5 talking points ahead of the second weekend of Six Nations action

The Guinness Six Nations moves into its second round of action this weekend in Edinburgh, Rome and London.

Scotland and Ireland meet at Murrayfield, England host France on Sunday, while Wales will look to make it two wins out of two when they face Italy.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at some of the main talking points heading into the games.

Huge pressure on Ireland

Ireland, the reigning Six Nations Grand Slam champions, were beaten by England in Dublin last weekend, and Saturday’s trip to Murrayfield is as much a test of their character as anything else.

Jonny Sexton and his Ireland team-mates fell to defeat at home to England last week (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

They lost only one game in 2018, a set of results that included a victory over New Zealand, and two defeats on the bounce have become a rarity for them during recent times. Injuries have forced head coach Joe Schmidt’s hand in some areas, but he knows his players must stage an immediate recovery act.

Wales are on a roll

Wales, unbeaten against Italy during head coach Warren Gatland’s 11-year reign, arrived in Rome with momentum stacked behind them.

(PA Graphics)

Victory over the Azzurri would make it 11 successive wins against all opponents and match their all-time best set between 1907 and 1910. They are undefeated since the midway point of last season’s Six Nations, and although Gatland has made 10 changes, a performance bristling with confidence and intent can be expected.

England looming for Warren Gatland’s men

The championship appears to be hurtling towards a Cardiff crunch on February 23 when Wales host England. They could both still be unbeaten following the second round of action, setting up what many will view as a potential Grand Slam decider.

Eddie Jones, left, and Warren Gatland, right, will see their sides meet on the pitch on February 23 (John Walton/PA)

There will still be a long way to go in the tournament after that match, yet it already has a feel of silverware stamped all over it. Comprehensive victories for both teams this weekend would do nothing to dispel that belief.

Which France will turn up at Twickenham?

It is the age-old saying with French sides that no-one quite knows what is going to happen with Les Bleus until the day. Nothing has changed. Last Friday’s opener against Wales in Paris was a classic example – 16-0 up and cruising at half-time, then they seemed to reinvent ways of losing a rugby match as Wales stunned them 24-19.

France contributed to their downfall against Wales in their Six Nations opener (David Davies/PA)

Head coach Jacques Brunel has made six changes for the trip to London, including a recall for midfield juggernaut Mathieu Bastareaud, but they could be a proverbial million times better than seven days ago, or a million times worse. Who knows?

England looked rejuvenated in Ireland

There can be little doubt that some of England’s play in Dublin would have stretched even world champions New Zealand to the limit. They dominated for large chunks of that game, setting the tone with a stunning passage of play from kick-off that resulted in wing Jonny May’s try.

England produced a dominant display in Dublin (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

It will be fascinating to see if they can reproduce such brilliance against France. They may not have to in order to win, but their standards suggest there will be no let-up.

- Press Association

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