wales v south africa

Wales and England will put their Six Nations Grand Slam ambitions on the line when they meet at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on Saturday.

The only unbeaten teams in the tournament, Wales and England have won their opening two matches.

“They (Wales) have been saying they’re ready to rip off heads,” said England coach Eddie Jones.

“So they’re full of emotions and they’ll bring that to the field and we know Wales teams at home want to come out hard.”

But he warned England against a similar approach.

“Just be calm but at the same time tough and have a real steel about us. That’s what I want to see,” the Australian explained.

Wales are on an 11-match unbeaten run, with victory over the old enemy required to break their all-time record set from 1907-1910.

Jones, however, has won all four of his matches against Wales since taking over as England coach after the 2015 World Cup and his side now sit atop the Six Nations table after bonus-point victories over both Ireland, the reigning champions, and France.

Wing Jack Nowell and prop Ben Moon replace the injured Chris Ashton and prop Mako Vunipola respectively in the only two changes to the England starting side that thrashed Les Bleus 44-8 last time out.

“It’s a massive challenge playing against an England team that is playing really well and with a lot of confidence and we’ve got to make it difficult for them,” said Warren Gatland, in his final Six Nations campaign as Wales coach before he stands down after this year’s World Cup in Japan.

Gatland has made the bold decision to select fellow native New Zealander Gareth Anscombe over the benched Dan Biggar at fly-half.

Anscombe, the son of a Cardiff-born mother, is seen as the more attacking player, while Biggar, is viewed as the superior defensive stand-off and goalkicker.

– ‘Save our honour’ –

The weekend’s action starts with Scotland looking to end their 20-year wait for a win in Paris, with coach Gregor Townsend one of their try-scorers when they triumphed 36-22 over France back in 1999.

Scotland will be without several injured players, including fly-half Finn Russell who plays club rugby for Paris-based Racing 92.

AFP/File / Glyn KIRK ‘They’ll come out hard’: England coach Eddie Jones

France, yet to win in this season’s Championship, are on a miserable run of 10 defeats in 13 matches since Jacques Brunel took over as coach in December 2017.

France captain Guilhem Guirado said playing Scotland was a chance to “save our honour because we were given a lesson two weeks ago (44-8 loss against England)”.

“There will definitely be a revolt compared to our last match. What I don’t want is personal revolt but a collective and communal revolt.”

Brunel has ditched experienced Clermont half-backs Morgan Parra and Camille Lopez in favour of the novice Toulouse duo of Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack.

But Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw, himself now at Clermont, warned his men to expect a French backlash.

“They’re a very dangerous team, they’re hurting from what has been said in the media we’re expecting them to come out all guns blazing which I know they will,” said the scrum-half.

Italy will try to end a woeful sequence of 19 successive defeats in the Six Nations against all opponents when they face Ireland in Rome on Sunday.

Sergio Parisse, Italy’s long-serving captain, has been sidelined with suspected concussion playing for club side Stade Francais.

But the scale of the problems facing Italy run deeper than the absence of the No 8 and Azzurri coach Conor O’Shea, the former Ireland full-back, has made four changes to his side.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt may have rested captain Rory Best and given a first Six Nations start to 32-year-old hooker Sean Cronin, but he has retained a back division featuring fly-half Jonathan Sexton, the current world player of the year.