2019 Six Nations: Everything you need to know

International
by Staff Writer

The 2019 Six Nations is less than a month away and the squads are rolling in for the Northern Hemisphere's showpiece tournament.

France and Wales will kick off the tournament in Paris on Saturday February 2 (AEDT), and there are plenty of exciting matches among that opening weekend.

ENGLAND

Owen Farrell has not been cited. Photo: Getty ImagesOwen Farrell will captain England against defending champions Ireland in their Six Nations Championship opener in Dublin on February 2, coach Eddie Jones announced Thursday.

Flyhalf Farrell and Dylan Hartley were officially co-captains of the England squad during the November internationals, but the experienced hooker has been ruled out of Jones' initial 35-man party ahead of their Championship opener at Lansdowne Road with a knee injury that has sidelined him since December 31.

England are due to head to Portugal for a warm-weather training camp in the lead-up to the Ireland match and Jones said: "Unfortunately Dylan won't be available for the Ireland game so we won't take him to Portugal, but we are hopeful he will be back later in the Championship."

Farrell now takes sole charge of the side, with Jamie George the starting hooker.

Owen will be captain by himself and he will certainly have great support from a number of senior players," Jones said.

Veteran front row forward Dan Cole has been recalled while loosehead props Mako Vunipola and Ellis Genge are back following injuries that ruled them out in November, when England won three of their four Tests and lost only narrowly to world champions New Zealand.

Meanwhile No 8 Billy Vunipola and lock Joe Launchbury are also in line for a recall as is veteran fullback Mike Brown, who did not feature in November.

But there was no place in this squad for scrum-half Danny Care, a team-mate of Brown at London club Harlequins and long the back-up to England first-choice No 9 Ben Youngs.

Wasps' Dan Robson, one of four uncapped players in the squad, has been selected instead by Australian coach Jones.

England will be looking to improve on last season's lowly finish of fifth in what will be the last Six Nations before this year's World Cup in Japan.

But they have the toughest possible start, with reigning Grand Slam champions Ireland having won 11 of their 12 Tests in 2018 -- including a 16-9 win over the All Blacks in November.

"Ireland are the best side in the world," said Jones.

"They are a very well coached and drilled side and have particular things they do well in the game," he added of a team who have become a major force under Kiwi boss Joe Schmidt.

"To beat Ireland, we need to compete brutally in all the contest areas of the game."

Former Australia and Japan coach Jones insisted England's sole focus during their 10-day training camp in Portugal would be on the Ireland game and that this was a squad picked solely for that match, rather than the Championship as a whole.

"The first thing when we get together as a squad is to get our cohesion back," he said.

"The players have been playing for their clubs with different styles and different playing philosophies, so it's about getting them thinking about playing the England way."

SQUAD

Forwards

Jack Clifford (Harlequins), Dan Cole (Leicester), Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter), Tom Curry (Sale), Ben Earl (Saracens), Ellis Genge (Leicester), Jamie George (Saracens), Nathan Hughes (Wasps), Maro Itoje (Saracens), George Kruis (Saracens), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton), Ben Moon (Exeter), Brad Shields (Wasps), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins), Jack Singleton (Worcester),  Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Harry Williams (Exeter), Mark Wilson (Newcastle)

Backs

Chris Ashton (Sale), Mike Brown (Harlequins), Joe Cokanasiga (Bath), Elliot Daly (Wasps), Ollie Devoto (Exeter), Owen Farrell (Saracens, capt), George Ford (Leicester), Jonny May (Leicester), Jack Nowell (Exeter), Dan Robson (Wasps), Henry Slade (Exeter), Ben Te'o (Worcester), Ollie Thorley (Gloucester), Manu Tuilagi (Leicester), Ben Youngs (Leicester)

FIXTURES

Ireland vs England, Aviva Stadium, Saturday February 2, 4;45pm local, Sunday 3:45am AEDT

England vs France, Twickenham, Sunday February 10, 3pm local, Monday 2am AEDT

Wales vs England, Principality Stadium, Saturday February 23, 4:45pm local, Sunday 3:45am AEDT

England vs Italy, Twickenham, Saturday March 9, 4:45pm local, Sunday 3:45am AEDT

England vs Scotland, Twickenham, Saturday March 16, 5pm local, Sunday 4am AEDT

IRELAND

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt says Johnny Sexton is making good progress in his recovery from injury as the defending champions on Wednesday named a squad of 38 players for the opening two rounds of the Six Nations.

