played for Perpignan and Racing 92 in France, has been playing for Kobelco Steelers in Japan and also turned out for the Blues in his homeland last year.

"I've thought about this on so many occasions but today is the day and I am very grateful that I can do it on my terms," Carter wrote on Instagram on Saturday.

"I'm officially retiring from professional rugby. A sport I've played for 32 years which has helped shape me into the person I am today.

"I can't thank everyone who has played a part in my journey enough – from my team-mates, opponents, coaching and management teams, sponsors and in particular you, the fans.

"A special mention to my friends and family who have supported and guided me through my career. Mum and Dad, thank you for everything you have sacrificed for me. My wife Honor for being my rock and allowing me to fulfil my dreams while raising our beautiful family – I can't thank you enough.

"I'm excited about my next chapter in life and what that will look like. For now, I'm sad to walk away from playing but the timing is right. Rugby will always be a part of my life. Thank you."

Speaking to the New Zealand Herald, Carter said "I knew in my mind the time was right" as the coronavirus pandemic made him consider whether he should keep playing abroad away from his family, with his fourth child on the way.

"After experiencing rugby in Japan I thought I could squeeze a few more years out of my body," he said. "There was something really enjoyable about being part of that environment and the culture we had at the Kobe Steelers. I was playing rugby and enjoying it and wasn't sure when I would stop.

"I got forced back by COVID in March and was gutted about that. I was coming off contract and I guess the frustrations of not being able to finish the Japanese season and then going to the Blues for a little bit, I loved that. I loved being part of the team environment but going through that process it made me realise that I play to be the best player out on the field.

"That is my drive and it always has been and I just didn't have that drive back here in New Zealand. When I realised the age my kids are and the amount of work Honor [Carter's wife] was doing looking after them while I was away chasing my dream, it made me realise it was time to stop."

Carter won three Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders and remains the leading scorer in the competition.

He won 112 caps for New Zealand, lifting the 2011 World Cup, although he missed much of the tournament due to a groin injury. He then led the All Blacks to defend their crown four years later with a man-of-the-match display in the final against Australia.

Former England coach Clive Woodward described Carter's performance against the British and Irish Lions in a Wellington Test in 2005 as "off the Richter scale" and "possibly the best individual performance I have ever witnessed at Test level".

Antoine Dupont has become the latest member of France's Six Nations set-up to test positive for COVID-19.

Head coach Fabien Galthie, assistant William Servat and another unspecified member of the backroom team have returned positive results since last weekend's 15-13 victory over Ireland in Dublin.

The French Rugby Federation (FFR) announced on Wednesday that no players had tested positive for coronavirus and they had been permitted to return home ahead of further testing on Friday.

Although 11 players returned negative results in the latest batch of testing, Dupont was found to be positive.

"The player who tested positive for COVID-19 is Antoine Dupont," read an FFR statement. "To date, he is asymptomatic. In accordance with protocol he will remain in isolation for the next few days."

The France squad are due to return to the National Rugby Centre in Marcoussis on Sunday to begin preparing for Scotland's visit to Paris the following weekend.

A third member of the France backroom team has tested positive for coronavirus, but the players have been cleared to continue their isolation at home after returning negative results.

The French Rugby Federation confirmed on Tuesday that head coach Fabien Galthie and an unnamed member of staff were positive for COVID-19 and would self-isolate for seven days.

Following another round of testing later that day, assistant coach William Servat returned a positive result.

However, with all players testing negative for the second time in succession, they were permitted to return home on Wednesday.

Further coronavirus tests will be carried out at their homes on Friday and on Sunday, when the players return to the National Rugby Centre in Marcoussis.

France, who won their opening two Six Nations games against Italy and Ireland, are scheduled to face Scotland in Paris on February 28.

The squad for that game is due to be announced on Wednesday.

France had their Six Nations plans disrupted by a positive COVID-19 test that sent the squad into self-isolation on Tuesday.

The French Rugby Federation (FFR) also said head coach Fabien Galthie would be retested amid concerns he may have coronavirus.

It was another figure from within the France camp, who was not named, that returned a positive result following testing on Monday.

Announcing that news, the FFR said on Tuesday: "Following the PCR tests carried out last night in Marcoussis with the France XV, all the players tested negative, a member of the technical staff tested positive, as well as a suspicious and unproven case concerning Fabien Galthie who will be tested again this morning.

"In accordance with health protocol, all members of the team and management were isolated this morning. Interactions are kept to a minimum.

