England will conduct a "brutally honest" internal review of their Six Nations performance but will not rush the decision on the future of Eddie Jones.

The 2019 World Cup finalists finished fifth in this year's Six Nations tournament, losing all three games against Scotland, Wales and Ireland for the first time since 1976.

A spirited victory over France had restored some credibility to the side after a shock 11-6 home defeat to Scotland and a resounding 40-24 loss in Cardiff, but their campaign concluded last weekend with a 32-18 reverse in Dublin.

England conceded 121 points in their five games, more than in any previous Five or Six Nations championship, leaving Jones' position as head coach under serious scrutiny.

Bill Sweeney, CEO of the Rugby Football Union (RFU), accepted there was huge disappointment around their performance and that tough questions must be asked as they attempt to build a squad capable of winning the World Cup in two years' time.

However, he insisted on Tuesday that any possible changes to the team will be given great consideration.

Asked to summarise England's Six Nations campaign, Sweeney replied: "How long have you got?

"It's a tough question. We're all incredibly disappointed. England don't go into a Six Nations to come fifth, which is why we'll have a thorough debrief.

"We had a debrief scheduled for May and we'll probably bring it forward to April. It needs to be a thorough, brutally honest analysis of what went wrong and why.

"Since Japan, our focus is on going and winning a World Cup in France.

"You'd expect us to do an absolute and full debrief. You have to recognise and respect Eddie's achievements since he's been here: three Six Nations championships, a grand slam, a World Cup final - that's a tremendous performance.

"But he wants to understand this as much as anybody and we want to let him talk to us about what happened in the Six Nations and are we on track to where we want to get to in 2023.

"It's really important at this stage to apply good old English calm. We have to react, we won't do nothing, but it's important not to overreact. We won't leave any stone unturned in trying to understand it.

"It's a young squad, it was the youngest ever team in a World Cup final, and yet we're in a period of transition. It's unusual. When you're in transition, you want to make sure you're heading in the right direction.

"I don't think I can honestly answer [if he will be sacked]. He's as disappointed as we are, and we'll do this debriefing session together."

Eddie Jones was left wishing Twickenham had been packed full of fans to see England's gutsy Six Nations win over France.

The hosts ended France's dreams of a first Grand Slam since 2010 as Maro Itoje's late try secured a hard-earned 23-20 victory on Saturday.

It was a fine response from the Red Rose after disappointing losses to Scotland and Wales either side of a routine win over Italy.

But head coach Jones wanted to share in the glory with England's supporters, with coronavirus restrictions depriving them of the opportunity to witness a fine performance first-hand.

"I just wish there were 82,000 fans here," Jones told ITV, having seen his side fight back from Antoine Dupont's try after just 65 seconds.

"It was a good, tough game of rugby with good fight from both teams and a bit of drama at the end.

"Since the Scotland game we have played with a lot of fight and energy.

"We thought France would come out hard early. They haven't had a game for a while and they were fresh. We had to be with them at half-time - that was our big job.

"We thought we would get them in the second half and we did.

"We've felt since the autumn we have to change our game a bit because the laws are moving to make the game faster.

"Our plan is to go to the 2023 World Cup as a good set-piece team and a team that can move."

England conclude their 2021 Six Nations campaign in Dublin next weekend.

Maro Itoje gave away five penalties in England's 40-24 Six Nations defeat to Wales but head coach Eddie Jones claimed officials can "tend to over-referee a player like him".

Referee Pascal Gauzere faced scrutiny over his decision-making in Saturday's Cardiff clash, a third-round tussle in the Six Nations.

Wales scored two controversial first-half tries, but England's lack of discipline was also the Red Rose's undoing, giving away 14 penalties in total.

Jones related the attention Itoje draws from match officials to that experienced by former Australia forward George Smith.

Speaking about Saracens star Itoje, Jones said: "He is one of the best players in the world and he plays the game on the edge.

"I can remember the same sort of discussion being had about George Smith at one stage. Sometimes the referees tend to over-referee a player like him."

