France and Croatia will play out a repeat of their World Cup final having been drawn in the same group in the 2020-21 Nations League with defending champions Portugal, while Germany and Spain will go head-to-head.

Fernando Santos' side won the inaugural competition last year, beating Netherlands 1-0 in the final thanks to Goncalo Guedes, though Group 3 looks set to significantly test their mettle this time around – Sweden also joining them with Croatia and France.

The format of the competition changes slightly this time around, with the groups containing four teams rather than three, but as before the top team from each of the four groups in League A will meet in the Nations League finals.

Italy will fancy their chances of reaching the final stages having been drawn with Poland, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Netherlands, the latter likely their biggest challengers.

In Group 4, Germany and Spain will be the favourites ahead of Ukraine and Switzerland, while England and Belgium are in Group 2 with Iceland and Denmark.

The competition will commence in early September, with the Finals set for June 2021.

League A

Group 1: Poland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Italy, Netherlands

Group 2: Iceland, Denmark, Belgium, England

Group 3: Croatia, Sweden, France, Portugal

Group 4: Germany, Ukraine, Spain, Switzerland

LEAGUE B

Group 1: Austria, Norway, Northern Ireland, Romania

Group 2: Czech Republic, Scotland, Slovakia, Israel

Group 3: Russia, Serbia, Turkey, Hungary

Group 4: Wales, Finland, Republic of Ireland, Bulgaria

 

LEAGUE C

Group 1: Azerbaijan, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Montenegro

Group 2: Armenia, Estonia, Macedonia, Georgia

Group 3: Moldova, Slovenia, Kosovo, Greece

Group 4: Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Belarus, Albania

 

LEAGUE D

Group 1: Malta, Andorra, Latvia, Faroe Islands

Group 2: San Marino, Liechtenstein, Gibraltar

Kylian Mbappe has been pre-selected for France ahead of the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo, French Football Federation (FFF) president Noel Le Graet said.

Paris Saint-Germain star and World Cup winner Mbappe, 21, is on the initial 80-man list for the tournament, with men's teams restricted to Under-23 players and a maximum of three overage players.

Football at the Tokyo Olympics will get underway on July 23 and finish on August 8 as defending champions Brazil eye another gold medal.

"Mbappe is on a pre-list of 80 players for the Olympic Games, produced by Sylvain Ripoll. That list will then become 50, before becoming 18 + four reserves," Le Graet told reporters.

"He has the age to be able to go [U23]. Like all the young players of his age who are talented, he is therefore on the list… I met with [PSG president] Nasser [Al-Khelaifi]. I asked him how Mbappe was going. He said to me: 'Very good'. That's where we are.

"In general, club presidents feel that the dates [of the Olympic Games] are not particularly good. It is like that."

Mbappe has starred for Ligue 1 champions PSG this season, scoring 18 league goals and 27 across all competitions.

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."

Wayne Pivac was unimpressed with the officiating after Wales suffered a narrow defeat to France that leaves the defending champions with only a slim chance of retaining their Six Nations title.

Romain Ntamack was the star of the show as Les Bleus ended a 10-year wait for a victory in Cardiff, winning a thriller 27-23 on Saturday.

Ntamack scored 17 points in a fly-half masterclass at the Principality Stadium for a France side that have won three out of three this year, putting them on track for a first Six Nations crown in a decade.

However, Wales felt they should have been awarded a penalty try by referee Matthew Carley for what they saw as a deliberate knock-on by Paul Willemse when Ken Owens attempted to set up Josh Adams in the second half.

Head coach Pivac said: "We have had a look at the slap down and I think the officials may have got that one wrong.

"That killed momentum as well."

Pivac was also aggrieved when France were awarded a penalty in a scrum as Wales applied the pressure, with prop Wyn Jones having stated this week he expected Les Bleus to "cheat" when they packed down.

"Another disappointing moment was when the French tighthead [Demba Bamba] came on and went straight across the scrum and was rewarded for that," said the New Zealander.

"Those were the big moments in the game. The scrums, from our point of view, had gone okay up until that point.

"You have got to go with the forward motion but he clearly went across the scrum."

Pivac said wings George North and Adams will be checked over after suffering head and ankle injuries respectively, with Wales having games against England and Scotland in March.

"George will go through the normal protocols for a HIA [head injury assessment]. He was taken off the field for a HIA," Pivac stated.

"Josh Adams had an ankle injury. We will have to check him in the next day or two to see how severe it is."

Romain Ntamack says Six Nations leaders France are not discussing the prospect of winning a Grand Slam after he inspired a magnificent 27-23 victory over Wales.

