Stuart Hogg apologised to his Scotland team-mates after the captain's "schoolboy error" proved costly against Ireland in Saturday's Six Nations Test.

Scotland went down 19-12 in Dublin but were on top for long periods as they chased a rare away win.

The visitors repeatedly failed to convert territory into points, though, with their most glaring missed opportunity seeing Hogg - the new skipper following Greig Laidlaw's retirement - drop the ball as he crossed the try line with the scores at 13-6.

"It was just a schoolboy error. I'm gutted with how that happened," Hogg told a news conference. "But I can't change what's happened now - I just need to get on with it.

"I've apologised to the boys, but what will be will be. We have to move on.

"It's bitterly disappointing to drop the ball over the line, but we got ourselves in some good positions there. After the forwards' hard work and effort, I'm bitterly disappointed not to finish it off."

Head coach Gregor Townsend could not hide his disappointment at the time of the error but added: "[Hogg] has played rugby for a long time - you make mistakes.

"You shouldn't be ranking whether someone drops the ball over the try line or drops the ball in their own 22, it's an error that you flush and move on.

"He was outstanding on the field today. I thought his energy, his decision-making, his kicking was excellent, and he's led the team really well the last two weeks.

"We will work to get better as a coaching group and a playing group. Stuart will bounce back very quickly from that."

Scotland are on home soil in their next outing, as they welcome England to Murrayfield on Saturday.

Stuart Hogg apologised to his Scotland team-mates after the captain's "schoolboy error" proved costly against Ireland in Saturday's Six Nations Test.

Scotland went down 19-12 in Dublin but were on top for long periods as they chased a rare away win.

The visitors repeatedly failed to convert territory into points, though, with their most glaring missed opportunity seeing Hogg - the new skipper following Greig Laidlaw's retirement - drop the ball as he crossed the try line with the scores at 13-6.

"It was just a schoolboy error. I'm gutted with how that happened," Hogg told a news conference. "But I can't change what's happened now - I just need to get on with it.

"I've apologised to the boys, but what will be will be. We have to move on.

"It's bitterly disappointing to drop the ball over the line, but we got ourselves in some good positions there. After the forwards' hard work and effort, I'm bitterly disappointed not to finish it off."

Head coach Gregor Townsend could not hide his disappointment at the time of the error but added: "[Hogg] has played rugby for a long time - you make mistakes.

"You shouldn't be ranking whether someone drops the ball over the try line or drops the ball in their own 22, it's an error that you flush and move on.

"He was outstanding on the field today. I thought his energy, his decision-making, his kicking was excellent, and he's led the team really well the last two weeks.

"We will work to get better as a coaching group and a playing group. Stuart will bounce back very quickly from that."

Scotland are on home soil in their next outing, as they welcome England to Murrayfield on Saturday.

New Ireland head coach Andy Farrell was in awe of the way captain Johnny Sexton carried his side in his first appearance for club or country in almost two months.

As former assistant Farrell takes on the senior coaching role following Joe Schmidt's post-Rugby World Cup departure, Sexton is now the Ireland skipper after Rory Best retired.

And the Leinster fly-half was at his influential best on Saturday to secure a 19-12 victory at home to Scotland in their Six Nations opener, scoring all of Ireland's points - including the only try of the match.

Sexton had been out of action since a 45-minute shift in the European Champions Cup against Northampton Saints on December 7, and he has played just three times for Leinster in total this season.

Farrell told ITV: "He's not played for a long time, Johnny. It says a lot about a guy when he's passionate about being captain of his country in the Six Nations for the first time.

"He's trained with us for the last 10 days and that's the only real time he's been involved with team rugby, and he goes out and puts a performance in like that. He was outstanding, for me."

Sexton's team-mates did not look quite so convincing in a match that ended following a nervy stand in front of the Ireland try line, but Farrell was delighted with the team's spirit.

"There's always going to be things to work on, things we're trying to implement that are going to take time," he said. "Some of them were good, some of them were bad.

"Decision-making was up and down at times. I thought we looked quite fluent at times, but sometimes we got a little carried away with our decision-making. It's a start.

"But we asked the players all week to make sure they stand for something, and boy did they stand for a bit of grit.

"They were under the pressure in the first half on their own line quite a few times. And then you culminate that with what the last five minutes said about the team, I think it's there for all to see really."

Captain Johnny Sexton led by example with all 19 Ireland points in head coach Andy Farrell's 19-12 debut win over a wasteful Scotland in their Six Nations opener.

Talisman Sexton and former assistant Farrell were both adjusting to new roles at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday following the post-Rugby World Cup departures of Rory Best and Joe Schmidt.

But the Leinster fly-half ensured it was a winning, if not wholly convincing, start to a new era for Ireland in Dublin, where new Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg fumbled when he looked certain to score in the second half.

It was Sexton who scored the only try of the match in the first half and his boot thereafter maintained an Irish advantage on a frustrating day for Scotland, with four Adam Hastings penalties proving to be in vain

Gregor Townsend's men came flying out of the blocks and Hastings – replacing Finn Russell after he was punished for a breach of team discipline - kicked the first points with five minutes played, albeit after a lengthy stoppage as home debutant Caelan Doris had to make an early exit with a head injury.