Quoted in several newspapers, Jones said Itoje could find ways to improve, for the benefit of his teams.

"There are areas of the game he needs to tidy up and he knows that," Jones said. "He's a good boy. A good player. There are just a few things in his game he needs to tidy up."

Jones would not want a repeat in England's next scheduled match, the home clash with coronavirus-hit France on March 13.

The apparent depths to which sporting rivalries can sink was underlined on Sunday when England prop Ellis Genge revealed he had received death threats after the Principality Stadium defeat.

Genge was shown on camera not clapping off the Wales team at the end of the match.

Genge wrote on Twitter: "Don't know why I'm not clapping in that tunnel must be deep in thought, utmost respect for the Welsh. As for keyboard warriors sending death threats etc ...."

England Rugby denounced such social media targeting of players, stating: "Respect is a core value of rugby. Yesterday we lost to Wales who deserved their victory.

"Unfortunately some of the reaction on social media to players and the team has not shown the level of respect the rugby community prides itself on.

"We will support our players and team against online abuse and hope true rugby fans will stand with us."

Eddie Jones and Owen Farrell refused to point the finger at referee Pascal Gauzere after clinical Wales beat England 40-24 to secure the Triple Crown.

The Red Rose's hopes of retaining the Six Nations title are all-but over after Wales scored four tries in a bonus-point victory at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

England were made to pay for indiscipline as Wales moved two wins away from a Grand Slam in Cardiff, but the defending champions had every right to feel aggrieved by two controversial first-half tries.

Josh Adams touched down in the corner when he was picked out by a kick from Dan Biggar soon after Gauzere had called time out, having instructed captain Farrell to warn his team-mates about giving away too many penalties.

Farrell confronted Gauzere after he allowed that try to stand and both players were stunned when Liam Williams was awarded a score following a knock-on from Louis Rees-Zammit.

Jones said ahead the match that Gauzere would be under pressure to make the right decisions and the England head coach has previous with the French official, who he complained about to World Rugby in 2018.

The Australian would not say whether he would speak to the governing body again after tries from Anthony Watson and Ben Youngs, as well as 14 points for Farrell, were in vain.

Jones told BBC Sport: "It is what it is. We can't argue with the referee, the result is there in stone, we've got to accept it. Maybe they were tough calls but we weren't good enough to overcome that.

"I'm not going to make a comment on it, I accept the referee's decision. It could have been tough, but we've got to handle it. That’s the decision. It’s 40-24, let’s accept that we weren’t good enough on the day.

"We might have had some though calls. We’ve got to adapt to the game, adapt to the referee. If the referee is going to referee like that, we’ve got to deal with it."

Asked if he might make another complaint over Gauzere, he said: "That's not something to discuss today. Wales were worthy winners.

"I was pleased with how our players fought back, got ourselves back to 24-24 and probably the last play summed up our day.

"We did some lovely attacking work, get to the last pass, they intercepted and go down and score at the other end. That’s the difference of the game."

Skipper Farrell was also not prepared to blame Gauzere.

Asked about the referee's performance, he said: "That's not for us to talk about. We got our way back into it and didn't quite finish it off. There’s plenty that we can do better.

"I'd have to look back at it [the first Wales try]. I don’t know [if we could have been more alert]. There's no point in talking about it now, let everybody else talk about it. We’ll focus on what we can control. We’ll control what we can control."

As ruthless Wales celebrated winning the Triple Crown, Eddie Jones might have been regretting saying the pressure would be on referee Pascal Gauzere in Cardiff.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac endured a difficult start to his reign after succeeding Warren Gatland, but his side are two victories from a Grand Slam after beating the defending champions 40-24.

England, on the other hand, saw the Six Nations title all-but slip through their fingers as they were left to rue poor discipline and two controversial first-half tries for Wales.

Red Rose boss Jones has previous with Gauzere and spoke to World Rugby about an incident involving the French official during Wales' win over Scotland in 2018.

The Australian was his usually outspoken self ahead of Saturday's clash at the Principality Stadium.

