Six Nations: England forward Courtney Lawes is up for Rhys Patchell hunt against Wales

David Cooper 10/02/2018
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Courtney Lawes (c) in action for England in Italy.

Courtney Lawes insists England enter Saturday’s Six Nations clash with Wales intent on unsettling Rhys Patchell.

Eddie Jones has questioned whether Patchell, his team’s third choice fly-half, has the “bottle” to reproduce his heroics in the round one thumping of Scotland in the more challenging environment of Twickenham.

Lawes is England’s most ferocious tackler, but the Northampton lock insists England will “hunt” Wales as a collective rather than look to rely on any one player.

“Patchell’s a good player. He’s quick and he’s got some skills, but as a team we’ll put him under pressure and make it very difficult for him,” Lawes said.

CARDIFF, WALES - FEBRUARY 06:  Rhys Patchell of Wales during a training session at Vale of Glamorgan on February 6, 2018 in Cardiff, Wales.  (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Rhys Patchell will feel like he has a target on his back at Twickenham.

“We’re hunting Wales this week. It honestly doesn’t matter who is running down my channel or who is in front of me, I’m there to do my job and make an effective tackle.

“But I’m not going to fly out of the line and try to make a difference myself. That’s not what the team needs from me. We’re going to get off the line and hunt Wales as a team.

“We have prepared very diligently and we know their key men and the people we need to keep an eye on.

“They have great players throughout their team and it is on us to be able to contain them and put pressure back on them.”

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Six Nations: Is the wrong Kiwi getting the credit for Wales’ revival?

Alex Broun 9/02/2018
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Wales and British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland is smart enough to give credit where credit is due.

He has cast his eye over his domain and identified one of the four Welsh province’s, the Scarlets, performing superbly and doing so by playing an eye-catching brand of attacking rugby.

So why try to re-invent the wheel? Instead Gatland has simply done the smart thing – swap 12 of those Scarlets’ jerseys for a slightly brighter shade of red as a good dozen Llanelli players turn out for his national line up against England on Saturday.

It would be 14 if Liam Williams and Jonathan Davies were fit.

But it has made the New Zealand coach of Scarlets, Wayne Pivac’s job a little bit harder. The ex-policeman has becomes a victim of his own success as he tries to run training sessions without a dozen of his stars.

Ten of Pivac’s team were in the starting line-up that hammered Scotland 34-7 and announced Wales as a surprise contender for 2018 Six Nations glory.

But as a result, with other players also absent on Wales Under-20 duty, Pivac and his other coaches have been pressed into service at training as defenders.

Wayne Pivac (l) in his Auckland days with co-coach Grant Fox.

Wayne Pivac (l) in his Auckland days with co-coach Grant Fox.

“That was tough work,” admitted Pivac to The Times after a recent training run. “When they see the coaches standing out there in front of them, they run even harder at you.”

Playing a brand of rugby that has been as entertaining as it has been effective, the Scarlets won the PRO14 title last season and recently became the first Welsh region for six years to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup.

But Pivac has no malice to his fellow Kiwi for capitalizing on his success.

“It’s been pretty smart from Warren,” says Pivac, “he’s put a lot of Scarlets in, he’s backed the boys and they’ve repaid the faith he’s put in them. We all take a lot of pride seeing so many Scarlets in the national team.”

The Scarlets current success marks the end of a long journey for Pivac.

Llanelli skipper Delme Thomas is carried shoulder-high from Stradey Park after the famous 1972 victory over the All Blacks.

Llanelli skipper Delme Thomas is carried shoulder-high from Stradey Park after the famous 1972 victory over the All Blacks.

Growing up in Auckland he could never have imagined that one day he would coach the small town in west Wales, Llanelli, that in October 1972 beat the touring All Blacks 9-3 at a full-to-bursting Stradey Park.

Pivac came to the Scarlets from the Auckland ITM Cup team three and a half years ago, originally as forwards coach, then taking over as head coach when Simon Easterby moved to Ireland.

The 56-year-old says he hasn’t done anything new at Scarlets, just re-awoken the region’s rich heritage for attacking rugby.

“It’s in the DNA of Llanelli from the old days,” he says. “They liked to move the ball out. If you look at videos of the Auckland teams I used to coach, that’s exactly how we played. So connecting that stuff with this club wasn’t a difficult choice.”

Pivac’s own preference for an expansive style can be traced back to his days with North Harbour under Peter Thorburn.

Since arriving at the Scarlets, Pivac has spent long hours developing the handling skills of his pack. The results could be seen on Saturday against Scotland, when prop Samson Lee was regularly executing flip-passes.

