Smith, Russell and Garbisi in action over rest weekend

Marcus Smith EngSco 2022
As the Guinness Six Nations took a back seat this weekend, a number of players took advantage of the rest week to stake a claim for a bigger role in the final two rounds.

As the Guinness Six Nations took a back seat this weekend, a number of players took advantage of the rest week to stake a claim for a bigger role in the final two rounds.

While some players who were in action are almost certain to start for their respective countries – Finn Russell and Paolo Garbisi for example, others will have been keen to prove a point.

So let us wrap up the best of the action and those who could carry that domestic form back onto the Championship stage.

No.10s out in force

A week before France head to Twickenham, Marcus Smith was showing that he enjoys the big stage as he helped Harlequins to a thumping win in their Big Game against Exeter Chiefs.

In a game played at the national stadium, Smith made the most of being released for game time as he pulled the strings in a 40-5 win.

Playing alongside Joe Marchant, with whom he started in England’s opening game of the Guinness Six Nations, Smith was at his best as he seeks to keep a spot in the England 23 despite the return of George Ford.

Meanwhile, over in France, Garbisi helped Montpellier to an equally impressive 34-6 win over Clermont as the reigning Top 14 champions picked up a bonus-point win.

Garbisi played all 80 minutes and will now have an important role to play for Italy when they host Wales in Round 4.

Last, but by no means least, Russell came through Racing 92’s clash with Toulouse unscathed, although was on the wrong end of a 39-35 defeat.

Russell, who had his leg strapped, was unusually off-target from the kicking tee, and will be hoping it was just a temporary blip ahead of the clash with high-flying Ireland at BT Murrayfield.

France contenders push for places

Staying in that Toulouse game, their skipper Peato Mauvaka helped himself to a try and could now make his first appearance in the Championship away at Twickenham.

Mauvaka started in the back row last weekend and now back in his more familiar spot at hooker, looks ready to resume his role as Julien Marchand’s back-up.

At Twickenham he could come up against Jack Willis, who came on in the second half of the encounter and produced two crucial turnovers at the death to seal the win for the Top 14 leaders.

Elsewhere in France, Bordeaux-Begles secured a comfortable win over Brive, with Matthieu Jalibert impressing after being released to play by France, while Maxime Lucu looked good on his first start back from injury.

And Jonathan Danty also came through 80 minutes for La Rochelle as they beat Pau in a thriller, Under-20s standout Emilien Gailleton scoring two for Pau ahead of an appearance in the Mini-Crunch on Friday night.

Scots warm up for Triple Crown bid

As well as Russell, there were a number of other Scotland internationals in action this weekend. While Jonny Gray had a tough time of it for Exeter in their heavy loss at Harlequins, as did Wales’ Christ Tshiunza, there was better news elsewhere.

Ben White looked good as London Irish recorded a bonus-point success at Newcastle Falcons, a match in which Italy’s Danilo Fischetti grabbed a try, while Ollie Hassell-Collins showed that he is back to fitness if England require him.

And on Friday night, Rory Darge continued his return from a long-term injury as he helped Glasgow Warriors to a thumping win over Zebre, a week after he played the best part of an hour away to the Lions.

While competition is fierce to break into the Scotland back row, Darge has certainly done enough to stake a claim.