When Gregor Townsend signed a contract extension in 2018, he declared Scotland were entering a "crucial and exciting time".

Townsend added that he expected "improvements across the board" after being handed a new deal just over a year after replacing Vern Cotter as head coach.

Yet on the eve of their Six Nations opener against Ireland in Dublin, Scotland fans could be forgiven feeling more than a modicum of apprehension over what is to come in the next six weeks.

There was no shortage of excitement at Twickenham when Townsend's men conjured up a stunning second-half fightback to hold fierce rivals England to an incredible 38-38 Calcutta Cup draw last March.

A glance at the Six Nations table offered a reality check ahead of the Rugby World Cup, though, given Scotland finished second-bottom - their only victory coming against perennial wooden spoon recipients Italy.

There was much more misery to come when a defeat in a do-or-die clash with hosts Japan sent Scotland crashing out of the World Cup with a whimper after failing to make the quarter-finals.

Townsend was backed to stay on despite that early exit and defiantly stated "there's a lot more in this team". 

That team was already shorn of talismanic captain and scrum-half Greig Laidlaw following his international retirement, so there would be even more onus on Finn Russell to be at his mercurial best.

But as the squad stepped up their preparations for their showdown at the Aviva Stadium this Saturday, Russell was pulling the strings for Racing 92 in a Top 14 victory at Castres last weekend.

Disciplined for a breach of team protocol following an incident at the team hotel, it is not clear whether the brilliant fly-half will play any part in the Six Nations. 

Townsend, also without injured in-form wing Darcy Graham, has put his faith in Adam Hastings to fill Russell's huge shoes against an Ireland side that beat Scotland 27-3 in the World Cup just over just over four months ago.

There was plenty of positive talk from the former Glasgow Warriors boss this week despite turmoil even before the first ball is kicked.

"I don't know if we have a point to prove. What I can say is that the team have prepared really well, the intensity levels and communication in training have been excellent." he said.

"Things have gone well, but we know mindset has a big part to play in high-level sport."

While expectations may be limited, Scotland must show the fight Townsend has called for without the soft centre that has been exploited all too often during his reign.

Scotland have proven they can be great entertainers in the Townsend era, but they must make the case for the defence or the 46-year-old's tenure could be cut short.

Andy Farrell set his stall out when he named "a hell of a team" for his first game as Ireland head coach against Scotland in the Six Nations on Saturday.

There had been much debate over who would get the nod at the start of Farrell's reign following the agony of Ireland's Rugby World Cup failure.

Just over three months after Joe Schmidt's reign ended with a 46-14 World Cup quarter-final drubbing at the hands of New Zealand, Farrell showed he is ready to do things his own way when revealing his hand for the clash at the Aviva Stadium this weekend.

The dual-code international put his cards on the table ahead of schedule, handing a start to uncapped number eight Caelan Doris with Ronan Kelleher poised to make his debut off the bench.

Conor Murray kept his place over the in-form John Cooney, with Johnny Sexton leading the side following Rory Best's retirement.

While the names in the 23 were always going to be the main topic of discussion, Farrell very much made a statement with his tone and timing of the delivery.

He has had plenty of time to consider his approach to being a head coach after serving as an assistant, having been named as Schmidt's successor in November 2018.

Asked about naming his first team earlier than expected, the straight-talking Englishman replied: "I'd rather just get it out there and get on with the week."

The 44-year-old added: "There is a little bit of paralysis through analysis. You can look too much into things the whole time.

"It doesn't bother me about putting a team out there because that's all I’m bothered about, our team. Backing ourselves. You've got to make a decision and we've got a hell of a team going into Scotland."

There has been talk around the Ireland camp about a freshness that Farrell has brought after Schmidt's glorious spell in charge came to an anticlimactic end.

Ireland headed into the World Cup on top of the rankings and it is only two years since they won the Grand Slam.

Although they were unable to live up to expectations in Japan, you only have to look at the bench for the showdown with Scotland to see the strength in depth Farrell can call upon.

Peter O'Mahony, Cooney, Robbie Henshaw, Andrew Conway and the recalled Devin Toner are among the replacements.

