France wing Teddy Thomas rued lacking the pace of Usain Bolt after he failed to stop Matteo Minozzi scoring a try for Italy in their Six Nations clash on Sunday.

Thomas was the first of five France players to touch down in a 35-22 bonus-point victory over Italy at the Stade de France, latching onto Romain Ntamack's grubber kick in the seventh minute.

Charles Ollivon burrowed over on the left to give Les Bleus a 13-0 lead, but Minozzi capitalised on Thomas rushing forward and leaving space in behind to reduce the deficit.

Gregory Alldritt went over before half-time, while Ntamack and replacement scrum-half Baptiste Serin scored wonderful solo tries either side of Federico Zani's score.

Mattia Bellini got a third try for Italy but they were unable to earn a bonus point at the death as they succumbed to a 24th straight loss in the Six Nations.

Asked about his defending on the Azzurri's first, Thomas said: "I got up to close down quickly but the Italian number 10 has the right to play well.

"He managed to get out a pretty amazing pass and it was too late to turn around and get back. Unfortunately, I'm not Usain Bolt.

"It's up to me to adapt to the system."

Having beaten Rugby World Cup finalists England in their opening game, France sit top of the Six Nations standings with two wins from as many matches.

However, for the second game running they lost concentration in the second half and came under increasing pressure.

"Even if everything was not perfect, we must remember the positives. It would be pretentious not to be satisfied after a win, regardless of the opponent," said Thomas.

"It's not perfect, otherwise we would've taken 10 points from a possible 10. But nine out of 10 is still good enough.

"We are unable to say, 'We're going to win this tournament.' What we are aiming for, first of all, is to keep our discipline for 80 minutes instead of 50 or 60.

"What is really nice is that we are creating a good team spirit. It has often been said you can get bored in Marcoussis but the opposite is the case.

"We are happy to train together, happy to share moments off the field."

France made it back-to-back victories at the start of their Six Nations campaign by claiming a bonus-point 35-22 victory over Italy on Sunday.

Les Bleus overcame Rugby World Cup finalists England in their opening game at the Stade de France and saw off Italy to start with two straight wins for the first time since 2016.

Gregory Alldritt crossed on the stroke of half-time after Matteo Minozzi had reduced the arrears following early scores for Teddy Thomas and Charles Ollivon.

Romain Ntamack's superb solo try then preceded a loss of concentration from France that was punished by Federico Zani.

Replacement scrum-half Baptiste Serin sealed the win with a dazzling individual effort, with Mattia Bellini's 79th-minute score insufficient for Italy to get a losing bonus point.

After opening the scoring with a penalty, Ntamack spotted Italy full-back Jayden Hayward in the defensive line and sent a grubber kick through for Thomas to touch down in the seventh minute.

Ntamack was unable to add the extras in high winds and missed another place kick before seeing his attempt to convert Ollivon's 18th-minute try come back off the crossbar.

Italy made the most of a rare venture into France's territory, Minozzi diving over in the right corner with Thomas punished for moving out of position.

Tommaso Allan's boot reduced the deficit to three points but Antoine Dupont's sensational pass sent Alldritt in on the left, with Ntamack needing a kind bounce off both uprights for his third successful kick.

Allan missed from the tee at the end of a spell of Italy pressure, but France moved quickly from a line-out and Ntamack spotted a gap to dart home before the hour mark.

Les Bleus sent five new forwards on from the bench and Zani dived at the base of the padding around the post in the 65th minute, but Italy were unable to salvage a first point since 2018.

The tension was eased when Serin took a quick tap penalty and chased down his own kick to cross in stunning fashion.

France lost Vincent Rattez to injury and saw Bellini touch down in the right corner at the death, but it was too late for Italy to avoid a 24th straight Six Nations loss.

France and Italy both make just one change to their starting line-ups for the Six Nations clash at the Stade de France on Sunday.

Former Les Bleus Under-20 captain Arthur Vincent replaces powerhouse centre Virimi Vakatawa, who suffered a triceps injury in the victory over England last Sunday, to make his first Test start.

