Comeback kings Wales have record in their sights

On a busy weekend of international rugby, the Six Nations and the Americas Rugby Championship both enter the second-round stage, while the Rugby Europe Championship gets underway with Romania versus Georgia taking top billing.

The second round of the Six Nations begins in Edinburgh with the clash between Scotland and Ireland, while Saturday's other game comes from Rome, where Wales will look to match their previous best-ever run of 11 consecutive test wins. There is also an opportunity for Wales to reclaim third place in the World Rugby Rankings in victory, although they will still need to rely on a favourable result when England meet France in the final game of the weekend on Sunday at Twickenham.

We take a look at the different rankings permutations from all three matches and those taking place this weekend in the Rugby Europe Championship and Americas Rugby Championship, together with all the relevant team news and facts and stats.

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SIX NATIONS

Scotland (7) v Ireland (2) 

Team news 

Scotland have made four changes to the starting line-up for this Saturday’s second-round Six Nations clash with Ireland at Murrayfield Stadium. Head coach Gregor Townsend has welcomed the added experience of last year’s top try-scoring Saracens wing, Sean Maitland, who has recovered from a hamstring injury to start in place of last weekend’s hat-trick try-scorer Blair Kinghorn, who moves to the bench. 

The remaining changes come in the pack, where prop Simon Berghan and back-row Josh Strauss start in place of injured forwards Willem Nel and Sam Skinner, while Jonny Gray’s recovery from a shoulder injury sees him replace second-row Ben Toolis, who moves to the bench. The bench sees four further changes, where uncapped prop D’arcy Rae is in line to make his test debut.

Rob Kearney's return to fullback in place of the injured Robbie Henshaw is one of five changes to the Ireland team as they look to bounce back from last week’s loss to England. Chris Farrell comes into the midfield at the expense of Garry Ringrose, while the rest of the changes are in the pack, one in the second row and two in the back row. Quinn Roux fills in for Devin Toner, while CJ Stander's jaw injury gives Jack Conan an opportunity at number eight and Sean O'Brien is preferred to Josh van der Flier at openside.

In brief

  • Scotland won the last meeting between the sides at Murrayfield (27-22 in 2017).
  • Scotland could win eight consecutive championship home matches for the first time since 1975.
  • Ireland's defeat against England was their first at home in the Six Nations under Joe Schmidt, and just a second in their last 20 matches in all competitions.
  • Ireland have only failed to score 20 points in four of their 19 Six Nations meetings against Scotland. In the other 15 games, they have averaged 32 points per match.
  • The 22 points Ireland scored in their last visit to Murrayfield were the highest they had ever scored against Scotland in the Six Nations without winning the tie. 
  • Ireland and Scotland were the only two teams to score in each quarter of play during round one. Every other nation went at least 20 minutes without a score.
  • Scotland were the most penalised side in round on with 11 penalties given away.
  • Jacob Stockdale drew a blank against England but ran the most metres (137m).
  • Greig Laidlaw needs to score 10 points to overtake Gavin Hastings in second place for most points for Scotland
  • With 24.7 minutes of possession, Ireland had more of the ball in round one than any other team

Rankings predictor 

  • Scotland will move above Australia and into sixth in victory
  • If Ireland lose and England win, they will surrender second place
  • If Ireland lose by more than 15 points and both England and Wales win, they will drop to fourth

Italy (15) v Wales (4) 

Team news 

Conor O’Shea has made two changes for Italy as Edoardo Padovani comes into the backline and Nicola Quaglio into the front row. Padovani, who scored a try off the bench in the second half of last week's defeat to Scotland, is named on the right wing, while Michele Campagnaro reverts back to midfield. That means that Tommaso Castello drops out of the matchday 23 altogether. Quaglio replaces flu sufferer Andrea Lovotti at loose-head.

Thomas Young and Jonah Holmes make their Six Nations debuts and Jonathan Davies skippers his country for the first time in Rome, as Warren Gatland makes wholesale changes to the team that won against France last weekend. Holmes joins Liam Williams and Josh Adams in the back three, while Davies is partnered in midfield by Owen Watkin. Dan Biggar and Aled Davies are the half-back pairing.

In the pack, Nicky Smith, Elliot Dee and Samson Lee form a new look front-row with Jake Ball coming into the second-row alongside Adam Beard. In the back-row Josh Navidi moves to number eight, Aaron Wainwright starts at blindside flanker and Thomas Young wears the number seven jersey vacated by Justin Tipuric.

In brief

  • Wales have won 16 of their 19 meetings with Italy, losing twice and drawing once.
  • Wales have won the last 11 meetings between the sides in the Six Nations, last losing in the 2007 Championship.
  • Italy’s only two wins against Wales in Six Nations history have been at home, winning 23-20 in 2007 and 30-22 in 2003. The lone draw was in Wales in 2006.
  • Wales' biggest-ever Six Nations win was against Italy, a 67-14 home triumph in 2016.
  • Italy have lost their last 18 matches in this tournament - a Five/Six Nations record.
  • Wales can match their best-ever run of 11 straight Test wins, last set in 1910.
  • Their 16-point turnaround in the win over France last weekend was the biggest half-time comeback in any Five or Six Nations match. It was also the biggest half-time comeback in Welsh test history.
  • All three of Italy’s tries and 17 of their 20 points were scored in the last 20 minutes against Scotland.
  • Thomas Young will become the first Welsh player to follow in his father’s footsteps and play Six Nations rugby.
  • Jonathan Davies will win his 70th cap at Stadio Olimpico and becomes Wales' 137th captain.