Farrell has spoken of his intention to take Ireland in a "new direction", and there is surely no doubt he has the experience and passion to make a seamless step up to the top job.

Four head coaches will take charge of their first Six Nations matches when the 2020 tournament gets under way this weekend. 

Wales start the defence of their title against Italy in the opening match of the competition at the Principality Stadium on Saturday with Wayne Pivac at the helm and Franco Smith in charge of the Azzurri on an interim basis. 

Ireland begin Andy Farrell's tenure against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium later in the day, while France start a new dawn with Fabien Galthie in command against England at Stade de France on Sunday.

Here we take a look at the prospects of each nation for the 2020 campaign.

 

ENGLAND

Who's in charge?

There was frenzied speculation over the future of Eddie Jones after England were soundly beaten by South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final.

The canny Australian stayed in the role, though, and is contracted until 2021, but it remains to be seen if he will still be in charge at the next World Cup in France two years later.

Who's the key man?

Tom Curry was outstanding on the biggest stage of all in Japan, and the back-row will have a major part to play in the England's bid to win the Six Nations for the first time since 2017.

Curry is expected to deputise from the injury Billy Vunipola against Les Bleus in the opening round, giving another example of his versatility.

What can they achieve this year?

The World Cup runners-up should be fuelled by the agony of coming so close to being crowned world champions three months ago and have been installed as favourites.

Jones is determined to make England the "greatest team ever" and he must hope his Saracens contingent are not affected by the European champions' salary-cap saga.

 

FRANCE

Who's in charge?

Former France captain Galthie was charged with the task of replacing Jacques Brunel after the World Cup and has put his faith in youth with an eye on the next World Cup on home soil. The appointment of Shaun Edwards as defence coach could be a masterstroke.

Who's the key man?

Teddy Thomas is a livewire wing who has been in fine form for Racing 92 this season and should show what he is capable after missing out on the World Cup.

What can they achieve?

It is difficult to know which France side will turn up at the best of times and, although there is an air of optimism with young players getting their chance, that could make them even more difficult to predict.

A showdown with England in Paris grants them a great opportunity to make a huge statement, but Les Bleus face a tricky trip to Cardiff after hosting Italy.

 

IRELAND

Who's in charge?

Farrell has earned his stripes as an assistant with Ireland, England and Saracens, and he will have plenty of experience under his belt for his first role as head coach after replacing Joe Schmidt.

Who's the key man?

James Ryan has been outstanding for Ireland and Leinster, and Farrell will rely on the towering lock to maintain his high standards, with powerful ball-carrying and set-piece acumen.

What can they achieve?

After the disappointment of bowing out of the World Cup at the quarter-final stage and failing to retain their Six Nations title last year, Ireland will be a major danger if they can hit the ground running under Farrell.

The 2018 champions have strength in depth and should mount a strong challenge, with a home clash against Wales in the second round followed by a trip to Twickenham potentially decisive. 

 

ITALY

Who's in charge?

South African Smith stepped in for the Six Nations after a successful spell with the Cheetahs, taking over from Conor O'Shea.

Who's the key man?

Luca Bigi has been handed the captaincy with Sergio Parisse, set to make his swansong at Stadio Olimpico, retiring, and the hooker must drive the perennial recipients of the wooden spoon on and show they are up for the battle.

What can they achieve ?

A victory would be an achievement in itself given Italy have not come out on top in a Six Nations match since stunning Scotland in 2015.

 

SCOTLAND 

Who's in charge?

Gregor Townsend is under pressure to turn Scotland's fortunes around after they failed to qualify for the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

Who's the key man?

Stuart Hogg has taken over as skipper, and the full-back must show the sort of form that made him a British and Irish Lion.

What can they achieve?

There is no doubt Scotland have plenty of talent to call upon and can be a joy to watch on their day, but they have been shown to have a soft centre time and again.

Finn Russell will be a big loss for the first game against Ireland after he was sent home for disciplinary reasons.

 

WALES

Who's in charge?

Pivac succeeded long-serving fellow New Zealander Warren Gatland after the World Cup, and the former Scarlets boss has a hard act to follow.

