Mohamed Haouas collected a costly red card as France's bid for a Six Nations Grand Slam triumph was comprehensively ended in a 28-17 defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield.

After successes against England, Italy and Wales, championship leaders Les Bleus saw their winning run halted after Haouas was dismissed for punching Jamie Ritchie in the face in the 37th minute on Sunday.

France - fast starters in their prior three matches - had recovered from a slow initial spell to score through the fit-again Damian Penaud, but Scotland dominated against 14 men.

Sean Maitland crossed either side of half-time, and Stuart McInally's fortuitous third try secured an ultimately straightforward home victory, despite Charles Ollivon's late reply.

France lacked rhythm for much of the first half and Francois Cros was sent to the sin bin after just five minutes when his tackle led to Grant Gilchrist's awkward landing, before Romain Ntamack was lost to a head injury.

Scotland led when Adam Hastings kept his nerve from the tee, and a sweetly struck second penalty from the same man secured a six-point advantage that lasted until the 33rd minute.

Les Bleus suddenly moved through the gears with the break approaching, as Antoine Dupont's gorgeous cross-field kick found Penaud on the right for the opening try.

However, the fracas involving Haouas and Ritchie took the match away from the visitors, the blow to the Scotland man's head the most serious incident in a clash involving multiple players from both sides.

Hastings' latest kick subsequently restored a Scottish lead, and he wasted little time in carrying his side forward once more, resulting in Maitland's rapid try on the stroke of half-time.

Improvement in the France ranks briefly threatened a resilient second period, only for a speedy break to free Maitland once again on the right wing.

Matthieu Jalibert dispatched a penalty just after the hour mark, but there would be no dramatic fightback as McInally profited on a lucky bounce from his own poor lineout to run clear.

Ollivon battled through to claim reward for a defiant display with four minutes remaining, at least providing encouragement heading into another key clash with Ireland.
 

Ntamack's sloppy start

The France fly-half had contributed 39 points - including two tries - across his first three matches of an outstanding campaign, but this was not his day. Ntamack lasted just eight minutes, in which time he sent a penalty swirling wide and then took a whack to the head, forcing his exit following a fumble that gave Scotland an early foothold.

Haouas hinders title hopes

France had only just belatedly turned up and claimed the lead through a fine try when Haouas undid their hard work. There was pushing and shoving on either side in front of the French posts, but the visiting number three could have no complaints as he was singled out after an awful swing at Ritchie.

Maitland's favoured foes

Scotland still had to put the 14 men to the sword, and Maitland's clinical finishing did the job. This was his third appearance against France at Murrayfield and he has scored on each occasion.

What's next?

France can still recover the Six Nations title. Level on points with England entering the final round, Les Bleus host Ireland next Saturday. Scotland finish their campaign with a trip to Wales earlier in the same day.

Alun Wyn Jones is hopeful World Rugby will investigate an incident in which England's Joe Marler appeared to grab the Wales captain's genitals during Saturday's Six Nations match.

England were 33-30 winners at Twickenham, but there were a number of flashpoints in a clash that ended with the hosts down to 13 men after Ellis Genge went to the sin bin and Manu Tuilagi was sent off.

One incident missed by the officials concerned Jones and Marler.

Television pictures caught Marler apparently grabbing Jones' crotch, prompting a bemused expression from the Wales veteran but no action.

"I've got 138 Tests for my country," Jones told a post-match news conference. "If I react, I get a red card. It's tough, isn't it?

"Hopefully World Rugby have a look at it. Joe's a good bloke, lots of things happen on a rugby field.

"It's difficult as a captain these days because you can't speak to a ref about anything, it feels. I look at the touch judge. Obviously he didn't see what happened, and that's fine.

"There's a lot of footage that has been shown. It seems like a lot of supporters saw what happened.

"It's very frustrating that we talk a lot about TMOs and footage reviews, yet there doesn't seem to be a lot of it happening."

World Rugby's laws state the punishment for "grabbing, twisting or squeezing the genitals" starts at 12 weeks.

Alun Wyn Jones revealed frustrations with Wales' first-half sloppiness after they succumbed to England on Saturday, suffering a third straight Six Nations defeat.

Grand Slam champions in 2019, Wales have endured a disappointing campaign this year despite crushing strugglers Italy in their opening match.

Defeats to Ireland, France and now England put paid to any hopes of defending their title, and captain Jones was particularly exasperated by his side's latest reverse.

Wales went down 33-30 at Twickenham, but only late tries against 13 men narrowed England's lead after Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly and Manu Tuilagi - later dismissed - crossed for the hosts.