Les Bleus ended a 10-year wait for a victory in Cardiff to outline their title credentials in a thriller at a raucous Principality Stadium on Saturday.

Fly-half Ntamack score a crucial intercept try in the second half following first-half scores from Anthony Bouthier and Paul Willemse.

Dan Biggar's 18-point haul was in vain as the defending champions suffered back-to-back defeats to leave their hopes of retaining the title in tatters.

France went on to complete a clean sweep after their last win in Wales back in 2010, which is the last time they won the tournament.

Ntamack, who was named man of the match after scoring 17 points and showing maturity way beyond his years, says they are not getting ahead of themselves in what has been a dream start to the Fabien Galthie era.

"It's amazing. We worked the whole week for a big game like that. It was a very tough game," he told BBC Sport.

"We have no experience, but we play with a smile. It was a good experience to win at the Principality.

"The try was a good moment. We don't think about the Grand Slam, we play match after match."

Captain Alun Wyn Jones says Wales only had themselves to blame.

"The scoreboard said they deserved it," he said. "You make your own luck sometimes and we fell short on the scoreboard.

"We gave them two penalties and they scored. In the second half, we had the ascendancy and we felt we should have got more out of that scrum. There was a case for a couple of penalty tries.

"They have a very good defence coach [former Wales defence guru Shaun Edwards] and were an embodiment of that today."

Serge Betsen feels the "unbelievable" Shaun Edwards has already made a big impact since he was appointed France defence coach and declared "this is just the beginning".

Edwards was lured across the English Channel to join a new-look Les Bleus coaching set-up under Fabien Galthie after 12 years as Wales defensive guru.

It was clear that the hugely respected, no-nonsense 53-year-old has already stamped his authority early in his new role with the manner in which France defended for their lives in a victory over England in their Six Nations opener.

Edwards returns to Cardiff on Saturday for France's showdown with his former employers at the Principality Stadium on what promises to be a pivotal weekend in the battle for the title.

Betsen has first-hand experience of Edwards' coaching skills from his time at Wasps and the former France flanker has paid tribute to the Englishman.

He told Omnisport: "Shaun Edwards used to be my coach at Wasps. He coached me for three years, he's an unbelievable coach, very passionate and very effective with what he does.

"He's one of the best defensive coaches in the world and everybody who he coaches, you can see the impact he has made. I'm looking forward to seeing how he is going to empower the French players for this game because it's really fine margins and those margins are so important.

"I don't feel he'll be looking to use his past experience with Wales as an advantage so much, but what he is really good at [is] empowering people and he'll make sure the players know how to be the best they can be."

Betsen revealed Edwards asked to pick his brains before embarking on his new challenge.

"I really appreciated the fact that Shaun asked to meet with me before he went to France, to try to understand the French mentality, et cetera," he added.

"As a Frenchman and someone who understands his coaching philosophy, I think he made a very good decision to try to understand the people he would be working with and the culture, to ensure he can adapt himself and make a difference.

"We saw the impact he has made in the game against England, not so much against Italy. He brings to the team with instilling discipline, effectiveness, attention to detail and this is just the beginning.

"What people remember from Shaun Edwards is the blitz defence and I want to see the French team being able to apply that at some point."

Serge Betsen laughed off Wyn Jones' claim that France will "cheat" in the Six Nations showdown on Saturday and urged Les Bleus to keep their discipline on a revenge mission in Cardiff.

Wales prop Jones fanned the flames this week by stating that the defending champions know France will "hit and chase and cheat" in the scrum.

France head coach Fabien Galthie accused Wales of a "lack of respect towards our scrum, towards our team, towards French rugby, towards our nation", while manager Raphael Ibanez described Jones' barbs as a "blatant, childish attack".

Betsen says joint-leaders Les Bleus are best advised to let their rugby do the talking when they bid to keep their Grand Slam hopes alive.

Asked about Jones' comments, the former France flanker told Omnisport: "That made me laugh, because it is an attempt to create disruption and get into the head of your opponents.

"Communication is a key aspect of the game, but I believe none of the French players responded to that. My view is better to be quiet and play at your best than start talking about things that are not the truth.

"Saying that, we are not really in the press outside of France because we are not speaking, we are not talking a lot about what we are doing, and we talk after the game."

A moment of madness from Sebastien Vahaamahina cost France dearly the last time the two nations met in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final at Oita Stadium in October.

Les Bleus were leading 19-10 at half-time and looked to be heading into the last four before lock Vahaamahina was dismissed for elbowing Aaron Wainwright, with Wales going on to win 20-19.

While a host of players who will feature at the Principality Stadium were not involved in that painful encounter, Betsen says it should make them even more eager to give Wales a taste of their own medicine.