Who's the key man?

Liam Williams will miss the first match of the tournament against Italy, but the inspirational full-back should be fit for the trip to face Ireland the following week, and Wales will need him to stay fit in their quest for back-to-back titles.

What can they achieve?

Depending on how they adapt to life under Pivac, Wales ought to mount a strong defence of their crown after securing a Grand Slam last year but face tough away assignments against Ireland and England.

Wayne Pivac on the touchline; the Principality Stadium crowd brimming with back-to-school excitement.

A new dawn was arriving for Welsh rugby as Saturday's Six Nations opener against Italy came into view.

Yet this story isn't about coach Pivac, nor new dawns, nor the fact we've reached the 20-year anniversary of the Cardiff stadium staging its first match in the championship.

Coaches come and coaches go and Pivac will have his day and leave; not even Warren Gatland was inclined to go on forever on the touchline.

And the inevitable truth is that stadiums decay, to be replaced by grander, more suitable settings for world-class sport. Which themselves will one day lose their lustre.

The St Helen's ground in Swansea and Cardiff's Arms Park used to proudly house the hallowed turf for Welsh rugby.

Some things, though, have a greater permanence. And what endures perhaps best of all in Welsh rugby is its carved-in-stone connection to the country's richly poetic and musical history, most pertinently the hymns and folk songs that permeate from Llanelli to Llanberis, Cardiff Bay to Cardigan Bay.

That time-honoured beacon of Welsh society - the male voice choir - remains as much a part of the rugby fabric as it ever was. This story celebrates the glorious communion between song and Welsh rugby.

Slated for success

In the heart of Snowdonia lies Blaenau Ffestiniog, a largely Welsh-speaking small town renowned for centuries for its vast slate mines, and home today to the Brythoniaid Male Voice Choir.

The Welsh Rugby Union invites such choirs on a rota basis to perform within the stadium before its home matches, knowing their presence rouses Cardiff crowds in such a way they become the team's 16th man.

Soon it will be the turn of Brythoniaid, seven-time winners of the National Eisteddfod. They are booked in for the match against Scotland in March.

"We've done it before," said Phill Jones, the choir secretary.

"Most of the choir are fanatical rugby supporters anyhow, so to be allowed to get on the pitch and be allowed to sing to 70,000 people is a bit of an experience."

 

Have the Welsh crowds lost their voice?

There have been questions asked recently about the atmosphere at Wales' home games.

Journalist and Pontypool rugby club media man Greg Caine argued on the Nation Cymru website that priorities were changing, and that Wales crowds had lost their voice, even at last year's Grand Slam decider against Ireland.

He wrote: "... the singing was seriously lacking, and it's almost become a cliche, but [again] many really were more interested in going to the bar than watching the match."

He pointed to a "day out" culture and added: "Whilst this isn't necessarily a bad thing – people are welcome to enjoy something they've paid for however they want – a symptom of the aforementioned attitude to the match is the general lack of singing, and it's that which I find most disappointing and demoralising when attending Wales matches."

Most surprisingly of all, Caine claimed Wales football supporters have developed a "wider repertoire" of songs and chants than their rugby counterparts.

"It does [surprise me]. I would say quite the opposite to be honest with you," Brythoniaid's Jones told Omnisport.

Such an argument could run and run; what defies debate is the sense that song is deeply ingrained within Welsh sporting culture, whatever the shape of the ball.

"The English only have one song"

"Anywhere, at any standard of rugby, you get singing in the crowd," said Jones. "We've got a local rugby team called Bro Ffestiniog, and even if the crowd might only be 50 or maybe less, they'll sing like mad.

"We'll take a choir, just to give them entertainment and help along as well, and they'll say it makes a heck of a difference.

"You'll only hear one song being sung in an English match and that's the chariot one ['Swing Low, Sweet Chariot']. You listen to a Welsh crowd and you'll get such variation. I think it's something we're very good at, and the Scottish and the French are as well."

Jones says singing in Wales has always come with a rivalry aspect.

