Pivac revels in Wales Six Nations triumph after Scotland beat France

By Sports Desk March 26, 2021

Wayne Pivac says Wales' failure to win the Grand Slam takes nothing away from their Six Nations success after they were crowned champions on Friday.

Six days after Wales missed out on the Grand Slam with a heartbreaking last-gasp defeat to France at Stade de France, Scotland denied Les Bleus the title with a stunning 27-23 victory in the final match of the tournament.

Duhan van der Merwe's second try right at the end of a thrilling contest gave Scotland a first win in Paris since 1999.

France had to claim a bonus-point victory by a margin of at least 21 points to win the title, but fell short due to an outstanding Scotland performance in tough conditions on a rainy evening.

Wales head coach Pivac had to contend with speculation over his future last year during a difficult start to his reign, but the New Zealander was celebrating on Friday.

He said: "From a Welsh point of view, we are over the moon and very happy to have won the Championship. It's just a shame we couldn't have done it together as a group last week.

"It [France v Scotland] was a hell of a game. It reminded me of last week with cards, penalties and missed opportunities. It had everything.

"It was a great game to watch and following on from last week, what a tournament it's been."

Pivac added: "We don't want to talk too much about last week – it [the Grand Slam] wasn't to be.

"It certainly doesn't take anything away from the fact a lot of hard work has been done, we've come out on top of the points table and won the tournament.

"We are very happy with how things are going at the moment in our camp and we've built nicely through the competition. Some great rugby has been played in this Championship and it's exciting times for all concerned."

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    Italy will aim to equal their all-time unbeaten record of 30 matches and finish top of Euro 2020 Group A when they face Wales at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.

    The Azzurri have won their opening two matches by the same 3-0 scoreline against Turkey and Switzerland, making it 10 wins in a row in all competitions without conceding.

    Roberto Mancini's side are already assured of a place in the last 16, but they require a point against second-placed Wales to make certain of top spot.

    However, victory will be the target for Italy on home soil as they look to match their previous record for games without defeat, set between November 1935 and July 1939.

    Mancini has indicated he will rotate his side with the knockout stages in mind, but experienced defender Giorgio Chiellini has warned Italy cannot take Wales lightly.

     

    "They are a great team," said Chiellini, who is not expected to play any part in the match. "Wales have been playing together for many years and we know them well. 

    "There have been many small changes but never revolutions, so they are tough opponents."

    Wales are practically through to the last 16 after drawing with Switzerland and beating Turkey in their two games, but need a point in the Italian capital to seal the deal.

    The Euro 2016 semi-finalists do not have the best of records against Italy, though, losing seven of their previous nine meetings and failing to score in three attempts on Italian soul.

    But winger Daniel James is relishing the chance to end Italy's long-running unbeaten run, which spans back to September 2018.

    "Italy are a great team, but we have to go in believing we can win. We will do our analysis, and we will go there with our heads held high," he said.

    "They've had a great run going into this tournament, but we want to win every game and we fully believe that we can do that."


    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Italy – Marco Verratti

    Verratti was not even named in Italy's squad for their opening two games as he continues to recover from an injury sustained with Paris Saint-Germain, but Mancini has hinted he will play a part on Sunday.

    Manuel Locatelli has starred in Verratti's absence, becoming the third youngest Italy player to score a brace at a major tournament with his double against Switzerland.

    But PSG midfielder Verratti has been one of the key men in Italy's remarkable turnaround after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and Mancini will be eager to get him back to full fitness.

    Wales – Gareth Bale

    Gareth Bale skied a penalty in Wales' 2-0 win against Turkey, becoming the first player to miss the goal frame entirely with a spot-kick at the Euros since Raul for Spain against France in 2000.

    The Real Madrid forward more than made amends for that, however, by assisting goals for Aaron Ramsey and Connor Roberts in a well-earned win for the Dragons.

    He created five big chances across the 90 minutes in Baku – the most by a player at the Euros since such records were recorded in 1980.

    KEY OPTA FACTS

    - Italy and Wales' latest encounter was 18 years ago, in a European Championship qualifier back in September 2003. On that day, Filippo Inzaghi scored his one and only hat-trick with the Italian national team (4-0).

    - Wales have made it out of the group stages in their previous two appearances at a major tournament (1958 World Cup, Euro 2016). If they avoid defeat in this game, they are guaranteed a spot in the knockout stages.

    - Italy are looking to win all three of their group-stage matches for the fourth time at a major tournament, previously doing so at the 1978 and 1990 World Cups, and at Euro 2000.

    - The Azzurri have gone 965 minutes without conceding, scoring 31 goals without reply in that run.

    - If he keeps a clean sheet, Italy keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma would be the youngest keeper to earn shutouts in three consecutive games at the Euros (22y 115d on the day of the game).

  • Gilmour a big part of Scotland's future – Clarke hails Chelsea prospect Gilmour a big part of Scotland's future – Clarke hails Chelsea prospect

    Billy Gilmour is a huge part of Scotland's future after his standout performance against rivals England at Euro 2020.

    Those were the words of Scotland boss Steve Clarke after his side impressively kept their last-16 qualification hopes alive with a 0-0 draw at Wembley on Friday.

    Chelsea prospect Gilmour, 20, was handed his first international start for the massive match, which ended in the first goalless draw between the two nations in 33 meetings at Wembley.