"An additional test at the National Rugby Centre will be carried out on Wednesday morning for the entire squad."

The squad are due to disperse later this week to be allowed a short time at home between matches, with France, who have won their opening two games, not in action again until they face Scotland on February 28 in Paris.

They scored a fine 15-13 win over Ireland in Dublin on Sunday to follow up the opening 50-10 victory over Italy.

The FFR statement added: "Tests will be carried out at home on Friday, as well as on Sunday evening at the National Rugby Centre when the squad reunites.

"The announcement of the 31 players for the Scotland match will take place this Wednesday evening, February 17."

Andy Farrell said Ireland are "hurting" physically and mentally after they suffered a 15-13 Six Nations defeat to France at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday.

Les Bleus ended a 10-year wait for a win in Dublin, digging deep to make it two wins out of two and consign the men in green to back-to-back defeats at the start of a Six Nations campaign for the first time.

France were clinical and defended brilliantly, with Charles Ollivon scoring a classy first-half try against the run of play and Damian Penaud crossing after the break.

Ronan Kelleher's first Test try after 57 minutes left a gripping battle in the balance and Ross Byrne's mammoth long-range penalty set up a tense finale, but France held on to leave Ireland's title hopes all-but over.

Ireland were already without Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray and James Ryan due to injury and their luck at the start of the tournament was summed up when Iain Henderson and Cian Healy had to go off with blood streaming from their heads after a collision.

Both players were able to return but they were unable to prevent another defeat in a game of fine margins, with James Lowe's first-half try ruled out by the TMO as his foot made contact with the touchline. 

Ireland head coach Farrell said: "I thought we managed the game really well in the first half – even though the rain stopped it was still very wet, and obviously the French like to come with a lot of line speed.

"They defended really well in those last two minutes there. I thought the plan was going according to plan and we were doing very well set-piece wise, and our game management was very good. I thought we just lost our way a little bit in the third quarter there, and that got them back into the game.

"I suppose, really, when you look at it, if you give them set-pieces in your own half, they get over the gain line first phase, come round the corner second phase and get into their offloading game, then they're free-flowing. Some of that was a little bit soft from us.

"A lot of lads that are hurting in there – physically hurting as well as mentally. Because they put their bodies on the line for their country. The effort's not the problem at all, but it still hurts to lose this game."

Huge roars echoed around the Aviva Stadium as the ball sailed into an empty stand to end France's 10-year wait for a win in Ireland.

Time and again Les Bleus have suffered the agony of defeat in Dublin, but they showed a combination of style and substance to make it two Six Nations victories out of two.

Booming bellows of celebration and relief could be heard loud and clear on a wet Sunday as France held on to win an almighty battle 15-13.

Les Bleus have not won a Six Nations title for 11 years, consistently proving to be great entertainers but falling short with defensive fragility, indiscipline and a lack of clear thinking.

This is a different France in the Fabien Galthie era, though, with defence coach Shaun Edwards having worked wonders in a relatively short space of time to make them such a tough nut to crack.

Englishman Edwards has given France a strong backbone and that was essential as they frustrated a wounded Ireland, who were missing captain Johnny Sexton, James Ryan and Conor Murray due to injury.

A try in each half from inspirational captain Charles Ollivon and Damian Penaud proved to be decisive, with France providing the cutting edge that Ireland lacked.

Ireland had 59 per cent possession but were only able to break through a brick wall of a French defensive once, when Ronan Kelleher nipped in to set up a tense finale.

France made 180 tackles to 122 from Ireland, who will head into a rest weekend with two defeats from two, while their conquerors lead the way with Wales on nine points after making a big statement.

Billy Burns made a confident start as he set about trying to make up for his costly last-gasp kick in the loss to Wales and although he was off target with a poor first penalty, the fly-half made no mistake soon after to put Ireland in front.

The men in green were dominant and had an extra man when Bernard Le Roux was sin-binned 23 minutes in for tripping Keith Earls.

France were under the pump but stood firm, the excellent Brice Dulin grabbing slippery high balls as Ireland continued to knock at the door, missing out on an opening try when the TMO spotted James Lowe's foot touched the line as he was tackled in the corner.

Les Bleus were relishing the battle and showed their class with ball in hand to hit the front in style after 28 minutes.

The mercurial Antoine Dupont and Matthieu Jalibert featuring in a showreel of offloads before Gael Fickou tossed a clever pass over Jamison Gibson-Park, setting up captain Ollivon for a brilliant score.