But Ireland rallied in impressive fashion and led through Sexton's try, the new skipper stepping through a gaping hole in the visitors' defence to go over after 10 minutes.

A second Hastings penalty checked Ireland's momentum, but continued spells of Scotland pressure were not rewarded with a try, Farrell's side standing firm time and again in front of the posts.

Sexton's pinpoint penalty restored some daylight on the scoreboard, although a further missed effort moments later gave Scotland a lift heading into the break.

Optimism in the away ranks soon mellowed as the continued concession of penalties allowed Sexton to swiftly add another three points from 15 metres.

And Scotland passed up a huge opportunity with just under half an hour remaining, skipper Hogg mishandling in the corner unchallenged when a try looked inevitable.

The play was instead pulled back for a penalty, which Hastings dispatched, and the Scotland number 10 then responded to Sexton's third successful penalty with his fourth to keep his team in contention.

But an inability to cross the try line to breach a stoic defence, and Ireland's sole try was enough as Sexton again kicked well when Sam Johnson foolishly barged Andrew Conway off the ball, before a dramatic late stand sealed a scrappy victory.


O'Mahony, Henshaw show Irish depth

Farrell was dealt an early blow as he lost the uncapped Doris after just five minutes, the new man having made a bright start. But the depth of talent in this Ireland squad was evident as they could instead turn to Peter O'Mahony.

The 65-cap star won one vital turnover in front of the home try line, as Robbie Henshaw also came off the bench after an injury to Garry Ringrose.

Scots not nearly clinical enough

While 2019 will not be remembered especially fondly by Scotland fans, they did enjoy one scintillating second half in an epic draw away to England - inspired by Russell, notably absent here.

Townsend's side tore through England at will that day but badly lacked the same ruthlessness this time. A try-less first half really should have been followed by a Hogg score and they knocked out on the door in the closing stages without reward.

What's next?

Ireland are at home again next week for a mammoth clash with 2019 Grand Slam winners Wales. Scotland's task does not get any easier as they welcome World Cup runners-up England to Murrayfield.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

ENGLAND

Who's in charge?

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

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

Who's the key man?

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

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

What can they achieve this year?

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

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

 

FRANCE

Who's in charge?

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

Who's the key man?

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

What can they achieve?

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

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

 

IRELAND

Who's in charge?

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

Who's the key man?

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

What can they achieve?

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

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

 

ITALY

Who's in charge?

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

Who's the key man?

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

What can they achieve ?

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

 

SCOTLAND 

Who's in charge?

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

Who's the key man?

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

What can they achieve?

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

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

 

WALES

Who's in charge?

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

Who's the key man?

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

What can they achieve?

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

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.

Scotland will give a debut to Nick Haining in Saturday's Six Nations clash with Ireland as Gregor Townsend makes 10 changes to the side that flopped out of the Rugby World Cup.

Australia-born Haining is the only Test newcomer, but Townsend will present a revamped Scotland compared to the team that failed to go beyond the group stage in Japan.

Defeat to the hosts ended Scotland's campaign, after a thumping loss to Ireland earlier in the tournament.

Scotland will look to take revenge for Ireland's 27-3 victory, which came in Yokohama, but history suggests Townsend's men are up against it, having not won in Dublin since 2010.

Haining is joined in the back row by Edinburgh club-mates Hamish Watson and Jamie Ritchie, while Glasgow Warriors lock Scott Cummings makes his first Six Nations appearance and prop Rory Sutherland earns a first cap in three and a half years.

New captain Stuart Hogg and centre Sam Johnson are the only survivors in the back division from the Japan game in October.

An overhaul was required following the retirement of former skipper Greig Laidlaw and Tommy Seymour, plus star fly-half Finn Russell's embarrassing axing from Townsend's plans after a breach of team protocol, with Adam Hastings taking his place.

Townsend said: "We must be a relentless collective on the pitch and a nightmare for the Irish to deal with."

 

Scotland team to play Ireland: 

Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Huw Jones, Sam Johnson, Blair Kinghorn, Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Nick Haining.

Replacements: Stuart McInally, Allan Dell, Simon Berghan, Ben Toolis, Cornell du Preez, George Horne, Rory Hutchinson, Chris Harris.

Caelan Doris will make his Ireland debut when Andy Farrell's side open their Six Nations campaign against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

The Leinster number eight will play from the start, meaning CJ Stander switches to blindside flanker and former Lions captain Peter O'Mahony begins on the bench.

Leinster's Jordan Larmour has overcome a foot injury to beat Will Addison to the starting spot at full-back, with Jacob Stockdale and Andrew Conway the two wings for Ireland.

New captain Johnny Sexton starts at fly-half alongside Munster's Conor Murray, who is selected over John Cooney at scrum-half.

Rob Herring gets the start at hooker, with Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong picked as the props.

