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No room for sentiment as Six Nations takes shape

SIX NATIONS

No room for sentiment as Six Nations takes shape

No room for sentiment as Six Nations takes shape

GEOFF CADDICK

AFP

Italy take on Ireland, while Wales, fresh from a 33-7 victory away to Italy, face Grand Slam champions England, who ground out an unconvincing 19-16 home victory over France. Cavaliers @ Warriors live

Italy coach Conor O'Shea has insisted there will be no question of divided loyalties when the Azzurri face his native Ireland in the second round of the Six Nations Championship on Saturday. Italy and Ireland will both be coming off defeats in Rome whereas Saturday's second match features two sides who enjoyed first-round wins.

Wales, fresh from a 33-7 victory away to Italy in Rome face Grand Slam champions England, who launched their title defence with an unconvincing 19-16 home victory over France, in Cardiff.

Sunday will see Scotland aim to back up their 27-22 win over Ireland by ending their 18-year wait for a Championship victory against France in Paris.

"Ireland is where my family is, where my home is and where I spend my holidays," said O'Shea. "But right now my only priority is rugby with Italy."

Ireland's preparations suffered a setback when captain Rory Best went down with a stomach bug on Friday, the hooker confined to the team hotel. "Hopefully he is going to be better with some extra hours of sleep," said Ireland assistant coach Simon Easterby.

Italy captain Sergio Parisse warned his side to beware of an Ireland that will "want to go out and do some damage".

Meanwhile Wales were sweating on the fitness of wing George North (leg) and fly-half Dan Biggar (ribs), with Alex Cuthbert and Sam Davies on standby. Friday saw BBC Wales axe a promotional film where several Wales fans were apparently unable to answer the question: "What's good about England?"

England coach Eddie Jones, an Australian, had already done his bit for Anglo-Welsh relations before insisting, against Wales's wishes, the Principality Stadium's retractable roof remain open.

 "They're a cunning lot the Welsh aren't they?," said Jones, whose England side are looking to extend their national record winning-streak to 16 Tests. "They've got goats, they've got daffodils," added Jones, fired as Australia coach following a 2005 defeat in Cardiff.

Wales forwards coach Robin McBryde summed up the game's enduring importance by saying: "It is that English-Welsh rivalry, and wanting to get the better of your neighbour."

England centre Jonathan Joseph, who scored a key try in his side's win in Cardiff two years ago, said of the Principality Stadium: "I like the atmosphere, it spurs me on and gets me going and I think that it does that to a lot of the other boys too."

Scotland stunned Ireland with three tries inside the first half-hour at Murrayfield before the Irish edged ahead. However, two late penalties from Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw sealed victory.

"We understand how we can win games from being behind," said scrum-half Laidlaw. France centre Remi Lamerat added: "Scotland play an attractive game that is also effective given that they beat Ireland." Last week at Twickenham saw France again go close against a major side only to lose narrowly, just as they did in November defeats by Australia (25-23) and world champions New Zealand (24-19).

"Only a victory can unlock the next improvement," said France coach Guy Noves.

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