He said: "Unfortunately, there are no fans but the intensity of the clash I think over the last four or five years, the games I have been involved in, the points difference is six points. They always go down to the wire, so the pressure is going to be on the referee to make the right decisions."

So when Gauzere twice took centre stage in the first half by awarding tries for Josh Adams and Liam Williams, Jones may have been thinking he had made the wrong decision by putting the spotlight on the referee.

Jones should also be pointing the finger at his players, who he said had become more "street-smart" than they were when losing to Wales at the same stadium two years ago.

They were their own worst enemies, conceding 14 penalties as they lost for the second time in three matches, but Gauzere left them up against it and resurgent Wales took full advantage.

Owen Farrell has come in for criticism for having too much to say to referees, but he was understandably aggrieved when Adams was awarded an opening try 16 minutes in.

Gauzere had called time out after instructing the skipper to warn his team-mates about their indiscipline, only to give Dan Biggar the green light to pick out Adams with a pinpoint cross-field kick soon after with the majority of Red Rose caught out in a huddle.

Farrell exchanged words with Gauzere before reducing the deficit to 10-6 with his second penalty, yet the French official took centre stage once again when he raised his arm to signal a try for Williams with half an hour on the clock.

Louis Rees-Zammit was shaking his head in frustration after knocking the ball forward prior to Williams dotting down, but Gauzere opted against changing his decision after consulting the TMO as the ball struck the wing's leg prior to hitting the ground after he knocked it forward.

Rees-Zammit raised eyebrows over the verdict and England responded with a well-finished try from Anthony Watson before Farrell made it 17-14 just before the break.

Kieran Hardy caught England napping early in the second half with a sharp turn of foot to score a third Wales try but Farrell made it a seven-point game when he was on target with the boot again.

England were showing the sort of inventive play they were so badly lacking in the defeat to Scotland and the quick-thinking Ben Youngs nipped in for a superb try, which Farrell converted to level at 24-24 with 17 minutes to go.

The Red Rose continued to give away far too many penalties, though, and Callum Sheedy punished them on three occasion to put Pivac's men 33-24 up with six minutes remaining.

Cory Hill put the icing on the cake as it was Wales who proved to be more "street-smart”, with Pivac celebrating gleefully as his side took a big stride on the road towards another title.

George North will become the youngest player in world rugby to reach 100 caps after being named in Wales' starting line-up for Saturday's Six Nations showdown with England.

The 28-year-old, who won his first cap in November 2010, returns to the side at outside centre as one of five changes from the 25-24 win over Scotland on February 13.

Wing Josh Adams is back from suspension while Josh Navidi, Jonathan Davies and scrum-half Kieran Hardy are also included in the XV, the latter making his first Six Nations start.

Wales have won their opening two games in this year's tournament and are three points ahead of England, who beat Italy 41-18 last time out after losing to Scotland in their opener.

Eddie Jones makes two changes to the England line-up, with hooker Jamie George and flanker Mark Wilson replacing Luke Cowan-Dickie and the injured Courtney Lawes respectively.

Elliot Daly retains his place and is set to win his 50th cap for England, who have named the uncapped George Martin among their replacements for the Principality Stadium clash. 

"We know we'll be up against a strong Welsh challenge on Saturday, but we've worked really hard in training this week and have got a very good team to face it," Jones said.

"We want to show people what we are capable of, keep building our performances and show the best is yet to come from this England team."

 

Wales XV: Liam Williams; Louis Rees-Zammit, George North, Jonathan Davies, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar, Kieran Hardy; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rhodri Jones, Leon Brown, Cory Hill, James Botham, Gareth Davies, Callum Sheedy, Uilisi Halaholo.

England XV: Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell, Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Mark Wilson, Tom Curry, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, George Martin, Ben Earl, Dan Robson, Max Malins.

England head coach Eddie Jones has named a new-look front row and recalled George Ford for the Six Nations game against Italy on Saturday.

The reigning champions went down 11-6 to Scotland on the opening weekend of the 2021 tournament, their first defeat to their Calcutta Cup rivals at Twickenham in 38 years. 