Romain Taofifenua replaces Vincent in the matchday squad, so Fabien Galthie has six forwards to call upon among the replacements in Paris.

Italy were thumped 42-0 by Wales in their opener, but Jayden Hayward's inclusion at full-back is the only alteration made by Franco Smith.

Matteo Minozzi shifts from number 15 to the left wing, with Leonardo Sarto overlooked for the Azzurri's second match of the tournament.

France have triumphed in 18 of their 20 clashes with Italy in the Six Nations, including winning all 10 of their home games.

 

France: Anthony Bouthier, Teddy Thomas, Arthur Vincent, Gael Fickou, Vincent Rattez, 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, Romain Taofifenua, Boris Palu, Cameron Woki, Baptiste Serin, Matthieu Jalibert.

Italy: Jayden Hayward, Mattia Bellini, Luca Morisi, Carlo Canna, Matteo Minozzi, Tommaso Allan, Callum Braley; Andrea Lovotti, Luca Bigi (captain), Giosue Zilocchi, Alessandro Zanni, Niccolo Cannone, Sebastian Negri, Jake Polledri, Abraham Steyn.

Replacements: Federico Zani, Danilo Fischetti, Marco Riccioni, Dean Budd, Federico Ruzza, Giovanni Licata, Guglielmo Palazzani, Giulio Bisegni.

The opening round of fixtures in this year's Six Nations did not disappoint.

Wales served up a feast of tries to kick things off, the defending champions showing a cutting edge as they thrashed poor Italy 42-0 in Cardiff.

The score was far closer at the Aviva Stadium, though, as Ireland edged out Scotland. New captain Johnny Sexton was the hero for the hosts, scoring all their points in a hard-fought 19-12 triumph. Next up: Wales.

England, meanwhile, got their just deserts following a shocking start against France. Failing to score a point in the opening half of a game in the tournament for the first time since 1988 left Eddie Jones' side with too much to do in Paris, Les Bleus delighting the home crowd by holding on for a 24-17 win on Sunday.

So, what will be on the menu for the second week? With help from Opta, we whet your appetite for the upcoming games.

 

Ireland v Wales

- Wales have lost just one of their last five Six Nations games against Ireland (W3, D1). However, their solitary defeat in that spell came the last time they travelled to Dublin in the tournament (2018).

- As for Ireland, they have an outstanding home record, losing just two of the last 22 Tests they have played in front of their own fans (W19, D1). Those defeats? Against New Zealand (November 2016) and England (February 2019).

- Wales gained the most metres (563) of any side in last weekend's opening round, ahead of Ireland (413). Wales also topped the charts for clean breaks (12) and defenders beaten (26, level with Scotland and France).

- Ireland's Jordan Larmour made the most carries (19) and metres (138) of any player last weekend, while Wales' Leigh Halfpenny ranked second in both categories (17 carries, 107 metres).

- Josh Adams crossed for a hat-trick against Italy, taking him to 13 tries in Test rugby since the beginning of 2019. That tally is two more than any other player has managed over that same period of time.


Scotland v England

- Scotland are unbeaten in their last two Six Nations matches against England (W1, D1), this after losing seven in a row before that. Not since 1982-1984 have Scotland gone unbeaten in three straight Calcutta Cup fixtures (W2, D1).

- Only once since 2000 have England suffered successive defeats to open a campaign (2005), but they have lost five of their last seven away outings, including the last two.

- England won 17 of their 18 lineouts in the defeat to France, their 94 per cent success rate the best of any side. In contrast, Scotland's 78 per cent success rate was the worst out of the nations.

- Stuart Hogg beat eight defenders against Ireland, more than any other player in week one. Team-mate Jonny Gray excelled in defence, ending as the joint-top tackler (22, level with Bernard Le Roux).

- Owen Farrell is 20 points away from reaching 900 for England in Test rugby. His highest haul in an international match came against Scotland in 2017, as he landed seven conversions and four penalties to finish with 26.