"You go back to the days when there was real hardship," he said. "In those days, the chapels and churches were at their strongest, where you had congregations in the hundreds and singing was a part of life.

"Where we sing, there were two huge quarries with 7,000 men working, and at each level of the mine, there was a shed where they would congregate having lunch, and they used to have singing competitions between each shed.

"It was tradition back then, and that's how the choir started. Most of the big choirs in Wales are associated with areas where coal mining and chapels were very strong. There's a lot less now than there used to be.

"We're not so bad, but we used to have massive choirs; I would say 120 to 130 [people]. These days people have other things to do."

Together, this is what we'll do

The Brythoniaid Male Voice Choir struck lucky when they were invited to perform at Festival No 6 in Portmeirion, performing 'Go West' with the Pet Shop Boys in 2014 and joining a 2017 line-up that featured The Flaming Lips and Rag'n'Bone Man.

"Because of that, we got more wanting to be involved with the choir," Jones recalls. "We were down to about 45 in the choir at one stage but we're now up to around 75, so you have to be prepared to change. Not change too much, but you've got to adapt."

Will the national anthem - Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau - ring out inside rugby stadiums in 50 years' time? Will future generations still incant Calon Lan, these days a favourite of so many supporters? Might Bread of Heaven still be bellowed from the stands towards the end of this century?

Will Max Boyce's Hymns and Arias always resonate?

"I would think so, I would hope so anyway," said Jones. "The choirs are getting smaller, so you might not have the same size of choir that are taking part now. But even though they get smaller, I think they'll still go on."

Gary Morgan, secretary of the Cardiff Arms Park Male Choir, agrees.

"Those songs are there and they're not going away," said Morgan.

"Some of our choir might groan a little when it comes to rehearsing the same old hymns, but those are the ones the crowds want and they enjoy them so much. And when on match days the crowd are singing them back, it's just a moment of great pride.

"We sang at Gavin Henson's wedding last year. People always love to hear a Welsh male voice choir on a big occasion."

But not only are the choirs shrinking, they are ageing, too, which has to be a worry.

"It's a real struggle to find anyone under the age of 40 wanting to join," Morgan said. "I couldn't give the choir the commitment I do now until I retired from teaching.

"But I can't imagine the Arms Park or the Principality Stadium without those songs. They're such an vital part of Welsh rugby life."

Anthony Bouthier and Mohamed Haouas will make their France debuts in the heat of a Six Nations battle with England at Stade de France on Sunday.

Montpellier duo Bouthier and Haouas will start at full-back and tighthead prop respectively in Paris at the dawn of a new era under head coach Fabien Galthie.

Charles Ollivon captains Les Bleus for the first time, while livewire wing Teddy Thomas returns to the starting line-up after missing out on the Rugby World Cup.

Galthie has put his faith in youth for the tournament, with Boris Palu and Cameron Woki hoping to make win their first caps off the bench in 'Le Crunch'.

Hooker Julien Marchand has been handed a first start and Cyril Baille joins him in the front row, with Camille Chat (calf) ruled out.

Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack form an exciting half-back pairing, while Virimi Vakatawa and Gael Fickou get the nod in midfield.

 

France: Anthony Bouthier, Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa, Gael Fickou, Damian Penaud, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas, Bernard Le Roux, Paul Willemse, Francois Cros, Charles Ollivon (captain), Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements:  Peato Mauvaka, Jefferson Poirot, Demba Bamba, Boris Palu, Cameron Woki, Baptiste Serin, Matthieu Jalibert, Vincent Rattez.

George North will play at centre and Johnny McNicholl makes his Wales debut against Italy on Saturday but Josh Navidi will miss the start of the Six Nations due to injury.

North switches to partner Hadleigh Parkes for his fifth start in midfield at international level, with uncapped wing McNicholl coming in for the defending champions' first match of the tournament under head coach Wayne Pivac.

Flanker Navidi looks set to miss the majority of the competition after suffering a hamstring injury.

Fit-again back-row Taulupe Faletau returns for his first international appearance since March 2018, while uncapped centre Nick Tompkins could make his debut off the bench.

