5 talking points ahead of the weekend’s Six Nations action

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The Guinness Six Nations returns this week after a weekend off, with France and Wales leading the way.

England are aiming to stop a Welsh Triple Crown in Cardiff, while Scotland visit coronavirus-hit France and Ireland seek to kick-start their campaign away to fellow strugglers Italy.

Here, the PA news agency examines five talking points ahead of the on-field action.

Double Gloucester on tasty Cardiff menu

Jonny May and Louis Rees-Zammit
Jonny May and Louis Rees-Zammit go head-to-head (Jane Barlow/David Davies/PA)

Farrell form in spotlight

England v Scotland – Guinness Six Nations – Twickenham Stadium
England captain Owen Farrell has faced criticism for his opening two Six Nations performances (David Davies/PA)

Ireland seeking Rome rally

The Farrell household has not had any cheer across the Irish Sea, with Ireland having lost their opening two Six Nations fixtures for the first time. There was always going to be scrutiny on coach Andy Farrell after Ireland finished third in the championship last year and Irish Rugby Football Union performance director David Nucifora described the season as an “average return”. Losing Peter O’Mahony to an early red card in Cardiff did not help, but the 15-13 home defeat to France has piled the pressure on Farrell ahead of the trip to Italy. Ireland have lost only once to the Azzurri in the Six Nations – 22-15 in 2013 – and, while defeat is unlikely given Italy’s dreadful recent record, a big performance is a must.

Covid-19 outbreak impact on France

France have looked the real deal in topping the championship after two rounds. Full of flair and ruthless in blowing away Italy, defensively sound against Ireland as Shaun Edwards’ training-ground drills paid dividends. But it will be a new-look France against Scotland on Sunday following a serious Covid-19 outbreak in Les Bleus’ squad. Head coach Fabien Galthie and his assistant William Servat are among those affected, so too captain Charles Ollivon and star scrum-half Antoine Dupont among 10 players. The good news for France is they have some serious depth, but the disruption still hands Scotland a golden opportunity to get back in the title race by claiming a first win in Paris since 1999.

Can Scotland keep cool?

Scotland v Wales – Guinness Six Nations – BT Murrayfield Stadium
Prop Zander Fagerson was sent off against Wales as Scotland’s indiscipline proved decisive at Murrayfield (Jane Barlow/PA)

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