France v Italy

- France have won 18 of their 20 clashes with Italy in the Six Nations (L2) – scoring victories in each of their 10 home games in that run. They have averaged four tries per game against the Azzurri in the Championship, too.

- Italy hold an unwanted record, having now lost their last 23 Six Nations games. No other side has lost more than 17 consecutive games in Five or Six Nations history.

- France were not flush with possession in the match against England, yet they conceded the fewest metres (224) and clean breaks (6), as well as making the most tackles (182).

- Only England's Maro Itoje (44) hit more rucks in the opening round of this year's Six Nations than France duo Gregory Alldritt (43) and Charles Ollivon (37, level with Peter O'Mahony). Alldritt hit the most defensive rucks of any player (25) and slowed the opposition ball down on 16 occasions at the breakdown.

- France are beginning a Six Nations campaign with two successive home games for the first time since 2016, which also happens to be the last time they began with back-to-back victories.

Wales full-back Liam Williams is set to miss the Six Nations matches against Ireland and France as he continues to be troubled by an ankle injury.

The British and Irish Lion full-back has been out of action since he was injured in training before the Rugby World Cup semi-final against South Africa last October.

Leigh Halfpenny donned the number 15 shirt in the absence of Williams in a 42-0 thrashing of Italy at the Principality Stadium last weekend and could get the nod again for a huge clash with Ireland in Dublin.

Wales will be hoping Williams is fit to return when they face World Cup runners-up England at Twickenham on March 7.

"He’s struggling a bit at the moment," Wales defence coach Byron Hayward said of Williams.

"It's probably a bit too early for Liam. We're looking at the fourth and fifth game in the Championship for when he'll be available.

"Certainly not [as soon as the defending champions hoped], but the boys went well last weekend, Leigh had a great game at full-back, though it would be nice to get Liam back, obviously."

Hayward did not rule out Williams getting some game time with Saracens before making an international comeback, saying in a news conference: "That will be governed by the medical team in terms of where he's at and how he progresses in the next couple of weeks. It's a possibility, certainly."

Gregory Alldritt says a warning from Eddie Jones added fuel to French fires as they started the Fabien Galthie era with a 24-17 Six Nations defeat of England.

England head coach Jones said a young France side should be braced for "absolute brutality" and to "understand what Test rugby is" at the beginning of their new dawn at the Stade de France on Sunday.

Jones might have been regretting those comments as Les Bleus scored 24 points without reply in the Paris rain, new captain Charles Ollivon getting a try in each half after Vincent Rattez's early score.

A sublime double from Jonny May gave England a glimmer of hope, but they could only muster a losing bonus point from an error-strewn display courtesy of an Owen Farrell penalty right at the end.

France showed immense physicality as they defended for their lives and man-of-the-match Alldritt revealed they were determined to show Jones what they are made of.

"Eddie was saying that we couldn't manage the brutality of the England team," said the number eight.

"But when you are a winner, a competitor, you just want to show him that you can manage that.

"Of course we read it. We were clearly going to put some fighting spirit out there."

Alldritt was also full of praise for the impact new defence coach Shaun Edwards has made.

The La Rochelle back-rower said: "Shaun is a tough guy and he always wants aggression from you, in every bit of work and in every tackle.

"He wants big tackles. And speed in the tackle. He is bringing a lot of experience to us at international level and a lot of competence too."

Fabien Galthie felt a fearless approach and "solidarity" was the key to his young France side starting his reign with a 24-17 Six Nations win over England

New head coach Galthie put his faith in youth after replacing Jacques Brunel and was rewarded when Les Bleus beat the Rugby World Cup runners-up in his first game in charge on Sunday.

New captain Charles Ollivon scored a try in each half after Vincent Rattez's first Test score, with Romain Ntamack booting nine points from the tee to put France 24-0 up in the rain at a raucous Stade de France.

Jonny May's magnificent double caused a few French nerves in Paris, but England could only muster a bonus point courtesy of Owen Farrell's penalty with the last kick of the game.

