Rugby evening headlines as Sexton tips England to beat France and Shane Williams names six Wales stars who’ve made ‘huge strides’

Here are the rugby evening headlines on Sunday, March 13.

Shane’s six of the best for Wales

Wales legend Shane Williams has named six Welsh forwards he feels have made enormous strides during the Six Nations.

It’s been a disappointing campaign for Wayne Pivac’s side, who sit one place off the bottom after three defeats from four.

That was not what Wales anticipated in the defense of the title they won last year.

But record try scorer Shane reckons there have been significant pluses in a new-look pack shorn of veterans like Alun Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and Justin Tipuric through the campaign.

Williams pinpointed half a dozen Welsh forwards who he believes have stood out and offer promise for the future.

“Will Rowlands, Gareth Thomas, Seb Davies, Dewi Lake, Taine Basham and Jac Morgan have made huge strides up front this season,” he wrote in a Rugby Paper column.

“There are others who have also put their hands up behind the scrum. The task is to combine the two to become more effective.

“Saturday is the chance to do that, while the three-Test tour of South Africa this summer will be a step into a different world.”

Wales wind up the tournament at home to Italy when anything less than racking up the points will be seen as a failure.

The Italians have lost 36 Six Nations matches in a row.

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McGeechan – Italy head to Cardiff with ‘warm glow’

Coaching great Sir Ian McGeechan is warning Italy are heading to Cardiff with a ‘warm glow’ ahead of Wales’ Six Nations final at the Principality Stadium.

Dan Biggar and his team are expected to romp to a comfortable victory as they seek to round off a disappointing tournament by running in the tries in front of their own fans.

But McGeechan insists the Azzurri will be arriving in a confident mood, despite slumping to that 36th straight tournament defeat when Scotland won 33-22 at the weekend.

“I thought that there was much to like in what Italy did, and although they were clearly second best in some aspects of the game – their kick-chase was much inferior to Scotland’s for instance – in many regards they held up well,” McGeechan wrote in his Telegraph column.

“In the first half in particular, Italy did a lot of good things but got hit on the counter. A lot of that comes down to a lack of experience, a lack of patience and a desperation to make things happen, even when it maybe was not on. Scotland, on the other hand, showed their experience and were adept at pulling Italy around until the spaces arose.

“But it will be Italy who leave with warm glow after scoring two well-executed tries in the last quarter. It will give them hope of better days to come as they prepare for their trip to Cardiff.”

Sexton backs England to beat France

Johnny Sexton has backed England to “do some real damage” against Grand Slam-chasing France and assist Ireland’s quest for Six Nations title.

Andy Farrell’s men kept themselves in contention going into the final round of the championship courtesy of a pulsating 32-15 bonus-point win at Twickenham.

Victory over Scotland next weekend in Dublin will guarantee the Triple Crown, but Irish dreams of topping the final standings are reliant on England avoiding defeat to Les Bleus in Paris.

Ireland captain Sexton has great belief that Eddie Jones’ men – who played the majority of Saturday’s game a man down following Charlie Ewels’ red card after just 82 seconds – can do them a major favour.

“I think England have a great chance of winning next week, like they always do, because England are England, they’re one of the most dominant teams in world rugby,” said the fly-half.

“They were in the World Cup final only a couple of years ago, they’re building a new team and they’ve had some big performances themselves over the last six, seven months, beating South Africa and Australia in November.

“I think England could go and do some real damage to France next week.”

He continued: “We’ve got a chance to win a Triple Crown at home, in the Aviva. We’ve very rarely had a chance to play for something in the Aviva in front of our home crowd. Often when we have it’s been away from home.

“Already in the dressing room, we’re very focused on what’s ahead of us.”

Sexton was pictured in conversation with rival number 10 Smith following Ireland’s crucial weekend win.

Asked about the exchange, he replied: “It’s the first time I’ve played against him, so I just congratulated him on controlling the game really well with 14 men and said best of luck next week and I hope that he wins.

“He’s a great player and he’s got a huge career ahead of him.”

Wales-handed Six Nations warning

Wales will never win the Six Nations title again if South Africa are permitted to join, according to former Scotland boss Matt Williams.

The same message applies to Ireland and Scotland, he feels, as talk about the Springboks taking Italy’s place resurface.

Williams says of the Azzurri’s losing streak: “On the evidence, it’ll be another 36 games before they win a game in the Six Nations.

“Unless there’s fundamental change, the drumbeat for South Africa to be in this is going to get louder.”

However, he warned it would become a straight shootout every year between South Africa, England and France, with Wales, Ireland and Scotland the also-rans.

“If South Africa come into this, the Celtic countries will not face winning the competition again,” Williams said.

“That cannot happen. The Welsh, the Irish, and the Scots cannot enter into a competition that is traditionally theirs, where they say, ‘the chances of you winning this in the future are almost nil’.”

READ THE FULL STORY HERE

Cardiff fall to South Africans

Cardiff are still without an away win after they fell to a 37-20 United Rugby Championship defeat in Johannesburg against the Lions on Sunday afternoon.

The re-arranged match was in effect over by the end of the first quarter, with Cardiff already losing 24-6.

Aled Summerhill and James Botham scored tries, but Cardiff were always chasing the game and the task proved too much.

The Scarlets had lost to the Sharks on Friday night, Dwayne Peel’s men left to rue missed chances.

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