Stephen Jones has made a big difference to the Scarlets' backs.

Stephen Jones has made a big difference to the Scarlets’ backs.

Pivac has also been helped by the arrival of former Wales No10 Stephen Jones as attack coach.

“Stephen was an influential figure to bring on board,” Pivac says. “We really wanted to drive the passion for the jersey in this club.

“The history of the 9-3, the Bennetts, the Gravells, we really played on that.

“We’d ask the players, when was the last time history was created? How about we create our own history and put a smile on people’s faces?”

The Scarlets’ brand of free-flowing rugby has certainly put smiles on faces at Parc y Scarlets and hopefully will put more smiles on Welsh faces at Twickenham on Saturday.

For Pivac the reward may come after the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan when most people expect him to succeed Gatland as national coach with the New Zealand-led Wales dynasty set to continue.

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Six Nations: Jordan Larmour can be Ireland's new Christian Cullen

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Exciting full-back Larmour is primed for his Test bow in the NatWest 6 Nations clash against Italy in Dublin this weekend, after a string of fine performances in his breakthrough campaign with Leinster.

Italy boss Conor O’Shea likened the 20-year-old rookie to All Blacks great Christian Cullen on Thursday – but Ireland skipper Best is convinced Larmour can shake off the hype.

The 35-year-old Ireland hooker Best joked that he got married in the same year that Larmour appeared as a Leinster mascot, but insisted he has no qualms about the highly-rated youngster stepping into the Test arena.

“I’d imagine Jordan might not even have been born when Christian Cullen was producing magic for the All Blacks,” said Best, of Larmour, who will take a seat on Ireland’s bench on Saturday.

“It was Cian Healy who produced a picture of Jordan as a mascot, waving a flag before a Leinster game, in 2009. The most frightening part of that is that I got married in 2009!

“He doesn’t strike you as one who gets too uptight but at the same time he gets very little wrong in training, and that speaks volumes about his character.

“And if you want to see how he reacts in a pressurised environment, just look at how he has gone in the biggest provincial games so far.

“The Champions Cup is one thing, but the big inter-pro games I think are another step up really, and against Munster at Thomond, and then against us at the RDS, he really stood up and showed what he’s capable of.

“With quick ball he can be devastating, so it’s up to us to try to provide that platform for him.”

UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 10: All Black Christian Cullen against England in the Rugby World Cup pool match at Twickenham, Saturday. The All Blacks won 3016. (Photo by Ross Setford/Getty Images)

Larmour has been compared to All Blacks great Christian Cullen.

Former New Zealand star Cullen in fact won the first of his 58 All Blacks caps in 1996, with Larmour born the following year: but Rugby‘s fast-revolving generations have caught the current Ireland squad off guard this week.

Larmour’s destructive best has caught the rest of the Irish provinces cold as Leinster have conjured fine, extended form under ex-England boss Stuart Lancaster.

And now Best believes the fast-improving back-three flier has all the credentials to succeed on the international stage.

Best even revealed the young star’s raw pace can be seen at a walk, when Ireland run build moves from the ground up in training.

“I think we’ve seen quite a bit of him over the years coming in, to fill a spot, and now all the other provinces in some shape or form have been affected by him over the last few months,” said Best.

“Even just the change of pace he has in a walk-through that sounds ridiculous, he’s just a very exciting talent.

“It’s massive for him to get his debut, and for him to do it for the first time, he’s massively deserving of being in the squad.

“He’s quiet, but you just know, there’s always at least one guy to walk in, they may not fill the room with their presence with how vocal they are – but this guy has time on the ball, and he makes what I would find very difficult things look very easy.”

Ireland (15-1): R Kearney; K Earls, R Henshaw, B Aki, J Stockdale; J Sexton, C Murray; J Conan, D Leavy, P O’Mahony; D Toner, I Henderson, T Furlong, R Best (c), J McGrath. Reps: S Cronin, C Healy, A Porter, Q Roux, CJ Stander, K Marmion, J Carbery, J Larmour.

Italy (15-1): M Minozzi; T Benvenuti, T Boni, T Castello, M Bellini; T Allan, M Violi; S Parisse (c), B Steyn, S Negri; D Budd, A Zanni, S Ferrari, L Bigi, N Quaglio. Reps: L Ghiraldini, A Lovotti, T Pasquali, F Ruzza, M Mbanda, E Gori, C Canna, J Hayward.

Referee: Romain Poite (FRA);

Venue: Aviva Stadium;

Kick-off: 16:15;

Live on beIN Sports

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