England bossed territory and possession but they were frustrated by a combination of 23 handling errors and heroic France defending, new defence coach Shaun Edwards having already clearly made his mark.

Galthie said: "The players won the game, their solidarity won the game.

"When England started to come back on the scoreboard, there was an arm-wrestling contest and we won it, our defence won it.

"But we also scored three tries, which is no small feat against a team like England in these weather conditions.”

Former France captain Galthie added: "We're in a very positive state.

"It's a victory for all the little details put in place and worked on by the coaching staff over the last couple of months.

"Our team is very young, in terms of age and in terms of experience, but we were not scared of making mistakes, we did not think we could be wrong."

Eddie Jones conceded England looked like they "forgot how to play rugby" during Sunday's Six Nations defeat to France, just over a week after declaring he wants his side to be the greatest of all time.

Three months after losing to South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final, England were beaten 24-17 in an error-strewn display in the rain at the Stade de France.

The Red Rose bossed possession and territory in Paris, but made 23 handling errors and trailed 24-0 following a Charles Ollivon double, an early Vincent Rattez try and nine points from the boot of Romain Ntamack.

Jonny May's sublime double offered England hope, but they gave themselves too much to do and had to settle for a bonus point courtesy of Owen Farrell's penalty with the last kick of the game.

France were heroic in defence, the influence of new defence coach Shaun Edwards clear to see, in the first game of the Fabien Galthie era and England head coach Jones was left to rue a sloppy first-half display.

"It was one of those things, but full credit to the French. They played the conditions well. It’s like we forgot how to play rugby in the first half," he told BBC Sport.

"We were slow out of the blocks, we were sorry for ourselves and out of kilter, we let the situation get to us. But we took responsibility magnificently at half-time."

England lost Manu Tuilagi to injury early on and Jones felt the centre was sorely missed, along with brothers Billy (broken arm) and Mako Vunipola (eye).

"They have been playing like that for a while, they played really good rugby in the World Cup and Shaun Edwards will make them stronger," added the Australian, whose side face Scotland next.

"You miss good players and missing those three – the Vunipolas and Manu Tuilagi are difficult to replace – but we have to find ways around it. That is not an excuse for us. Manu was fully fit.

"It’s a good challenge, we are disappointed in our first-half performance but I have a lot of admiration for way we came back in the second. We have to pick ourselves up and go to Murrayfield and have a bit of fun."

Eddie Jones expected to see a brutal display when England travelled to France in the opening round of the 2020 Six Nations – and that is exactly what he got.

The problem for Jones, though, is that his pre-match quote with regards England testing their opponents' readiness for Test rugby came back to bite him. Badly.

Les Bleus were certainly up to the task. Starting a new era under the stewardship of Fabien Galthie and with defensive expert Shaun Edwards part of the coaching staff, they produced a performance that, after a long period rather stuck in the international doldrums, raises the hope they can rise again. England, in contrast, were as flat as a crepe.

"France can expect absolute brutality from England, we are going to go out there to make sure they understand what Test rugby is. It is about being brutal, it is about being physical and it is about dominating the set piece," Jones had said in his pre-match media conference.

Yet after stoking the flames ahead of a clash that rarely needs help to catch fire, his players failed to even do the basics expected of your local junior team.

Their first-half display quickly brought back memories of November's Rugby World Cup final against South Africa, when they suffered a chastening 32-12 defeat that saw an otherwise excellent campaign end in disappointing fashion.

Disappointing would be a generous description for an error-strewn opening 40 minutes at the Stade de France.

England treated the ball as if if harboured a contagious disease. Debutant George Furbank was diagnosed early with a case of the 'dropsies', which was perhaps understandable to a degree. However, the problem even spread as far as the usually reliable Owen Farrell, who failed to hang on to a simple pass in midfield, much to the delight of a raucous French crowd revelling in what they were witnessing.

There was even a penalty given away for failing to mind the gap at a lineout; that is how far things went underground for England.

Still, while the visitors showed all the coordination of a baby giraffe on ice, France produced some slick rugby in slippery conditions to assume total control. They led 17-0 at half-time, while Edwards' fingerprints were all over an aggressive defensive display that stifled England.

