As ruthless Wales celebrated winning the Triple Crown, Eddie Jones might have been regretting saying the pressure would be on referee Pascal Gauzere in Cardiff.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac endured a difficult start to his reign after succeeding Warren Gatland, but his side are two victories from a Grand Slam after beating the defending champions 40-24.

England, on the other hand, saw the Six Nations title all-but slip through their fingers as they were left to rue poor discipline and two controversial first-half tries for Wales.

Red Rose boss Jones has previous with Gauzere and spoke to World Rugby about an incident involving the French official during Wales' win over Scotland in 2018.

The Australian was his usually outspoken self ahead of Saturday's clash at the Principality Stadium.

He said: "Unfortunately, there are no fans but the intensity of the clash I think over the last four or five years, the games I have been involved in, the points difference is six points. They always go down to the wire, so the pressure is going to be on the referee to make the right decisions."

So when Gauzere twice took centre stage in the first half by awarding tries for Josh Adams and Liam Williams, Jones may have been thinking he had made the wrong decision by putting the spotlight on the referee.

Jones should also be pointing the finger at his players, who he said had become more "street-smart" than they were when losing to Wales at the same stadium two years ago.

They were their own worst enemies, conceding 14 penalties as they lost for the second time in three matches, but Gauzere left them up against it and resurgent Wales took full advantage.

Owen Farrell has come in for criticism for having too much to say to referees, but he was understandably aggrieved when Adams was awarded an opening try 16 minutes in.

Gauzere had called time out after instructing the skipper to warn his team-mates about their indiscipline, only to give Dan Biggar the green light to pick out Adams with a pinpoint cross-field kick soon after with the majority of Red Rose caught out in a huddle.

Farrell exchanged words with Gauzere before reducing the deficit to 10-6 with his second penalty, yet the French official took centre stage once again when he raised his arm to signal a try for Williams with half an hour on the clock.

Louis Rees-Zammit was shaking his head in frustration after knocking the ball forward prior to Williams dotting down, but Gauzere opted against changing his decision after consulting the TMO as the ball struck the wing's leg prior to hitting the ground after he knocked it forward.

Rees-Zammit raised eyebrows over the verdict and England responded with a well-finished try from Anthony Watson before Farrell made it 17-14 just before the break.

Kieran Hardy caught England napping early in the second half with a sharp turn of foot to score a third Wales try but Farrell made it a seven-point game when he was on target with the boot again.

England were showing the sort of inventive play they were so badly lacking in the defeat to Scotland and the quick-thinking Ben Youngs nipped in for a superb try, which Farrell converted to level at 24-24 with 17 minutes to go.

The Red Rose continued to give away far too many penalties, though, and Callum Sheedy punished them on three occasion to put Pivac's men 33-24 up with six minutes remaining.

Cory Hill put the icing on the cake as it was Wales who proved to be more "street-smart”, with Pivac celebrating gleefully as his side took a big stride on the road towards another title.

Wales go in search of a Triple Crown in a blockbuster battle against England, but France will not have an opportunity to make it three Six Nations wins out of three this weekend.

Wayne Pivac's Wales side are level on nine points with Les Bleus following victories over Ireland and Scotland, both of whom had a man sent off.

George North will become the youngest player in history to win 100 caps, but defending champions England will be determined to spoil the Wales centre's big occasion at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

The Red Rose beat Italy 41-18 last time out, following a loss to Scotland at Twickenham.

Winless Ireland will be expected to defeat the Azzurri to get up and running in the opening match of round three at Stadio Olimpico.

Sunday's planned showdown between France and Scotland was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the French squad.

We preview the matches in Rome and Cardiff with help from Opta.

ITALY v IRELAND

FORM

Ireland have scored 45 tries across their last seven games against Italy in the Six Nations (6.4 per game), scoring eight or more tries in three of their last five clashes.

Italy have conceded a try-scoring bonus point in 17 of their 22 matches since those incentives were introduced to the Six Nations in 2017; only England (9) have picked up more bonus points in the championship than Ireland (8). The Azzurri are the only side yet to register one.

