Mako Vunipola has returned to the England squad for Saturday's crucial Six Nations clash with Wales.

The prop had not been expected to be part of Eddie Jones' squad for the Twickenham encounter, having missed England's win over Ireland after travelling to Tonga to visit a seriously ill relative.

However, he is included in Jones' 34-man party as England begin preparations for the visit of Wayne Pivac's team.

Exeter Chiefs scrum-half Jack Maunder has been selected, giving Jones a third option at number nine behind Ben Youngs and Will Heinz, while wing Anthony Watson and hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie were also named in the squad.

England bounced back from their opening-round defeat to France with victories over Scotland and Ireland.

They trail leaders France - who face Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday - by four points and know defeat to Wales could spell the end of their hopes of regaining the Six Nations title.

Anthony Watson could feature for England for the first time in the 2020 Six Nations after he was named in Eddie Jones' squad for their training camp ahead of next week's clash with Wales.

Watson is yet to appear in this year's championship due to a calf injury, but head coach Jones suggested after the victory over Ireland that the wing could soon return.

"Anthony's got to do a running session and if he gets through that we'll get him into camp," Jones said.

And Watson was subsequently included in a 25-man selection on Wednesday as England reconvene for three days of training in Oxford.

Mark Wilson has likewise been recalled, while George Furbank is involved for rehabilitation purposes after missing the Ireland game, as apprentice Alex Mitchell also links up.

However, both Mako Vunipola and Luke Cowan-Dickie were not selected due to family reasons.

Vunipola had travelled to Tonga ahead of Sunday's clash with Ireland and was not expected back in time to face Wales.

Cowan-Dickie, who scored England's third try in the 24-12 Twickenham success, had been absent previously in the campaign as his girlfriend gave birth to their son seven weeks early.

England are still in the mix for the Six Nations title, although they trail Grand Slam-chasing France by four points after three games.

Wales have confirmed Josh Adams will need surgery on the ankle injury he suffered against France, ruling the wing out for the rest of the Six Nations.

Adams was hurt during the 27-23 defeat at the Principality Stadium on Saturday and was replaced by Jarrod Evans in the 66th minute.

The 24-year-old will undergo surgery to repair the damage this week and is expected to be out for three months, meaning he will miss Wales' remaining two fixtures - against England and Scotland - in March.

In a short statement on their website, the Welsh Rugby Union said it is "envisaged" Adams, who has scored 14 tries in 24 Test appearances, will be back for the latter stages of the Pro14 season with his club, Cardiff Blues.

Head coach Wayne Pivac will now wait for an update on another of his wing options in George North, who failed a head injury assessment during the home loss to Les Bleus.

Pivac has not called up a replacement for Adams ahead of the trip to Twickenham on March 7.

Liam Williams has left Saracens to join the Scarlets with immediate effect and his Wales team-mate Rhys Webb has signed for Bath for the rest of the season.

It was announced in December that British and Irish Lions full-back Williams will return to his homeland for a second spell with the Scarlets at the end of the current campaign.

Williams, who has not played since the Rugby World Cup due to an ankle injury, has been cleared to leave the European and Premiership champions earlier than initially planned, bringing to an end a hugely successful spell in London.

The 28-year-old won two Premiership titles and the European Champions Cup during his two-and-a-half year stay with Sarries, who will play in the Championship next year due to salary-cap breaches.

Scarlets head coach Brad Mooar said: "Liam is a world-class player and man, a huge favourite at Parc y Scarlets and we are thrilled to welcome Liam and Sophie back to the Scarlets.

"To have Liam joining our exciting group of outside backs this season is superb. I’m also thrilled for Liam that his rehab is almost complete. 

"Obviously, his immediate availability for us will depend on how Wayne wants to play it during the Six Nations and we look forward to seeing Liam back at Parc y Scarlets in due course."

Webb will spend the remainder of the 2019/20 campaign with Premiership side Bath ahead of a move to Ospreys.

The scrum-half was granted an early release from his Toulon contract at the end of last year and agreed to rejoin Ospreys on a two-year deal.

Webb, who made his Wales comeback in the Six Nations defeat of Italy this month, could make his debut in the derby against Bristol Bears on March 1.

 

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.

Wales will have to do without Owen Williams for the remainder of their Six Nations campaign due to a hamstring injury.

Initially selected on the bench for Saturday's clash with Ireland, the Gloucester back suffered the injury while warming up ahead of kick-off at the Aviva Stadium.

The 27-year-old - who can play at fly-half or inside centre - had to withdraw from the matchday squad in Dublin, Jarrod Evans taking his place among the replacements.

Wales confirmed on Tuesday that Williams will miss the rest of the tournament following further assessment, though they are yet to name a replacement.

The reigning Six Nations champions are already without fly-halves Gareth Anscombe and Rhys Patchell, while Dan Biggar was forced off during the first half of the 24-14 defeat at the weekend after failing a head injury assessment.

