Leigh Halfpenny is set to start for Wales in the Six Nations opener against Ireland on Saturday as Liam Williams missed out.

Halfpenny has been given the nod at full-back for the first match of Warren Gatland's second spell as Wales head coach at the Principality Stadium.

The 35-year-old will be monitored after sitting out training on Tuesday morning due to a hip issue, but is in line to make his first international start since 2021.

Williams will play no part in Cardiff this weekend as he builds up his fitness after being sidelined by injuries.

Centre Joe Hawkins will make his Six Nations debut at inside centre partnering George North in midfield after making his Test bow against Australia last year.

Dan Biggar returns at fly-half, with Tomos Williams starting at scrum-half against the top-ranked side in the world. 

Asked about Halfpenny's selection and the absence of Liam Williams, Gatland said: "He [Williams] trained today.

"Leigh Halfpenny has a little bit of a tight hip, so we kept him out of this morning's session. He'll train this afternoon so just making sure he didn't double up on that.

"Liam hasn't had a lot of rugby. He had the knock and then the finger injury, so he didn't take part in training last week. We just want to give him some more training time with the team.

"Obviously, if something does happen to Leigh, we'll make a decision with what happens to that. We had everyone fit and available for selection, but we had some players with bumps and knocks who didn't take part in training last week.

"That was some of our thinking there. We just want some more training time under his belt. There's no doubt Liam will feature at some point."

 

Wales team: Leigh Halfpenny, Josh Adams, George North, Joe Hawkins, Rio Dyer, Dan Biggar, Tomos Williams; Gareth Thomas, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Jac Morgan, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Scott Baldwin, Rhys Carre, Dillon Lewis, Dafydd Jenkins, Tommy Reffell, Rhys Webb, Owen Williams, Alex Cuthbert.

Eddie Jones warned "I'm not the messiah" after starting his second spell as Australia head coach but believes they can win the Rugby World Cup.

Jones was sensationally appointed as Wallabies boss in early January after being sacked as England head coach.

He replaced Dave Rennie eight months before the World Cup starts in France, taking up a role he previously held between 2001 and 2005.

Jones signed a deal until 2027 and started work on Sunday, a day before his 63rd birthday.

The vastly experienced Jones is aiming high, but says he has no magic wand to wave as he strives to make Australia a force again.

He said during a press conference on Tuesday: "I'm thrilled to be back home in Australia and couldn't think of a better place to come back to than here in the heart of Sydney's grassroots.

"It's imperative we win the hearts and minds of young Australians and to get them playing rugby and supporting their national teams.

"I think I made the point that I'm not the messiah, everyone's in this together. Sometimes you just need someone to beat the drum.

"And that gets everyone walking a bit faster. And maybe that's the role at the moment. But as we go forward, it's going to be about everyone working together."

Jones expects his side to show "traditional Australian digger spirit" as they will require more than talent alone to win the World Cup.

"I reckon we've got to draw a line in the sand and where we've been and work out where we want to go ... then everyone needs to roll their sleeves up," the former Japan head coach said.

"We can't do it by ourselves. We need everyone in the rugby community to find a bit more, and they can. There's plenty of people who love rugby when the Wallabies win, so we're going to win, but we need them to maybe help start it."

He added: "There's plenty of talented players, but talent doesn't win World Cups.

"What wins World Cups and wins hearts of people are teams that play with that same spirit the Ellas [Mark, Glen and Gary Ella] had, being aggressive and playing with a certain panache.

"We want to play tough. You want to win those tight games by one or two points, and that's the traditional Australian digger spirit. We want that in the team."

Uncapped hooker Tom Stewart has been called up to the Ireland squad ahead of their Six Nations opener against Wales on Saturday.

Stewart has joined up with the squad in Portugal after Ronan Kelleher sustained a hamstring injury.

Ulster forward Stewart will provide cover while Kelleher is assessed as the top-ranked team in the world prepare to face Wales at the Principality Stadium this weekend.

Former Under-20 international Stewart played for Emerging Ireland in wins over the Griquas and the Cheetahs last year.

He was also involved in preparations for a clash between Ireland 'A' and an All Blacks XV two months ago.

Andy Farrell's side will continue to train in the in Quinta do Lago before flying to Cardiff two days before locking horns with Warren Gatland's men in the first match of the tournament.

Bernard Laporte resigned as president of the French Rugby Federation on Friday as his hopes of returning to power in time for the Rugby World Cup crumbled.

The former France head coach stepped back from his latest position with the federation (FFR) in December after being given a two-year suspended prison sentence and a €75,000 fine for corruption.

