Keo.co.za brings you the latest news from the Six Nations.
Henson blow for Wales
Gavin Henson has been ruled out of the Six Nations opener against Scotland with a calf injury.
Tom Shanklin will step into the midfield to partner Jamie Roberts as Henson’s much-anticipated comeback is further delayed.
Ospreys centre Andrew Bishop will take Shanklin’s spot on the bench.
Welsh rise inspires Williams
Martyn Williams says Wales’ drive to become a top rugby nation has justified his choice to come out of retirement.
Coach Warren Gatland convinced the flanker to rejoin the Test ranks last season, and at 33 Williams has developed a hunger for greatness.
“It’s not often you get a second chance and I’ve just been real fortunate that I’ve decided [to carry on playing Test rugby].
“At the moment we’re a good side but we’re nowhere near a great side and we all want to be part of that,” he said.
Wales have won the Six Nations title twice in the last four years, but Williams is looking for consistency as a measure of success.
“Last time it kind of felt after we won the Grand Slam as if ‘right, that’s it, we’ve done it’.
“Whereas this time we’ve been constantly reminded we’ve got to kick on, you know we’ve got to improve, we want to be a great side not just a good side.”
Ellis in for England
Harry Ellis is a late replacement for injured scrumhalf Danny Care.
Ellis returns to the England fold after a lengthy injury lay-off and is re-united with former Leicester flyhalf Andy Goode in a half-back pair England hope will fire against Italy on Saturday.
“It’s funny the way this situation has arisen,” Ellis, 26, said. “Goodie has been playing really well and it’s nice to be back involved with him. Hopefully we will click again and forge a good relationship together.”
Meanwhile England defence coach Mike Ford said they took lessons from the efficient breakdown work of South Africa and New Zealand, whom they faced on the 2008 year-end tour.
“The Springboks and All Blacks were sensational at ruck time,” Mike Ford, the England defence coach, said yesterday. “That’s the one area where we seemed way behind. Their clear-out, their ability to win quick ball with a few men, their ability to slow our ball with a few men, that’s where we have implemented systems so we can progress.”
O’Driscoll still hungry
A decade into his Test career Brian O’Driscoll still yearns for more success with Ireland.
The centre turns 30 on 21 January and has achieved a great deal in his career to date. He, however, insists he remains determined to succeed with Ireland.
“I am not happy with three triple crowns and a couple of Magners Leagues. I want to strive for more,” he said. “You get more selfish the older you get and you realise time isn’t on your side. You realise as a younger player, perhaps naively, that there will always be another opportunity. The older you get, the less of those there are.”
O’Driscoll added that he felt Ireland had matured a lot in the last two years and were now better equipped to deal with the challenges and pressure associated with Six Nations rugby.
“We have grown and learnt a lot from that,” O’Driscoll said, referring to to their last minute loss to France in 2007 which destroyed their Grand Slam aspirations. “I would like to think, if we found ourselves in a similar situation, we could deal with it a little better. If we build some momentum then who knows what may happen? It is an open- looking [Six Nations] championship.”
Gatland happy with spotlight
Wales coach Warren Gatland isn’t shying away from their status as favourites.
Wales, who open their campaign against Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday, come into the tournament widely expected to win their third Six Nations title in five years. Gatland stressed that they shouldn’t be fearful of that billing.
“The challenge for us to not run away from that, to embrace that and move forward,” Gatland told reporters.
“If we want to be considered one of the best teams in the world it’s not something that’s going to be unusual, it’s going to be something that’s going to be an expectation for Wales teams in the future.
“It’s a tournament of history, it’s a real tournament of momentum as well. You win one or two games and you can build on that.
“We benefited from that last year. You have got to really hit the ground running, you haven’t got any lead-up so with all those teams it’s making sure you’ve done the preparation and you’re ready to go from day one.”
This thread will be updated throughout the day …