Rankings predictor  

  • Any form of win would be enough to lift Italy up three places to 12th. Eleventh place is possible if they win by more than 15 points.
  • Wales will return to third place if they win and England fail to beat France.

England (3) v France (10) 

Team news 

Chris Ashton will make his first Six Nations start since 2013 after being chosen ahead of Jack Nowell on the wing. Nowell drops to the bench. Ashton's inclusion is one two changes to last week's starting line-up, the other coming in the second-row where Courtney Lawes deputises for the injured Maro Itoje. Props Dan Cole and Ben Moon and second-row Joe Launchbury take their place amongst the replacements having missed out in Dublin.

France's matchday 23 shows 10 changes to the one beaten by Wales in round one, including Mathieu Bastareaud in a beefed-up midfield. Geoffrey Doumayrou partners last year's Les Bleus captain at centre, with Romain Ntamack dropping to the bench, while the other change to the starting backline sees Gael Fickou selected on the left wing. Yoann Huget moves to full-back. In the forwards, prop Demba Bamba comes into the front row in place of the injured Uini Atonio while lock Felix Lambey gets the nod ahead of Paul Willemse. Both will be making their first test starts. In the back row, Yacouba Camara is at six in place of Wenceslas Lauret, with the rest of the changes applied to the bench.

In brief

  • England are on a six-game winning streak against France at home dating back to 2007. 
  • Les Bleus haven't won in the Six Nations at Twickenham for 14 years. This is their 50th test at the venue.
  • The margin of victory between the sides has been 10 points or less in the last five tests.
  • Three of England's four tries against Ireland came from first phase ball.
  • England made 46 dominant tackles in their win over Ireland - over three times more than the next best total.
  • France were successful with only one-third of their kicks at goal
  • Louis Picamoles' 16 carries put him joint first in that category with Scotland's Ryan Wilson
  • England prop Mako Vunipola topped the round-one tackle count with 31

Rankings predictor  

  • The gap between the sides will be down to five points and four places if France win by over 15 points
  • Les Bleus will climb above Argentina and Fiji to eighth in victory

RUGBY EUROPE CHAMPIONSHIP

Romania (18) v Georgia (13) 

Team news 

Scrum-half Valentin Calefeteanu will win his 100th cap when he takes to the field on Saturday. Calefeteanu, who plays his club rugby in Bucharest, becomes the third player from the Oaks to bring up a century of appearances. The other two members of the exclusive club, Florin Vlaicu and Catalin Fercu, partner up in midfield. Mihai Macovei captains the side from blindside flanker.

Georgia have opted for a mix of youth and experience with two players set to make their debuts. Bucharest-based second-row Davit Gigauri and blindside flanker and former U20 captain Beka Saghinadze get their first taste of senior international rugby, while prop Beka Gigashvili makes his first start at tight-head. Uncapped European U18 champion hooker Vano Karkadze is on the bench. The side is captained from outside centre by Merab Sharikadze, one of five players with more than a half-century of caps to their name.

In brief

  • Romania won 8-7 in the corresponding fixture in 2017  – their first win over Georgia in seven years
  • Georgia defeated Romania 25-16 in the final fixture of last year’s competition. It was the only game in which they failed to secure a try bonus point
  • The Lelos scored 188 points and only conceded 35 in storming to last year’s title – their seventh in eight years
  • Romania have lost their last two home against, against USA and Uruguay.

Rankings predictor 

  • Romania will move above Uruguay if they win and Los Teros fail to beat Chile in the Americas Rugby Championship
  • An emphatic victory of over 15 points would be enough for the Oaks to leapfrog Uruguay even if the South Americans also win well
  • Georgia will drop two places to 15th if they are beaten
  • Georgia will move above USA and into 12th if they beat Romania and Italy fall to Wales

Belgium (25) v Germany (26)

Team news 

Belgium hand a first cap to 20-year-old number eight, William Van Bost. Van Bost, who is on the books of French giants Toulon, steps into the side in place of the injured Thomas deMolder. The Black Devils are also without another experienced campaigner at this level in centre Guillaume Piron. Hooker Thomas Dienst wins his 45th cap, putting him joint second for most test appearances alongside Sebastien Guns.

Germany hand first caps to English-based prop Toby Williams and winger Vito Lammers, who has been playing club rugby in New Zealand, for their first competitive game since the RWC 2019 repechage tournament in November. Injury and unavailability have robbed them of many prominent members from that campaign, though, including experienced forwards, Jarrid Els, Julius Nostadt and Michael Poppmeier as well as livewire scrum-half Sean Armstrong and versatile back Chris Hilsenbach.