He denied wrongdoing and intends to appeal against his court punishments, which meant the FFR did not immediately oust Laporte and instead decided to render him effectively powerless pending the attempt to clear his name.

Sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera called for Laporte to go in December, however, and he chose to permanently step down in the wake of clubs this week voting against his choice of president-delegate, Patrick Buisson.

Around 2,000 clubs took part in the vote, with 51.06 per cent saying they did not approve of Laporte proposing Buisson for the interim role.

The Rugby World Cup gets under way in France in September, and Laporte, president since 2016, had appeared eager to be back in charge of the FFR by then.

Les Bleus won the Grand Slam last year, and Laporte departs just eight days before the 2023 Six Nations begins.

Reports said Laporte delivered news of his resignation to the FFR executive committee on Friday morning at a meeting in Marcoussis, on the outskirts of Paris.

Oudea-Castera later told reporters: "I can give you confirmation of the resignation of Bernard Laporte. I welcome this decision, it was necessary at the end of this consultation in which the clubs were massively mobilised.

"The ethics committee played its role of supervision in this time of consultation which went well with dignified debates. Bernard Laporte drew the conclusions, which is a good thing for French rugby, its values ​​and the future."

Laporte stepped down from his role as vice-chairman of World Rugby within hours of his conviction in December, which also saw him banned from rugby involvement for two years pending the outcome of any appeal.

Laporte was released without charge on Tuesday of this week after being detained as part of a tax fraud investigation.

His lawyer, Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi, told the AFP news agency that Laporte had "neither been accused of having defrauded nor of having received any money".

Elliot Daly has been ruled out of England's Six Nations campaign with a hamstring injury, his club Saracens have confirmed.

Versatile back Daly withdrew from England's squad on Tuesday ahead of their opening match against Scotland at Twickenham a week on Saturday.

The 30-year-old, who sustained the injury ahead of Saracens' 20-14 Champions Cup loss to Edinburgh last week, is expected to miss around 12 weeks.

Saracens confirmed the news in a short statement on their official website on Friday, ending Daly's hopes of recovering in time to play a part.

England conclude their Six Nations campaign against Ireland on March 18 – seven weeks' time – as they begin a new era under head coach Steve Borthwick.

Jamie George also pulled out of England's training squad earlier this week, with Jamie Blamire and Ollie Lawrence called up as replacements.

Borthwick is also set to be without Courtney Lawes for his first match in charge at Twickenham next week, as the towering lock is struggling with a calf injury.

Hooker George McGuigan (knee) is also in the treatment room along with Luke Cowan-Dickie (ankle).

Blamire, Tom Dunn and the uncapped Jack Walker are the remaining hooker options for Borthwick. 

Jamie George and Elliot Daly have withdrawn from England's Six Nations squad due to injury.

Hooker George has been sidelined by concussion after taking a blow in Saracens' European Champions Cup defeat at Edinburgh last weekend.

Versatile back Daly has been ruled out with a hamstring injury as the Red Rose prepare to face Scotland in their first game of the tournament a week on Saturday.

Jamie Blamire and Ollie Lawrence were on Tuesday called up as replacements for the experienced duo.

England head coach Steve Borthwick is also set to be without Courtney Lawes for his first match in charge at Twickenham next week, as the towering lock is struggling with calf injury.

Hooker George McGuigan (knee) is also in the treatment room along with Luke Cowan-Dickie (ankle).

Blamire, Tom Dunn and the uncapped Jack Walker are the remaining hooker options for Borthwick.

Eddie Jones has revealed he held talks with Australia while he was England head coach and is relishing a "great rivalry" with his former team.

Jones was sacked as England boss last month and has been replaced by Steve Borthwick, who was employed as the Australian's forwards coach with the Red Rose and his assistant during his Japan tenure.

The 62-year-old Jones this week sensationally returned for a second spell as Wallabies head coach, with Dave Rennie fired eight months before the Rugby World Cup starts in France.

Jones was due to end his England reign after the World Cup and had already spoken to Rugby Australia about the possibility of returning to his homeland prior to being shown the door by the Rugby Football Union (RFU).

"I don't know of anyone who doesn't think about their future," Jones, who said the talks were with a view to taking over once his England duties had ended, told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"I can't see how that is being disloyal or whatever people want to portray it as being."

Australia could face England at the quarter-final stage of the World Cup and Jones would welcome a reunion.

"I think the nice thing about playing against a team you have coached previously is that you've got these relationships with players and maybe with some staff," he said.