Jones may well have been brutal with his half-time assessment of his team's performance in the changing room, though England did not really start to show any fight until the immediate aftermath of Charles Ollivon's second try of the game, as a late challenge on the scorer caused a confrontation with just under an hour gone.

Jonny May – one of the few bright lights for the visitors in a dismal outing – crossed twice to reduce the gap, both fine finishes by the wing that demonstrated what England can deliver when they can build from firm foundations.

In the end, though, time scuppered any hopes of a dramatic comeback. France – who had surrendered a 16-point lead to lose on opening weekend a year ago to Wales – stood firm under late pressure near their own line, forcing Farrell to slot over a penalty with the final kick of the contest just to claim a losing bonus point.

After a stirring rendition prior to kick-off, the home support voiced their approval by singing La Marseillaise one more time in the closing stages of a superb 24-17 triumph.

England must now face the realisation that their Grand Slam prospects for this year are over after 80 minutes. Jones fanned the flames with his words in the media, but this rebooted France team let their rugby do the talking.

Owen Farrell said sloppy England only had themselves to blame for an error-strewn 24-17 defeat to France in their first game of the Six Nations.

France made a dream start to the Fabien Galthie era at Stade de France, though England gave them a huge helping hand on a wet Sunday in Paris.

The Rugby World Cup runners-up dominated possession and territory, but a double from new captain Charles Ollivon after Vincent Rattez's early try and nine points from the boot of Romain Ntamack put clinical Les Bleus 24-0 up.

A brace of sublime solo tries from Jonny May set the nerves jangling, yet England could only muster a bonus point courtesy of Farrell's penalty with the last kick of the game.

Fired-up France were magnificent in defence, but it might have been a different story had Eddie Jones' not been guilty of 23 handling errors and captain Farrell had no excuses for a poor start to the tournament.

"They scored tries off a couple of our mistakes, we had the ball in our own half too much, we made too many mistakes and they capitalised." he told BBC One.

"They got a foothold, we kind of paused, we had a bit more in the second half but that's not the way we want to defend.

"It's not due to mental fatigue, we were excited to get together and we have to get excited about playing Scotland next week.

"They were more aggressive from the word go, the second half was a bit better but we left ourselves with too much to do."

New captain Charles Ollivon scored a try in each half as France started the Fabien Galthie era with a clinical 24-17 Six Nations defeat of sloppy England at Stade de France.

There was an air of optimism in Paris after Galthie picked a youthful squad for his first tournament as head coach and Les Bleus made a dream start to a new dawn in the Paris rain on Sunday.

Vincent Rattez scored his first Test try and Ollivon claimed a contentious second in a first half France ended with a 17-0 lead, England left to rue a string of handling errors in tricky conditions.

Ollivon went over again after the break and Romain Ntamack took his tally from the tee to nine points to put France 24-0 up after Galthie's men soaked up huge pressure with magnificent defence.

Jonny May set the nerves jangling with a brace of sublime solo tries and Owen Farrell booted seven points to earn a losing bonus point, but the Rugby World Cup runners-up - who lost Manu Tuilagi to injury early on - were made to pay for a lack of ruthlessness in the final third.

France were resolute and well drilled, showing the influence new defence coach Shaun Edwards already appears to have made, as they held on for a huge victory a year after letting a 16-0 half-time lead slip in their first game of the Six Nations against Wales.

Rattez - in for the injured Damian Penaud - raised the roof when he crossed just five minutes in after taking a clever inside pass from Ntamack, Teddy Thomas having cut England open with an initial incisive burst.

Ntamack added the extras and extended the lead with a penalty before Tuilagi's early departure gave England another headache.

Handling errors cost England and they were punished for not playing on when they were convinced Ollivon had knocked on before he raced away to touch down, the TMO awarding the try.

England continued to rack up the errors as they applied huge pressure either side of half-time but were unable to break through as resolute France defended for their lives. 

