Can Scotland maintain momentum? 5 things to watch in round two of Six Nations

Andrew Baldock, PA Rugby Union Correspondent

Highs and lows abounded during a gripping opening weekend of Six Nations action, and there promises to be no let-up in round two.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the items that could feature on another busy agenda.

Eddie Jones ready to make changes?

Bristol Bears v Newcastle Falcons – Gallagher Premiership – Ashton Gate
Could Harry Randall make his England debut against Italy? (Adam Davy/PA)

Jones’ England have been criticised from pillar to post following an abject display in their Six Nations opener against Calcutta Cup conquerors Scotland. An 11-6 scoreline did no justice to Scotland’s dominance, and England could not have quibbled had it been a 20-point defeat. Italy are next up at Twickenham, when England could probably field a fourth XV and still win comfortably, given the Azzurri’s current state, but that is hardly the point. Does Jones say ‘same again’ in selection and give his flops a chance for redemption, or does he shake things up? Max Malins, Paolo Odogwu, Harry Randall, George Ford and Ben Earl are among those waiting for an opportunity.

Desperate Italy all over the place

There are some that dismiss all notion of Six Nations promotion and relegation, but Italy are doing a pretty good job of convincing the most ardent doubters. Their latest crushing defeat – 50-10 against France in Rome – was Italy’s 28th successive loss in the tournament, and they have not claimed a Six Nations victory since 2015. Now they visit England, where 10 previous Twickenham trips in the tournament have produced 10 defeats and an average scoreline of 43-12. A promotion and relegation play-off against the best of the rest – Georgia – is long overdue because Italy’s apologists need to wake up and smell the coffee.

Caps century beckons for George North

In some respects, it seems like only yesterday that North burst on to the international scene as a fresh-faced teenager and scored two tries during a memorable Wales debut against South Africa. That was more than 10 years ago, and next weekend, when Wales tackle Scotland at Murrayfield, North is poised to win his 100th cap at the age of 28 – becoming only the sixth Welshman to achieve that feat for his country after Alun Wyn Jones, Gethin Jenkins, Stephen Jones, Gareth Thomas and Martyn Williams. North has scored 41 Wales tries, a total only bettered by Shane Williams, while one touchdown against Scotland would see him equal Williams’ Welsh Six Nations record of 22 touchdowns. It has been some career.

Power of Scotland

Scotland have never won the Guinness Six Nations, but could a new name be engraved on the trophy this year? It is way too early to make bold predictions – and the Scots’ remaining games include a tough Paris appointment with France – but the manner of their victory over England at Twickenham suggests big things ahead. The Scots had star performers everywhere, from skipper Stuart Hogg at full-back to workaholic flanker Hamish Watson, while the game plan was all impressively weaved together by head coach Gregor Townsend. They need to lift it again against Wales in game two, but confidence and momentum is everything in sport.

Ireland up against it

Wales v Ireland – Guinness Six Nations – Principality Stadium
Referee Wayne Barnes sends off Ireland flanker Peter O’Mahony in the defeat against Wales (David Davies/PA)

Ireland went through a whole range of emotions and fortunes in their Six Nations opener against Wales. A promising start unravelled when flanker Peter O’Mahony was sent off, then they lost lock James Ryan when he failed a head injury assessment, but Ireland led 13-11 approaching the hour mark before finally being overhauled. Andy Farrell’s men have no time to lick their wounds, though, with in-form France next up. It is a huge test of mental and physical reserves. Win, and Ireland are back in contention, but defeat would effectively end their title hopes inside the opening two rounds.

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