"It creates a really good rivalry. I enjoyed coaching against Australia and coaching against Michael Cheika, and I'll enjoy coaching against Steve Borthwick and England."

Joey Carbery and Robbie Henshaw have been omitted from Ireland's Six Nations squad but the uncapped Jamie Osborne has been included.

Carbery has been seen as the long-term successor to fly-half Johnny Sexton, who will retire after the Rugby World Cup in France this year.

There is no place for the Munster number 10 in Andy Farrell's 37-man Six Nations squad, though, as Ross Byrne and Jack Crowley were given the nod as back-ups to captain Sexton.

Centre Henshaw has endured an injury-hit season and is currently sidelined with a wrist problem, so he was overlooked by head coach Farrell.

Fellow centre Osborne, 21, is the only uncapped player in the squad as the top-ranked team in the world target a first Six Nations title in five years.

Ireland start the tournament with a trip to the Principality Stadium for Warren Gatland's first game since returning for a second spell as Wales head coach on February 4.

Farrell said: "The Six Nations is a huge competition for us and another opportunity for us to grow as a group. 2022 was a busy year as we got to work with a larger group of players as we continued to build our squad depth and competition for places.

"While there are a few players carrying knocks and others that have missed out on selection for the start of the tournament, they will have the opportunity to push their case playing for their provinces in the URC over the coming weeks as no doubt we will need to call upon the wider group as the tournament progresses."

 

Ireland squad:

Forwards: Ryan Baird, Finlay Bealham, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan, Gavin Coombes, Caelan Doris, Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy, Iain Henderson, Rob Herring, Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Joe McCarthy, Peter O'Mahony, Tom O'Toole, Andrew Porter, Cian Prendergast, James Ryan, Dan Sheehan, Josh van der Flier.

Backs: Bundee Aki, Ross Byrne, Craig Casey, Jack Crowley, Keith Earls, Jamison Gibson Park, Mack Hansen, Hugo Keenan, Jordan Larmour, James Lowe, Stuart McCloskey, Conor Murray, Jimmy O’Brien, Jamie Osborne, Garry Ringrose, Johnny Sexton (captain), Jacob Stockdale.

Eddie Jones will make an immediate impact on his return to Australia, for which "there was always writing on the wall", according to former England captain Chris Robshaw.

Jones was dismissed by England in December but replaced Dave Rennie as the Wallabies' coach on Sunday, taking up a role he previously held between 2001 and 2005.

Defeats in November to France, Ireland and particularly Italy proved the final straw for New Zealander Rennie, paving the way for Jones to return in time for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

The Australian was in charge when the Wallabies lost to England in the 2003 World Cup final, and Robshaw always expected Jones to return in a bid to complete unfinished business.

Speaking on behalf of Sage, powering the Smart Ball at the Six Nations, Robshaw told Stats Perform: "He was a proud Australian man and I think there was always writing on the wall that one day he will be back in Australia coaching.

"They're in a bit of a tough place in terms of their confidence. They had a tough tour in England, and it's no doubt he'll be able to go and shake things up and have an immediate impact.

"It is his man-management, which is brilliant, and his ability to get the best out of people because they have a good team and they have some good players.

"But how do you turn it around quickly and generally? That's all kind of up in the air."

Jones will aim for glory at the World Cup in September, having led both Australia and England – in 2019 – to the final as well as defeating South Africa with underdogs Japan in 2015.

Former British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton believes Jones wants to be on the biggest stage to shine, as does Warren Gatland, who made a similar return to retake the role as Wales coach.

Warburton said: "I like him, and at least in the same way as Warren [Gatland], they're international coaches. They need that international kick.

"I can't imagine Eddie being a club coach anymore, same with Warren. I think Warren wanted to just be back in the international helm and Eddie wants to be back in the international helm.

"In front of 80,000 people, he will turn to a press conference of people talking about pressure, he'll be laughing inside, he wouldn't be doing the job this long at such a high level if he didn't truly love it.

"I really respect him. He's gone straight back into the deep end with international rugby with Australia, and he's got a World Cup; that's what he needs to thrive, so it is not really surprising.

"If you said in the Autumn Series, Warren Gatland and Eddie Jones are going to clash somewhere in the World Cup, then you'd be thinking how was that going to be. 

"I don't think anyone would have thought it would have been Wales and Australia. Compared to where we were three months ago, it is a great story, and it's going to develop a great subplot going into the group stage of the World Cup."

Eddie Jones will ignore Rugby Football Union (RFU) administrators if his Australia side face England at the World Cup in France this year.

Jones was sacked as England head coach last month and has been replaced by his former assistant Steve Borthwick.