Tomos Williams and Dan Biggar made up the half-back pairing at the Principality Stadium, where Josh Adams and Leigh Halfpenny join McNicholl in the back three.

There is no place in the matchday squad for teen flyer Louis Rees-Zammit.

 

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, Johnny McNicholl, George North, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Tomos Williams; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Dillon Lewis, Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Ryan Elias, Rob Evans, Leon Brown, Cory Hill, Ross Moriarty, Rhys Webb, Jarrod Evans, Nick Tompkins.

South Africa have promoted Jacques Nienaber to replace Rassie Erasmus as head coach following their Rugby World Cup triumph.

Erasmus reverted back to his position of director of rugby after the Springboks lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in Japan last November and will now oversee his former assistant Nienaber.

Nienaber was named as Erasmus' successor on Friday in a South Africa statement that said the new coaching set-up is "heavily accented on continuity".

Mzwandile Stick retains his position as assistant coach, with Felix Jones now a European-based coaching consultant.

Deon Davids is the new forwards coach, while Bulls scrums coach Daan Human takes up the same role with the world champions and will also stay on with the Super Rugby franchise.

Davids replaces Matt Proudfoot, who joined England's coaching staff this month.

Nienaber described his delight at landing the top job.

"This is a massive honour and responsibility, but I think I have a good understanding of what it entails, especially in this new structure," the 47-year-old said.

"I've worked with Rassie in a coaching capacity for nearly two decades now and we have a very good idea of how each of us thinks, and as I'll still be reporting to him, our working relationship won't be changing.

"It's a big step up for me in terms of carrying the day-to-day leadership role and there'll be other adjustments, but in many ways, it will also be business as usual.

"We've built up a good culture over the past two years and we'll simply be looking to extend that."

Erasmus stated: "Jacques is highly experienced and has worked with the Springboks on three separate occasions now so knows exactly what the job is about.

"Jacques will be responsible for the Test match preparation and day-to-day team operations but, as the director of rugby, I will be with the team for the majority of the time and in the coaches' box with Jacques at matches."

South Africa have promoted Jacques Nienaber to replace Rassie Erasmus as South Africa head coach following their Rugby World Cup triumph.

Finn Russell will not feature in Scotland's Six Nations opener against Ireland after being sent home for disciplinary reasons.

Scottish Rugby announced on Thursday that Racing 92 fly-half Russell has been released from Gregor Townsend's squad for a breach of team protocol.

Scotland will have to do without Russell at the Aviva Stadium a week on Saturday and it remains to be seen if he will play any part in the tournament.

A Scotland team spokesperson said: “Stand-off Finn Russell will play no further part in preparations for Scotland's Six Nations opener against Ireland, having been disciplined for a breach of team protocol during the week's camp in Edinburgh.

"He has returned to his club."

Russell last year revealed he had a disagreement with head coach Townsend after a dramatic 38-38 draw with England at Twickenham.

"I actually had an argument with Gregor [at half-time]," Russell told ITV after the game.

"I said to him, 'You're telling us to kick and when we kick, they just run it back and cut us open, and when we run it, they're just hitting us behind the gain line and winning the ball back'.

"Second half, we just came out with nothing to lose, played our rugby, kicked out of our half and scored some great tries. We played good Scottish rugby."

The 27-year-old played at Glasgow Warriors from 2012 to 2018 before landing his move to France.

In-demand Wales wing Steff Evans has ended speculation over his future by signing a new deal with the Scarlets.

The 25-year-old flyer attracted interest from France as he neared the end of his contract.

Evans has decided to remain with his home region ahead of the Six Nations, with no mention from the Scarlets of the length of his new deal.

Capped 13 times by the Six Nations champions, Evans said: "I am loving my rugby here at the moment so it was an easy decision to stay with the Scarlets.

"The coaches have built a great environment that all the players are buying into and there's a real buzz about the place at the moment.

"This is my home region, I grew up watching the Scarlets and to have made more than 100 appearances is an achievement I am hugely proud of.

"The squad here is as strong as it has been since I have been here and I really feel there are exciting times ahead.