Jalibert booted France into a 10-3 lead at the break and Ireland's luck was out again when Cian Healy and stand-in captain Iain Henderson went off with blood pouring from their heads following an unfortunate collision.

Penaud extended France's lead with another clinical try following a strong carry from the powerful Fickou and a fine Jalibert pass, but Kelleher scooped a loose ball from a lineout to score his first Ireland try with 56 minutes on the clock.

The nerves were jangling when Jalibert hit a post from the tee and a mammoth Ross Byrne penalty reduced the deficit to two points with 16 minutes to play.

Yet France defended for their lives to get the job done, showing fight and finesse to avoid more Dublin doom and gloom.

Ireland's Six Nations hopes are in tatters after they fell to a second successive defeat, a comeback attempt falling short in a 15-13 loss to France.

Andy Farrell's side were undone by an early red card for Peter O'Mahony against Wales, but it was their failure to capitalise in the 10 minutes when France were down to 14 that proved key this time around.

Charles Ollivon scored the first of two France tries while they were undermanned, giving the visitors an advantage they never surrendered.

They led 15-3 five minutes before the hour and, although a spirited revival gave Ireland hope, the hosts could not complete a turnaround, meaning their championship prospects are effectively over. France, by contrast, go into the first rest weekend top of the table.

Matthieu Jalibert and Billy Burns each missed early penalties before Burns knocked a simple one over to give Ireland a 3-0 lead.

The hosts were then boosted further when Bernard Le Roux was shown a yellow card for tripping during a kick-chase.

James Lowe looked to have taken an immediate advantage when he went over in the left corner but the TMO ruled he had been pushed into touch by the scrambling France defence.

Ireland were punished for not taking that chance in stunning fashion as a wonderful France attack, in which the ball was intricately worked to the right and then back left, ended with Gael Fickou sending Ollivon over.

Jallibert added the extras and landed a penalty shortly before the interval.

France wasted a golden opportunity to go further ahead following a superb carry from Julien Marchand before Ireland's task was made more difficult when Cian Healy and Iain Henderson clashed heads in a tackle.

Ed Byrne and Ultan Dillane entered the fray as replacements for their bloodied team-mates but could not help Ireland wrest control of the game away from France.

The visitors' command was strengthened in the 57th minute when Jallibert looped a long pass out to Brice Dulin, who shrugged off a defender and fed Damian Penaud for France's second try.

Yet Jallibert failed with the conversion and, after Ollivon was penalised from the kick-off, Ronan Kelleher marked his introduction by strolling over following a fortunate bounce at a line-out.

A long-range penalty from Ross Byrne trimmed the gap to two points and Jallibert failed to respond in kind nine minutes from time as he struck the upright from 51 metres.

But as in Cardiff last week, Ireland failed to produce a dramatic final say and will likely be playing for little more than pride for the rest of the tournament.

Wayne Pivac urged Wales not to get carried away with making it two wins from two in this year's Six Nations by beating Scotland 25-24 at Murrayfield on Saturday.

Darcy Graham and Stuart Hogg put Scotland 14 points ahead in the first half, only for Louis Rees-Zammit to reduce the deficit before half-time.

Liam Williams and Wyn Jones touched down either side of a red card for Zander Fagerson to put Wales in front for the first time, before Hogg went over again for the depleted hosts.

However, Rees-Zammit scored a brilliant solo try to seal a bonus-point victory, which followed a win over 14-man Ireland on the opening weekend of the tournament.

Prior to this year's Six Nations, Wales had won just three of Pivac's first 10 Tests at the helm and he urged them to remain grounded despite the upturn in results.

"From 17-3 down against a side full a confidence, it was very, very pleasing," said Pivac.

"There were some big moments from both sides so we are just happy to come away with a win.

"We are improving each week in certain areas of the game and we showed a lot of character today.

"The squad has changed a lot since autumn, and it's tournament rugby now, a couple months is a long time to reflect.

"We cannot get carried away with this, though, and we need to build on it."

Having also set up Williams' try, Rees-Zammit has been directly involved in six tries in just five starts for Wales (four scored, two assisted).

Pivac said of the Gloucester wing: "Louis Rees-Zammit is doing some very good things with the ball. He's got things to work on, he dropped a high ball earlier and he wasn't the complete package, but he has scored some really well-worked tries."

Hogg took his Test try tally to 22, with Ian Smith and Tony Stanger (both 24) the only players to have registered more for Scotland.