As he looks for a response following that setback, Jones has selected Ford at fly-half in his starting XV, meaning captain Owen Farrell switches to inside centre for the clash with the Azzurri. 

In the pack, the fit-again Mako Vunipola comes in to play opposite fellow prop Kyle Sinckler, while Luke Cowan-Dickie gets the nod at hooker ahead of Jamie George, who is on the bench. 

Courtney Lawes also gets a start at flanker, joining Tom Curry and Billy Vunipola in the back row.  

Ollie Lawrence – who was handed his first Six Nations start against Scotland – is absent from the 23-man squad entirely, with Henry Slade picked to play next to Farrell in midfield.  

"As always, we've picked what we think is our strongest 23 to try and win the game," Jones said.

"We're pleased to have Mako and Kyle back into the team and we've made some changes to our starting XV, but our finishers are just as important to our gameplan. We look at the whole 80 minutes.  

"We've trained very well this week, I've been very pleased with the players' attitudes and work-rate. We're hoping to put on a good performance on Saturday and kick on with our Six Nations campaign." 


England team to face Italy at Twickenham:

Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell (captain), Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Billy Vunipola

Replacements: Jamie George, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, Ben Earl, Jack Willi, Dan Robson, Max Malins.

Gregor Townsend praised the "calmness" and "togetherness" that saw Scotland end 38-years of Twickenham hurt, as Eddie Jones took responsibility for England's Calcutta Cup defeat.

Defending Six Nations champions England were caught cold by a dominant Scotland showing at an empty Twickenham, a venue where the visitors had not beaten their rivals since 1983.

Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell were influential in a game marking the 150th anniversary of this fixture, while rookie Cameron Redpath impressed and Duhan van der Merwe scored the game's only try in an 11-6 win.

Reflecting on a famous victory with ITV Sport, Scotland coach Townsend said: "I think there was just a calmness about how we played, a togetherness and an effort level that was superb. 

"We had a really good feeling with the way we trained and bonded. But you never know, it's the first game of the championship, there were a few who had their first game for a while or debuts. It was above expectations but what a start to the championship.

"It's impressive, to win here is very tough. Our line-out was superb, we really respect England's set-piece, their line-out has been outstanding the last couple of years.

"We put pressure on lines-outs, the scrums were good – then we were accurate in attack. It's difficult in these conditions to go wide, which we did. The kicking was excellent and so was the players' leadership – you could hear them in this empty stadium."

Captain Hogg revelled in the win but insisted the focus quickly turns to next week's home clash against Wales.

"It's amazing for us, I think we can't control what happened in the past that's gone, we can control what happens in the future," Hogg said, 

"We were a credit to a man, credit to England they provided a tough challenge. We stood up to it.

"We got excited during the week, we knew we could come down here and put in a performance. We looked after the ball in attack, went for multi-phase and caused England problems. We'll enjoy this one then it's onto Wales."

England also lost their 2020 Six Nations opener to France but rebounded to win a championship delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The hosts were left lacking in both the possession stats and penalty counts, and head coach Jones said the buck lies with him.

"Firstly congratulations to Scotland, they played very well, played with a lot intent and a lot of spirt, we just had one of those days, maybe I didn't prepare the team right, we were a long way from our best," Jones said.

"You just have days like that. It's my responsibility, every time a team goes on the pitch it's a head coach's responsibility."

England's midfield pairing of Henry Slade and rookie Ollie Lawrence struggled to get into the game but Jones had a simple reason to explain that.
"You've just got to look at the possession stats, they had 75 per cent possession, a penalty count of 10 to one. That's why the centres didn't touch the ball, it's the basics of rugby," he added.

"It is what it is, we get the players, we accept responsibility for the players, I accept responsibility for not getting players ready for this game."

Eddie Jones questioned whether Scotland could handle the "weight of expectation" and they provided the sweetest of answers by ending a 38-year wait for a win at Twickenham.

Time and again Scotland had failed to beat their fierce rivals in their own backyard, but that elusive victory finally came as they regained the Calcutta Cup on a wet Saturday evening in London.