Jones suggested Wales were always struggling to recover from an opening period in which Watson scored inside four minutes and Daly added to the home advantage.

He also highlighted the repeated penalties that allowed Owen Farrell and George Ford to keep the scoreboard ticking over for England.

"I was lamenting a couple of territory giveaways in the first half," the Wales captain told ITV Sport. "We gave them two possessions in the 22, went to two lineouts, and it was two tries.

"You're chasing the game a little bit. Then we got the three to stay on the scoreboard at the end of the half and then a great riposte at the start of the second half.

"Unfortunately, they obviously capitalised on a couple of our indisciplines in our 22 and kept the scoreboard at bay.

"It shows what we can do with those last two tries. If we keep the ball, we can score. It's just too little, too late, in the end."

However, England star Ben Youngs paid tribute to Wales as they refused to give up on a seemingly lost cause.

"Whenever we started to feel like we got ascendancy or control, Wales are so good at just staying in the fight, and they stayed in and battled hard," Youngs said.

"Our discipline probably just gave them easy leg-ups. They're clinical enough to punish you and it showed in the last 20 minutes, where we were basically camped in our own 22 and couldn't get out. It was tight in the end."

The returning Anthony Watson set England on their way to a 33-30 win at home to Wales that keeps their Six Nations title challenge on track.

With Grand Slam contenders France not in action against Scotland until Sunday, Eddie Jones' England piled on the pressure with a hard-fought triumph at Twickenham.

The hosts were boosted by the inclusion of wing Watson in the XV for the first time in the tournament, and he got the first of three England tries.

Elliot Daly crossed later in the first half and, after Justin Tipuric raced through for Wales at the start of the second period, Manu Tuilagi secured a third win in four matches for England before being sent off with five minutes remaining. Dan Biggar and Tipuric grabbed consolation tries for Wales in the closing moments, earning them a losing bonus point.

It took Watson less than four minutes to make his mark, dancing through a pair of tackles after a smart move from a lineout on the right to score the opening points.

An eventful start continued as Jonny May departed with a head injury before a scuffle broke out in front of the England try line, prompting a penalty against Owen Farrell that Leigh Halfpenny dispatched over the posts.

Farrell and Halfpenny traded further successful trips to the kicking tee as the match settled slightly, but a spell of England pressure resulted in their second try after 32 minutes as the hosts worked the ball from right to left and Daly steamed up the outside to lunge over.

Another Farrell penalty stretched England's lead again, only for some sloppy play to allow Biggar to boot a response heading into half-time.

And Wales came out for the restart with renewed vigour, scoring inside 30 seconds through a stunning counter that sent Tipuric clear under the posts.

But England continued to forge opportunities for their kickers, with Farrell adding three more points before George Ford assumed the responsibilities - his captain struggling with a dead leg - and followed suit.

Successive scores seemed to dampen Wales' spirits, and a patient England move made space for Tuilagi to walk in on the left.

A slew of late penalties against England resulted in a yellow card for Ellis Genge, and Tuilagi departed for a shoulder charge to George North's head.

That allowed first Biggar and then Tipuric to score against 13 scrambling white shirts, but the late tries proved only enough to rescue the bonus point.


Watson wastes little time

England had been shorn of their star wing since the Rugby World Cup final, and Watson made sure to quickly show Jones just what he had been missing. His 18th international try combined skill, speed and strength in impressive fashion from the first notable attack of the match.

Captain Farrell unflappable

This was a niggly game, best evidenced by the clash Farrell became involved in early on, but England made the most of each Welsh foul. Farrell's kicking from various ranges was typically clinical, taking the match away from Wales each time they threatened a recovery.

What's next?

England must wait to learn when they might fulfil their final fixture against Italy, who have seen consecutive matches postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. Wales complete their disappointing campaign at home to Scotland next Saturday.

Scotland go in search of another Murrayfield triumph over Grand Slam hopefuls France this weekend, and England will look to put the pressure on the Six Nations leaders with a win over Wales.

The postponement of Ireland's encounter with Italy due to concerns over the coronavirus leaves just two round-four matches to look forward to.

France passed a big test in their bid to be crowned champions for the first time in a decade when they beat Wales last time out, and now Scotland, buoyed by a win over Italy, will be the next side to try and burst Les Bleus' bubble.

England are four points behind Fabien Galthie's side after a defeat of Ireland at Twickenham and will have home advantage again when they take on the defending champions.

With Opta data, we preview the clashes in London on Saturday and Edinburgh.

England v Wales

- England have won five of their last six games against Wales in the Six Nations, the one defeat coming last year.