Wayne Pivac's side are next in action on February 22, hosting unbeaten France in Cardiff.

Andy Farrell feels two battling wins to open the Six Nations have Ireland "in a great place" ahead of their trip to face England at Twickenham.

Ireland saw off defending champions Wales with a 24-14 bonus-point win in Dublin on Saturday.

Jordan Larmour, Tadhg Furlong, Josh van der Flier and Andrew Conway scored as Farrell's men answered critics who had questioned them following an unconvincing opening win over Scotland.

Farrell conceded Ireland are still not at their peak but could not be happier with the base they now have to build from before facing England on February 23.

"The things that you're working on, it isn't going to come to fruition straight away," the Ireland head coach said to RTE.

"But what you want to try and see is a bit of fight and we're certainly seeing that over the two weeks - it puts us in a great place to keep building.

"Two from two and still plenty to do. It was another gutsy, gritty performance. First half we created opportunity after opportunity and we probably didn't convert as much as we possibly should have.

"I've absolutely no doubt that Wales were really pleased with the half-time result because of the strong wind and the opportunities we didn't convert, but how we managed that second half against a strong wind was really clinical.

"Our defence was superb and our set-piece tightened up. There are some good signs of what we're trying to do. I've just said to the boys that it's a great place to be, knowing what we're trying to achieve and we're nowhere near that yet.

"If you've got a foundation like that, you can build massively."

CJ Stander, man of the match for the second straight week having faced Scotland at blindside flanker and Wales at number eight, was among players to win the praise of Farrell, as did captain Johnny Sexton and his two wings.

"He was awesome, he is a guy who has come in for a bit of stick as well, but he's got two man of the matches – those performances say it all about the guy," Farrell said of Stander, who was sent to the sin-bin in the final moments of the contest.

"I've never seen a standing ovation for a yellow card before but he deserved it."

Of Sexton, Farrell added: "He's in control, isn’t he? That's what he's done all his life and that's what he does best. With the added responsibilities of captaincy, I think he's added to his game, actually.

"And Andrew Conway was outstanding. We want our wings to go at it 100 per cent and he defined that. Jacob Stockdale did the same on the other wing as well. 

"We want to play to space because we've got some really exciting backs and we like to give them one on ones. We were excellent, on the front foot in defence and attack throughout.

"We wanted to be nice and physical right through. We had some big moments last week, especially when we had to dig deep to hold on and win but here we got that intensity 100 per cent across the 80 minutes.

"We're in a great place, we had a great week's preparation and good, honest feedback from the boys in the aftermath to the display against the Scots.

"We saw an improved performance, but we all know, the coaches and the players, there is still plenty more in us even after a bonus-point win."

Wayne Pivac acknowledged Wales had conceded an "unacceptable" level of turnovers after he suffered his first defeat as head coach against Ireland in the Six Nations.

Ireland recorded a 24-14 bonus-point victory in Dublin on Saturday which ended Wales' hopes of winning consecutive Grand Slams.

An error-strewn display saw the visitors make 17 handling errors and Pivac admitted their opponents were worthy winners, Tomos Williams and Justin Tipuric having scored his side's only tries.

"There were just too many turnovers when we were in good positions on the field," Pivac said.

"We turned the ball over eight times through handling, that is unacceptable at this level of the game.

"There were inaccuracies in their 22 and we let them off the hook a couple of times. The difference was when they got down there they were very accurate and scored the tries that we weren't able to.

"We have got to be very accurate in our passing game, it's something we will need to go away and work on. You are not able to build that constant pressure which Ireland were able to do when they scored a couple of their tries.

"Some of the handling errors, we will go and look at them. They weren't always under pressure. Some of it was skill execution. But the Irish deserved to win this game."

Wales centre Hadleigh Parkes had a try disallowed by the TMO in the second half when he just lost control of the ball as he stretched for the try-line.

Pivac added: "It was a big decision, but the decision was right. He didn't have control, so we didn't get rewarded with the points.

"It wasn't through a lack of effort. With 20 minutes to go, it's game on at that point if it's scored."

Ahead of their next clash at home to France, Wales have fitness concerns over in-form wing Josh Adams, who left the match in the first half, while fly-half Dan Biggar came off early in the second period.

Biggar failed a head injury assessment, a fate he also suffered twice at the Rugby World Cup.

"Dan failed a HIA so he'll go through the normal protocol there," said Pivac. "Josh had a knock to a hip so he will be getting that checked."

And he added of the defeat: "It's an opportunity for us to have a look at our game. We were put under pressure and we will see where we have to work harder to make sure we get those things right for the next match.

"It is a tournament and we've got another three matches to look forward to. We'll be working very hard to get the areas right that we need to so we can put on a better performance next time around.

"So we have to go away and work hard at our game and make sure we are a little bit better in those areas for the French game."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.