Gregor Townsend's side dominated the Six Nations champions on the opening day of the tournament, winning 11-6 to leave England head coach Jones with a face like thunder.

Jones will be asking why his ill-disciplined side started the defence of their title with such a flat, insipid performance in a game that marked the 150th anniversary of rugby's oldest fixture

Scotland had produced a sensational fightback to draw 38-38 at the same venue two years ago, before being denied an astonishing victory late on.

They never looked like suffering more heartbreak on this occasion, Stuart Hogg leading by example as they won at the famous stadium for the first time since 1983 to leave England shellshocked.

Scotland certainly did not resemble a team who might be feeling the pressure as they bossed the game from start to finish.

The Red Rose, starting the tournament with a depleted pack, were guilty of indiscipline time and again, with referee Andrew Brace losing patience when he sent Billy Vunipola to the sin bin.

Finn Russell deservedly put Scotland in front with a penalty early on and almost set up a try for Duhan van der Merwe with a clever kick, but the leaping wing was unable to grab a high bouncing ball and touch down.

Van der Merwe was not to be denied soon after, fending off Mark Wilson's tackle to put Scotland 8-0 up on the half-hour mark, but Scotland suffered a blow when Russell was yellow-carded just before the break for tripping Ben Youngs.

The boot of Farrell reduced the deficit to two points at the interval, with Scotland surely heading to the dressing room thinking they should have been further ahead after being frustrated by resolute England defending.

Russell returned with Scotland still leading and they continued to boss possession, managing the game superbly, and the fly-half's second penalty put them 11-6 up before he missed another shot at goal.

A furious Jones marched from the stands to the touchline to try and turn the tide, replacing Jamie George and Youngs with Luke Cowan-Dickie and Dan Robson before the hour-mark.

The excellent Hogg kept them on the back foot with a sublime, mammoth kick into the corner - not for the first time - and England were warned over their penalty count again, but more desperate defence denied Scotland a second try as they continue to hammer at the door.

Lacklustre England's day was summed up when Jonny May knocked on under no pressure in the closing stages.

Hogg said Scotland felt ready to "create a little bit of history" and start a "new chapter" this weekend and, as they finally celebrated on the Twickenham turf, it was evident the Red Rose had failed to live up to expectations.

England head coach Eddie Jones is self-isolating after assistant Matt Proudfoot tested positive for coronavirus.

England Rugby announced on Wednesday that Proudfoot, who is asymptomatic, returned a positive in the latest round of pre-tournament testing ahead of the Six Nations and is now in isolation.

Jones and attack coach Simon Amor were identified as close contacts and must also self-isolate for 10 days, as per United Kingdom government guidelines.

Should they return further negative tests, Jones and Amor will be able to link up with the squad at St George's Park from January 28.

England, who are set to name their squad on Friday, are due to begin the defence of their Six Nations title against Scotland at Twickenham on February 6.

Jones is expected to name a 28-man selection featuring mostly established international players, with strict COVID-19 bubble arrangements meaning he cannot call up a larger group and allow those needing game time to return to their club sides.

Thirteen Barbarians players have been given bans by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) after breaking coronavirus rules and causing a match with England to be cancelled.

The RFU reportedly lost close to £1million in revenue and sponsorship after the match at Twickenham on October 25 was called off.

An independent disciplinary panel on Tuesday passed a range of sanctions against 13 players, who all accepted the disciplinary charges.

Chris Robshaw, Alex Lewington, Fergus McFadden, Juan Pablo Socino, Richard Wigglesworth and Jackson Wray were all given four-week bans after admitting to breaching the COVID-19 bubble and providing a false account of their whereabouts.

The players, who were also ordered to complete unpaid rugby community work, had longer initial suspensions reduced "as a result of their timely acceptance of culpability and the players' other mitigation". All except McFadden have been fined two weeks' wages.

Calum Clark, Sean Maitland, Timothy Swinson, Joel Kpoku, Manu Vunipola, Thomas De Glanville and Simon Kerrod have also received bans.