"The boys have been playing some great rugby this season, we are still alive in two competitions and I am looking forward to playing my part in what should be an exciting few months to come."

Teenage wing Louis Rees-Zammit is among five uncapped players in new Wales head coach Wayne Pivac's squad for the Six Nations.

Rees-Zammit has earned rave reviews following his performances for Gloucester and the 18-year-old flyer is set to be unleashed on the international stage.

Prop WillGriff John, second-row Will Rowlands, centre Nick Tompkins and versatile New Zealand-born back Johnny McNicholl will also be hoping to win their first caps for the defending champions.

Lock Seb Davies and wing Jonah Holmes are among the 38 included by Pivac along with fit-again back-row Taulupe Faletau and scrum-half Rhys Webb, who is set to re-join the Ospreys from Toulon.

"We are really excited to be naming our Six Nations squad and kicking the campaign off," said Pivac.

"A lot of time and effort has gone into selecting the squad, all of the coaches have been out and about, seeing players in training, speaking with them and we are pretty excited with the group we have got.

"Looking back to the Barbarians week, that was hugely important for us. We got a lot of 'firsts' out of the way, getting to meet and get in front of the players and having a game together was hugely beneficial.

"We do have a couple of injuries but we flip that into seeing it as an opportunity for some new players to impress, with not only the Six Nations in mind but also longer term and 2023."

 

Wales squad in full:

Forwards: Rhys Carre, Rob Evans, Wyn Jones, Elliot Dee, Ryan Elias, Ken Owens, Leon Brown, WillGriff John, Dillon Lewis, Jake Ball, Adam Beard, Seb Davies, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Will Rowlands, Cory Hill, Aaron Shingler, Aaron Wainwright, Taulupe Faletau, Ross Moriarty, Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric.

Backs: Gareth Davies, Rhys Webb, Tomos Williams, Dan Biggar, Owen Williams, Jarrod Evans, Hadleigh Parkes, Nick Tompkins, Owen Watkin, George North, Josh Adams, Owen Lane, Johnny McNicholl, Louis Rees-Zammit, Jonah Holmes, Leigh Halfpenny, Liam Williams.

Stuart Hogg has been named Scotland captain for the Six Nations and Gregor Townsend has included six uncapped players in his squad for the tournament.

Full-back Hogg will lead his country after Greig Laidlaw announced his retirement from international rugby last month.

As well as appointing a new skipper, head coach Townsend has also brought in some fresh faces following Scotland's failure to advance from their pool at the Rugby World Cup.

Tom Gordon, Kyle Steyn, Ratu Tagive, Luke Crosbie, Nick Haining and Alex Craig will be hoping to win their first caps.

Matt Scott and Rory Sutherland have been recalled to a 38-man squad along with Cornell du Preez.

Townsend said: "We've put a bigger emphasis on form as a guide for our selection, with those picked backed to go out and grab their opportunity.

"A number of young players have broken through at their clubs, while the bulk of the squad [23/31] from Japan has been reselected based on some strong individual performances and huge effort throughout our World Cup camp.

"We're on to our next campaign now and it’s going to be very tough given the competition we face. Ireland have only lost one championship game at home in the last five years, and England were in great form in Japan."

Scotland face Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in their first match of the Six Nations on February 1.

 

Scotland squad:

Forwards: Simon Berghan, Jamie Bhatti, Magnus Bradbury, Fraser Brown, Alex Craig, Luke Crosbie, Scott Cummings, Allan Dell, Cornell du Preez, Zander Fagerson, Grant Gilchrist, Tom Gordon, Jonny Gray, Nick Haining, Stuart McInally, WP Nel, Jamie Ritchie, Rory Sutherland, Ben Toolis, George Turner, Hamish Watson.

Backs: Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Adam Hastings, Stuart Hogg (captain), George Horne, Rory Hutchinson, Sam Johnson, Huw Jones, Blair Kinghorn, Sean Maitland, Byron McGuigan, Ali Price, Henry Pyrgos, Finn Russell, Matt Scott, Kyle Steyn, Ratu Tagive.

England have revealed a new-look coaching team to support Eddie Jones heading into the Six Nations.

