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Gatland: Wales a sinking ship | Why Scotland want to beat England ‘most’

Scotland “focus on beating England more than anyone else” admits Gregor Townsend, while Warren Gatland has labelled Wales a “sinking ship” ahead of facing Ireland…

Round 3 of the Six Nations kicks off on Saturday as leaders Ireland welcome Wales to Dublin (2.15pm kick-off), before Scotland host England in the Calcutta Cup (4.45pm kick-off).

We look at pregame thoughts from all four camps below…

Townsend: England the team Scotland focus on beating the most

Gregor Townsend says Scotland’s sole focus is on winning their “biggest game of the season” against England and maintaining their recent dominance of the Calcutta Cup.

The Scots go into Saturday’s showdown with their bitter rivals knowing they will almost certainly require a victory to stay in contention for the Six Nations title after their controversial defeat by France last time out.

“When you’re coming in off the back of a defeat, you have to bounce back with a victory,” said Townsend.

Scotland's Finn Russell speaks to referee Nika Amashukeli as they wait for the dramatic late TMO decision
Image: Scotland were controversially denied victory in the final play vs France in Round 2

“You’re not really thinking about the championship. We’ll see where we are on Saturday.

“The full focus is on this game because it’s our most important game of the season.

“This is one that we’re focused on more than the others. That probably shouldn’t be the case, but it is.

“It’s history. It’s emotion. We’ve seen the impact this game has on Scottish supporters when we do manage to get a victory in this fixture. That’ll drive us on Saturday.”

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Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has played down being labelled as ‘favourites’ ahead of facing England

Having beaten England only three times in 27 attempts between 1990 and 2018, the Scots now find themselves going into this weekend’s fixture after winning the last three meetings and having lost only one of their last six games against their old foes.

Townsend, who was accustomed to regular defeats against England in his time as a player, admits his team’s recent burst of Calcutta Cup success has given them increased belief going into Saturday’s match.

“Yes, for sure,” he said. “The game in 2018 (Scotland’s first win over England in a decade) has certainly given the players confidence when they’ve taken on England in the last few games.

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England head coach Steve Borthwick explains his decision to select George Furbank for Saturday’s Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland

“But what’s most relevant is the game you’ve just played, the things you have to work on to be a better team, and the threats that England bring.

“This England team is different to the one we faced 12 months ago but ultimately it’s just about delivering in the 80 minutes on the day.”

England skipper George takes inspiration from late mum ahead of Calcutta Cup

Jamie George will draw inspiration from the thought that his late mother will be watching down on him as he prepares to lead England into Saturday’s Calcutta Cup clash just over a week after her death.

The 33-year-old Saracens hooker found out on the same day he was appointed captain of the Red Rose last month that his mum Jane had been diagnosed with cancer. Her situation deteriorated quickly and she died last Wednesday.

“We’ve been going through a lot as a family for a long period,” he said, speaking with remarkable composure.

“The deterioration she had was really fast. I found out on Sunday about the fact that she was terminal, and she passed away on Wednesday [last week].

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England captain Jamie George opens up about the sudden loss of mum Jane, who sadly passed last week

“My mum was the biggest rugby fan on earth, she loved this team, loved watching me play, she never missed a game.

“The text I’ve got from her before my first game as captain is something I will treasure forever. She said it was the proudest day of her life so given what she was going through, to still be able to put a smile on her face was huge.

“Taking time off is the last thing she would have wanted me to do. It’s not what I wanted to do.

“Wherever she is now, she will be looking down telling everyone that is there that her son is the England captain. I know for a fact that meant a huge amount to her.”

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Sky Sports News’ Eleanor Roper and digital journalist Megan Wellens preview the third round of fixtures in the Six Nations

Gatland: Wales feels like a sinking ship trying to plug the holes

Wales head coach Warren Gatland says he is “not 100 per cent convinced” Welsh regional rugby will undergo the proper reset he feels it requires.

Gatland admitted “it has probably felt sometimes like you are in a sinking ship and you are trying to plug the holes a little bit”.

On the field, Saturday’s opponents Ireland have lost just two of their last 40 home Tests, while victory over Wales would see them equal England’s record of 11 successive Six Nations wins.

Wales, meanwhile, have lost nine of their last 10 Six Nations fixtures, and off the field it is a similar case of chalk and cheese.

Gatland
Image: Head coach Warren Gatland rather explosively claimed Wales are ‘a sinking ship’, adding he is not convinced the needed reset will take place

Ireland are thriving from a system of centrally-contracted players that underpins vibrant, successful provincial teams, while Wales’ four professional regions are each preparing for significant budget cuts that will take effect from next season.

“I think they (Ireland) have just got the right structures in place,” Gatland said this week.

“Probably, if I look at the previous time I was here (between 2008 and 2019), we were kind of papering over the cracks of the things that were happening in Welsh rugby.

“We have got an opportunity for a reset, which unfortunately I am not 100 per cent convinced we will have a proper reset within our regions.

Wales
Image: Wales have suffered defeat in nine of their last 10 Six Nations fixtures

“It took a long time (in Ireland), but that has benefited from the performances of their provincial teams, which has transferred into their international team.

“We were probably the other way around. We were the reverse.

“I continue to speak about infrastructure, getting the right infrastructure, the right environment, medical staff, quality coaches, training facilities, grounds and stuff.

“Forget about the players. Get that (infrastructure) right, and then you start building your squad.

“We have tended to do it the other way around – or a bit of 50/50 – and then it just feels like you are plugging up the holes of a sinking ship.

“Everyone talks about the finances, and I understand that, but it is (about) making the right decisions.”

Farrell: Wales clash a big Test for Frawley at full-back

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has challenged Test rookie Ciaran Frawley to “prove a point” after handing him a long-awaited full Ireland debut in place of the injured Hugo Keenan.

Versatile Leinster back Frawley received his first call-up in the autumn of 2021 but has so far been restricted to 44 minutes of international action across two appearances from the bench.

“The versatility that Frawls has got has always probably earmarked him for a bench spot but he’s always been waiting for this chance,” said Farrell.

Frawley
Image: Ciaran Frawley has been named to start at full-back for Ireland vs Wales in his first Test start

“Hugo doesn’t get injured too much, does he?

“His [Frawley] skillset is fantastic and it’s a big week for him so it will be a test of his temperament but he’s playing in a good side and I’m sure he’ll take his chance.

“He’s trained there (at full-back) for us a lot. It’s very natural for him to fill that position and he deserves his chance.

“He’s had an appetite to want to get to this type of position so now it’s come around I’m sure it’s a big moment for him and his family.

Farrell
Image: Andy Farrell’s side sit top of the Six Nations standings after two rounds, and look in fine fettle

“But it’s all about performing. It’s all about taking your chance. All your need is a chance. It’s up to the individuals to go and take that and prove a point.”

Frawley aside, Farrell has reverted to the starting XV which began the impressive 38-17 victory over France on the opening night of the tournament.

Sky News
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