Ireland have lost their opening two games of a Six Nations campaign for the first time. The last time they lost their opening three matches was in 1998, when they were beaten in all four Five Nations clashes.

ONES TO WATCH

Sebastian Negri has made 96 metres and made 21 tackles combined in Italy's losses to France and England. Franco Smith will need another strong showing from the flanker.

Ireland back-row CJ Stander has made more carries (36) than any other player in the 2021 Six Nations. He has topped the final rankings for this category in three of the last four editions of the championship.

WALES v ENGLAND

FORM

England have won six of their last seven Six Nations matches against Wales, with the last six of those fixtures all decided by a single-figure margin.

Wales have won their opening two games of the tournament for a sixth time. On four of the previous five occasions when they have started with back-to-back victories, they have gone on to win a Grand Slam (2005, 2008, 2012, 2019, not in 2009).

This weekend's visitors are the only team to have never conceded more than two tries in a Six Nations game played in Wales. They have scored 19 tries in Wales during the Six Nations, no visiting team have scored more (Ireland also 19).

ONES TO WATCH

North will become only the sixth Wales player to win a century of caps. The 28-year-old will form a new pairing with Jonathan Davies and will be looking to bring up his hundred with an all-action display.

Elliot Daly will win his 50th cap for England and coach Eddie Jones will expect the full-back to repay the faith he has shown in him after a slow start to the tournament.

George North will become the youngest player in world rugby to reach 100 caps after being named in Wales' starting line-up for Saturday's Six Nations showdown with England.

The 28-year-old, who won his first cap in November 2010, returns to the side at outside centre as one of five changes from the 25-24 win over Scotland on February 13.

Wing Josh Adams is back from suspension while Josh Navidi, Jonathan Davies and scrum-half Kieran Hardy are also included in the XV, the latter making his first Six Nations start.

Wales have won their opening two games in this year's tournament and are three points ahead of England, who beat Italy 41-18 last time out after losing to Scotland in their opener.

Eddie Jones makes two changes to the England line-up, with hooker Jamie George and flanker Mark Wilson replacing Luke Cowan-Dickie and the injured Courtney Lawes respectively.

Elliot Daly retains his place and is set to win his 50th cap for England, who have named the uncapped George Martin among their replacements for the Principality Stadium clash. 

"We know we'll be up against a strong Welsh challenge on Saturday, but we've worked really hard in training this week and have got a very good team to face it," Jones said.

"We want to show people what we are capable of, keep building our performances and show the best is yet to come from this England team."

 

Wales XV: Liam Williams; Louis Rees-Zammit, George North, Jonathan Davies, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar, Kieran Hardy; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rhodri Jones, Leon Brown, Cory Hill, James Botham, Gareth Davies, Callum Sheedy, Uilisi Halaholo.

England XV: Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell, Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Mark Wilson, Tom Curry, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, George Martin, Ben Earl, Dan Robson, Max Malins.

France's Six Nations clash with Scotland in Paris has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak within the hosts' squad.

Earlier on Thursday, it was announced France had suspended training ahead of the fixture at Stade de France due to a further COVID-19 case.  

Tournament organisers had said 24 hours earlier that the match would still take place despite the situation developing within France's squad.  

However, following the latest development, a Six Nations spokesperson confirmed to Stats Perform News that the game will not take place.  

A Six Nations statement, as reported by the Guardian, read: "The Six Nations testing oversight group (TOG) met today to review the situation in the French camp.   

"They unanimously recommended the postponement of the France v Scotland match. This will be ratified later today by the Six Nations Council.   

"We will be working on the rescheduling of this fixture and will communicate the date in due course." 

Captain Charles Ollivon, scrum-half Antoine Dupont and Brice Dulin were among the French players to have tested positive, while head coach Fabien Galthie also contracted the virus following the 15-13 win over Ireland in Dublin. 

France were originally given the go-ahead to resume high-intensity training after no further positive tests were returned on Wednesday, but it remains to seen now when the fixture will be held.

Next weekend's rest period is thought to be considered a risk due to the ongoing situation within the French squad. 

Les Bleus have won two out of two in the tournament so far, with Scotland following up an opening win against England at Twickenham with a home defeat to Wales.

