All you need to know ahead of Guinness Six Nations Round 2

Marcus Smith celebrates scoring their first try with Henry Slade 5/2/2022
After the thrills and spills of the opening weekend, Round 2 of the Guinness Six Nations promises to be another enthralling spectacle with key matches in Cardiff, Paris and Rome.

After the thrills and spills of the opening weekend, Round 2 of the Guinness Six Nations promises to be another enthralling spectacle with key matches in Cardiff, Paris and Rome.

We start in Cardiff, where Wales hope to get their Championship defence back on track against a Scotland team brimming with confidence following their win against England last week.

Wales were soundly beaten by Ireland in Round 1 but are a completely different proposition on home soil, especially with fans returning to the Principality for a Guinness Six Nations match for the first time in two years.

After that, all eyes will be on the Stade de France, where Championship contenders France and Ireland meet.

Both teams secured opening-round wins but only one of them can start to dream of a possible Grand Slam come the first rest week.

And then on Sunday, Italy and England meet in Rome, both hoping to secure their first win of the campaign.

Here’s all you need to know.

The first game of the weekend has the potential to be a cracker, with Wales hosting Scotland at Principality Stadium.

Wales’ Championship defence took a hit in Round 1, as Ireland played some scintillating rugby en route to a 29-7 success, and that means Wales must beat Scotland to have any realistic hope of defending their crown.

But that is much easier said than done and Scotland arrive full of momentum after their Calcutta Cup success against England last weekend.

With a stingy defence and an attack boasting flair players such as Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg, Scotland have all the tools needed to end their Cardiff hoodoo.

It’s 20 years since they won a Championship match in Wales’ capital city, so history favours the hosts. But Scotland have ended similarly long winless runs at Twickenham and the Stade de France in recent times and are unlikely to be overwhelmed by the occasion.

Wales have bounced back from a Round 1 defeat to win the Championship before and will hope to draw on those 2013 memories. Head coach Wayne Pivac has made four changes and shaken up his back row, with Ross Moriarty returning at No.8 and openside flanker Jac Morgan set for his Test debut.

Alex Cuthbert, who was so influential in that 2013 campaign, is set for his first Guinness Six Nations appearance in five years, while Owen Watkin replaces the injured Josh Adams at centre.

Perhaps surprisingly, Gregor Townsend has made five changes for Scotland, including a whole new front row of Pierre Schoeman, Stuart McInally and WP Nel.

An enforced change in the back row sees Sam Skinner replace the injured Jamie Ritchie.

The only change among the backs sees Sione Tuipulotu start in place of Sam Johnson, who has been released back to Glasgow Warriors. The exciting Cameron Redpath returns to the bench.

Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Louis Rees-Zammit, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Tomos Williams, 1 Wyn Jones, 2 Ryan Elias, 3 Tomas Francis, 4 Will Rowlands, 5 Adam Beard, 6 Taine Basham, 7 Jac Morgan, 8 Ross Moriarty

Replacements: 16 Dewi Lake, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Seb Davies, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Callum Sheedy, 23 Jonathan Davies

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Sione Tuipulotu, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 1 Pierre Schoeman, 2 Stuart McInally, 3 WP Nel, 4 Jonny Gray, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 6 Sam Skinner, 7 Hamish Watson, 8 Matt Fagerson

Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Magnus Bradbury, 20 Rory Darge, 21 Ben White, 22 Blair Kinghorn, 23 Cameron Redpath

On paper, this is one of the standout matches of the 2022 Championship and there’s every reason to believe France v Ireland will live up to the billing when the two titans clash at the Stade de France.

In the blue corner, the hosts started their Guinness Six Nations campaign with a convincing 37-10 victory against Italy, despite a disrupted build-up due to an outbreak of Covid.

This week has been far smoother and head coach Fabien Galthié, who had a bout of the virus, is back to lead his team into battle.

Galthié has made just one change to his team, suggesting he’s settled on a consistent formula, with centre Jonathan Danty out due to injury and replaced by Yoram Moefana.

Antoine Dupont said France were clumsy against Italy at times and to expect a sharper Les Bleus this weekend. If that’s the case, Ireland will have to be at their brilliant best to win.

Fortunately for Andy Farrell and co, the Men in Green are playing their best rugby since Farrell replaced Joe Schmidt as head coach in 2019.