- The Red Rose have lost just one of their last 20 home games in the competition (against Ireland in 2018 - W18, D1) and their 18 wins in that time have been by an average margin of 17 points.

- Wales have lost back-to-back matches and have not endured a longer run of defeats in the championship since a five-game drought across the 2006 and 2007 campaigns.

- Wales prop Dillon Lewis has hit more rucks (107) than any other player at the 2020 Six Nations. Maro Itoje (103) is second on the list and the England player has also hit more attacking rucks (85) than anyone else.

Scotland v France

-  Scotland have won each of their last two home games against France in the Six Nations, but Les Bleus have won 17 of their last 20 encounters with the Scots in the championship.

- Galthie and Gregor Townsend faced off against each four times in their international playing careers, with the present France head coach coming out on top on each occasion.

- France are the only side to maintain a 100 per cent scrum success rate on their own feed (10/10) in the Six Nations and have the best gain-line success rate of any side (48 per cent).

- Scotland have missed just 46 tackles in the Six Nations this year, the fewest of any side, and subsequently have the best tackle success rate (90 per cent).

Taulupe Faletau has been dropped in one of four changes for Wales' trip to England in a crunch Six Nations clash on Saturday.

Josh Navidi will play at number eight after overcoming a hamstring problem, while the reigning champions welcome back Liam Williams following an ankle injury sustained at the Rugby World Cup, with Tomos Williams and Dan Biggar also returning.

Rob Evans comes into the front-row for his first start since the 2019 competition, with head coach Wayne Pivac excited by the challenge ahead at Twickenham after back-to-back losses against Ireland and France.

"We've had a good two weeks and we are really excited about heading up to Twickenham for what will be a huge Six Nations clash," he said

"We have had the chance to put the disappointments of the loss to France behind us and we know heading to London we need to be more clinical in attack and convert the opportunities that we are creating.

"Liam's return to full fitness is a positive after the loss of Josh [Adams], as is the return of Josh Navidi.

"We have been targeting this game for both of their returns and they have trained really well, so it's a great opportunity for them on Saturday."

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Nick Tompkins, Hadleigh Parkes, Liam Williams, Dan Biggar, Tomos Williams, Rob Evans, Ken Owens, Dillon Lewis, Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones, Ross Moriarty, Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi

Replacements: Ryan Elias, Rhys Carre, Leon Brown, Aaron Shingler, Taulupe Faletau, Rhys Webb, Jarrod Evans, Johnny McNicholl 

The Six Nations encounter between Italy and England at Stadio Olimpico on March 14 has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

It was announced by the Italian government on Wednesday that any sporting events that were staged would be played behind closed doors until April 3.

Six Nations organisers on Thursday stated that the game in Rome will not go ahead as scheduled in a country where the virus has killed 107 people.

The encounter between Ireland and Italy, due to be played in Dublin on Saturday, was postponed last week due to the spread of COVID-19.

A statement issued by the tournament organisers read: "Six Nations notes the decree issued by the Italian Government on March 4 with respect to all upcoming sporting events in that country.

"The decision has now been taken to postpone the three matches between Italy and England (men's, women's, and U20) set to take place over the weekend of March 13/14/15, with the intention to reschedule them at later dates.

"Based on the information that is currently available, all other Six Nations matches are set to go ahead as scheduled. As previously stated, Six Nations fully intends to complete all 15 games across all three championships when time allows. We will refrain from making any rescheduling announcements while we keep assessing the situation."

The statement concluded: "Six Nations will continue to monitor developments with our unions and their respective governments and health authorities. We remain fully supportive of any preventative measures taken in the interests of overall public health in relation to the coronavirus and we will respect instructions provided by government authorities and health organisations.

 

Fit-again England duo Mark Wilson and Anthony Watson will make their first appearance of the Six Nations against Wales at Twickenham on Saturday.

Wilson replaces the injured Sam Underhill at openside flanker after recovering from a knee problem.

Watson is back on the wing at the expense of Bath team-mate Jonathan Joseph following a spell on the sidelines with a calf injury.

They are the only changes to the XV that started a 24-12 victory over Ireland last time out, as the Rugby World Cup runners-up eye a victory over the defending champions to put the pressure on leaders France.

Eddie Jones named his team on Thursday as the RFU waited to discover whether the final-round match against Italy in Rome on March 14 will be postponed due to the outbreak of coronavirus.

Jones said: "We've had a really good two week preparation – a fallow week in Oxford where we had good training days last Thursday and Friday and three good training days this week culminating in a very good session Wednesday.

