Sam Underhill is the latest player to withdraw from England's Six Nations squad due to a hip injury.

Jack Willis has been called up as a replacement for back-row Underhill, who is another big loss for the defending champions.

Underhill played a big part in England's Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup triumphs last year but sustained an injury blow before he was due to link up with the squad at St. George's Park on Wednesday.

Willis made his Test debut against Georgia last November and will be hoping to make his Six Nations bow in the coming weeks.

Underhill's withdrawal comes a day after Joe Launchbury and Joe Marler were ruled out due to a fibula stress fracture and personal reasons respectively.

England head coach Eddie Jones' preparations had already been disrupted last week when he was forced to go into self-isolation after his assistant Matt Proudfoot tested positive for coronavirus.

The Red Rose start the defence of their title against Scotland at Twickenham a week on Saturday.

Wasps back Paolo Odogwu and Bristol scrum-half Harry Randall have won their first England call-ups for the Six Nations.

Bath prop Beno Obano is the third uncapped player to be named by Eddie Jones in the 28-man squad.

Courtney Lawes returns from injury, while Mako Vunipola, who last played in the Autumn Nations Cup final win over France, will join the squad for rehabilitation but be unavailable for selection.

Wasps flanker Jack Willis and Bath's Jonathan Joseph only make the 12-man shadow squad, while Kyle Sinckler, who is banned for the opening game against Scotland on February 6, is not in either group.

Owen Farrell will retain his position as captain.

The squad will meet up at St. George's Park on January 27, with coach Jones, who is isolating after assistant Matt Proudfoot tested positive for coronavirus, set to arrive a day later.

"This has been a really tough squad to pick and I know there are a lot of disappointed players who haven't been selected," said Jones.

"We're really excited by the players we have got, it's a very vibrant squad and are looking forward to getting started next week.

"We're very grateful to the Premiership Rugby, the clubs and RPA [Rugby Players Association] for allowing us to have 28 players throughout the tournament, we're very happy with the number and it's testament to the growing relationships between all parties.

"Ultimately our goal is to win the Six Nations and to do that we'll need to work hard and prepare well each day and take it as it comes."

England squad:

Forwards: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tom Curry, Ben Earl, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Jonny Hill, Maro Itoje, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Joe Marler, Beno Obano, Will Stuart, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola, Harry Williams, Mark Wilson.

Backs: Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell, George Ford, Ollie Lawrence, Max Malins, Jonny May, Paolo Odogwu, Harry Randall, Dan Robson, Henry Slade, Anthony Watson, Ben Youngs.

Shadow squad: Charlie Atkinson, Ali Crossdale, Tom Dunn, Charlie Ewels, George Furbank, Joe Heyes, Jonathan Joseph, Joe Marchant, George Martin, Alex Mitchell, Jacob Umaga, Jack Willis.

Dan Lydiate has been recalled to the Wales squad for the Six Nations but there is no place for Rhys Webb.

Back-row Lydiate last played for his country against Australia in 2018, but the 33-year-old is among the 36 players selected by head coach Wayne Pivac.

Scrum-half Webb has been overlooked, with Gareth Davies, Tomos Williams and Kieran Hardy getting the nod.

Scarlets back-row Josh Macleod is the only uncapped player in the squad for a tournament Wales will start with an encounter against Ireland at the Principality Stadium on February 7.

Pivac revealed he was unable to pick Rhys Priestland, despite the fly-half being set to return to his homeland with Cardiff Blues next season, due to the 60-cap rule.

Captain Alun Wyn Jones is hopeful of being fit to face Ireland in Dublin as he continues his recovery from a knee injury.

Ross Moriarty, Gareth Anscombe, Rhys Patchell and Scott Williams are among the players ruled out due to injury.

Pivac said: "We are hugely looking forward to meeting up as a squad on Monday and to the forthcoming campaign. The Guinness Six Nations is an important tournament and we have selected a squad accordingly.

"As we consistently spoke about, the autumn for us was about opportunity and development, looking ahead to RWC 2023 and it served that purpose for us.

"This campaign is different, it is tournament rugby and we are excited to get going and to play our part. We have picked a squad for this tournament based on form and we are excited to meet up on Monday and to get our preparation underway."

 

Wales squad:

Forwards: Rhys Carre, Wyn Jones, Rhodri Jones, Elliot Dee, Ryan Elias, Ken Owens, Leon Brown, Tomas Francis, Dillon Lewis, Jake Ball, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Will Rowlands, Cory Hill, Dan Lydiate, Josh Navidi, Aaron Wainwright, Taulupe Faletau, Josh MacLeod, Justin Tipuric.