He was frustrated Gregor Townsend's men let the game slip through their fingers a week after a famous victory over reigning champions England at Twickenham.

"We're bitterly disappointed. For large parts of that game we were very much in control of it. We looked the dominant side, especially in the first half, and we started to be ill-disciplined," he told the BBC.

"For us, giving away a couple of penalties is fine, four on the bounce is unacceptable. We've gone from one end of the field to the other conceding seven points within a couple of minutes and that's international rugby. You can't let a team like Wales get easy, cheap field positions because they are going to punish you.

"I think, for us, it's a vital lesson to stay disciplined throughout. It hurts right now, and rightly so."

Louis Rees-Zammit's excellent second try gave Wales a narrow 25-24 bonus-point victory over 14-man Scotland in the Six Nations.

After claiming a first win at Twickenham in 38 years by beating England 11-6 on the opening weekend, Scotland stormed ahead with tries from Darcy Graham and Stuart Hogg on Saturday.

Rees-Zammit went over before half-time and set up Liam Williams to haul Wales back into the game, and they took the lead when Wyn Jones touched down after Zander Fagerson saw red.

Hogg put Scotland back in front despite their numerical disadvantage but a stunning solo effort from Rees-Zammit saw Wales follow up their win over 14-man Ireland last week with another success.

Scotland only conceded six penalties against England but had half that amount inside six minutes, with Leigh Halfpenny splitting the posts after the third.

Finn Russell restored parity and added the extras after Ali Price chipped the ball over the Wales defence for Darcy Graham to dot down in the 18th minute.

The hosts increased their advantage when Halfpenny spilled Hogg's kick over the top and the Scotland full-back took it over the line, but Rees-Zammit reduced the arrears before half-time.

Halfpenny sat out the second half due to a failed HIA and, after Gary Graham had a try ruled out for obstruction, Williams went over in the left corner.

Scotland were reduced to 14 men when Fagerson was dismissed for catching Jones on the head at the breakdown, and the Wales prop made them pay by scoring a third try.

The hosts responded with a sustained spell of pressure in front of the posts that culminated in Hogg evading Owen Watkin and Nick Tompkins to cross.

However, Rees-Zammit showed incredible pace to chase down his own kick and score the decisive points with 10 minutes remaining.

England are back to being themselves after recovering from last week's defeat to Scotland with a 41-18 victory over Italy on Saturday, according to captain Owen Farrell.

The reigning champions ran in six tries to claim a bonus-point victory at Twickenham, a week on from losing 11-6 to Calcutta Cup rivals Scotland.

Monty Ioane put Italy ahead early on but Jonny Hill gave England lift-off with their opening try and Anthony Watson crossed over either side of Jonny May's 32nd Test try.

Jack Willis touched down on his debut and, though Tommaso Allan added a second for Italy, it was plain sailing for the home side as Elliot Daly ran through down the left.

And while accepting England were far from their best against Italy, Farrell was pleased with the way they responded to their opening loss.

"We're back to being 'us' there," he told ITV. "It wasn't a perfect performance, not the best we've ever had, but in terms of the feeling, the energy and the intent, that felt back to 'us'..

"We had some honest conversations with ourselves during the week... there was excitement to get on the training field and put things right. 

"And the way that we built up showed in the way that we played. I thought we attacked the game. 

"Obviously they had an advantage to move the ball and they ended up scoring a try, which was probably a bit over over-eagerness from us

"But after that I thought our intent was brilliant. We got in behind them, probably not everything went our way, but we stuck at it and the game ended up going our way."

England have now won each of their 22 Six Nations fixtures against Italy, who have lost their last 29 matches in the competition in a run stretching back to February 2015.

The Azzurri offered promising glimpses, not least with their second-quickest ever Six Nations try through Ioane, but England ultimately proved too strong on home soil.

"Credit to Italy, they were tough, they never gave up, and we knew they were going to do that," said England prop Kyle Sinckler. 

"Up front they were strong, their forwards carried hard, their backs had good energy... it was a tough, tough test match but our boys got stuck in there and got the win."

Echoing the thoughts of skipper Farrell, Sinckler hailed England's response to last week's rare home loss.

"I think it was a step in right direction. I think our intent was a lot better today, especially up front," he said. 

"We probably didn't get the rewards we wanted, but in terms of the intent, and showing how much it means to us to play for our country, I think it was a step in the right direction.