"Wales are a very tough, well-coached side and they've been building on their attack since Wayne Pivac has taken over.

"It's always a tough game against Wales and we know they will bring that toughness to all the contest areas. We're looking forward to playing at home again and getting back out in front of our fantastic fans."

 

England: Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell, Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Joe Marler, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Courtney Lawes, Mark Wilson, Tom Curry.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Joe Launchbury, Charlie Ewels, Ben Earl, Willi Heinz, Henry Slade.

Steve Borthwick says Mako Vunipola was stood down on medical advice due to England's 24/7 "camp-based environment" - insisting the prop has not been placed in self-isolation amid the coronavirus outbreak.

England on Tuesday revealed that Vunipola will not feature in the Six Nations clash with Wales at Twickenham on Saturday for "medical reasons".

The British and Irish Lion was ruled out after travelling back from Tonga via Hong Kong, but Saracens on Wednesday stated he had been cleared to play for the Premiership champions against Leicester this weekend.

England assistant coach Borthwick explained that the Rugby World Cup runners-up could not take any risks.

"Our medical team looks at our team environment, not other people's," Borthwick told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"And that's the advice we followed. We are a camp-based environment and we stay in together 24 hours a day effectively.

"Mako didn't come into camp on the advice of our medical team, who looked into the situation closely and as a precaution they advised us that the best thing for our environment was for him not to come in.

"Mako is not ill, he is not in self-isolation, but the advice we got for our environment from our medical team and the relevant parties they consulted was that he should not come into camp, and that's the advice we followed."

Wales are hopeful Dan Biggar will be fit to face England in the Six Nations on Saturday and Liam Williams is set to make his first appearance of the tournament.

Biggar suffered a knee injury during Northampton Saints' Premiership defeat to Saracens last weekend.

The fly-half is on course to play at Twickenham, though, as the defending champions attempt to stop the rot after back-to-back defeats at the hands of Ireland and France.

Former Wales captain Sam Warburton, working as a breakdown specialist in Wayne Pivac's set-up, said of Biggar: "He's looking good.

"The initial signs are positive. He doesn't need a scan. It puts our team selection on hold for a while because we have to wait to see how he turns up tomorrow.

"He's going to train and do stuff with the physios. But everyday so far, the feedback from the physios has been good, he's had a really good response to the stages of physio.

"He's ticking all the boxes he needs to. He's on a good course so, hopefully, with no hiccups, we'll have some good news. There are no guarantees but we're confident at this stage.

"There's a hurdle every day, the training becomes gradually more intense and will climax towards the end of the week. So if he can pass that, then all good. We're taking it day by day but the first two days have been all good.

"I don't know to be honest but I think we'll have a conclusive answer by Friday morning."

Williams has not played since suffering an ankle injury at the Rugby World Cup, but the full-back is poised to face the Red Rose.

Warburton said: "He’s back in full training. He will hopefully be in contention to start.

"This is the sort of cauldron he would love to be thrown into. It will be great to have some big game players back."

Wing Hallam Amos will definitely not feature after he was ruled out for the rest of the tournament with a knee injury.

Six Nations organisers say all remaining fixtures in the tournament will go ahead but the situation will continue to be monitored amid concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.

The round-four clash between Ireland and Italy in Dublin, due to be played this weekend, was postponed last Wednesday in the interest of public health, but the match is due to be rearranged.

No further games have been cancelled following a Six Nations meeting in Paris on Monday.

England's final-weekend trip to Rome to face Italy is schedule to go ahead as planned, but the women's and Under-20 showdowns in Padua and Verona respectively may be relocated.

A Six Nations statement said: "The Six Nations met today in Paris to address the current situation regarding the Covid-19 Virus.

"Six Nations and its six unions and federations are following the situation very closely with their respective governments and relevant health authorities and will strictly follow any directive given that would impact sporting events.

"As it stands today, based on the latest information, all Six Nations matches currently scheduled are set to go ahead.  

"Six Nations is in contact with FIR and RFU regarding the possibility of relocating the Women's and U20 Italy vs England matches to another Italian location and we will make a further announcement on this in due course.

"However, the Italy vs England Senior Men's match in Rome is planned to go ahead as scheduled.

"Six Nations intends to complete all 15 games across all three championships when time allows but we will refrain from making any rescheduling announcements for the time being while we keep assessing the situation."

Finn Russell has not been named in Scotland's squad for their two remaining Six Nations games but talks have been held with a view to the outcast fly-half touring South Africa and New Zealand.

The Racing 92 playmaker has played no part in the Six Nations after being disciplined for a "breach of team protocol" ahead of the opening match against Ireland in Dublin.