Backs: Gareth Davies, Tomos Williams, Kieran Hardy, Dan Biggar, Callum Sheedy, Jarrod Evans, Johnny Williams, Jonathan Davies, Nick Tompkins, Owen Watkin, George North, Josh Adams, Hallam Amos, Louis Rees-Zammit, Leigh Halfpenny, Liam Williams.

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.

Kyle Sinckler will miss England's opening game in this year's Six Nations after the prop was handed a two-week ban for swearing at a referee.

The Bristol Bears forward was cited by an independent commissioner for failing to respect the authority of a match official during Saturday's Premiership game against Exeter Chiefs.

Sinckler contested the charge at a disciplinary hearing, during which he accepted he had used foul language.

The 27-year-old was handed a suspension by an independent panel and will now be unavailable until February 9, three days after England open their 2021 campaign against Scotland.

"The player was candid in his evidence as to why he had done so and regretted his actions," a statement from the independent panel read.

"The panel found that his actions disrespected the authority of the referee and it was in breach of a core value of rugby - respect of match officials - and warranted a red card.

"The panel determined that in all the circumstances it was a low entry point with no relevant mitigation. The sanction is a two-week ban."

Following on from the Calcutta Cup clash at Twickenham, Eddie Jones' squad host Italy on February 13.

The Six Nations is scheduled to go ahead amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, though the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup have been temporarily suspended after French authorities ruled the participation of Top 14 clubs to be too much of a public health risk.

French Rugby Federation (FFR) president Bernard Laporte says there is "no question" that the Six Nations will be staged this year.

The Telegraph this weekend reported that the tournament was in doubt after the French sports ministry imposed a ban on playing cross-border elite sports with clubs from the United Kingdom due to a new strain of coronavirus.

With the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup reportedly set to be suspended, the French government and Six Nations officials are expected to hold talks on Monday.

Yet Laporte does not believe there is any doubt that the competition, which starts in just four weeks' time, can be staged. 

He told RMC on Sunday: "It's a puzzle, but I think we should not be alarmed for the Six Nations tournament.

"The tournament will be played, with a health protocol dictated by the government, and linked to this mutant virus. Everything went well in the autumn [when the Autumn Nations Cup was staged], so will the upcoming Six Nations tournament, I'm no more worried than that."

The former Les Bleus coach added: "We have a meeting at the beginning of the week with the ministry of sports, a meeting also with the Six Nations Council.

"But we already talked to each other every day, and today there is no question of considering anything, except that we will play the tournament."

France are due to face Italy in the first game of the Six Nations at Stadio Olimpico on February 6.

Alun Wyn Jones will need at least 10 weeks to recover from his knee injury, Ospreys fear, putting his involvement in Wales' Six Nations opener in doubt.

Wales captain Jones - Test rugby's most capped player - sustained the blow in his side's Autumn Nations Cup win over Italy.

That victory was on December 5, nine weeks out from the start of the 2021 Six Nations, where Wales begin their campaign against Ireland on February 7.

That clash could therefore come too soon for Jones, according to Ospreys coach Toby Booth, although he expects the 35-year-old will work to return ahead of schedule.

"We've spoken to the powers that be in relation to his knee," Booth said, discussing the lock ahead of his team's European Challenge Cup encounter with Worcester Warriors.

"We think he will be double-figure weeks.

"If I said it to Alun, he would say, 'I will be back in eight'. That's the nature of the beast.

"He is probably going to be somewhere around that sort of timeframe, which is disappointing for him and obviously for us.

"If anyone is going to get back early, it will be him."

Jones matched Richie McCaw's total of 148 caps against France in October, claiming the outright record a week later in the defeat to Scotland.

Welsh referee Nigel Owens has confirmed his retirement from international rugby after an illustrious career on the Test stage.

The revered official took charge of his 100th Test in France's Autumn Nations Cup clash against Italy last month, 17 years on from overseeing his first international between Portugal and Georgia.

"Nobody has a divine right to go on forever," Owens, who holds the record for most refereed internationals, said in quotes reported by the Welsh Rugby Union's official website.

"There comes a time where it's time to move on, so international refereeing will come to an end now. That France v Italy game was my last Test match. To go out on 100 is a good time to go."

Owens has a lengthy list of achievements, including overseeing the 2015 Rugby World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia and several European showpieces.

The 49-year-old is a respected figure throughout the game and has struck up strong relationships with players and teams, while he has also been involved in several television appearances away from rugby - including an appearance on popular  ITV quiz show 'The Chase' earlier this year.

While Owens will no longer officiate international matches, he still plans to referee in Pro14.

