Battle lines drawn ahead of Six Nations, Man City into League Cup final

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Oliver Burke scored twice on his Celtic debut against St Mirren. Photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty

Oliver Burke scored twice on his Celtic debut against St Mirren. Photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty

The 2019 Six Nations starts a week tomorrow, and battle lines were drawn at the official launch of the tournament in London yesterday. The opening weekend sees Wales travel to play France on Friday February 1st before Ireland welcome England to Dublin on Saturday February 2nd - and boss Joe Schmidt has said his side will be braced for a brutal afternoon at the Aviva Stadium: “It will be huge for us, particularly with what’s happened in the last couple of years and even in terms of what Eddie [JONES]said recently, ‘if you want to go to Ireland and get a win you’re going to have to deliver a brutality’. So I think we’re pretty well primed. We need to be primed anyway for what will be a really physical encounter.” Schmidt - who is heading into his final championship as Ireland coach - also ruled himself out of contention for the All Blacks job, which will become vacant after the Rugby World Cup: “We’ve got a couple of projects that are family-related that we want to work our way through. And I don’t spend a lot of time at home already so I think it’s probably high time I did.”

Elsewhere in today’s rugby statistics column John O’Sullivan has looked at the recent accuracy of Joey Carbery off the tee, with the Munster outhalf dead-eyed since a difficult afternoon away to Castres in the Champions Cup last December. He writes: “Since then Carbery has kicked five from five against Leinster and Connacht respectively, seven from seven in the win over Gloucester at Kingsholm and three from three against the Chiefs.” 20 on the bounce for Carbery - not a bed return.

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