The England Squad looks very strong for a trying game against a resurgent France. Joe Marler has won his fight back to fitness after fracturing his leg “by drinking lots of milk”.
Launchbury links up with Lawes in second-row, showing England’s strength in depth, with Itoje set to take up the 6 shirt. Elliot Daly takes the 11 shirt for this opening game, with Nowell missing training due to personal problems.
Overall, it looks like a strong team, with an equally strong bench who will be able to come on and finish out the game if necessary.
1. Joe Marler 2. Dylan Hartley 3. Dan Cole 4. Joe Launchbury 5. Courtney Lawes 6. Maro Itoje
7. Tom Wood 8. Nathan Hughes 9. Ben Youngs 10. George Ford 11. Elliot Daly 12. Owen Farell
13. Jonathan Joseph 14. Jonny May 15. Mike Brown
16. Jamie George 17. Matt Mullan 18. Kyle Sinckler 19. Teimana Harrison 20. James Haskell
21. Danny Care 22. Ben Te’o 23. Jack Nowell
The French have put out a strong looking team and will be looking to build on their performance in the Autumn. They look strong up front where they will surely challenge England. The 22-year-old Baptiste Serin will start his first game of the six-nations at scrum-half. Previously, he captained his country at the under-20s level so France will be hoping he will be able to spark something.
1. Cyril Baille 2. Guilhem Guirado 3. Uini Atonio 4. Sebastien Vahaamahina
5. Yoann Maestri 6. Damien Chouly 7. Kévin Gourdon 8. Louis Picamoles
9. Baptiste Serin 10. Camille Lopez 11. Virimi Vakatawa 12. Gaël Fickou
13. Rémi Lamerat 14. Noa Nakaitaci 15. Scott Spedding
16. Clément Maynadie 17. Xavier Chiocci 18. Rabah Slimani 19. Arthur Iturria
20. Loann Goujon 21. Maxime Machenaud 22. Jean-Marc Doussain
23. Yoann Huget
For me, this is a disappointing, overly conservative squad, that does not look towards the future. Against Italy, Howley had the opportunity to blood new players and build Wales for the future. It may be a slight risk, against an unknown Italy team, under Connor O’Shea, but it would’ve given the players vital experience that they might need to draw on later in the tournament.
A positive that we can see is Sam Davies is on the bench. Hopefully, he will make an appearance. Davies sits a lot flatter than Biggar and can better get the ball out to the rapid Welsh wings.
Due to Falatule’s injury, Ross Moriarty gets his chance to impress once again. It’s a shame that the same is not true for the likes of Thomas Young and co., even if they were starting on the bench this would be a prime opportunity to give them a chance.
1.Nicky Smith 2.Ken Owens 3.Samson Lee 4.Jake Ball 5.Alun Wyn Jones
6.Sam Warburton 7.Justin Tipuric 8.Ross Moriarty 9.Rhys Webb 10.Dan Biggar
11.Liam Williams 12.Scott Williams 13.Jonathan Davies 14.George North
16.Scott Baldwin 17.Rob Evans 18.Tomas Francis 19.Cory Hill 20.James King 21.Gareth Davies 22.Sam Davies 23.Jamie Roberts
Scotland will be looking to better last years 4th place finish, where they had back to back wins against France and Italy. Glasgow Warriors are flying high at the moment and many of their players have been rewarded with a spot in this team; in fact, 13/23 are from the club.
Huw Jones comes back into the starting line-up after an injury setting up Maitland against the Pumas. Mark Bennett will provide an impact from the bench.
Finn Russell and Greig Laidlaw have the opportunity to stamp their decisionmaking authority on the game from the half-back positions, especially with Sexton out with injury.
I expect good things to be coming from Scotland this year. Hopefully, they will be able to fulfil the potential that everyone is always talking about.
1. Allan Dell 2. Fraser Brown 3. Zander Fagerson 4. Richie Gray 5. Jonny Gray
6. Ryan Wilson 7. Hamish Watson 8. Josh Strauss 9. Greig Laidlaw 10. Finn Russell
11. Tommy Seymour 12. Alex Dunbar 13. Huw Jones 14. Sean Maitland
15. Stuart Hogg
16. Ross Ford 17. Gordon Reid 18. Simon Berghan 19. Tim Swinson 20. John Barclay
21. Ali Price 22. Duncan Weir 23. Mark Bennett
Schmidt has put out a very strong side to face Scotland. The average amount of caps on the bench, however, is 19.5. This shows that Schmidt is prepared to build towards the future. Marmion takes a position on the bench, which he has earned from his performances with Connacht.
Gary Ringrose, goes in at number 13, with only 3 caps. This new kid on the block is said to be the next best thing. Like O’Driscoll at his age, he is said to be efficient and rarely makes mistakes under pressure.
Sexton is missing due to another injury. Paddy Jackson will get another chance to show that he can take over from Sexton as the role of playmaker.
1. Jack McGrath 2. Rory Best 3. Tadhg Furlong 4. Iain Henderson 5. Devin Toner
6. CJ Stander 7. Sean O’Brien 8. Jamie Heaslip 9. Conor Murray 10. Paddy Jackson
11. Simon Zebo 12. Robbie Henshaw 13. Garry Ringrose 14. Keith Earls
15. Rob Kearney
16. Niall Scannell 17. Cian Healy 18. John Ryan 19. Ultan Dillane 20. Josh van der Flier
21. Kieran Marmion 22. Ian Keatley 23. Tommy Bowe
O’Shea puts out his first ever Italy team. Many of the names may be unknown, but O’Shea is a shrewd operater so I would no write them off just yet.
At 10 O’Shea has had to choose between Tomaso Allan and Carlo Canna, both have been operating very well recently. However, Canna wins based on his threat with ball in hand.
Campagnaro takes the bench in this team sheet probably due to the amount of time he has spent out of the game due to injury.
1.Andrea Lovotti 2.Ornel Gega 3.Lorenzo Cittadini 4.Marco Fuser 5.George Biagi 6.Abraham Steyn 7.Maxime Mata Mbanda’ 8.Sergio Parisse 9.Edoardo Gori 10.Carlo Canna 11.Giovanbattista Venditti 12.Luke Mclean 13.Tommaso Benvenuti 14.Giulio Bisegni 15.Edoardo Padovani
16.Leonardo Ghiraldini 17.Sami Panico 18.Pietro Ceccarelli 19.Joshua Furno 20.Francesco Minto 21.Giorgio Bronzini 22.Tommaso Allan 23.Michele Campagnaro