"I'm not going to be around for 2023, I don't want to be. I still hope to referee in the Pro 14 and locally in Wales this season and maybe next as well," he added.

"I will certainly continue to referee in the community game because when you are very fortunate to get so much out of something, I think it's hugely important that you give something back to it as well.

"I'll also be going into a coaching role with the WRU [Welsh Rugby Union], helping some of our talented, young referees we have here in Wales, so that is something I'm quite excited about.

"We currently have five referees including myself refereeing at Pro 14 level so it will be exciting to help them make further progress, as well as our other upcoming male and female referees."

In total, Owens has refereed matches involving 25 different international teams. He has officiated more matches involving New Zealand than any other nation (25).

Gregor Townsend will remain in charge of Scotland through to the 2023 Rugby World Cup after signing a two-year contract extension.

The former Glasgow Warriors head coach was appointed by Scottish Rugby in 2017 and has won 55 per cent of his 40 Tests in charge of the national team.

Scotland failed to get out of their group at the previous World Cup, missing out on qualifying as they finished behind hosts Japan and Ireland, leading to a restructure of the coaching group.

Townsend oversaw a 2020 Six Nations campaign that resulted in a fourth-place finish, while they recorded two wins in their four Autumn Nations Cup fixtures.

"I am honoured and privileged to have been given the opportunity to continue in my role as Scotland head coach," Townsend said.

"I will be doing all I can, alongside an outstanding support staff, to improve the team as we build towards Rugby World Cup 2023 in France.

"Over the past year I believe we have made progress on and off the field which give real grounds for optimism around what this team can achieve."

Scotland's 2021 Six Nations begins with a Calcutta Cup clash against England at Twickenham on February 6, followed by the visit of Wales to Murrayfield a week later.

Scotland fly-halves Finn Russell and Adam Hastings have been ruled out of the Autumn Nations Cup.

Russell limped out of the Six Nations win over Wales last weekend with a groin injury and will not be available for the games against Italy, France and Fiji this month.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend is optimistic the Racing 92 playmaker will be available for the 2021 Six Nations.

Hastings is expected to miss the tournament next year after doing damage to his shoulder following his introduction as a replacement for Russell at Parc y Scarlets

Townsend told BBC Scotland: "Finn we hope will be back in time for the Six Nations, but it's unlikely Adam will be back before the end of that tournament.

"At the very best he'll come back at the end, but that will depend on how things go."

Scotland face champions England in their first game of the Six Nations at Twickenham on February 6.

World champions South Africa are set to remain in the Rugby Championship until at least 2030 despite the suggestion they could join the Six Nations. 

Speculation around the future of the Springboks in the international tournament has increased in recent months. 

Holders South Africa withdrew from this year's Rugby Championship amid complications linked to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving Australia, New Zealand and Argentina to play a three-team tournament. 

This followed South Africa's vote to withdraw domestic clubs from Super Rugby and begin talks over a move to Europe's Pro14. 

But SANZAAR, which organises both the Rugby Championship and Super Rugby, said on Wednesday all four of its nations - including South Africa - had "committed to an international rugby future through to 2030". 

The Rugby Championship will change from a six-match to 12-match structure, allowing all four teams to play each other home and away through the new mini-tour match schedule.

The move would appear to end any imminent Springboks move to link up with England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, France and Italy. 

SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said: "We welcome the changes announced to the Rugby Championship with our SANZAAR partners and we are looking forward to seeing what the new strategic plan for the competition entails, with possible international expansion on the cards. 

"Although we had to change our domestic focus, we still have a long history with the All Blacks and Wallabies as well as a long-standing friendship with the Pumas and we look forward to more world class Test rugby. 

"Ever since the Tri-Nations was first contested in 1996, and more recently the Rugby Championship from 2012, a team from the Southern Hemisphere has won the Rugby World Cup five out of six times - which is testimony to the high quality of Test rugby played on this side of the equator."

Owen Farrell feels England are "just getting started" after they were crowned Six Nations champions on Saturday.

Ben Youngs marked his 100th cap with a double as the Red Rose secured a 34-5 bonus-point victory over Italy in Rome to give themselves a great chance of winning the title.

Ireland would have been guaranteed the trophy if they had beaten France by a margin of at least seven points in the final match of the tournament, but Les Bleus gave another demonstration of their huge potential in a 35-27 victory in Paris.

England finished level on points with France, but Eddie Jones' side won the competition for the first time in three years on points difference.

Farrell says there is more to come from England after they were able to celebrate almost a year to the day since they were beaten by South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final.

Asked if England have more to give, captain Farrell said on BBC One: "Massively, it feels like we're just getting started. There were four new caps today, someone who got their 100th cap in Ben Youngs and Jamie George who got his 50th.