They have won their last nine Test matches and swatted Wales aside with ease in Dublin last weekend, with Mack Hansen making an impressive debut in a Player of the Match performance on the wing.

Ireland will be without their talismanic captain Johnny Sexton, however, after he suffered a hamstring strain in training this week.

Joey Carbery comes in for his first Guinness Six Nations start but if he can replicate the form he showed against New Zealand in the autumn, where he helped Ireland to a convincing win, then there is unlikely to be a drop-off.

Calling this one is almost impossible. All you can do is watch and enjoy two heavyweights slug it out.

France: 15. Melvyn Jaminet, 14. Damian Penaud, 13. Gaël Fickou, 12. Yoram Moefana, 11. Gabin Villière, 10. Romain Ntamack, 9. Antoine Dupont (c), 1. Cyril Baille, 2. Julien Marchand, 3. Uini Atonio, 4. Cameron Woki, 5. Paul Willemse, 6. Anthony Jelonch, 7. François Cros, 8. Grégory Alldritt

Replacements: 16. Peato Mauvaka, 17. Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18. Demba Bamba, 19. Romain Taofifenua, 20. Thibaud Flament, 21. Dylan Cretin, 22. Maxime Lucu, 23. Thomas Ramos.

Ireland: 15. Keenan, 14. Conway, 13. Ringrose, 12. Aki, 11. Hansen, 10. Carbery, 9. Gibson Park, 1. Andrew Porter, 2. Ronan Kelleher, 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Tadhg Beirne, 5. James Ryan (c), 6. Caelan Doris, 7. Josh van de Flier, 8. Jack. Conan.

Replacements: 16. Dan Sheehan, 17. Cian Healy, 18. Finlay Bealham, 19. Iain Henderson, 20. Peter O’Mahony, 21. Conor Murray, 22. Jack Carty, 23. Robbie Henshaw.

Italy and England meet for the 29th time on Sunday afternoon and both teams are chasing a first win of the 2022 Guinness Six Nations.

Italy flashed plenty of promise against France last weekend and will hope a return to home soil will inspire a first Championship victory against England.

Head coach Kieran Crowley has made three changes to his team, with Federico Mori recalled to the back three and Pietro Ceccarelli and Braam Steyn promoted to the starting XV in the pack.

England boss Eddie Jones admits it’s been a tough week following their defeat to Scotland in Round 1 and the Australian has wasted no time in ringing the changes.

There are six of them to be exact, including a first Guinness Six Nations start in three years for winger Jack Nowell.

Alex Dombrandt and Harry Randall form a new No.8-scrum-half partnership, while Joe Marchant shifts to outside centre in place of Elliot Daly – who drops to the bench. There are also starts for Jamie George, Will Stuart and Charlie Ewels

England have never lost in Round 2 under Eddie Jones and will hope to stretch that winning record to seven this year.

Italy: 15. Edoardo Padovani, 14. Federico Mori, 13. Juan Ignacio Brex, 12. Marco Zanon, 11. Monty Ioane, 10. Paolo Garbisi, 9. Stephen Varney, 1. Danilo Fischetti, 2. Gianmarco Lucchesi, 3. Pietro Ceccarelli, 4, Niccolo Cannone, 5. Federico Ruzza, 6. Braam Steyn, 7. Michele Lamaro (capt), 8. Toa Halafihi.

Replacements: 16. Hame Faiva, 17. Cherif Traore, 18. Tiziano Pasquali, 19. David Sisi, 20. Sebastian Negri, 21. Giovanni Pettinelli, 22. Alessandro Fusco, 23. Leanardo Marin.

England: 15. Freddie Steward, 14. Max Malins, 13. Joe Marchant, 12. Henry Slade, 11. Jack Nowell, 10. Marcus Smith, 9. Harry Randall, 1. Ellis Genge, 2. Jamie George, 3. Will Stuart, 4. Charlie Ewels, 5. Nick Isiekwe, 6. Maro Itoje, 7. Tom Curry, 8. Alex Dombrandt

Replacements: 16. Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17. Joe Marler, 18. Kyle Sinckler, 19. Ollie Chessum, 20. Sam Simmonds, 21. Ben Youngs, 22. George Ford, 23. Elliot Daly.