Sexton, the reigning World Player of the Year, has been troubled by a knee tendon issue and will miss Leinster's final European Champions Cup pool match at Wasps on Sunday.

But Schmidt say Sexton's presence in the squad means the fly-half is on course to feature when Ireland start their Six Nations campaign at home to England on February 2 before meeting Scotland at Murrayfield seven days later.

"Johnny Sexton is making good progress, while (fly-halves) Joey Carbery and Jack Carty have both performed consistently well so far this season," Schmidt said.

Centre Robbie Henshaw has recovered from a hamstring strain to take his place in the squad.

Scrumhalf Luke McGrath is likely to miss the entire tournament after damaging knee ligaments, but Conor Murray is back after a neck injury.

With Kieran Marmion also missing through injury, Ulster's John Cooney and Connacht's uncapped Caolin Blade offer scrum-half options.

On the centres and back-three positions, Schmidt added: "Bundee Aki and a fresh and fully fit Robbie Henshaw squeeze out Rory Scannell, who was great for Munster last Friday, and Stu McCloskey, who continues to give Ulster gain line as well as defensive solidity.

"At outside centre Tom Farrell has forced his way into contention and Chris Farrell is working his way back to match fitness, improving week by week.

"We're sure that Sam Arnold and Rory O'Loughlin will continue to improve and both have plenty of promise."

Ahead of the Six Nations, Ireland's squad will travel to Portugal to hold a four-day training camp from January 21.

SQUAD

Forwards

Rory Best (Ulster), Sean Cronin (Leinster), Niall Scannell (Munster), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Dave Kilcoyne (Munster), Jack McGrath (Leinster), Andrew Porter (Leinster), John Ryan (Munster), Tadgh Beirne (Munster), Ultan Dillane (Connacht), Iain Henderson (Ulster), James Ryan (Leinster), Devin Toner (Leinster), Jack Conan (Leinster), Jordi Murphy (Ulster), Sean O'Brien (Leinster), Peter O'Mahony (Munster), Rhys Ruddock (Leinster), CJ Stander (Munster), Josh van der Flier (Leinster)

Backs

Will Addison (Ulster), Andrew Conway (Munster), Keith Earls (Munster), Rob Kearney (Leinster), Jordan Larmour (Leinster), Jacob Stockdale (Ulster), Bundee Aki (Connacht), Chris Farrell (Munster), Tom Farrell (Connacht), Robbie Henshaw (Leinster), Garry Ringrose (Leinster), Joey Carbery (Munster), Jack Carty (Connacht), Johnny Sexton (Leinster), Caolin Blade (Connacht), John Cooney (Ulster), Conor Murray (Munster) 

FIXTURES 

Ireland vs England, Aviva Stadium, Saturday February 2, 4;45pm local, Sunday 3:45am AEDT

Scotland vs Ireland, Murrayfield, Saturday February 9, 2:15pm local, Sunday 1:15am AEDT

Italy vs Ireland, Stadio Olimpico, Sunday February 24, 4pm local, Monday 2am AEDT

Ireland vs France, Aviva Stadium, Sunday March 10, 3pm local, Monday 2am AEDT

Wales vs Ireland, Principality Stadium, Saturday March 16, 2:45pm local, Sunday 1:45pm AEDT

FRANCE

Paul Willemse is in France's Six Nations squad. Photo: AFPSouth Africa-born Paul Willemse was one of five uncapped players named by Jacques Brunel Wednesday in the France squad for the two opening matches of the Six Nations.

 Ex-Bulls lock Willemse, 26, qualifies for his adoptive country on residency grounds having spent more than three years with Top 14 clubs Montpellier and Grenoble.