"It feels like we've got a brilliant blend of experience and youth to drive us forward and being involved in training in the last few weeks has shown that to us and we're looking forward to what's in front of us as well."

Farrell paid tribute to wily head coach Jones after he masterminded the third Six Nations triumph of his reign.

He said of Jones: "He's been brilliant. the best thing I can say is we all love being here and being in camp and we all love working hard to improve and hopefully you see that when we get out on the field."

The England skipper also hailed Youngs on a special day for the scrum-half.

"I'm chuffed for him. It's a huge achievement reaching 100 caps, only the second person to do it for England, it's massive," said Farrell.

"To have such a good game, like he did, and to top it off with the trophy is brilliant."

Johnny Sexton conceded Ireland's display was not up to scratch after they went down 35-27 to France in Paris in their final Six Nations match.

Andy Farrell's side went into Saturday's clash at the Stade de France knowing a victory by at least seven points would secure their fifth Six Nations title.

However, Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack ran the show for France as they ended Ireland's hopes and England – who had seen off Italy in Rome – were crowned champions.

Sexton kicked 10 points, with Cian Healy, on his 100th cap, Robbie Henshaw and Jacob Stockdale getting Ireland's tries.

However, the 35-year-old insisted Ireland's display was not at the required level.

"I felt that they took their opportunities really well, sometimes off nothing, off our mistakes," Sexton said.

"We weren't there, we weren't good enough. We had good chances to score, a few chances five metres out.

"We went for a try [at the end of first half], a brave decision to go and get another try before half-time. We were very close but we weren't quite good enough. It's going to be tough to look at over the next week or so.

"We saw the other results, we knew we needed to win by more than six, or with a bonus point. We tried to make some brave calls, get some tries, because we knew there was some space there to be exploited but we weren't good enough to take it."

Ireland are next in action in the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup, starting their campaign against Wales on November 13.

"We're looking forward to a new competition, today's going to hurt," Sexton continued.

"We've got some important players to come back for us and some new players as well, so we're looking forward to getting them back and trying to bounce back from this disappointment."

Despite brilliant displays from half-backs Dupont and Ntamack, the Player of the Match award went to France number eight Gregory Alldritt, who attempted 24 tackles – all of which were successful.

"It was a tough game, they were coming to win the Six Nations. We focused only on winning this game, it was tough to win. We won, we're happy," said Aldritt, who had special praise for his opposite number CJ Stander.

"CJ Stander is a fantastic player. I was looking at him on TV four years ago with stars in my eyes. Great to play against him, what an incredible player."

 

England were crowned Six Nations champions as Ireland slipped to a 35-27 defeat to France at the Stade de France.

With Eddie Jones' side having beaten Italy 34-5 in Rome earlier on Saturday, Ireland went into the finale knowing they needed to at least win by seven points – or take a bonus-point victory – to claim their fifth Six Nations title.

After a combative first-half display Andy Farrell's side could not match their hosts following the interval, with a try and three penalties from the brilliant Romain Ntamack putting France in control by the 51st minute.

Ntamack's fellow half-back Antoine Dupont also put in a stellar display, opening the scoring six minutes in before turning provider for Ntamack's try.

Cian Healy had hit back for Ireland, though a penalty try conceded by Caelan Doris gave France a lead they did not relinquish, and by failing to win by 31 points they handed England the title.

France struck first as Gael Fickou raced clear down the wing before finding Dupont, who easily got the better of Jacob Stockdale to slide in close to the sticks – Ntamack adding the extras.

A frantic opening 10 minutes concluded with a lengthy TMO check, which resulted in Anthony Bouthier receiving a yellow card for deliberately knocking the ball out of play.

Ireland made their numerical advantage count with a minute of Bouthier's time in the bin remaining, Healy forcing his way over to mark his 100th cap in style.

Sexton converted and then added a penalty to put Ireland ahead, but momentum swung France's way when Doris dragged back Francois Cros close to the line.

Another Sexton three-pointer dragged Ireland to within a point before Ntamack's penalty gave Les Bleus a 17-13 half-time lead.

Ntamack added five points to his tally three minutes after the restart, touching down after Dupont had superbly kept a France attack alive.

France's fly-half missed the conversion but made no mistake with two penalties in the space of four minutes to nose Les Bleus 15 points clear.

Robbie Henshaw raced down Ireland's left to lunge over in the corner with 21 minutes remaining and provide hope for a comeback.

But Ntamack wriggled through a gap and set up Virimi Vakatawa to seal France's second-place finish, with Stockdale snatching a late consolation for the visitors.

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