An update from each camp after the rest week

A host of big name players have taken a step closer to returns to the Guinness Six Nations arena ahead of Round 3.

A host of big name players have taken a step closer to returns to the Guinness Six Nations arena ahead of Round 3.

After a rest week, every side could be in line for reinforcements for key clashes which will determine who is a genuine contender for the title and who is challenging lower down the table.

So with Ireland and Scotland still in Grand Slam contention, travelling to Italy and France respectively, while Wales entertain England, who could make the biggest impact on their return?

Dazzling Dan straight back in?

Ireland hardly need any help, such is their form right now, but the return of hooker Dan Sheehan should only make them stronger at the Stadio Olimpico.

The world’s top-ranked side had to do without the outstanding Sheehan against Grand Slam champions France because of a hamstring injury, but he is now back fit and could come straight back into the starting line-up to take on the Azzurri.

While Rob Herring is back fit, and Ronan Kelleher was excellent for nearly an hour against Les Bleus, Sheehan’s form has been so good, and his play so dynamic, that it would be hard to look past him in the No.2 jersey.

Cian Healy is also back fit from a hamstring injury and could potentially come back into the matchday 23, albeit Dave Kilcoyne has filled in admirably, including winning his 50th cap against France.

Elsewhere, Joey Carbery has joined the squad as cover while Johnny Sexton continues to nurse the groin injury that forced him off against France, with Scott Penney and Kieran Treadwell called up for the first time during this campaign.

The wait for a first sighting of Tadhg Furlong, Jamison Gibson-Park and Robbie Henshaw is set to go on a little longer as Ireland look to keep their Grand Slam hopes alive.

During their down time, a 25-man squad have been working hard, including a training session against Ireland Under-20s at the IRFU High Performance Centre.

Another new fly-half for England?

Two matches into the Steve Borthwick era and two men have already worn the No.10 jersey. Marcus Smith got the job against Scotland, while Owen Farrell stepped in against Italy in what appeared a more balanced midfield alongside Ollie Lawrence and Henry Slade.

Now, George Ford, Borthwick’s first-choice fly-half at Leicester, is back fit from the Achilles injury that has ruled him out of much of his first season at Sale Sharks.

Ford last featured in the 2022 Championship, but has experience playing under Borthwick. While it seems likely that Farrell will continue in the No.10 jersey, it will be interesting to see if Ford can find a way into the matchday 23 for the trip to Cardiff.

Elsewhere, England have also brought Tom Curry back into the squad for the first time this campaign, replacing twin brother Ben who started the opening game. Will Borthwick find a way to fit both Tom Curry and Jack Willis in the same back row?

It may depend a little on Courtney Lawes, England skipper a year ago, and now back fit. Although given that Lawes has replaced second row Jonny Hill in the squad, it may be that Borthwick views him more as a lock.

Like Ireland, England have spent time in camp with the England Under-20s, which has meant Ollie Chessum and Lewis Chessum going up against one another, while Alex Mitchell showed off his footballing skills.

Can Paolo change Italian fortunes?

While he has been in the squad for the first two rounds, Paolo Garbisi was never going to be play against France or England.

The Azzurri fly-half made his return to action for club side Montpellier over the weekend though, and will likely come into the matchday 23 at least for the clash with Ireland.

Tommaso Allan has performed admirably in Garbisi’s absence but the return of Italy’s star playmaker would be a huge boost for Kieran Crowley’s team.

Garbisi will not solve Italy’s struggles in their maul defence, but his ability to dictate play and the length of his kicking game could make a big difference for the Azzurri.

Those players based in Italy have been working hard during the rest week, with a training camp in Verona. The squad will then head to Rome on Wednesday to prepare for their clash with Ireland.

Powerhouse Danty fit again

One of the biggest misses for France through the first two weeks has been Jonathan Danty in midfield.

While Yoram Moefana has not made any mistakes, there are few players in the world game who offer guaranteed gain-line dominance when carrying the ball like Danty.

Add in his virtually unrivalled work at the breakdown among centres, and it is easy to understand why Fabien Galthié was keen to bring him straight back into the fold after 40 minutes for club side La Rochelle.

The question now is whether he will go straight into the starting line-up, and if so, whether that means a shift back to the wing for Moefana or even a reshuffle on the bench.

After back-to-back away games to begin their campaign, France have now had a little time to prepare for a first home game of the Championship against Scotland, with the likes of Antoine Dupont looking in good shape on their training videos.

Return of Rees lightning

There are some players who need plenty of game time to get back up to speed. Louis Rees-Zammit is clearly not one of them.

The winger made his comeback from eight weeks out with an ankle injury for Gloucester on Friday night against Harlequins and immediately sparked a comeback victory.

Rees-Zammit had one stunning solo effort ruled out for a foot in touch, but then made sure that he did get on the scoresheet with four minutes to go, wrapping up Gloucester’s bonus point in the process.

In a difficult campaign, Wales back three have looked dangerous, if not infallible, but in a team with just two tries so far, a strike threat of the calibre of Rees-Zammit would be difficult to ignore.

Warren Gatland will name his team on Tuesday and it is hard to imagine that Rees-Zammit will not make the bench at the very least.

Watson back at last?

Scotland are two from two so far, even without calling on 2021 Guinness Player of the Championship Hamish Watson.

But after proving his fitness once more for Edinburgh against the Scarlets over the weekend, there is the possibility he could come back into the squad for the trip to Paris.

It is a tricky one for Gregor Townsend, with Luke Crosbie having shone since getting an opportunity in the No.7 jersey, and Jack Dempsey offering lots of balance on the bench as back-row cover.

But it is also hard to willingly pass up what Watson offers, particularly two years on from a stunning display at the Stade de France as he willed Scotland to their first win in Paris in two decades.