It appeared there would be no way back for Russell under Gregor Townsend after he told the Sunday Times there would need to be "big changes" for him to resume his Scotland career, taking a dig at the head coach's style and man-management.

Townsend responded last month by questioning the number 10's commitment to playing for his country, with Russell also have stated the pair have "no relationship".

However, a week before Scotland face leaders France at Murrayfield, Scottish Rugby revealed there has been dialogue, raising the prospect of Russell facing world champions the Springboks and the All Blacks in July. 

"While not named in the squad, positive discussions have taken place with stand-off Finn Russell, with the goal of these being continued over the next few weeks in order for him to be involved in the forthcoming Summer Tests," Scottish Rugby tweeted.

Edinburgh lock Lewis Carmichael was added to the squad to take on Les Bleus and Wales as a replacement for Cornell du Preez, while wing Darcy Graham (knee) will play no part in the tournament.

Ireland's Six Nations clash with Italy in Dublin has been called off amid fears over the spread of the Coronavirus.

Andy Farrell's side had been due to host Italy at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday March 7 in their penultimate game of the tournament.

However, the outbreak of the virus in northern Italy had led to calls for the game to be postponed.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) met with the country's minister for health, Simon Harris, on Tuesday and it was determined the game should not go ahead.

The matches in the Women's Six Nations and the Under-20 Six Nations have also been postponed.

An IRFU statement read: "The IRFU had a positive meeting with Minister Harris and his advisors today, where we requested a formal instruction as to the staging of the Ireland v Italy international matches over the weekend of 6/8 March.

"At the outset we made it clear that the IRFU was supportive of the Governments' need to protect public health in relation to the Coronavirus.

"We were then advised, formally, that The National Public Health Emergency team has determined that the series of matches should not proceed, in the interests of Public Health.

"The IRFU is happy to comply with this instruction.

"We will immediately begin to work with our Six Nations partners to look at the possibility of rescheduling the matches and would hope to have an update on this in the coming days."

Last weekend saw four football matches in Serie A postponed, including Inter's clash with Sampdoria as part of measures to prevent the spread of the virus in Italy.

Inter's Europa League meeting with Ludogorets will be contested behind closed doors on Thursday.

Additionally, this weekend's scheduled Pro14 rugby games between Parma-based club Zebre and Ospreys and Benetton Treviso and Ulster will not go ahead.

Ireland suffered their first defeat of the tournament as they were beaten 24-12 by England at Twickenham last Sunday. 

They are four points behind leaders France in the table. Italy have lost each of their three games and appear destined for another wooden spoon.

Anthony Watson could feature for England for the first time in the 2020 Six Nations after he was named in Eddie Jones' squad for their training camp ahead of next week's clash with Wales.

Watson is yet to appear in this year's championship due to a calf injury, but head coach Jones suggested after the victory over Ireland that the wing could soon return.

"Anthony's got to do a running session and if he gets through that we'll get him into camp," Jones said.

And Watson was subsequently included in a 25-man selection on Wednesday as England reconvene for three days of training in Oxford.

Mark Wilson has likewise been recalled, while George Furbank is involved for rehabilitation purposes after missing the Ireland game, as apprentice Alex Mitchell also links up.

However, both Mako Vunipola and Luke Cowan-Dickie were not selected due to family reasons.

Vunipola had travelled to Tonga ahead of Sunday's clash with Ireland and was not expected back in time to face Wales.

Cowan-Dickie, who scored England's third try in the 24-12 Twickenham success, had been absent previously in the campaign as his girlfriend gave birth to their son seven weeks early.

England are still in the mix for the Six Nations title, although they trail Grand Slam-chasing France by four points after three games.

Ireland prop Cian Healy will play no further part in the Six Nations due to a hip injury.

The Leinster stalwart was withdrawn after suffering the blow during a 24-12 defeat to England at Twickenham on Sunday

Healy has been ruled out of the clash with Italy at the Aviva Stadium on March 7 and will not face leaders France in Paris on the final day of the tournament.

Pro14 champions Leinster will be hoping the 32-year-old is available for a European Champions Cup quarter-final against holders Saracens in Dublin on April 4.

Healy will have to wait to bring up a century of caps, with his appearance against England taking him to 98.

Will Connors, Max Deegan, Chris Farrell, David Kearney, Luke McGrath and Jack O'Donoghue were on Tuesday released from international duty to play for their provinces this weekend.

Defeat to the Rugby World Cup runners-up last weekend ended Ireland's hopes of winning a Grand Slam and leaves them level with England, four points adrift of leaders France.

 

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