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

No sooner has the dust settled on the opening weekend of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations, than we are ready for the second round of fixtures, with some barnstorming matches lined up.

No sooner has the dust settled on the opening weekend of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations, than we are ready for the second round of fixtures, with some barnstorming matches lined up.

The action gets underway at Twickenham on Saturday afternoon, as defending champions England look to bounce back from Round 1 defeat to Scotland with a clash against Franco Smith’s Italy side at Rugby HQ.

All eyes then turn to Edinburgh later in the day, as Scotland welcome Wales to BT Murrayfield, with both sides eager to build on their fantastic starts to the Championship after tasting victory last time out.

Sunday sees another crucial clash between France and Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, as Fabien Galthie’s side look to produce even more scintillating rugby when they face the Men in Green in Dublin, who will be looking to get their first victory of the year on home soil.

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But what can we expect from the three ties we’ve got in store this weekend and who are the players you should be keeping an eye out for? We’ve got you covered with this guide to all the action that is coming up in Round 2.

England vs Italy, Twickenham Stadium, KO 14:15 (GMT), Live on ITV and Virgin Media One

Eddie Jones will have his side fired up for their meeting with the Azzurri on Saturday, after going down to Scotland at Twickenham for the first time in 38 years last weekend.

As starts to a defence of the Championship go, it couldn’t have gone much worse for the 2020 victors, as they are left playing catch-up from day one in this year’s competition.

But you only have to look back to this point last year to see that all is not lost for England heading into Round 2, having been defeated in their curtain-raiser against France last year before winning their next four matches to lift the trophy.

Franco Smith will also have his side motivated for the trip to London, and he will be expecting a response from his team after going down 50-10 to France in Rome in Round 1.

Les Bleus had too much for the Italians on the day at the Stadio Olimpico, but they did have something to cheer late on as Luca Sperandio scored one of the tries of the round with a superb chip over the French defence before crossing the whitewash.

Jones has made five changes from the team that lost last weekend, with George Ford returning to the starting line-up, where he will feature at fly-half, with Owen Farrell sliding across to centre.

The other four changes come in the pack, with an entirely new front row consisting of fit-again Mako Vunipola, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Kyle Sinckler, while Courtney Lawes comes in at flanker.

With a number of alterations ahead of Round 2, there will be plenty of players taking to the field with a point to prove against the Italians, and Jones will no doubt be looking for a response from his troops.

The Ford-Farrell axis will likely look to dictate play with the boot, while Paolo Garbisi will be looking to reply from No.10 for the visitors.

Smith has made two changes for the trip to London, with Carlo Canna and Andrea Lovotti brought into the starting XV, as the head coach goes with a more experienced side to take to the field at Twickenham.

England took the spoils when these sides met in the 2020 Championship, with Ben Youngs marking his 100th international cap with two tries in a 34-5 win.

Jamie George, Tom Curry and Henry Slade also got on the scoresheet that day in Rome, with Jake Polledri crossing for the hosts, and Jones will be looking for more of the same this time around.

England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Owen Farrell (C), 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 Jonny Hill, 6 Courtney Lawes, 7 Tom Curry, 8 Billy Vunipola

Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Jack Willis, 22 Dan Robson, 23 Max Malins

Italy: 15. Jacopo Trulla,14. Luca Sperandio, 13. Juan Ignacio Brex, 12. Carlo Canna, 11. Monty Ioane, 10. Paolo Garbisi, 9. Stephen Varney, 1. Andrea Lovotti, 2. Luca Bigi (C), 3. Marco Riccioni, 4. Marco Lazzaroni, 5. David Sisi, 6. Sebastian Negri, 7. Johan Meyer, 8. Michele Lamaro

Replacements: 16. Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17. Danilo Fischetti, 18. Giosuè Zilocchi, 19. Niccolò Cannone, 20. Federico Ruzza, 21. Guglielmo Palazzani, 22. Tommaso Allan, 23. Federico Mori

Scotland vs Wales, BT Murrayfield, KO 16:45 (GMT), Live on BBC One, S4C and Virgin Media One

The second match on Saturday sees two sides who claimed victory in Round 1 do battle at BT Murrayfield, as Scotland welcome Wales to Edinburgh.

The hosts will still be on cloud nine after that momentous victory at Twickenham last week but won’t be able to rest on their laurels here, with another tough test against Wayne Pivac’s side in store.

It is always an action-packed encounter when these two do battle, and the visitors will be looking to replicate some of the quality rugby they produced in victory over Ireland last time out to make it back-to-back victories in the Scottish capital.

Two tries of the highest order from George North and Louis Rees-Zammit gave Wales the win in Round 1 and despite North missing out this time around, it’s still a potent-looking Welsh line-up.

Pivac has made five changes for his side for the trip to BT Murrayfield, with Liam Williams, Nick Tompkins and Owen Watkin all coming into the team, as the aforementioned North misses out.

Injuries have wreaked havoc with Pivac’s preparations, with Tomos Williams and Dan Lydiate facing spells on the sidelines, as Gareth Davies and Aaron Wainwright come in as replacements.