The Pretoria native received his citizenship in November after French Rugby Federation president Bernard Laporte said in December 2016 that possession of a French passport was a requirement for inclusion in the national team.

Fijian-born winger Alivereti Raka, who also received his French nationality in November, has impressed for more than four years at Clermont but is not included due to a hand injury.

The other new faces are Toulouse's Romain Ntamack, utility back Thomas Ramos and prop Dorian Aldegheri as well as La Rochelle second-row Gregory Alldritt.

Ntamack, a world U20s champion last year, is the son of former international Emile who won 46 caps between 1994-2000 for Les Bleus.

Clermont's experienced pair of Morgan Parra and Wesley Fofana return to the squad after missing the November Tests series through injuries.

Winger Teddy Thomas, second-row Yoann Maestri and back-rower Mathieu Babillot are also not included due to injuries.

Brunel's side, which suffered defeats by the Springboks and for the first time Fiji but beat Argentina in November, kick off their 2019 Six Nations campaign at home against Wales on February 1.

Les Bleus then take on England at Twickenham on February 10.  

SQUAD

Forwards

Dorian Aldegheri, Gregory Alldritt, Uini Atonio, Demba Bamba, Pierre Bourgarit, Yacouba Camara, Guilhem Guirado (capt), Arthur Iturria, Felix Lambey, Wenceslas Lauret, Bernard Le Roux, Julien Marchand, Louis Picamoles, Jefferson Poirot, Dany Priso, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Paul Willemse

Backs

Mathieu Bastareaud, Anthony Belleau, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Antoine Dupont, Gael Fickou, Wesley Fofana, Yoann Huget, Camille Lopez, Maxime Medard, Romain Ntamack, Morgan Parra, Damian Penaud, Thomas Ramos, Baptiste Serin

FIXTURES

France vs Wales, Stade de France, Friday February 1, 9pm local, Saturday 7am AEDT

England vs France, Twickenham, Sunday February 10, 3pm local, Monday 2am AEDT

France vs Scotland, Stade de France, Saturday February 23, 3:15pm local, Sunday 1:15am AEDT

Ireland vs France, Aviva Stadium, Sunday March 10, 3pm local, Monday 2am AEDT

Italy vs France, Stadio Olimpico, Saturday March 16, 1:30pm local, 11:30pm AEDT

ITALY

Former England U20s backrower David Sisi has been named in Italy's Six Nations squad. Photo: AFPFormer England Under-20 back-row David Sisi could earn his first cap for Italy after being called up in coach Conor O'Shea's 31-man preliminary training squad for the Six Nations on Wednesday.

Germany-born Sisi, 25, who moved from English club Bath to Italian Pro 14 side Zebre in 2017, made 14 appearances for England's youth side between 2012 and 2013.

O'Shea's group are dominated by Benetton Treviso players with 18 members from the Italian franchise, another ten from rivals Zebre and three based with French or English clubs.

The Italians are on a run of a record 17 straight Six Nations defeats with their last win in the tournament against Scotland in Murrayfield in 2015.

But Irishman O'Shea, who took over in March 2016, refuses to be bowed despite coming off a bruising 66-3 defeat in their last match against New Zealand in November.

"We know the challenge that awaits us, we have to be more competitive and work even harder to make sure the key moments of these games go the way we want," said the former Ireland and Leinster player.

"We've played and beat teams like Fiji, Japan and Georgia in the last 18 months, but we haven't managed to get a win against the top teams to give us more confidence to move a new step forward.

"We're working and will continue to do so and to play with the ambition to achieve all the goals we have set ourselves for Italian rugby."

 Veteran captain Sergio Parisse -- capped 134 times -- returns after missing the November Tests through injury.

Zebre trio Johan Meyer, George Biagi and Oliviero Fabiani are not yet available because of club duty against the Cheetahs in South Africa on January 26, nor is 34-time international wing Leonardo Sarto after only joining English Premiership club Leicester Tigers in December.

The 31-man squad will attend a training camp in Rome from January 20-23.