It was all England, but they were caught out again when Antoine Dupont scooted around the outside and whipped the ball inside for back-row Ollivon, who slid over for a double 15 minutes into the second half and Ntamack again added the extras.

Referee Nigel Owens warned both sides following a mass melee and England finally broke through when May showed a rapid turn of foot to get on the end of his own kick and dot down.

Wing May, who scored a hat-trick in a hammering of France last year, darted inside to go over for another brilliant score, but George Kruis was denied a third try when he charged through, so a Farrell penalty with the last kick of the game meant they would only head home with a solitary point.

Over the past decade there has often been a sense of the unknown with France entering the Six Nations, but what should we make of the 2020 vintage?

Les Bleus were desperately unlucky to lose their Rugby World Cup quarter-final to Wales 20-19, that heartbreaking defeat in Japan bringing an end to Jacques Brunel's tenure.

It was already known Fabien Galthie would replace Brunel after the conclusion of rugby's most prestigious competition and he wasted little time in stamping his authority on the squad.

At a tournament where it seems every team is going through a transition of sorts, France – whose last Six Nations triumph was in 2010 – in particular are headed for a new era and there is plenty of intrigue over how they will fare.


OUT WITH THE OLD IN WITH THE NEW FOR LES BLEUS

When announcing his Six Nations training squad at the start of January, Galthie named 19 uncapped players in a 42-man party that had an average age of just 24.

Only 15 of the squad that travelled to Japan were retained in that selection, with Maxime Machenaud, Camille Lopez, Rabah Slimani and Yoann Huget among the notable absentees.

France have won the past two World Rugby Under-20 Championships with Louis Carbonel, Cameron Woki, Arthur Vincent, Jean-Baptiste Gros and Killian Geraci among the graduates from those teams called into the training squad.

Perhaps wisely, Galthie only has two uncapped players starting for a formidable opener against World Cup runners-up England at the Stade de France, with Montpellier duo Anthony Bouthier and Mohamed Haouas starting at full-back and tighthead prop respectively.

But both Woki and Boris Palu could make their debuts off the bench, while the inexperienced Demba Bamba and Peato Mauvaka are aiming to build on their fledgling international careers and Julian Marchand makes his first France start at hooker.


OLLIVON TAKES ON THE ARMBAND

If proof were needed of Galthie's intention to build for the future, then look no further than the decision to name Charles Ollivon as captain.

With Guilhem Guirado having retired from international rugby, Toulon flanker Ollivon was chosen to lead France against England despite the 26-year-old having gained just 11 caps.

England coach Eddie Jones promised his side will bring "brutal physicality" to Paris, so a starting XV with an average of 15 caps could be in for a baptism of fire.

It will fall on the likes of Gael Fickou (51 caps) and Bernard Le Roux (37 caps) to lead by example as the more seasoned players on the pitch to help Ollivon and the inexperienced players in the team.


EXCELLENT EDWARDS A SHREWD ADDITION

It is not just on the pitch where Galthie has looked to shape his own squad, there have been changes off the pitch too.

Les Bleus legend Raphael Ibanez – part of Grand Slam-winning Five Nations sides in 1997 and 1998 – has arrived as team manager, Laurent Labit has left Racing 92 for a place in the national backroom team, while William Servat, Karim Ghezal, Thibault Giroud and Nicolas Buffa will all serve under Galthie.

But perhaps the most important appointment is that of Shaun Edwards, who is the new defence coach.

Edwards is one of the most highly rated coaches in world rugby and had a plethora of options after leaving a similar role with Wales he had enjoyed for 12 years.

Working alongside Warren Gatland, Wales won four Six Nations titles, including the Grand Slam in 2008, 2012 and 2019, while they were World Cup semi-finalists twice in that time.

In August 2018 it was announced Edwards had agreed to take over Super League side Wigan Warriors but he later stated a contract was never presented to him.

The Warriors' loss could be yet be France's greatest gain. The chance to work with a promising, yet raw team is one that is sure to excite Edwards, who also been involved in the past two British and Irish Lions tours with Gatland.