The 62-year-old has not had long to wait for another opportunity, as he was sensationally appointed for a second spell in charge of the Wallabies on Monday.

Jones was given a long-term deal by Rugby Australia to take over from fired New Zealander Dave Rennie.

Australia and the Red Rose could meet at the quarter-final stage of a World Cup that starts on October 8 and Jones will be selective over who he talks to if that showdown comes to fruition.

"I'm not thinking about England," Jones told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"The most important thing is to get Australia playing really well and consistently well.

"If we happen to meet England on the way, well and good. I might have a conversation with some of the players and not with the administration. Then we'll get on with the battle.

"Maybe age helps but once the chapter closes, it closes."

 

Ken Owens will captain Wales in the Six Nations and Warren Gatland has included four uncapped players in his 37-man squad.

Hooker Owens takes over as skipper from Justin Tipuric, who led the side for the Autumn Nations Series encounters last year.

The fit-again Wyn Jones, Dewi Lake and Liam Williams return in Gatland's first squad since he returned for a second spell as head coach, replacing the sacked Wayne Pivac.

New Zealander Gatland has recalled Leon Brown, Rhys Carre, Rhys Patchell, Aaron Wainwright, Rhys Webb and Owen Williams.

The uncapped Rhys Davies, Keiran Williams, Mason Grady and Teddy Williams also got the nod, while Rio Dyer, Joe Hawkins and Dafydd Jenkins are in line to make their Six Nations debuts.

Gatland said of naming Owens as captain: "Ken's incredibly experienced and a passionate Welshman – it means a lot to him to play for Wales. He's also very popular with the players.

"He came back from injury and was absolutely outstanding during the autumn campaign. Probably, if you're picking a team at the moment he's the number one in that position. But he's going to have some competition with Dewi and Bradley [Roberts] as well, which is going to be great."

Gatland has completed his coaching team by appointing Jonathan Thomas, who will take responsibility for the contact area.

Wales face Ireland at the Principality Stadium in their first match of the tournament at the Principality Stadium on February 4.

 

Wales Six Nations squad:

Forwards: Rhys Carre, Wyn Jones, Gareth Thomas, Dewi Lake, Ken Owens (captain), Bradley Roberts, Leon Brown, Tomas Francis, Dillon Lewis, Adam Beard, Rhys Davies, Dafydd Jenkins, Alun Wyn Jones, Teddy Williams, Taulupe Faletau, Jac Morgan, Tommy Reffell, Justin Tipuric, Christ Tshiunza, Aaron Wainwright.

Backs: Kieran Hardy, Rhys Webb, Tomos Williams, Dan Biggar, Rhys Patchell, Owen Williams, Mason Grady, Joe Hawkins, George North, Nick Tompkins, Keiran Williams, Josh Adams, Alex Cuthbert, Rio Dyer, Leigh Halfpenny, Louis Rees-Zammit, Liam Williams.

Steve Borthwick did not think twice about selecting Owen Farrell as captain for England's Six Nations opener against Scotland after uncertainty over his availability.

Farrell was given a four-match ban for a dangerous tackle during Saracens' clash with Gloucester on January 6, reduced to three weeks provided he completes a World Rugby tackling school programme.

The versatile 31-year-old would have missed the clash with Scotland at Twickenham on February 4, had the Rugby Football Union (RFU) not somewhat contentiously made him available for Sarries' match against Bristol a week on Saturday.

Farrell would not usually have been released to play in that game, given players are typically stood down from club duty the week before the tournament starts.

New head coach Borthwick did not hesitate to pick Farrell after being informed he was clear to face Gregor Townsend's side.

"I know there has been a period of uncertainty around Owen's availability," Borthwick said after naming his first squad on Monday.

"I was informed unequivocally by the Rugby Football Union's legal department on Friday that Owen would be available for the first game of the Six Nations.

"Owen accepts his suspension and can’t wait to be back on the field. My point of view is that I'm England head coach and my job is to select the players that are available to me.

"The disciplinary system is run completely as an independent process and I think we'd agree there should be that split – the England head coach and the disciplinary system should be completely separate, and that's the case."

Borthwick was in no doubt Farrell is the man to skipper England in a new era.

The former Leicester Tigers boss said: "I've known Owen since he was 17 or 18-years-old. Now it's normal that when a 17 or 18-year-old enters first-team training at the start of their careers, they are quiet and reserved,

"Owen's different. Owen came on to the training field and everyone was struck with awe by how hard he pushes himself.

"Everybody was also struck by how much he demanded of those around him. That's Owen, it's what he does and why he is captain of England."