Italy open their Six Nations campaign against Scotland in Murrayfield on February 2 before hosting Wales in Rome a week later.  

SQUAD

Forwards

Simone Ferrari, Andrea Lovotti, Tiziano Pasquali, Cherif Traore, Giosue Zilocchi, Luca Bigi, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Dean Budd, Federico Ruzza, David Sisi, Alessandro Zanni, Marco Barbini, Maxime Mbanda, Sebastian Negri, Sergio Parisse (capt), Braam Steyn, Jimmy Tuivaiti

Backs

Guglielmo Palazzani, Tito Tebaldi, Tommaso Allan, Carlo Canna, Ian McKinley, Giulio Bisegni, Michele Campagnaro, Tommaso Castello, Luca Morisi, Tommaso Benvenuti, Angelo Esposito, Jayden Hayward, Edoardo Padovani, Luca Sperandio

FIXTURES

Scotland vs Italy, Murrayfield, Saturday February 2, 2:15pm local, Sunday 1:15am AEDT

Italy vs Wales, Stadio Olimpico, Saturday February 9, 5:45pm local, Sunday 3:45am AEDT

Italy vs Ireland, Stadio Olimpico, Sunday February 24, 4pm local, Monday 2am AEDT

England vs Italy, Twickenham, Saturday March 9, 4:45pm local, Sunday 3:45am AEDT

Italy vs France, Stadio Olimpico, Saturday March 16, 1:30pm local, 11:30pm AEDT

WALES

Leigh Halfpenny won't play against South Africa. Photo: Getty ImagesWales' first-choice full-back Leigh Halfpenny has been named in the country's Six Nations squad despite a battle with concussion that has ruled him out of their opening match against France in Paris on February 1.

The 30-year-old -- capped 80 times -- has been struggling with the head injury since he took a hefty late tackle playing against Australia on November 10 but has been picked for an enlarged squad that will be pruned down to a matchday 23 next Tuesday.

Wayne Pivac, Halfpenny's coach at his Pro14 side Scarlets, warned last week that a specialist had said he would be out for three to five weeks, which would also rule him out of Wales' following match against Italy just over a week later.

This has not stopped head coach Warren Gatland from selecting him for what will be the New Zealander's final Six Nations, as he will step down after this year's World Cup in Japan.

Gatland's Six Nations group includes plenty of his tried and trusted old guard -- such as veteran lock Alun Wyn Jones, 33, who will skipper the side -- as well as fresher faces like Wasps flanker Thomas Young and Leicester back Jonah Holmes.

"We have a really experienced squad of players who have been around a number of campaigns together, and we feel we are in a pretty good place going into this huge year," said Gatland in a statement issued by the Wales Rugby Union (WRU).

"We have got a few injuries and have selected a larger squad because of that."

Young, who won caps against Tonga and Samoa in 2017, has been among the English Premiership's form players this season.

Holmes made his Test debut earlier this campaign, and he has been a rare shining light in what has been a tough season for Leicester.

Bath No 8 Taulupe Faletau would have made the squad a 40-man one but the 28-year-old backrow forward broke his arm on his return from a similar injury on Saturday.

Faletau is expected to be out for up to eight weeks, which will likely rule him out of the whole tournament as it reaches a climax on March 16.

SQUAD

Forwards

Rob Evans (Scarlets), Wyn Jones (Scarlets), Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Elliot Dee (Dragons), Ryan Elias (Scarlets), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Leon Brown (Dragons), Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs/ENG), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Blues), Jake Ball (Scarlets), Adam Beard (Ospreys), Seb Davies (Cardiff Blues), Cory Hill (Dragons), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys/capt), Ross Moriarty (Dragons), Josh Navidi (Cardiff Blues), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Josh Turnbull (Cardiff Blues), Aaron Wainwright (Dragons), Thomas Young (Wasps)