The Six Nations clash between France and Scotland is set to go ahead as scheduled on Sunday after a second successive days of no new positive COVID-19 tests within Les Bleus' squad.

There were major doubts over whether the round three encounter at Stade de France could be staged following a COVID-19 outbreak in the France camp.

Captain Charles Ollivon, scrum-half Antoine Dupont and Brice Dulin were among a host of players to test positive, while head coach Fabien Galthie also contracted the virus following the win over Ireland.

The French Rugby Federation on Wednesday revealed that there have been no more positive tests and the squad were able to resume high-intensity training.

Leaders France have therefore been given the green light to try and make it three wins out of three in Paris this weekend.

A Six Nations statement said: "Further to a meeting of the Six Nations Testing Oversight Group (TOG) this morning to review the latest tests results of the French Squad, the Six Nations confirm the plans to stage the France v Scotland match as originally scheduled this coming Sunday.

"We continue to monitor the situation very closely and are in regular contact with both unions."

Les Bleus are level on nine points with Wales, who face defending champions England at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

Ireland take on Italy in the first game of the weekend at the Stadio Olimpico in what will be a battle of sides who have lost both matches.

France captain Charles Ollivon is among five further France players to have tested positive for coronavirus as Sunday's clash with Scotland comes under increasing doubt.

The latest round of testing took the total number of positives up to 14 as Ollivon was joined by Brice Dulin, Cyril Baille, Romain Taofifenua and Peato Mauvaka.

It was only on Sunday that Julien Marchand and Arthur Vincent were found to have contracted the virus, with the first reported case coming last Tuesday.

Prop Mohamed Haouas, wing Gabin Villiere and scrum-half Antoine Dupont are in the same boat, along with head coach Fabien Galthie, assistant Karim Ghezal, forwards coach William Servat and an unnamed member of the support staff.

Les Bleus, who top the table after wins over Italy and Ireland, revealed five more players had been called up on Monday for a game in Paris that may well have to be postponed.

Uncapped trio Gaetan Barlot, Thierry Paiva and Cyril Cazeaux have been drafted in, with Baptiste Pesenti and Thomas Ramos also getting the call.

A statement from the French Rugby Federation said the intention is to return to group training on Wednesday, though further testing would take place every day.

Julien Marchand and Arthur Vincent have become the latest France players to test positive for coronavirus.

The French Rugby Federation (FFR) announced Toulouse hooker Marchand and Montpellier centre Vincent had been omitted from the 31-man squad to face Scotland next weekend.

It takes the overall number of COVID-19 cases from the Six Nations leaders' camp to nine, with prop Mohamed Haouas, wing Gabin Villiere and scrum-half Antoine Dupont also sidelined.

Head coach Fabien Galthie, assistant Karim Ghezal, forwards coach William Servat and another unnamed member of support staff have also tested positive.

As a result, there are six new additions to the squad as Les Bleus aim to make it three wins out of three.

Racing 92 hooker Teddy Baubigny fills the void left by Marchand, with Demba Bamba offering cover at prop.

Maxime Lucu comes in as another option at scrum-half, while centres Yoram Moefana and Jonathan Danty, along with Baubigny's club-mate Donovan Taofifenua, bolster the depleted backs.

France prop Mohamed Haouas and wing Gabin Villiere have followed scrum-half Antoine Dupont and coach Fabien Galthie in testing positive for coronavirus.

The Six Nations leaders, who have won two games from two in this year's tournament, are struggling to contain a COVID-19 outbreak in their camp.

Dupont, Galthie, forwards coach William Servat and another staff member returned positive tests earlier this week.

Following another round of testing, the French Rugby Federation (FFR) announced on its website on Saturday that Haouas and Villiere have also contracted the disease.

France's health minister Olivier Veran said on Thursday that anyone testing positive would now need to self-isolate for 10 days, instead of the previous seven.

All members of Les Blues' squad will be tested again on Sunday, the same day that a new 31-man training squad is to be named for next week's clash with Scotland in Paris.

Haouas, Villiere and Dupont started France's victories over Italy and Ireland, with the latter named player of the round in the opening set of fixtures.

