Six Nations news round-up: Ashton banned, Wilson dropped and more
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | January 20, 2016
Ashton suspended for Six Nations
Saracens winger Chris Ashton’s recall to the England rugby union squad was short-lived, as he has incurred a 10-week ban after being cited for and found guilty of making contact with the eyes of an opponent.
Frozen out of the Red Rose setup by Stuart Lancaster, new national head coach Eddie Jones included 28-year-old Ashton on his first roster since taking over the England job, but unless a successful appeal is lodged the player will take no part in the Six Nations.
The incident involving Ashton and Ulster’s Luke Marshall occurred in the first-half of Saracens’ European Champions Cup victory this past weekend.
If any appeal fails, then Jones will have to call up a replacement for his maiden campaign in charge. England’s odds of winning a first Six Nations crown since 2011 remained unaltered at 13/8 with Coral.
Cited Wilson left out by Cotter
Scotland boss Vern Cotter has omitted Glasgow Warriors flanker Ryan Wilson from the Scotland squad after he was also cited for on-field misconduct.
Tim Swinson, who also faces retrospective punishment after throwing a punch in the loss to Northampton Saints, is included by the Tartan team’s head coach, who insists he was leaving Wilson out regardless.
Cotter keeps faith with 24 of the men he took to the Rugby World Cup, but there are maiden call-ups for uncapped prop duo Zander Fagerson and Rory Sutherland.
Scarlets back row John Barclay is an experienced head given a recall, but Fraser Brown, Grant Gilchrist, Henry Pyrgos, Richie Vernon and Jon Welsh are all injured.
Cotter is keeping Edinburgh lock Gilchrist and Warriors scrum half Pyrgos training with the rest of the Scotland squad, though, in the hope either could feature in this Six Nations campaign.
Mark Bennett, Peter Horne, Tommy Seymour and Tim Visser are all included by the Tartan team despite fitness concerns. Scotland are 16/1 shots to win the Six Nations, and build on the improvement they showed at the Rugby World Cup.
Tom James in Wales recall after six years
Cardiff Blues winger Tom James makes a shock return to the Wales fold as Warren Gatland named a familiar looking Dragons roster with only uncapped player included.
A potential Six Nations debut awaits 23-year-old Scarlets scrum half Aled Davies, but he is expected to be behind club teammate Gareth Davies in the Welsh pecking order, following the latter’s try-scoring exploits at the Rugby World Cup this past autumn.
James, 28, last earned a Dragons cap in 2010 and there are also recalls for backs trio Liam Williams, Jonathan Davies and Hallam Amos after injury.
Blues forward Josh Turnbull returns too, but Leigh Halfpenny, Rhys Webb and Scott Williams are all absent. Gatland, who has tipped Ireland for a third successive Six Nations success, keeps faith with 31 of the players he picked for the Rugby World Cup.
“They would like to go in with people writing them off, even though they have won the championship for the last two years,” said the Wales boss of Ireland. “They have to go in as favourites. You write an Irish team off at your peril.”
Regardless of Gatland’s mind games ahead of meeting Joe Schmidt and company in Dublin n February 7th, the Dragons and Ireland are rated equal 3/1 chances by Coral to win the Six Nations.
Best named Ireland skipper
Ulster hooker Rory Best has been named by Schmidt as the successor to Paul O’Connell as Ireland captain. Despite being 33, the front row player will lead his country into the Six Nations and is reported to have beaten Jamie Heaslip and Sean O’Brien to the armband for the first two games of the campaign.
Schmidt has named four uncapped players on his roster for the tournament in Munster captain CJ Stander, Connacht lock Ultan Dillane, Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey and Leinster flanker Josh van der Flier.
Best’s Ulster teammates Andrew Trimble (wing), Luke Marshall (centre) and Rob Herring (hooker) all earn recalls to the Irish roster.
Ireland are without some influential figures through injury, most notably Tommy Bowe, Cian Healy, Iain Henderson, Chris Henry, Peter O’Mahony and Mike Ross. Robbie Henshaw and Jonny Sexton are included, though.
Bastareaud axed from Les Bleus roster
Experienced France centre Mathieu Bastareaud is a high-profile casualty of France’s change of coach. Guy Noves has succeeded Philippe Saint-Andre as Les Bleus boss, and is keen to build a side that looks ahead to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
“We want to build a team who will be able to improve a lot and not taking players who would not be with us in two or three years,” Noves explained when revealing his Six Nations squad.
Toulon hooker Guilhem Guirado has been handed the French captaincy, and there are familiar faces in Les Bleus’ ranks in Toulouse back row Louis Picamoles plus Clermont duo Scott Spedding, Morgan Parra and Wesley Fofana.
France are 11/2 for the Six Nations and an unpredictable force amid their own rebuilding process.