Joe Schmidt issues World Cup warning to ‘bullied’ and ‘bruised’ Ireland

Sunday, 03 Feb, 2019

The tournaments kick off on Friday with the women up first as Ireland take on England before Scotland host Italy.

You need to go back to 1997 and 1998, and the France team of Thomas Castaignède, Fabien Pelous and friends, to find the last team to win the Grand Slam two years in a row.

The only forward to make the top five in the opening weekend, Mako Vunipola delivered a powerhouse performance for England in the win over Ireland.

Morgan Parra teams up with Clermont teammate Camille Lopez at half-back for just the second time at global level and four years after their previous game together, in the 2015 Six Nations.

Largely credited with orchestrating the huge swell of Irish support around the national team, Joe Schmidt was forced to consider the unforeseen reality that fans were departing the Aviva Stadium before Saturday evening's game had reached the final whistle.

While rapid line speed, a dominant set-piece and a ruthless approach at the breakdown continue to lay the foundations, Schmidt's side has plenty of X-factor to hurt any opponent.

Tuilagi is making his first Six Nations start in six years in the unaccustomed position of inside centre after Ben Te'o was ruled out by a side strain, while Elliot Daly will be able to prove his future lies at full-back when he faces the aerial barrage directed by Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton.

In a magnificent game of Six Nations rugby between two teams desperate to begin their respective campaigns with a victory, neither fly half...

The 2003 World Cup victor then doled out some home truths to Italy and Wales before saying France could surprise a few people in the championship. "I think we'll see all four centres playing at some stage". However, if they play with the flair and exuberance French teams have in the past then anything can happen of course! "He hasn't actually played that much himself and really we felt that the way he trained, it was worth pursuing, maybe even as a longer term option".

Former Scotland scrum-half Lawson backed his "Celtic cousins" Ireland to get the job done and Zebo agreed wholeheartedly with him. Some games are immensely physical, some are more tactical.

Henshaw, who started his career at fullback but has played nearly exclusively at centre since joining Leinster in 2016, comes in for Rob Kearney who has been nursing an injury.

Reigning kings of Europe Ireland enter the fray as competition favourites with bookies backing the Emerald Isle giants to defend their crown from 2019, a platform head coach Joe Schmidt will hope can tee up Rugby World Cup success.

And after France went back in front through a Camille Lopez penalty, North claimed his second try - a stunning 60-metre interception effort that Biggar converted - to give Wales a seventh victory from the last eight starts against France.