Billy Vunipola, Jack Nowell and Jonny May were omitted from the squad, but Dan Cole and Elliot Daly have been recalled.

Uncapped quintet Fin Smith, Ollie Hassell-Collins, George McGuigan, Cadan Murley and Jack Walker also got the nod.

Eddie Jones has made a sensational return to rugby as head coach of Australia after Dave Rennie was sacked.

Dismissed as England boss in December, with Steve Borthwick brought in as his replacement ahead of the Rugby World Cup this year, Jones has taken the Wallabies job for a second time. 

Australia ditched Dave Rennie to create the vacancy, with Jones describing his return to the job he previously held from 2001 to 2005 as "a wonderful opportunity".

Rugby Australia said Jones has committed until 2027, meaning his contract covers two World Cups and the 2025 British and Irish Lions tour.

The 62-year-old, who was in charge of the Australia side that lost to England in the 2003 World Cup final, will formally start his second tenure on January 29.

Jones said: "It is a wonderful opportunity for me to be able to come home to Australia and lead my nation to a Rugby World Cup.

"It is going to be an immense period for Australian Rugby – as a proud Australian, it is a great honour to be able to come home and lead the national team during these years.

"The Wallabies squad is a really talented group of players with good depth – if we can have everyone fit and healthy going into the World Cup this year, I am confident that we can go to France and break the 24-year drought of winning the Rugby World Cup.

"I am really looking forward to getting back home and getting stuck in."

Defeats in November to France, Ireland and particularly Italy sealed Rennie's fate. His team also beat Wales and Scotland on their Northern Hemisphere tour, but those victories were not enough to save his job. 

New Zealander Rennie had three years as head coach, and Rugby Australia said there had been "positive steps" taken under his leadership.

It was decided, however, that with Jones available for hire, Australia could not afford to stand by and see someone else move for him.

Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan described the appointment as "a major coup", labelling Jones, who has also coached Japan, as "the best coach in the world".

"Eddie's deep understanding of our rugby system and knowledge of our player group and pathways will lift the team to the next level," McLennan said.

"Eddie instinctively understands the Australian way of playing rugby – this represents an opportunity to secure a coach of immense expertise and experience at the biggest competitions, and we did not want to miss it."

Jones will also oversee the development of Australia's women's programme, with the Wallaroos looking to build on a quarter-final appearance at last year's World Cup.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has added Alex King and Mike Forshaw to his backroom staff ahead of the Six Nations.

Former England fly-half King has been appointed as attack coach, with Forshaw named defence coach by Gatland.

King was Wales' attack coach during the 2017 Six Nations while Gatland was on secondment with the British and Irish Lions. He was most recently working with Premiership side Gloucester.

Forshaw arrives from Sale Sharks, with the duo joining forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys and skills coach Neil Jenkins on Gatland's team.

They have replaced Stephen Jones and Gethin Jenkins at the start of Gatland's second tenure after the New Zealander replaced sacked compatriot Wayne Pivac last month.

Wales face Ireland in the opening game of the Six Nations at the Principality Stadium on February 4.

"I'm delighted that Alex and Mike are joining the Wales coaching team," said Gatland.

"They both have plenty of experience as players and coaches, which will be hugely important to the development of the squad through the Six Nations and beyond. I'd like to thank Sale Sharks for their cooperation in the process and allowing Mike to take up this position with Wales.

"We have less than a month to our first Six Nations match against the number one side in the world which, as I've said before, is a great challenge to have first up and one that we are very excited about as a coaching group.

"Having our first match this championship at home will be very special and I'm really looking forward to getting back out at Principality Stadium in front of the best fans in rugby."

France hooker Peato Mauvaka will miss at least the start of the Six Nations after undergoing surgery on a broken finger.

The 26-year-old has been capped 18 times by France and was used in all five matches in last year's tournament, which France won to end their 12-year wait for the trophy.

However, Mauvaka is now in a race against time to play a part in this year's edition due to an injury sustained in club side Toulouse's loss to La Rochelle in the Top 14 last weekend.

France head coach Fabien Galthie indicated on Tuesday that Mauvaka would be out for around three weeks, but his lay-off looks set to extend beyond then.

Providing an update on Wednesday, Toulouse coach Ugo Mola said: "Peato will be operated on this Friday. His absence will unfortunately be longer than three weeks."

France begin their Six Nations defence against Italy on February 5 – three and a half weeks' time – and have a difficult trip to Ireland six days later.

Galthie's men then face Scotland on February 26 and England on March 11, before concluding their campaign at home to Wales on March 18.

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