"I think that red card gave them a lot of experience of high level. It is a great opportunity for all those players who felt that frustration of losing," he added.

"It will be very challenging for France, it is a young side, with players who have not experienced playing in Cardiff.

"At the highest level it is all about keeping your nerve, maintain your discipline."

Family loyalty will go out of the window when England and Ireland do battle this weekend, and France face a major test of their Six Nations title credentials against Wales.

Ireland beat defending champions Wales 24-14 in Dublin last time out, while France also made it two wins out of two with a 35-22 triumph over Italy.

The joint-leaders will not have home comforts for the first time in the tournament, with the third round of matches seeing Les Bleus travel to Cardiff on Saturday and Ireland taking on England at Twickenham on Sunday.

England captain Owen Farrell could inflict a first defeat on his father, Andy, since he become Ireland head coach.

Winless Scotland and Italy do battle on Saturday at Rome's Stadio Olimpico, where the hosts go in search of their first points of the tournament.

We take a look at what promises to a be pivotal round of matches with some standout Opta data.

 

Italy v Scotland

- Scotland have won six of their last seven Six Nations games against Italy, their solitary loss in that spell coming at Murrayfield in 2015 – the Azzurri’s last victory against any side in the Championship.

- Seven of the last eight Six Nations meetings between Italy and Scotland in Rome have been decided by seven points or fewer.

- Italy have spent 40 minutes in possession in the Six Nations this year, longer than any other side, making the most carries (300) and metres (857) in the process; in contrast, Scotland have spent the least time in possession during this campaign (33m 56s).

- Scotland have missed just 25 tackles in this year's Six Nations, fewer than any of their rivals and as a result boast the best tackle success rate (91 per cent).

 

Wales v France

- Wales have won eight of their last nine Test matches against France, this after winning just two of their previous 12 clashes with Les Bleus before that run.

- France and Scotland (7/7) are the only sides who boast a 100 per cent scrum success rate on their own feed in the Six Nations this year, while Wales have recorded the worst success rate at that particular set-piece - with 11 from 15.

- France’s Bernard Le Roux has made the most tackles of any player in the tournament with 38, one more than Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones.

- No player has beaten more defenders in the Six Nations this year than France's Antoine Dupont (10, level with Stuart Hogg), while he also has the second-most offloads with seven.

 

England v Ireland

- Ireland are the only side to hold a winning record over England in the Six Nations (winning 11 and losing nine); however, they suffered a record 57-15 to the Red Rose in their last meeting before the Rugby World Cup.

- England have lost just one of their last 19 home games in the Six Nations (W17, D1). That one defeat came the last time they hosted Ireland in 2018.

- Ireland have won 95 per cent of their lineouts in the Six Nations this year (19/20), which is the best rate of any team. However, England have stolen the most lineouts (5) in the Championship.

- Maro Itoje has hit 74 rucks in the 2020 Six Nations, more than any other player, and has also won the most turnovers with six.

Gael Fickou moves to the wing and the fit-again Virimi Vakatawa is back in France's starting line-up for the Six Nations battle with Wales on Saturday.

Vakatawa was ruled out of the victory over Italy with a triceps injury but will make a centre pairing with Arthur Vincent at the Principality Stadium.

Fickou shifts out wide from midfield with Vincent Rattez (broken fibula) and Damian Penaud (calf) on the sidelines.

They are the only changes made to the starting line-up by Fabien Galthie as Les Bleus attempt to make it three wins out of three in Cardiff.

Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack have shaken off niggles to start for a France side that are joint-top with Ireland.

Prop Jean-Baptiste Gros and flanker Dylan Cretin are set to make their debuts off the bench against the defending champions, with Jefferson Poirot and Cameron Woki overlooked.

 

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

Replacements: Camille Chat, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Demba Bamba, Romain Taofifenua, Dylan Cretin, Baptiste Serin, Matthieu Jalibert, Thomas Ramos.

 

Gareth Davies and Ross Moriarty have been restored to the Wales starting line-up for the Six Nations encounter with France on Saturday.

Scrum-half Davies is preferred to Tomos Williams, while back-row Moriarty gets the nod over Aaron Wainwright for a mouth-watering battle at the Principality Stadium.

Clinical wing Josh Adams and fly-half Dan Biggar have been passed fit after recovering from hip and head injuries respectively.

Lock Will Rowlands is poised to make his debut off the bench in Cardiff, while Williams and Wainwright have also been named among the replacements by Wayne Pivac.

Defending champions Wales will be looking to consign France to a first defeat of the tournament and respond to a defeat against Ireland that dashed their hopes of winning back-to-back Grand Slams.

