Guinness PRO14 stars gunning for international glory

Rich Dore
14 March 2019

Share this article

It’s another huge weekend for the Guinness PRO14 players in international colours with the final positions to be settled upon and history to be created in the Guinness Six Nations.

Guinness PRO14 players of course dominate the squads of Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy, with the Azzurri first up on Saturday as they host France (kick-off 12:30 GMT).

Wales then chase the title and a potential Grand Slam against Ireland, kicking off at 2.45pm, before England welcome Scotland to Twickenham – here’s all the team news.

Benetton’s Zanon in line for debut as O’Shea changes five

Benetton Rugby and Zebre form the bulk of Italy’s squad to take on France at the Stadio Olimpico, with only Sergio Parisse (Stade Francais), Jake Polledri (Gloucester) and Leonardo Ghiraldini (Toulouse) not coming from the Guinness PRO14.

Benetton’s 21-year-old centre Marco Zanon is in line for a debut wearing No.13 as he comes in for the injured Michele Campagnaro among five changes.

Polledri is in for injured flanker Seb Negri, while Zebre lock David Sisi comes in for Benetton’s Dean Budd.

Ghiraldini comes in for Luca Bigi while Benetton tighthead Tiziano Pasquali is preferred to Simone Ferrari in the front row as Italy look to end their campaign on a high.

Gatland sticks to winning formula

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Warren Gatland’s Wales are certainly in no need of a fix given their excellent Guinness Six Nations campaign so far, where they’ve won four from four and sit atop the table.

With that in mind, Gatland has named an unchanged 23 to face Ireland at Cardiff in what’s shaping up to be a monumental battle, with the visitors also hunting a title.

Liam Williams wins his fitness battle to start at full-back while Ospreys have the biggest contingent in the 23 with seven players – George North, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric all starting

Dragon Ross Moriarty is at No.8 with clubmate Elliot Dee on the bench, there are also three Cardiff Blues men involved and six for Scarlets – Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Gareth Davies, Rob Evans and Ken Owens all from the start.

Ireland’s provinces unite to fight Welsh tide

Joe Schmidt’s Ireland have a huge task ahead of them to overthrow Wales at Principality Stadium but there are not many higher motivating factors than chasing the Guinness Six Nations title.

Leinster will spearhead the challenge in Cardiff and have 10 men included in Schmidt’s 23, with Munster seeing seven men selected, Connacht four and Ulster two.

There are three changes to the team that powered over France in the last round, headed by Munster’s Tadhg Beirne making his Guiness Six Nations bow in place of the injured Iain Henderson at lock.

Leinster’s Rob Kearney returns at full-back while his clubmate Sean O’Brien returns to the flank in place of Josh van der Flier.

Scotland change six for England

Selection and injury issues affect Scotland this week ahead of their clash at Twickenham, with six changes made to the starting XV from the Wales match.

English Premiership men Sean Maitland and Byron McGuigan come into the back-three and are joined by young Edinburgh wing Darcy Graham, who scored against Wales last weekend.

Glasgow Warriors’ Sam Johnson is in at centre in place of clubmate Peter Horne while Edinburgh lock Ben Toolis starts in place of Jonny Gray, who moves to the bench.

Exeter’s Sam Skinner is in the back row and Edinburgh openside Hamish Watson, who produced one of the best impact performances you’ll ever see last week, comes in at No.7.

Share this article