In brief

  • Belgium won by a record score of 69-15 in Brussels in 2018
  • The Black Devils lead 6-5 in the overall head-to-head
  • Germany have never won on five previous visits to Belgium

Rankings predictor 

  • Victory for Belgium would lift them above the Netherlands and Hong Kong and into 23rd place
  • A beaten Germany will only lose ground if Brazil beat Canada in the Americas Rugby Championship, or if Chile overcome Uruguay by more than 15 points
  • A German win would see them leapfrog Belgium in the rankings, with a three-place rise to 23rd possible

Spain (21) v Russia (19) 

Team news

Russia head coach Lyn Jones has made two personnel changes and switched his flankers from the line-up that ran Japan close in their last November test. Denis Simplikevich, one of a number of players with sevens experience, comes in on the right wing at the expense of Mikhail Babaev, while Bogdan Fedotko is a new addition to the second row. Tagir Gadzhiev and Vitaly Zhivatov swap jerseys and now wear six and seven on their backs. English Premeirship players, prop Valery Morozov and Andrey Ostrikov, take their place in the pack.

In brief

  • Russia lead the head-to-head 16-5 but Spain have won three out of the last four
  • The average winning margin between the teams in the last three meetings is just six points
  • In their last three tests, Russia have averaged 39 points per game
  • Spain only conceded five tries in last year’s Championship

Rankings predictor

  •  A victory for Spain would move them back into the world’s top 20 – unless Canada beat Brazil
  • Spain will be the higher-ranked of the two nations if they win by more than 15 points
  • Russia could potentially move up two places to 17th – their highest position since March 2010 – if they win well and other results go their way

 

AMERICAS RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP

Uruguay (17) v Chile (29) 

Team news 

With Santiago Arata serving a three-week ban for his red card in the round-one 20-17 victory against Canada, Tomas Inciarte comes in at scrum-half in a Los Teros starting line-up showing four changes. Wing Leandro Leivas and full-back Gaston Mieres join Nicolas Freitas in a new-look back-three, while the only other change comes in the pack, where Juan Manuel Rodriguez replaces Ignacio Dotti in the second row.

Only half-a-dozen players survive in Chile’s starting line-up from the one beaten 71-8 by the US Eagles last week. Javier Carrasco and Matias Dittus are new additions at prop, either side of retained hooker Tomas Dussaillant, while Javier Eissmann joins Bastian Burguener in the second row. Captain Martin Sigren stays at blindside with Thomas Orchard and Ignacio Silva making up the back row. Scrum-half Juan Pablo Larenas is Francisco Gonzalez’s partner at half-back, while Julio Blanc and Christian Huerta come in at outside centre and full-back respectively.

In brief

  • Uruguay lead the overall head-to-head 39-11 with one draw
  • Chile won eight of the first 11 tests up until 1975 but only three times since, most recently in 2015
  • Uruguay's last visit to Santiago ended in a tense 23-20 victory
  • Chile have failed to score over 20 points in the last five meetings
  • Chile coach Pablo Lemoine comes up against the side he represented with distinction as a player and coach

Rankings predictor 

  • It is not possible for Uruguay to improve their position
  • Chile will move above Portugal and Brazil, if Os Tupis fail to beat Canada, with a win of over 15 points
  • Los Teros would drop two places to 19th if that happens

Brazil (28) v Canada (20) 

Team news 

The Brazil side shows four changes and two positional to the line-up that was beaten 54-3 by Argentina XV in round one. In the pack, hooker Wilton Rebolo, second-row Gabriel Paganini and number eight Andrew Arruda come into the side. Arruda's arrival at the back of the pack results in Arthur Bergo shifting to openside and Cleber Dias wearing six instead of seven. The only change to the starting backline comes on the left wing, where Robert Tenorio replaces Jacobus wet van Niekerk.

Canada head coach Kingsley Jones has named an unchanged starting team, which will once again be captained by 23-year old back-rower Lucas Rumball. The only change to the 23-man matchday squad is on the bench, with Justin Blanchet replacing Mike Sheppard, giving him a chance to win his first cap. Will Percillier, who was an unused replacement against Uruguay, had another chance to make his debut after retaining his place amongst the replacements.

In brief

  • Canada were beaten 24-23 on their only previous visit to Brazil in 2017
  • Canada won the other two ARC fixtures convincingly, by 27 and 40 points
  • Canada's 20-17 defeat to Uruguay last weekend ended a three-test winning run
  • Last weekend's 54-3 defeat to Argentina XV was the second game in a row where Brazil have failed to score a try. They drew a blank in that respect in losing 35-3 to the Maori All Blacks in November
  • Moises Duque needs one try to equal Daniel Gregg's all-time try-scoring record of 14 for Brazil
  • In winning his 65th cap, Ciaran Hearn will move in front of Scott Stewart and into fourth place for most Canadian test appearances

Rankings predictor 

  • A Brazil win by over 15 points would see them better their previous record high of 25th
  • Canada need to beat Brazil by more than 15 points and hope Russia lose by the same margin, away to Romania, to return to the world’s top 20

 The game between Argentina XV and the USA does not count towards the rankings as it doesn't have test match status.