    Despite his inexperience, the composed Gilmour led Scotland for passes (44), completed passes (40) and passes in the opposition half (24), while he gained possession eight times, more than anyone else on the pitch.

    Gilmour got a huge reception from the Scotland fans when he was replaced by Stuart Armstrong in the closing stages, with Clarke thrilled by what he had seen.

    "It was nice for him to get that start, a big platform – he is a big player, Billy," said Clarke.

    "I've said for a long time he'll be a big part of the future of Scottish football.

    "We know what we've got in the camp, we'll try to manage that and keep a lid on things. Performances like that will do him no harm whatsoever.

    "Stephen O'Donnell was exceptional, and Billy was just behind him. 

    "Getting Kieran [Tierney] back into the three and having Scott [McTominay] there [in defence] gives us the platform to build from the back. Billy Gilmour and Callum McGregor [in midfield] are both good footballers. 

    "We knew coming here we couldn't just sit and defend for 95 minutes, we knew when we had the ball, we had to take care of it and try to create our own chances. 

    "That's what we managed to do."

     

    Scotland ended the match with more attempts (11-9) and shots on target (2-1) than England, though the hosts edged the xG battle (1.6-0.7), given John Stones had headed against the post early on.

    Having recovered well from their first loss to the Czech Republic, Scotland now face a must-win clash with Croatia at Hampden on Tuesday as Group D concludes.

    Scotland captain Andy Robertson also had praise for Gilmour as he looked ahead to that contest.

    "I'd put Gilmour's performance right up there," said the Liverpool defender.

    "Nothing phases him. I believe he can have as many caps as he wants for Scotland. He's got a big future, but the here and now's pretty good for him too.

    "I think we did deserve to win but we will take a point, it keeps us alive.

    "But it's important we use the feeling, the feeling, the fans being happy with us going into Tuesday and try to use it to get a positive result to get out of the group."

  • Euro 2020 data dive: Arguably Kane's most ineffective England game and Perisic makes history Euro 2020 data dive: Arguably Kane's most ineffective England game and Perisic makes history

    It was an underwhelming day for England as they could not seal their place in the next round of Euro 2020, though Sweden moved a step closer to at least ensuring they do not go home early.

    Nevertheless, Friday was not a day of great entertainment in the European Championship, with no team managing more than one goal among the three matches.

    Only one of the three goals on the day was not a penalty, as Ivan Perisic made history when sealing a point for Croatia.

    While the matches may not have set pulses racing, there was still plenty to talk about.

    Using Opta data, Stats Perform takes a look at some of the best facts from across the day's games.

    England 0-0 Scotland: Kane tame as Three Lions rendered toothless in rare draw

    England failed to make sure of their qualification for the knockout phase as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Scotland, only the fourth goalless game in 115 official fixtures between the old rivals.

    It was the first 0-0 draw between them since 1987, and the only one in 33 clashes at Wembley.

    Similarly, England had only ever slumped to one other goalless draw at the new Wembley, that stalemate as far back as October 2010 when Fabio Capello's side were held by Montenegro.

    Accentuating England's toothlessness was the fact Harry Kane managed only 19 touches of the ball, the fewest he has ever managed for the Three Lions in a game in which he has featured for more than 45 minutes.

    The last time he had fewer touches for Spurs while playing for more than 45 minutes was against Manchester city in April 2018 (17 touches in 90 minutes).

    Nevertheless, England can seal qualification with a point on Tuesday against the Czech Republic, and they can at least take solace in that this was their 14th clean sheet from their previous 18 matches, evidence that at least one area of the team is functioning properly.

     

    Croatia 1-1 Czech Republic: Schick nets again as Perisic makes history with equaliser

    Patrik Schick's bid for the Golden Boot received another boost as he scored a controversial penalty to open the scoring against Croatia, the Bayer Leverkusen striker subsequently becoming the first Czech Republic player to net three or more goals at a major tournament since Milan Baros (five) in Euro 2004.

    Schick is also the first player to score each of his team's first three goals of a European Championship tournament since Mario Gomez for Germany in 2012.

    But his spot-kick was cancelled out in the second half by Ivan Perisic, who made history in doing so.

    The Inter winger became the first Croatian to score at four major international tournaments (2014 and 2018 World Cups, Euro 2016 and Euro 2020).

    His powerful strike was his eighth in such tournaments, a figure that only Antoine Griezmann (10), Cristiano Ronaldo (10) and Romelu Lukaku (nine) can better among European players in the past four international events.

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    Sweden 1-0 Slovakia: Isak a ray of sunshine in turgid encounter

    St Petersburg was not treated to a classic as Sweden narrowly beat Slovakia at the Krestovsky Stadium, but Janne Andersson's men gave themselves a massive boost with respect to potentially reaching the knockout phase.

    Emil Forsberg's second-half penalty ultimately proved decisive and ended a run of 365 minutes without a Sweden goal in European Championship tournaments, their most recent goal coming in their Euro 2016 opener.

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    Once Sweden went ahead there looked to be little danger of a turnaround, as Slovakia – who had previously looked happy to settle for a point – failed to get a single shot on target, making them only the second team to fail in that regard after Turkey against Italy.

    While it was by no means an exhilarating watch, Alexander Isak at least did his best to provide some entertainment.

    The Real Sociedad forward completed six dribbles over the course of the match, the most by any player in a single Euro 2020 game and a figure unmatched by a Sweden player since 1992.

     

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