George Furbank will make his England debut in their Six Nations opener against France at full-back following an injury to Anthony Watson.

Watson was not considered for selection due to a calf issue he entered England's training camp with and Eddie Jones has given Northampton Saints back Furbank the nod.

Elliot Daly will consequently start on the left wing and Jonny May on the opposite side at the Stade de France on Sunday.

George Ford has been handed the fly-half berth with Owen Farrell named at inside centre, while Tom Curry gets the number eight spot in the absence of the injured Billy Vunipola.

Luke Cowan-Dickie was scheduled to re-join the squad in Paris on Friday after being granted leave for personal reasons and was among the replacements. Uncapped prop Will Stuart was also named on the bench.

Jones said: "It has been a massively exciting week for us. It is the start of the Six Nations, the best rugby tournament in the world. We have had a great preparation in Portugal with a quality training week this week.

"We have really worried about ourselves, getting ourselves right. We have picked a strong forward pack which is part of the England way and an exciting backline with young George Furbank playing his first Test at full-back.

"France can expect absolute brutality from England, we are going to go out there to make sure they understand what Test rugby is. It is about being brutal, it is about being physical and it is about dominating the set piece."

 

England: George Furbank, Jonny May, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Joe Marler, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Charlie Ewels, Courtney Lawes, Sam Underhill, Tom Curry.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, George Kruis, Lewis Ludlam, Willi Heinz, Ollie Devoto, Jonathan Joseph.

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.

Wales begin the defence of their Six Nations crown on Saturday as they welcome Italy to the Principality Stadium.

Having won their first title in six years in 2019, it is a new era for Wales under Wayne Pivac, who replaced his compatriot Warren Gatland.

England finished as runners up last year, and Eddie Jones' team – champions in 2016 and 2017 – start their campaign against France in Paris.

Meanwhile, this year's Centenary Quaich between Ireland and Scotland takes place in Dublin, with Andy Farrell getting his first taste of Six Nations action as a head coach.

With the help of Opta, we take a statistical look at the opening round of matches.


Wales v Italy

- Holders Wales have won 17 of their 20 Six Nations matches against Italy, including their past 12 in a row, last losing this fixture in 2007. 

- At home, Wales – who claimed a Grand Slam in 2019 – have 14 wins from their past 16 games in the Six Nations, their two defeats in that time both coming against England in 2015 and 2017.

- Italy have lost their past 22 games in the Six Nations, the longest losing run in the history of the competition, with their most recent win coming at Murrayfield against Scotland five years ago.

- Wales achieved a goal kicking success rate of 83 per cent across all their Test matches in 2019, the best rate of any Tier 1 side, while Italy had the lowest such rate (64 per cent).

- George North will start at centre for Wales and he needs one more try to become the third player to score 20 in the Six Nations, joining Brian O'Driscoll (26) and Shane Williams (22).
 

Ireland v Scotland

- Only once in the past four seasons have Ireland won their opening game of a Six Nations, going on to win the Grand Slam in the year they managed to do so (2018).

- Scotland have just seven wins in 50 away matches in the Six Nations, with five of those coming in Italy.

- Ireland have won five of their past six Six Nations games against Scotland, their sole defeat in that time coming in 2017 at Murrayfield.

Conor Murray has 19 assists to his name for Ireland in the Six Nations, the most of any player from any nation. He is also the joint-top try-scoring scrum-half in the competition, with nine.
 

France v England

- Billy Vunipola made 198 carries in international rugby in 2019, over 50 more than any other player, while was also the top metre-making forward for a Tier 1 side.

- France – who finished fourth last year – have crossed for just six tries in their past six home games against England in the Six Nations.

- Rugby World Cup runners-up England have won 10 of their past 13 Six Nations matches against France, though all three losses in that time came in Paris.

- Jones' side scored 24 tries in the 2019 Six Nations, eight more than any other side and double the amount France managed.

- However, of the 10 Tier 1 nations, only New Zealand managed a higher tackle success rate than France in 2019 across all matches.

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