"We were obviously very frustrated with the performance last week, and we knew we had to step up and play the England way, and the way we want to dominate up front. 

"We did that at times today, but we know there's so much more to give. But like I said, it was a step in the right direction. The game's done, we move on to the next one."

Next up for England is a showdown with Wales at the Principality Stadium on February 27.

England belatedly got their 2021 Six Nations campaign up and running with a routine 41-18 bonus-point win against Italy at Twickenham.

The reigning champions suffered an opening defeat at home to Scotland last week and initially continued their slow start when Monty Ioane broke the deadlock for Italy after just two minutes and 23 seconds.

But Eddie Jones' side recovered over the course of the first half, scoring three times, including through Jonny May's 32nd Test try.

Anthony Watson's second of the match put the result beyond doubt, before Jack Willis touched down on his Six Nations debut, only to later depart with an apparently serious knee injury that put a dampener on the day.

England are the only Six Nations side never to have lost to Italy but were briefly threatened as a smart move from right to left saw Jacopo Trulla send Ioane through to score for the first time for the Azzurri.

Owen Farrell's penalty cut the deficit, however, and England led in the 14th minute when Jonny Hill forced the ball over from close range for his own maiden international try.

The hosts did not immediately pull out of sight and Paolo Garbisi's kick levelled the match, although Watson soon sauntered through a misshapen Italy defence and a spectacular May effort, leaping over Luca Sperandio's tackle and riding the left-sided corner flag, added to England's advantage.

Italy scored first again after the break through Garbisi's penalty, but Watson picked off a slack pass to race away for another try, awarded despite the TMO's interest in a prior Farrell challenge.

The scoring continued when Willis bundled over after a weaving Dan Robson run shortly before he was injured in a ruck, then the sides traded tries as Tomasso Allan ran through the middle for Italy but England responded with Elliot Daly in the clear on the left.

Ireland will be without Johnny Sexton for Sunday's visit of France in the Six Nations after their captain suffered a blow to the head against Wales. 

Sexton underwent return-to-play protocols after the incident in the loss but has not been cleared to play. 

The news comes after Sexton hit out at a French doctor who claimed the fly-half had suffered approximately 30 concussions in his career, with neurologist Dr Jean-Francois Chermann subsequently apologising. 

Billy Burns will start instead for Andy Farrell's side, who lost 21-16 in Cardiff, with Jamison Gibson-Park also in the XV as scrum-half Conor Murray sits it out with a hamstring injury. 

The captain's armband goes to Iain Henderson for the first time, with the suspended Peter O'Mahony replaced by Rhys Ruddock following his red card in the Welsh capital. 

James Ryan also sustained a blow to the head in that game and, like Sexton, will be absent this weekend.

Ireland: Hugo Keenan; Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Billy Burns, Jamison Gibson-Park; Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Andrew Porter; Tadhg Beirne, Iain Henderson; Rhys Ruddock, Josh Van der Flier, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Ed Byrne, Tadhg Furlong, Ultan Dillane, Will Connors, Craig Casey, Ross Byrne, Jordan Larmour.

 

Buoyant Scotland will go in search of back-to-back wins over Wales for the first time in 18 years and France travel to Ireland for a mouthwatering Six Nations showdown this weekend.

Scotland ended a 38-year wait for a win at Twickenham on the opening weekend with a dominant 11-6 defeat of the defending champions.

Gregor Townsend's side need to follow that up on Saturday with a victory over a Wales side that got the better of 14-man Ireland at the Principality Stadium following Peter O'Mahony's first-half red card.

France started the tournament by hammering Italy 50-10, but will face a bigger test in Dublin, while England should respond to their Calcutta Cup defeat by beating Italy at home on Saturday.

Ahead of the second round, we preview the upcoming matches with help from Opta.

 

ENGLAND v ITALY

FORM

The Red Rose have won each of their 21 fixtures against Italy in the Six Nations, and they are the only team yet to suffer defeat against the Azzurri in the championship.

England have hosted Italy on 10 occasions in the Six Nations, winning each of those 10 fixtures by an average margin of 31 points and scoring 5.6 tries per game.

Italy have won just twice away from home in the Six Nations (losing 50 and drawing one), with both victories coming against Scotland at Murrayfield (2007 and 2015).

 

ONES TO WATCH

George Ford comes into the England side, with captain Owen Farrell moving to outside centre, in one of five changes to the side, and the fly-half will be ready to make a statement after being named on the bench for the loss to Scotland.