 

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Nick Tompkins, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Dillon Lewis, Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones (captain, Ross Moriarty, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Ryan Elias, Rob Evans, Leon Brown, Will Rowlands, Aaron Wainwright, Tomos Williams, Jarrod Evans, Johnny McNicholl.

Wales boss Wayne Pivac has summoned Hallam Amos into his squad ahead of Saturday's Six Nations showdown with France.

The full-back, who also has experience of playing on the wing, comes in after recovering from an ankle injury.

That setback had kept Amos out of Pivac's initial plans, but he could now step up to play an important role over the remaining three matches.

The 25-year-old former Dragons star is looking to add to his 22 caps for Wales and takes the place of Cardiff Blues team-mate Owen Lane, who dropped out after suffering a hamstring blow.

Amos proved his fitness in Cardiff's Pro14 match against Connacht on Saturday, playing on the left wing in the Blues' 29-0 defeat.

Wales will look to return to winning ways after their 24-14 defeat to Ireland last time out, but in France they face a side who have started their campaign with purpose.

Les Bleus will be chasing a third successive victory, having already overcome England and Italy at the Stade de France.

A first away match for France promises to be their biggest test yet, with Wales having won their last three encounters, including a 20-19 success in their World Cup quarter-final in October.

Barcelona have contacted Leganes regarding the potential signing of striker Martin Braithwaite and the Madrid club are worried losing him will doom them to relegation, according to majority shareholder Felipe Moreno.

After having Ousmane Dembele ruled out for six months last week, Barca are reported to have been granted special dispensation to sign a new player despite the transfer window being closed.

The regulations in place stipulate the player they sign must either be registered with another Spanish club already or a free agent.

Angel Rodriguez, Willian Jose, Lucas Perez and Loren Moron were said to be the initial candidates, but in the past few days Leganes' Denmark international Braithwaite has seemingly emerged as the most likely option.

Leganes confirmed Barca made contact with them on Monday but insist Braithwaite will only leave if his reported €20million release clause is triggered, with Moreno expressing concern after the relegation-threatened side lost another striker in Youssef En-Nesyri to Sevilla last month.

"Yesterday [Monday] afternoon they called and contemplated this situation," Moreno told reporters on Tuesday. "They only made contact once.

"The truth is that we are very worried. After what happened to us with En-Nesyri, now what happens with Braithwaite ... staying in LaLiga gets more complicated every day. In these next hours we will know what happens, yes or no.

"I don't know if anyone will come from Barcelona today. The player has a day off and we have not talked to him.

"I understand why Braithwaite would go to Barca, I would too. But of course, we are not going to negotiate anything. They pay his clause, or he stays at Leganes.

"I can understand that Barca do this if the law allows them to, but I thought that they couldn't sign an active player, only one free agent. I was surprised."

After 24 LaLiga matches this season, Leganes are second-bottom of the table, only ahead of Espanyol on goal difference and two points adrift of Celta Vigo in 17th.

Ousmane Dembele will be out for around six months after having hamstring surgery, Barcelona confirmed.

The injury-plagued Frenchman will miss the rest of the season and is unlikely to return in time for France's Euro 2020 campaign, which begins in June.

Barca confirmed on February 6 that Dembele was due to go under the knife in Finland, with the winger having suffered a ruptured tendon in his proximal hamstring in his right thigh.

Following the procedure on Tuesday, Barca expect the former Borussia Dortmund talent to be out until August.

Dembele has endured an injury nightmare at Barca, suffering several serious problems since arriving at Camp Nou for an initial €105million in August 2017.

This term he has been limited to just nine appearances across all competitions, the last coming against former club Dortmund on November 27.

Barca are expected to be granted special dispensation to sign a replacement for Dembele, though regulations will limit them to a free agent or a domestic player.

The injury is also sure to impact France's preparations for Euro 2020.

Dembele has been a regular for the world champions ever since making his debut in 2016, but he will now likely play no part in the European Championship.

Ousmane Dembele will be out for around six months after having hamstring surgery, Barcelona confirmed.

Six Nations leaders France will be without wing Vincent Rattez for the remainder of the tournament after it was confirmed he had suffered a broken leg.

The 27-year-old sustained the injury during the closing stages of Sunday's 35-22 home win over Italy.

In the absence of Damian Penaud, La Rochelle star Rattez was a starter for Les Bleus in that match as well as their opening win over England, in which he scored a try.

Rattez confirmed on social media he had suffered a broken leg against Italy, a major blow for France after head coach Fabien Galthie initially hoped it would only be a sprained ankle.

After two home wins, France are away to Wales on February 22.

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