Dan Carter was hailed as "one of the best to have ever played the game" who has "amazed for almost two decades" after the New Zealand legend announced his retirement.

Mercurial fly-half Carter confirmed on Saturday that his incredible career is over at the age of 38.

The All Blacks great won the Rugby World Cup twice and is the record points-scorer in Tests with 1,598, while he was named World Rugby Player of the Year a joint-record three times.

Carter claimed three Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, while he also won honours with Perpignan, Racing 92 and Kobelco Steelers.

He tweeted: "I officially retire from professional rugby today. A sport I've played 32 years which has helped shape me into the person I am today.

"I can't thank everyone who has played a part in my journey enough, particularly you, the fans. Rugby will always be a part of my life. Thank you."

The All Blacks paid tribute to Carter on social media, posting: "Thank you @dancarter_. You have amazed us for almost two decades with your deeds on the field.

"Now it's time to put your feet up and enjoy the next chapter. #Icon."

The world governing body also expressed its gratitude to the number 10.

A post from the World Rugby account said: "A two-times @rugbyworldcup winner and one of the best to have ever played the game. Thank you for everything you have given to our sport, @DanCarter."

Former South Africa wing Bryan Habana simply wrote: "Congrats on an incredible career @DanCarter !!"

A tweet from the Springboks account read: "Congratulations on a stellar career @DanCarter and good luck with the next chapter. You'll always be welcome for a braai here in South Africa!"

Former referee Nigel Owens posted: "You will be remembered as one of the greatest ever, but more importantly, not just on the field but off it as well.

"A true gentleman. It was always a pleasure and privilege. Best wishes for the future."

New Zealand great Dan Carter has announced his retirement from rugby at the age of 38.

The fly-half won two World Cups with the All Blacks and holds the record for the most Test points scored with 1,598, ahead of Jonny Wilkinson on 1,246.

The former Crusaders star, who also played for Perpignan and Racing 92 in France, has been playing for Kobelco Steelers in Japan and also turned out for the Blues in his homeland last year.

"I've thought about this on so many occasions but today is the day and I am very grateful that I can do it on my terms," Carter wrote on Instagram on Saturday.

"I'm officially retiring from professional rugby. A sport I've played for 32 years which has helped shape me into the person I am today.

"I can't thank everyone who has played a part in my journey enough – from my team-mates, opponents, coaching and management teams, sponsors and in particular you, the fans.

"A special mention to my friends and family who have supported and guided me through my career. Mum and Dad, thank you for everything you have sacrificed for me. My wife Honor for being my rock and allowing me to fulfil my dreams while raising our beautiful family – I can't thank you enough.

"I'm excited about my next chapter in life and what that will look like. For now, I'm sad to walk away from playing but the timing is right. Rugby will always be a part of my life. Thank you."

Speaking to the New Zealand Herald, Carter said "I knew in my mind the time was right" as the coronavirus pandemic made him consider whether he should keep playing abroad away from his family, with his fourth child on the way.

"After experiencing rugby in Japan I thought I could squeeze a few more years out of my body," he said. "There was something really enjoyable about being part of that environment and the culture we had at the Kobe Steelers. I was playing rugby and enjoying it and wasn't sure when I would stop.

"I got forced back by COVID in March and was gutted about that. I was coming off contract and I guess the frustrations of not being able to finish the Japanese season and then going to the Blues for a little bit, I loved that. I loved being part of the team environment but going through that process it made me realise that I play to be the best player out on the field.

"That is my drive and it always has been and I just didn't have that drive back here in New Zealand. When I realised the age my kids are and the amount of work Honor [Carter's wife] was doing looking after them while I was away chasing my dream, it made me realise it was time to stop."

Carter won three Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders and remains the leading scorer in the competition.

He won 112 caps for New Zealand, lifting the 2011 World Cup, although he missed much of the tournament due to a groin injury. He then led the All Blacks to defend their crown four years later with a man-of-the-match display in the final against Australia.

Former England coach Clive Woodward described Carter's performance against the British and Irish Lions in a Wellington Test in 2005 as "off the Richter scale" and "possibly the best individual performance I have ever witnessed at Test level".