Leinster hooker Ronan Kelleher is the other player who is in line to make his debut, though he starts among the replacements.

Ireland finished third behind Wales and England in last year's Six Nations before suffering a humbling defeat to New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals, meaning a disappointing end to a highly successful era under Joe Schmidt.
 

Ireland XV to play Scotland: Jordan Larmour, Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale, Johnny Sexton (c), Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, Peter O'Mahony, John Cooney, Ross Byrne, Robbie Henshaw.

Cricket West Indies chief executive Johnny Grave has insisted the board will look to continue its objective of spreading the sport across regional venues.

Insularity and some amount of bias have often been charges leveled at those who select which grounds will be picked to host international cricket on various West Indies tours.  International grounds in bigger countries have often been given the nod but Graves insists it might not be the case in the future.

“The highest crowds we experienced in this series was in Grenada.  Grenada didn’t have cricket between 2015 and 2019 and I think it is important we spread cricket around our international grounds,” Graves said.

“I think we need to do far more as an organization to promote and market to make sure all the cricket fans and even the non-cricket fans know that the West Indies team is coming to their country to play,” he added.

“I hope everyone understands that policy and we do our best to spread cricket around the region.”

With the exception of Barbados the West Indies' first tour of the new year, against Ireland, was played in Grenada and St Kitts.  The New Zealand New Zealand tour in July will be hosted in Antigua, Dominica, and Guyana, with Trinidad and Tobago, St Lucia and Jamaica.

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

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

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

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

"He has returned to his club."

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

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

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

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

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

Captain Johnny Sexton and wing Jordan Larmour are expected to be fit for Ireland's opening game of the Six Nations against Scotland.

Sexton has not featured since early last month due to a knee injury but hopes to play a full part in training on Thursday.

The fly-half is optimistic he will be ready to lead his country when they take on Scotland at the Aviva Stadium a week on Saturday, having been named as skipper for the tournament by new head coach Andy Farrell.

"Everything's been going to plan, so hopefully I'll take a full part in training tomorrow," said Sexton. 

"I've had no setbacks, once everything goes smoothly in training I'll be available for selection. I think everyone wants to be captain, it's an honour that I was asked to do it. 

"Obviously it's a campaign by campaign thing at the moment [being skipper], so we'll see how it goes over the next eight weeks."

Larmour damaged his foot in Leinster's European Champions Cup victory over Benetton last weekend, but Farrell is hopeful the flyer will be available for the opening weekend of the Six Nations.

Farrell said: "We met up yesterday and had a bit of a walk-through so he was able to partake in that. We'll take it day by day, it's not serious but we'll see how it goes.

"Obviously there're some new guys who are going to freshen things up, but it's not just about that, it's a matter of picking people in form."

Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey has been called up to Ireland's squad for the Six Nations.

Initially omitted from Andy Farrell's 35-man panel, McCloskey was added to the group ahead of a training camp in Portugal.

His inclusion comes after Chris Farrell missed Munster's Champions Cup win over Ospreys, the centre ruled out because of a knee injury.

"Stu has been playing well over the past few weeks," Andy Farrell said.

"Centre is a very competitive area in the squad and with a few backs picking up small niggles at the weekend, Stu is the form back who will now be added to the group to give us some extra options."

Lendl Simmons' unbeaten 91 guided West Indies to a crushing nine-wicket win against Ireland as their Twenty20 series finished level at 1-1 on Sunday.

Rain briefly threatened to scupper the third and final match just as it had the second and Ireland will have wished for a greater downpour after being comprehensively outplayed at Warner Park in Basseterre.

The tourists collapsed from 50-1 to 138 all out following a 45-minute delay as Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo snared three wickets apiece.

Simmons ensured the Windies made light work of the chase, hitting five fours and 10 sixes in a blistering 40-ball innings that surpassed his previous best T20I score of 82.

Evin Lewis added 46 from 25 deliveries in an opening stand worth 133 to help dash Ireland's chances of escaping with a series victory.

Simi Singh claimed Lewis courtesy of a top edge before Simmons ended the contest two balls later, the 34-year-old launching another six at the end of the 11th over to force a drawn series.

Rain wreaked havoc as the second Twenty20 international between West Indies and Ireland was washed out in Basseterre on Saturday.

No result was declared after the game was called off approaching 22:00 local time – Ireland boasting a 1-0 lead in the three-game series.

Career-best figures from captain Kieron Pollard helped restrict Ireland to 147-9 from 19 overs, with a rain delay leading to a reduction in overs.

Confidence was high in the Ireland camp after their memorable four-run triumph in the opening T20I in Grenada.

But Pollard claimed 4-25 from four overs – the 10th best performance for the Windies in T20I history, dismissing Gareth Delany (44), skipper Andy Balbirnie (36), Gary Wilson (5) and George Dockrell (2).

Sheldon Cottrell (2-10) and Romario Shepherd (1-38) also chopped in with wickets for the Windies.

West Indies managed to start their run chase and they reached 16-1 after Lendl Simmons (10) fell victim to Paul Stirling (1-11) before the rain set in for good.

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