Backs

Aled Davies (Ospreys), Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Tomos Williams (Cardiff Blues), Gareth Anscombe (Cardiff Blues), Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints/ENG), Jarrod Evans (Cardiff Blues), Rhys Patchell (Scarlets), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Hadleigh Parkes (Scarlets), Owen Watkin (Ospreys), Scott Williams (Ospreys), Josh Adams (Worcester Warriors/ENG), Hallam Amos (Dragons), Steffan Evans (Scarlets), Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets), Jonah Holmes (Leicester Tigers/ENG), George North (Ospreys), Liam Williams (Saracens/ENG)

FIXTURES

France vs Wales, Stade de France, Friday February 1, 9pm local, Saturday 7am AEDT

Italy vs Wales, Stadio Olimpico, Saturday February 9, 5:45pm local, Sunday 3:45am AEDT

Wales vs England, Principality Stadium, Saturday February 23, 4:45pm local, Sunday 3:45am AEDT

Scotland vs Wales, Murrayfield, Saturday March 9, 2;15pm local, Sunday 1:15am AEDT

Wales vs Ireland, Principality Stadium, Saturday March 16, 2:45pm local, Sunday 1:45am AEDT

SCOTLAND

Head coach Gregor Townsend has named seven uncapped players in his 39-man Scotland squad for the Six Nations, which starts next month.

Three hookers -- Edinburgh's David Cherry, Leicester's Jake Kerr and Grant Stewart of Glasgow -- have been handed call-ups following injuries to Fraser Brown and George Turner.

They are joined by Newcastle back-row Gary Graham, Glasgow's tighthead prop D'Arcy Rae and centre Sam Johnson, while centre Chris Dean of Edinburgh is also selected.

Newcastle back-row John Hardie makes his return to a Scotland squad for the first time since the 2018 Six Nations, while stalwarts Jonny Gray and Tommy Seymour could rack up their half centuries of caps after also being named in Townsend's selection.

Scotland kick off their championship campaign at home to Italy on February 2 and Townsend is looking to improve on last year's third-placed finish.

There's certainly been a lot of improvement from this group of players in recent seasons and I believe there's much more to come," he said. "They've a genuine desire to get better and reach their potential in what is a huge year for our sport.

"In the past 18 months we've played 18 Test matches and have introduced 18 new players to Test-level rugby. Once again, our squad features players aiming to take that step, which is a testimony to their performances this season and the growing strength in depth of Scottish rugby."

SQUAD

Forwards

Alex Allan (Glasgow), Adam Ashe (Glasgow), Simon Berghan (Edinburgh), Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow), David Cherry (Edinburgh), Allan Dell (Edinburgh), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Gary Graham (Newcastle), Jonny Gray (Glasgow), John Hardie (Newcastle/ENG), Jake Kerr (Leicester), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh), Willem Nel (Edinburgh), D'Arcy Rae (Glasgow), Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh), Sam Skinner (Exeter/ENG), Grant Stewart (Glasgow), Josh Strauss (Sale/ENG), Tim Swinson (Glasgow), Ben Toolis (Edinburgh), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow)

Backs

Chris Dean (Edinburgh), Darcy Graham (Edinburgh), Nick Grigg (Glasgow), Sam Johnson (Glasgow), Chris Harris (Newcastle/ENG), Adam Hastings (Glasgow), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow), George Horne (Glasgow), Pete Horne (Glasgow), Huw Jones (Glasgow), Lee Jones (Glasgow), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh), Greig Laidlaw (capt, Clermont/FRA), Sean Maitland (Saracens/ENG), Ali Price (Glasgow), Finn Russell (Racing 92/FRA), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow)

FIXTURES

Scotland vs Italy, Murrayfield, Saturday February 2, 2:15pm local, Sunday 1:15am AEDT

Scotland vs Ireland, Murrayfield, Saturday February 9, 2:15pm local, Sunday 1:15am AEDT

France vs Scotland, Stade de France, Saturday February 23, 3:15pm local, Sunday 1:15am AEDT

Scotland vs Wales, Murrayfield, Saturday March 9, 2;15pm local, Sunday 1:15am AEDT

England vs Scotland, Twickenham, Saturday March 16, 5pm local, Sunday 4am AEDT