Antoine Dupont has become the latest member of France's Six Nations set-up to test positive for COVID-19.

Head coach Fabien Galthie, assistant William Servat and another unspecified member of the backroom team have returned positive results since last weekend's 15-13 victory over Ireland in Dublin.

The French Rugby Federation (FFR) announced on Wednesday that no players had tested positive for coronavirus and they had been permitted to return home ahead of further testing on Friday.

Although 11 players returned negative results in the latest batch of testing, Dupont was found to be positive.

"The player who tested positive for COVID-19 is Antoine Dupont," read an FFR statement. "To date, he is asymptomatic. In accordance with protocol he will remain in isolation for the next few days."

The France squad are due to return to the National Rugby Centre in Marcoussis on Sunday to begin preparing for Scotland's visit to Paris the following weekend.

A third member of the France backroom team has tested positive for coronavirus, but the players have been cleared to continue their isolation at home after returning negative results.

The French Rugby Federation confirmed on Tuesday that head coach Fabien Galthie and an unnamed member of staff were positive for COVID-19 and would self-isolate for seven days.

Following another round of testing later that day, assistant coach William Servat returned a positive result.

However, with all players testing negative for the second time in succession, they were permitted to return home on Wednesday.

Further coronavirus tests will be carried out at their homes on Friday and on Sunday, when the players return to the National Rugby Centre in Marcoussis.

France, who won their opening two Six Nations games against Italy and Ireland, are scheduled to face Scotland in Paris on February 28.

The squad for that game is due to be announced on Wednesday.

Andy Farrell said Ireland are "hurting" physically and mentally after they suffered a 15-13 Six Nations defeat to France at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday.

Les Bleus ended a 10-year wait for a win in Dublin, digging deep to make it two wins out of two and consign the men in green to back-to-back defeats at the start of a Six Nations campaign for the first time.

France were clinical and defended brilliantly, with Charles Ollivon scoring a classy first-half try against the run of play and Damian Penaud crossing after the break.

Ronan Kelleher's first Test try after 57 minutes left a gripping battle in the balance and Ross Byrne's mammoth long-range penalty set up a tense finale, but France held on to leave Ireland's title hopes all-but over.

Ireland were already without Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray and James Ryan due to injury and their luck at the start of the tournament was summed up when Iain Henderson and Cian Healy had to go off with blood streaming from their heads after a collision.

Both players were able to return but they were unable to prevent another defeat in a game of fine margins, with James Lowe's first-half try ruled out by the TMO as his foot made contact with the touchline. 

Ireland head coach Farrell said: "I thought we managed the game really well in the first half – even though the rain stopped it was still very wet, and obviously the French like to come with a lot of line speed.

"They defended really well in those last two minutes there. I thought the plan was going according to plan and we were doing very well set-piece wise, and our game management was very good. I thought we just lost our way a little bit in the third quarter there, and that got them back into the game.

"I suppose, really, when you look at it, if you give them set-pieces in your own half, they get over the gain line first phase, come round the corner second phase and get into their offloading game, then they're free-flowing. Some of that was a little bit soft from us.

"A lot of lads that are hurting in there – physically hurting as well as mentally. Because they put their bodies on the line for their country. The effort's not the problem at all, but it still hurts to lose this game."

Huge roars echoed around the Aviva Stadium as the ball sailed into an empty stand to end France's 10-year wait for a win in Ireland.

Time and again Les Bleus have suffered the agony of defeat in Dublin, but they showed a combination of style and substance to make it two Six Nations victories out of two.

Booming bellows of celebration and relief could be heard loud and clear on a wet Sunday as France held on to win an almighty battle 15-13.

Les Bleus have not won a Six Nations title for 11 years, consistently proving to be great entertainers but falling short with defensive fragility, indiscipline and a lack of clear thinking.

This is a different France in the Fabien Galthie era, though, with defence coach Shaun Edwards having worked wonders in a relatively short space of time to make them such a tough nut to crack.

Englishman Edwards has given France a strong backbone and that was essential as they frustrated a wounded Ireland, who were missing captain Johnny Sexton, James Ryan and Conor Murray due to injury.