Italy endured a torrid start to the competition, but Luca Sperandio scored a fine try. The wing had seven carries and made 52 metres. The Azzurri will need to get Sperandio flying down the flank again in London.

 

SCOTLAND v WALES

FORM

Scotland were superb against England and will be aiming for consecutive wins over Wales in the Six Nations for the first time since 2002-2003.

Wales had an extra man, but Ireland could consider themselves unfortunate to go down 21-16 in Cardiff. The Welsh have lost their last six Tests away from home and will be in for another huge battle at Murrayfield.

They have conceded 30 points per game in that miserable sequence of matches on their travels.

 

ONES TO WATCH

Captain Stuart Hogg was man of the match in a rousing performance from Scotland against Eddie Jones' men. The full-back made 112 metres and had 13 carries. He was also brilliant with the boot, kicking for 367 metres.

Louis Rees-Zammit showed why he is so highly rated in Wales' win over Ireland. He dived to finish magnificently in the corner as Wayne Pivac's side made a winning start at home last Sunday.

 

IRELAND v FRANCE

FORM

Flanker O'Mahony's reckless dismissal proved to be costly for Andy Farrell's Ireland side in Cardiff. They will be looking to avoid suffer back-to-back losses to Les Bleus in the Six Nations, having not endured such a fate since 2010-11.

Ireland have won five of their last seven clashes with France in the Six Nations (L2) after winning only four of their 30 previous meetings with them in the Five/Six Nations (D3 L23).

 

ONES TO WATCH

Antoine Dupont was the player of the opening round of the tournament. The mercurial scrum-half assisted four tries, the joint-most by any player in a Six Nations match, equalling the record set by Frederic Michalak against Italy in 2006. He also scored a try of his own in a sublime performance.

Ireland lock Tadhg Beirne made the most carries (21) of any player in the opening round. He also hit the most rucks of any player (48) and was Ireland’s joint-highest tackler (10, level with CJ Stander).

Johnny Sexton has hit out at the "inaccurate and highly inappropriate" comments of a French doctor regarding the Ireland star's concussion record.

Dr Jean-Francois Chermann, who stood Sexton down from playing duties for 12 weeks at Racing 92 back in 2014, told RMC Sport on Tuesday that Sexton had suffered approximately 30 concussions in his career.

His remarks came after the fly-half sustained a blow to the head in Ireland's Six Nations loss to Wales, meaning he is undergoing return-to-play protocols ahead of Sunday's visit of France.

Sexton was angered by Chermann's words when addressing the subject in his pre-match news conference.

"I am pretty saddened and shocked by the inaccurate reports that were thrown out yesterday," he said. "We've been here before and it's very frustrating.

"For me, I just think it's totally inappropriate that a doctor that I have seen – many years ago now – felt it was appropriate to come out and talk to whoever it was and say those things.

"It's inaccurate and highly inappropriate and I am pretty disappointed but, for me, I am so used to it, it's almost like water off a duck's back, but for my wife and mum it's very upsetting.

"But that's the world we live in.

"I thought there was patient and doctor confidentiality, I am pretty sure that exists in the world, and I just can't get over the fact that someone thought it was appropriate to just come out of nowhere and just start saying things that weren't even accurate, that's the most hurtful thing."

Props Kyle Sinckler and Mako Vunipola have returned to the England squad for the Six Nations encounter with Italy at Twickenham on Saturday.

British and Irish Lions duo Sinckler and Vunipola missed the 11-6 Calcutta Cup defeat to Scotland on the opening day of the tournament due to suspension and an Achilles injury respectively.

They will be available to beef up the defending champions' pack against an Azzurri side smarting from a 50-10 hammering at the hands of a rampant France at Stadio Olimpico.

Harry Williams and Tom West will not feature for Eddie Jones' side after they were released to return to their clubs.

The Red Rose never got going in a poor performance versus dominant Scotland, but they won the tournament last year after losing their opening match to France and number eight Billy Vunipola said they can respond again.

He said: "It is frustrating. I won't lie. But this happened last year, and we managed to pull it back so it's massive for all of us to make sure we get around each other and whatever we need to fix this week we do as soon as possible.

"We only have a week to do it, which is probably the best thing for us. We don't have a fallow week to let that settle in and frustrate us.

"You never really forget these days, you never really forget these moments, and to be honest I don't really want to forget them.

"I want to move on from it, but I don't want to forget it as it keeps you sharp. Losing like this at Twickenham is never what you dream of."

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