sports

Six Nations 2020: Super Saturday talking points | Rugby Union News


With England, Ireland and France still in the title mix, who is saying what ahead of 2020’s Six Nations Super Saturday?

We look at the talking points ahead of 2020’s Six Nations Super Saturday, which could see England, Ireland or France take the title…

France vs Ireland (8.05pm)

Johnny Sexton has challenged Ireland to honour Cian Healy’s 100th cap by claiming a fourth Six Nations crown in seven years.

British and Irish Lions prop Healy will bring up his Test century in Saturday’s mouth-watering showdown against France in Paris.

Ireland can add another Six Nations crown to their 2014, 2015 and 2018 triumphs at the Stade de France – but must pull off an unprecedented bonus-point win in the French capital to be certain of holding off title rivals England.

Experienced loosehead prop Cian Healy will earns his 100th Test cap for Ireland in Paris

Experienced loosehead prop Cian Healy will earns his 100th Test cap for Ireland in Paris

Ireland are currently a point clear of both England, who face rock-bottom Italy in Rome, and France in the Six Nations table.

Captain Sexton believes Ireland can carve out the openings for four scores in Paris, but conceded converting them will be a different matter entirely against the resurgent hosts.

Asked to explain the size of the task, Sexton said: “I suppose we just have to wait and see, all we can control at the moment is our performance.

“So we’ve just had to emphasise to everyone that we need to get the performance right no matter what. We’re still going to have to play well no matter what, so let’s focus on that aspect.

“We know if we perform well we’ll create chances, so we’ll have to take them, we’ll need to be clinical.”

Skipper Johnny Sexton says he believes Ireland can score the four tries required to win with a bonus-point in France

Skipper Johnny Sexton says he believes Ireland can score the four tries required to win with a bonus-point in France

For France, lock Bernard Le Roux has been cleared to play after a hearing into an act of foul play against Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones.

Second-row forward Le Roux was accused of striking Jones with a forearm during France’s 38-21 friendly win in Paris on Saturday.

Le Roux told an independent disciplinary committee on Tuesday that he had made contact with Jones but denied that it had been an act of foul play.

“The disciplinary committee found that Mr Le Roux had committed an act of foul play (an infringement of Law 9.12) but that it had not warranted a red card, and that Mr Le Roux is therefore free to resume playing immediately.”

France's Bernard Le Roux avoided a suspension after his citing for striking Alun Wyn Jones was dismissed

France’s Bernard Le Roux avoided a suspension after his citing for striking Alun Wyn Jones was dismissed

France’s only hope of the title is to beat Ireland by a better margin than England manage against Italy – or hope England lose to Italy for the first time.

Italy vs England (4.45pm)

England forwards coach John Mitchell believes Billy Vunipola is ready to answer the call in Saturday’s Six Nations finale in Italy.

Saracens No 8 Vunipola has not played since his club’s final Premiership match against Bath on October 4, and not for England since the 2019 World Cup final on November 2.

England can lift the Six Nations trophy if they secure a bonus-point win in Rome and other results go their way.

Mitchell said: “Billy has a huge capacity for work. He’s a guy that has regularly played 80 minutes in his Test career.

“It’s phenomenal how he’s able to keep pushing on to the ball and contribute in the way that he does.”

Billy Vunipola hasn't played for England since the World Cup final on November 2, 2019

Billy Vunipola hasn’t played for England since the World Cup final on November 2, 2019

England head coach Eddie Jones has always maintained Vunipola needs to be play regularly to be at his best, but Mitchell suggested the back-row could have a big part to play.

“It’s just a unique quality that he has,” Mitchell added. “You never judge the book by its cover I guess, it’s what’s inside.

“He’s highly motivated and he’s proved that in the past as well.”

England are expected to beat Italy handsomely, but as mentioned above, both France and Ireland can still win the Championship.

It promises to be a thrilling last round of matches, but Mitchell would not be drawn on whether England will start the weekend as favourites.

“Firstly our goal is to win the Six Nations and we’ll need to set the tone right from the start,” he said. “We’ll also need to be at our best.

“We keep that focus and we maintain our intent and if we’re very good we’ll give ourselves every opportunity.

England secured the Triple Crown before the coronavirus pandemic forced the Six Nations to be suspended

England secured the Triple Crown before the coronavirus pandemic forced the Six Nations to be suspended

“We’ve got an opportunity to demonstrate our pride and also the privilege which comes with being back playing for England.

“It’s an opportunity for us to put smiles on people’s faces during a really tough time and I know it might sound generic because you’re probably hearing that from all sportsmen, but that time has arrived for us.

“That’s really important to us. Preparation is extremely important but there comes a time when you’ve got to deliver and make sure you wholeheartedly create a smile and give the country something to look forward to.”

In terms of team news, Exeter’s Jonny Hill will make his England debut after coach Eddie Jones named him as lock partner to Maro Itoje for the game in Rome.

Scrum-half Ben Youngs will win his 100th cap, while there are three uncapped players on the bench – hooker Tom Dunn, powerful centre Ollie Lawrence and winger Ollie Thorley, while Dan Robson is the backup scrum-half.

To finish top England would need to secure their bonus point, make up the 23-point deficit on Ireland, and then better any further points difference advantage Ireland might gain with a non-bonus point win.

Jones said he would approach the game the same way as usual, despite the need for tries. “We’ve just been focussed on maximising our performance,” he said. “We have to be disciplined and focussed on playing to our absolute best, and every minute presents an opportunity.”

Wales vs Scotland (2.15pm)

Stephen Jones says Wales are under no illusions about the importance of Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations clash against Scotland.

Wales might be comfortably out of title contention when the tournament reaches its climax, but last season’s Grand Slam champions are on the back of four successive defeats under head coach Wayne Pivac – Wales’ worst results sequence since 2016 – which underlines their Six Nations finale’s significance in Llanelli.

“Pressure is an interesting word, isn’t it? It depends how you see that as an individual,” Jones said.

“We are under no illusions. This is must-win for us, and we are really excited by that challenge.

Wales coach Stephen Jones has labelled their clash with Scotland as 'must-win'

Wales coach Stephen Jones has labelled their clash with Scotland as ‘must-win’

“As a group, we want closure on the Six Nations campaign, and we have got to do it in a positive manner and we have got to get the result.”

Wales have not won a game since beating Italy 42-0 in their opening Six Nations fixture almost nine months ago.

Subsequent losses to Ireland, France and England – then France again in Paris three days ago – also saw them concede 15 tries.





Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button