The RFU said in a statement: "The total charges across 13 players are 85 weeks of match bans; 44 weeks suspended subject to conditions being met and 41 weeks of bans to be taken concurrently; players have been fined a total of 18.5 weeks salary and given a total of 630 hours of community service.

"The sanctions reflect the seriousness of the charges which include behaving in a way that ignored what the public at large and the Rugby community were complying with and deliberately compromising an investigation being carried out by the RFU as swiftly as the circumstances demanded."

The disciplinary panel was told that, on October 20, "Robshaw, Wray and Wigglesworth left the hotel to go for takeaway drinks from the Footman pub in Mayfair and drank them outside. Later they moved into the pub where they were joined by Lewington, Socino, McFadden and Kerrod, contrary to Tier 2 regulations then in place in London".

The players, who had not sought or been given permission to leave their hotel, were seen on CCTV using a fire escape "to avoid any confrontation".

On October 21, 12 players left the hotel to visit Hush bar in Mayfair, The Running Horse pub and Sergio's restaurant, despite the Barbarian management team having told Wray a visit to the latter was not permitted. The players later claimed they had gone to a McDonald's restaurant before sitting in Berkeley Square with takeaway drinks.

During the investigation, the 12 players said in a statement: "We would like unequivocally to apologise to the Barbarians FC and the Rugby Football Union for our misguided and foolish actions on Wednesday evening. We bitterly regret our stupidity. We would like unequivocally to apologise to the RFU legal officer and lawyer for offering misleading statements during our interviews on Thursday; our basic instinct, as rugby players, is to stick together and protect each other, but, in this instance, we now realise we should have told the entire truth. As a group, together, we would now like to set down the precise sequence of events."

England saw off Wales 24-13 in a scrappy Llanelli battle as Eddie Jones' men clinched top spot in Group A of the Autumn Nations Cup. 

Tries from Henry Slade and Mako Vunipola plus 14 points from the boot of captain Owen Farrell - who became the sixth man to kick 200 penalties in Test rugby - did the job for the visitors. 

There was little running rugby on view at Parc y Scarlets, where Wales showed dogged resistance at times, an improved showing for coach Wayne Pivac whose team halted a six-game losing streak with a shaky victory over Georgia in their previous outing. 

But England rode out the shock of conceding an early try against the run of play and were comfortable enough winners in the end.

Johnny Williams nudged Wales ahead on 10 minutes, with Dan Biggar kicking a loose ball through and Williams showing good football skills himself before grounding for the first points of the game. Leigh Halfpenny added the conversion. 

Slade got England on the board in the 15th minute, an easy run to the line in the left corner after the visitors moved the ball sharply through hands, but Farrell pulled his kick wide. 

Halfpenny then sent a 45-metre penalty a foot wide of the right post, missing out on points Wales could ill afford to let slip away. 

Farrell booted England into the lead for the first time after Wales flanker Shane Lewis-Hughes was punished for not releasing the ball. 

And England were kicking at almost every opportunity when in possession, but a combination of their erratic work and pressure from the Welsh was keeping it tight. Farrell added a second penalty to edge England into an 11-7 interval lead. 

The Welsh defence was impressing but they were bereft of an attacking threat and at times it looked like a damage-limitation exercise, with Vunipola plunging over from close range near to the posts for the second Red Rose try in the 51st minute. 

Farrell could hardly miss and duly stretched England's lead to 18-7, before a spell of Welsh pressure saw the hosts earn a pair of penalties that Biggar seized on to claim six easy points. 

A third Farrell penalty saw England to an eight-point cushion, after Wales knocked on, and he slotted a fourth in the 72nd minute to make sure. 

Thirteen Barbarians players have been charged by the Rugby Football Union for a breach of COVID-19 protocols which caused the cancellation of their match against England.

The Twickenham clash scheduled for last Sunday was aborted after RFU investigations established members of the Baa-Baas squad broke their coronavirus regulations.

It meant England's players were left without a warm-up match ahead of this Saturday's Six Nations showdown against Italy.