Simon Amor, formerly head of the England Sevens set-up and brought in as attack coach, and Matt Proudfoot have come into the fold.

Proudfoot, who will work as the forwards coach, was part of Rassie Erasmus' staff during South Africa's Rugby World Cup triumph last year.

The duo will work alongside defence coach John Mitchell and former England international Steve Borthwick, who switches to skills coach.

"The Guinness Six Nations 2020 is a fresh start for the team so that is how we have approached our coaching staff," Jones told the RFU website.

"With Neal Hatley moving to Bath we felt we needed to regenerate the forwards coaching area. Matt Proudfoot has had an outstanding coaching career to date culminating in being a World Cup winning coach with South Africa.

"He brings great technical expertise and knowledge having coached in South Africa and Japan and having played in Scotland and South Africa.

"We feel he can take the forwards to another level and build on the great work Neal and Steve have done over the last four years.

"We have had our eyes on Simon for a while. We used him in the run up to the Rugby World Cup in some of our training camps.

"I have been very impressed with his dynamism, his rugby intellect and he will bring a fresh view on how we build our attack. "

Jones remains in talks to extend his England tenure, with his contract set to expire in 2021.

Ireland fly-half Joey Carbery has been ruled out of the Six Nations due to a wrist injury.

The Munster number 10 did the damage during a 38-17 Pro14 defeat to Ulster last week and will be out for up to four months.

Carbery was making his first start of the season after recovering from an ankle injury, but now faces a lengthy absence.

RTE quote Munster head coach Johann van Graan as saying: "That's rugby, I'm gutted for Joey as an individual.

"He worked hard to get back into the position, he played the full 80 for the first time for quite a while and now he is out for a considerable amount of time.

"That's rugby, that's life. He'll be back, he's a class man and a brilliant rugby player.

"He'll come back stronger, take his time and I can't wait to have him back in the future."

Carbery posted on Instagram: "Devastation doesn't even describe how I'm feeling. Thanks for all the well wishes. Been a tough couple of months physically and mentally, and thought I was in the clear. But will be back soon, better than ever."

Ireland's first-choice fly-half Johnny Sexton is also out of action with a knee problem and is reportedly unlikely to feature before Ireland's Six Nations opener against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium on February 1.

Charles Ollivon has been named as France captain at the start of a new era under Fabien Galthie, who has named 19 uncapped players in a 42-man Six Nations squad.

Galthie, who replaced Jacques Brunel as head coach after the Rugby World Cup, has selected back-row Ollivon to lead the side following Guilhem Guirado's retirement from international rugby.

Toulon's Ollivon only has 11 caps to his name but is set to skipper his country when they face England in their first match of the tournament on February 2.

"It's an honour to be captain of the France team," said Ollivon.

"It's a somewhat special moment, quite moving. I can't wait to start the adventure."

Galthie has put his faith in youth, with 20-year-olds Louis Carbonel, Jean-Baptiste Gros and Killian Geraci among those called up to a squad with an average age of 24.

Wing Teddy Thomas is recalled after being overlooked for the World Cup in Japan, but there is no place for the likes of Maxime Medard and Yoann Huget.

 

France squad: 

Forwards: Dorian Aldegheri, Cyril Baille, Demba Bamba, Camille Chat, Anthony Etrillard, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Mohamed Haouas, Julien Marchand, Jefferson Poirot, Cyril Cazeaux, Killian Geraci, Bernard Le Roux, Boris Palu, Romain Taofifenua, Paul Willemse, Gregory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon, Dylan Cretin, Francois Cros, Alexandre Fischer, Sekou Macalou, Selevasio Tolofua, Cameron Woki.

Backs: Antoine Dupont, Baptiste Serin, Maxime Lucu, Romain Ntamack, Louis Carbonel, Mathieu Jalibert, Gael Fickou, Virimi Vakatawa, Arthur Vincent, Julien Heriteau, Gervais Cordin, Lester Etien, Gabriel Ngandebe, Damian Penaud, Vincent Rattez, Teddy Thomas, Anthony Bouthier, Kylan Hamdaoui, Thomas Ramos.

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