A try in each half from inspirational captain Charles Ollivon and Damian Penaud proved to be decisive, with France providing the cutting edge that Ireland lacked.

Ireland had 59 per cent possession but were only able to break through a brick wall of a French defensive once, when Ronan Kelleher nipped in to set up a tense finale.

France made 180 tackles to 122 from Ireland, who will head into a rest weekend with two defeats from two, while their conquerors lead the way with Wales on nine points after making a big statement.

Billy Burns made a confident start as he set about trying to make up for his costly last-gasp kick in the loss to Wales and although he was off target with a poor first penalty, the fly-half made no mistake soon after to put Ireland in front.

The men in green were dominant and had an extra man when Bernard Le Roux was sin-binned 23 minutes in for tripping Keith Earls.

France were under the pump but stood firm, the excellent Brice Dulin grabbing slippery high balls as Ireland continued to knock at the door, missing out on an opening try when the TMO spotted James Lowe's foot touched the line as he was tackled in the corner.

Les Bleus were relishing the battle and showed their class with ball in hand to hit the front in style after 28 minutes.

The mercurial Antoine Dupont and Matthieu Jalibert featuring in a showreel of offloads before Gael Fickou tossed a clever pass over Jamison Gibson-Park, setting up captain Ollivon for a brilliant score.

Jalibert booted France into a 10-3 lead at the break and Ireland's luck was out again when Cian Healy and stand-in captain Iain Henderson went off with blood pouring from their heads following an unfortunate collision.

Penaud extended France's lead with another clinical try following a strong carry from the powerful Fickou and a fine Jalibert pass, but Kelleher scooped a loose ball from a lineout to score his first Ireland try with 56 minutes on the clock.

The nerves were jangling when Jalibert hit a post from the tee and a mammoth Ross Byrne penalty reduced the deficit to two points with 16 minutes to play.

Yet France defended for their lives to get the job done, showing fight and finesse to avoid more Dublin doom and gloom.

Ireland's Six Nations hopes are in tatters after they fell to a second successive defeat, a comeback attempt falling short in a 15-13 loss to France.

Andy Farrell's side were undone by an early red card for Peter O'Mahony against Wales, but it was their failure to capitalise in the 10 minutes when France were down to 14 that proved key this time around.

Charles Ollivon scored the first of two France tries while they were undermanned, giving the visitors an advantage they never surrendered.

They led 15-3 five minutes before the hour and, although a spirited revival gave Ireland hope, the hosts could not complete a turnaround, meaning their championship prospects are effectively over. France, by contrast, go into the first rest weekend top of the table.

Matthieu Jalibert and Billy Burns each missed early penalties before Burns knocked a simple one over to give Ireland a 3-0 lead.

The hosts were then boosted further when Bernard Le Roux was shown a yellow card for tripping during a kick-chase.

James Lowe looked to have taken an immediate advantage when he went over in the left corner but the TMO ruled he had been pushed into touch by the scrambling France defence.

Ireland were punished for not taking that chance in stunning fashion as a wonderful France attack, in which the ball was intricately worked to the right and then back left, ended with Gael Fickou sending Ollivon over.

Jallibert added the extras and landed a penalty shortly before the interval.

France wasted a golden opportunity to go further ahead following a superb carry from Julien Marchand before Ireland's task was made more difficult when Cian Healy and Iain Henderson clashed heads in a tackle.

Ed Byrne and Ultan Dillane entered the fray as replacements for their bloodied team-mates but could not help Ireland wrest control of the game away from France.

The visitors' command was strengthened in the 57th minute when Jallibert looped a long pass out to Brice Dulin, who shrugged off a defender and fed Damian Penaud for France's second try.

Yet Jallibert failed with the conversion and, after Ollivon was penalised from the kick-off, Ronan Kelleher marked his introduction by strolling over following a fortunate bounce at a line-out.

A long-range penalty from Ross Byrne trimmed the gap to two points and Jallibert failed to respond in kind nine minutes from time as he struck the upright from 51 metres.

But as in Cardiff last week, Ireland failed to produce a dramatic final say and will likely be playing for little more than pride for the rest of the tournament.

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