Townsend has made three changes to his Scotland side from the one that came back from London victorious, with James Lang, Darcy Graham and Blade Thomson all coming into the side.

The trio of alterations were somewhat forced on the Scotland boss, with Cameron Redpath, Sean Maitland and Jamie Ritchie all pulling out through injury this time around.

Other than that it is a clean bill of health for the 1999 champions, who can rely on the talismanic trio of Finn Russell, Stuart Hogg and Duhan van der Merwe to produce the goods on home soil.

You have to go back to 2017 for the last time Scotland beat Wales at BT Murrayfield, with the visitors tasting success on their last trip to Edinburgh in 2019 – Josh Adams among the try scorers in an 18-11 victory.

The battle on the wings is set to be an eye-catching, with the fleet-footed nature of both van der Merwe and Rees-Zammit likely to excite when either side is in possession.

Expect plenty of shimmies and sidesteps when the ball gets to the flanks, with whoever wins the wing battle likely to emerge successful from this one.

Scotland: 15. Stuart Hogg (C), 14. Darcy Graham, 13. Chris Harris, 12. James Lang, 11. Duhan van der Merwe, 10. Finn Russell, 9. Ali Price, 1. Rory Sutherland, 2. George Turner, 3. Zander Fagerson, 4. Scott Cummings, 5. Jonny Gray, 6. Blade Thomson, 7. Hamish Watson, 8. Matt Fagerson

Substitutes: 16. David Cherry, 17. Oli Kebble, 18. WP Nel, 19. Richie Gray, 20. Gary Graham 21. Scott Steele 22. Jaco van der Walt, 23. Huw Jones

Wales: 15. Leigh Halfpenny, 14. Louis Rees-Zammit, 13. Owen Watkin, 12. Nick Tompkins, 11. Liam Williams, 10. Dan Biggar, 9. Gareth Davies, 1. Wyn Jones, 2. Ken Owens, 3. Tomas Francis, 4. Adam Beard, 5. Alun Wyn Jones (C), 6. Aaron Wainwright, 7. Justin Tipuric, 8. Taulupe Faletau

Replacements: 16. Elliot Dee, 17. Rhodri Jones, 18. Leon Brown, 19. Will Rowlands, 20. James Botham, 21. Kieran Hardy, 22. Callum Sheedy, 23. Willis Halaholo

Ireland v France, Aviva Stadium, KO 15:00 (GMT), live on ITV and Virgin Media One

The final action from Round 2 sees Ireland and France come up against each other in Dublin, with this one likely to play a huge factor in the race to be crowned 2021 Guinness Six Nations champions.

Both sides harbour ambitions of lifting the trophy this year, although they got off to completely different starts in Round 1, with France producing an exquisite display of rugby to dispatch Italy 50-10, while Ireland succumbed to Wales after Peter O’Mahony’s early red card.

It’s hard to believe, but Fabien Galthie’s side look even better than they did last year after their performance in Rome, with Antoine Dupont putting on an exhibition at scrum-half for Les Bleus in Rome.

The Toulouse No.9 was everywhere at Stadio Olimpico, as he set up four out of the seven tries that his country ran in, as well as scoring one himself, to further cement himself as one of the best scrum-halves in the global game.

But in green will be a man who will be more than up for the challenge of facing the young French talent, with Jamison Gibson-Park eager to shine for Ireland at scrum-half in what will be his seventh international appearance after impressing for Leinster over the past few years.

They may have eventually gone down to defeat, but there will be no dropped heads among the Ireland camp, with the Men in Green doing themselves proud after playing more than an hour with a man light at Principality Stadium.

That may prove to have been an energy-sapping experience for Andy Farrell’s side, but they will no doubt be up for the challenge from first whistle to last when they take to the field in Dublin on Sunday – looking to defend a record that hasn’t seen them lose at home to France in the Championship since 2011.

You don’t have to go back far for the last time these two went head to head in the Guinness Six Nations, with France scuppering any chance that Ireland had of tasting success in last year’s competition, as they ran out 35-27 victors in Paris back in October, with Dupont among the tries once again.

Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 James Lowe, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park; 1 Cian Healy, 2 Rob Herring, 3 Andrew Porter, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 5 Iain Henderson, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 7 Josh van der Flier, 8 CJ Stander (c).

Replacements: 16 Ronan Kelleher, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Will Connors, 21 Craig Casey, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Jordan Larmour.

France: 15. Brice Dulin, 14. Damian Penaud, 13. Arthur Vincent, 12. Gaël Fickou, 11. Gabin Villière, 10. Matthieu Jalibert, 9. Antoine Dupont, 1. Cyril Baille, 2. Julien Marchand, 3. Mohamed Haouas, 4. Bernard Le Roux, 5. Paul Willemse, 6. Anthony Jelonch, 7. Charles Ollivon (C), 8. Grégory Alldritt

Replacements: 16. Pierre Bourgarit, 17. Hassane Kolingar, 18. Uini Atonio, 19. Romain Taofifenua, 20. Dylan Cretin, 21. Baptiste Serin, 22. Anthony Bouthier, 23. Teddy Thomas