French trip puts Byrne back on road to Wales
by Brendan Gallagher
Lee Byrne, one of the players of the tournament in the 2008 Six Nations and a Lion in 2009, seems poised to regain his place in Wales's starting XV at full-back after a move to Clermont breathed life back into his career.
Byrne, who fell out of favour during the World Cup, has been a mainstay this season in a star-studded Clermont team who are second in the T14 and have qualified for the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup. While his Wales colleagues Mike Phillips and James Hook have been on the back foot with struggling Bayonne and Perpignan respectively, Byrne has rediscovered his 'A game'.
Wales backs coach Rob Howley went out of his way yesterday to highlight how sharp Byrne looked during a two-day spell at the Wales camp in Gdansk last week.
To accommodate the return of Byrne, Warren Gatland would have to move Leigh Halfpenny back on to the wing but that might be a timely switch anyway given Wales's continuing injury problems in midfield.
With the medical reports on Rhys Priestland and Jamie Roberts, who have both been suffering from knee injuries, not overly optimistic - they have been given 48 hours to prove their fitness along with blindside flanker Dan Lydiate - Wales could well have to shuffle their cards in midfield.
The Telegraph, London
Botes receives Italy call up
ROME: South African Tobias Botes has been called up to the Italy squad for this weekend's Six Nations opener against France in Paris following an injury to Luciano Orquera.
With Argentina-born Aironi fly-half Orquera ruled out with a hamstring problem, scrum-half Botes has been given his opportunity.
Botes is the first choice number nine at Treviso, ahead of Italy pair Fabio Semenzato and Eduardo Gori, but he has the versatility to also play at fly-half and even on the wing.
Having spent four years playing in Italy he is now eligible for the national team.
England preparing to thrive on the fear factor
by Mick Cleary
As England's match-day 22 for the Calcutta Cup encounter against Scotland on Saturday took shape last night (Tuesday) with eight players returning to their clubs, forwards coach Graham Rowntree revealed that England would travel to Murrayfield with some trepidation about stepping into the unknown.
"We will go up there with a fear," said Rowntree, the only survivor on the coaching panel from the Martin Johnson regime. "We haven't really tried out this outfit. We're new and that puts pressure on us in terms of time we have available. We are underdogs. No one expects us to do well. We will have something to say about that. Going up there, especially at this point in time, given where we have been, the unspeakable past, they will be licking their lips. We will be expecting that. Scotland always save up a passion for us."
England broke camp last night and will name their side tomorrow. Those released from the 32-man squad suggest that England will take the field with three new caps - Saracens centres Owen Farrell and Brad Barritt, as well as Northampton's Phil Dowson at No?8, although uncapped Scarlets player Ben Morgan is also pushing for that position.
In the back line, Saracens wing David Strettle appears to have held off Gloucester's Charlie Sharples.
Two other players, captain Chris Robshaw and lock Mouritz Botha, have only one cap apiece. Northampton's Lee Dickson has won the nod ahead of Wasps scrum-half Joe Simpson, who was at the World Cup, to be back-up to Ben Youngs.
The players returning to their clubs are Dave Attwood, Matt Banahan, Calum Clark, Alex Goode, Lee Mears, Simpson, Thomas Waldrom and David Wilson.
The Telegraph, London
Ten from France Cup team to face Italy
PARIS: Clermont duo Vincent Debaty and Wesley Fofana have been called up by new France coach Philippe Saint Andre for the World Cup finalists' Six Nations opener against Italy in Stade de France on Saturday.
Saint-Andre, the 44-year-old who succeeded Marc Lievremont, has called up ten of the team that were runners-up to New Zealand in the World Cup final on October 23.
"We have enormous respect for the Italians, their team and Jacques Brunel (coach) whose competences we are aware of," said Saint-Andre.
"The aim is to get a good start in the Six Nations. We're going to focus and do all we can to win this first match on front of our public in Stade de France."
France: Maxime Medard, Vincent Clerc, Aurelien Rougerie, Wesley Fofana, Julien Malzieu, Francois Trinh-Duc, Dimitri Yachvili; Louis Picamoles, Julien Bonnaire, Thierry Dusautoir (capt), Lionel Nallet, Pascal Pape, Nicolas Mas, William Servat, Vincent Debaty. Res: Dimitri Szarzewski, Jean-Baptiste Poux, Yoan Maestri, Imanol Harinordoquy, Morgan Parra, Lionel Beauxis, Maxime Mermoz.
Jones to make debut as Robinson rings the changes
by Alasdair Reid
If Scotland coach Andy Robinson wanted to tap into his players' thirst for revenge in this weekend's Calcutta Cup match he would probably have chosen a few more who had reasons to harbour resentment.
As it is, only seven of his side to face England on Saturday were in his starting line-up when the Scots lost 16-12 to the same opponents at last year's Rugby World Cup - a result that meant they took their leave of the tournament before the knockout stages got under way.
Of the eight changes made by Robinson, one has been forced on him by the retirement from Test rugby of Scotland's record cap holder, Chris Paterson. Another two, Joe Ansbro and Ruaridh Jackson, have been left out because of injuries. The remaining five changes are simple issues of form.
Simon Danielli, who was on the left wing in the World Cup match, has been left out as he has not had sufficient game time with Ulster. In his place, Robinson has chosen the fast-improving Edinburgh player Lee Jones for a debut cap.
Jones delayed his entry into professional rugby while he completed a degree in mechanical engineering, but he has been picking up pace and admirers with every game he plays.
Jones's Edinburgh colleague Dave Denton, who replaces Richie Vernon at No.8, may consider this game to be his first 'real' Test as well. Denton was capped as a replacement against Ireland in the World Cup warm-up match last August, but that was clearly an experimental selection. The Zimbabwe-born forward missed selection for the World Cup, but his performances this season have been outstanding.
In the other backline changes Dan Parks and Chris Cusiter return to the half-back berths, with Nick De Luca restored at outside centre. In the forwards, Jim Hamilton, and Ross Rennie take over from Alastair Kellock and John Barclay respectively.
The Telegraph, London