An RFU statement confirmed the players will face charges that include leaving the hotel without permission or without informing organisers of their whereabouts, and providing false statements during an investigation.

"The RFU recognises the pressure public scrutiny is placing on the players and therefore it will publish players' names, full judgements and sanctions after the hearings have concluded," said a statement from the RFU.

"There is no sanction table applicable to charges brought under Rule 5.12 therefore the Independent Panel can issue a range of sanctions at their discretion including fines and/or match bans and/or any other suitable sanction."

Players involved are set to attend virtual hearings over the next few weeks and face a range of sanctions, including playing suspensions and fines.

A number of the Barbarians players have since publicly apologised for the breach, with former England captain Chris Robshaw saying he was "sincerely remorseful" for his actions.

England coach Eddie Jones has lauded Ben Youngs and Jamie George as the duo prepare to make landmark appearances against Italy.

Leicester Tigers scrum-half Youngs will become just the second player, after Jason Leonard, to make it to 100 appearances for England when he takes to the field against Italy in Rome on Saturday.

England are chasing a bonus-point victory to keep them in contention for the Six Nations title, with leaders Ireland - one point better off - taking on third-place France in Saturday's later match.

Youngs is not the only player to be reaching an England milestone, with hooker George set to win his 50th cap.

The duo have been made to wait over seven months, with England having last played against Wales in March, prior to the coronavirus outbreak causing the suspension of the championship.

"I can only speak with great admiration of Ben," said Jones in a news conference.

"He had a difficult World Cup in 2015 and since then has worked extremely hard on his game. At his best he's close to the best half-back in the world.

"He's got a great running game, a good kicking game and he's an important, infectious character in our squad."

Jones added of George: "It's a great achievement for Jamie to be winning his 50th cap.

"He had a long apprenticeship but he's now fully established as our starting hooker."

Owen Farrell will captain the side, which features seven changes from the one which defeated Wales 33-30, and the Saracens fly-half echoed Jones' sentiments in regards to his team-mate Youngs.

"Everybody knows how good a player Ben is," Farrell said. "Not only or what he’s doing in recent times but for how long he's been doing it.

"He was in the England team when I was coming through, at a very young age, and he stepped up to the plate very quickly and has obviously been doing it ever since.

"He's brilliant to play with, he's a great driver of energy throughout the team which is brilliant for a scrum-half. He sees space very well and gets the team on the front foot."

Ben Youngs will win his 100th cap for England in their long-delayed Six Nations clash with Italy on Saturday.

The 31-year-old Leicester Tigers scrum-half will become just the second England player to tot up a century of appearances, after Jason Leonard, who won 114 caps from 1990 to 2004.

England's starting XV for the match at Rome's Stadio Olimpico shows seven changes to the side that beat Wales 33-30 in March, before the championship was suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Most are forced on coach Eddie Jones by injury, with Elliot Daly, Manu Tuilagi, George Ford, Joe Marler, Courtney Lawes and Mark Wilson all sidelined, while George Kruis misses out as he heads to Japan to continue his career.

Hooker Jamie George wins a 50th cap, and he and Youngs will lead out the team, which will be captained by Owen Farrell.

Into the side comes full-back George Furbank, with Jonathan Joseph and Henry Slade lining up at centre as Farrell moves to fly-half, while Billy Vunipola and Mako Vunipola feature in the pack along with George and the uncapped Exeter Chiefs lock Jonny Hill.

Jones, whose side will be chasing a bonus-point win that would keep them in title contention ahead of Ireland's clash with France later in the day, said: "We've trained with good intensity this week and the squad are excited by the challenge of performing at our best against Italy.

"The team have prepared well and are looking forward to putting on an England shirt and showing what they can do.

"We will also celebrate two major achievements in Ben Youngs' and Jamie George's cap milestones.  It's testimony to their skill, hard work and love of playing for England, and there is more to come from both of them."

 

England: George Furbank, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Henry Slade, Jonny May, Owen Farrell, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Tom Dunn, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, Ben Earl, Dan Robson, Ollie Lawrence, Ollie Thorley.

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