Six Nations Miscellany: Talisman Ryan feeling great and ready to roll in Rome

Townsend gets wish; Gloucester match-up to savour; By the numbers; Word of mouth

The spectre of concussions has haunted this year's Six Nations, with a sobering number of players suffering head injuries and requiring HIA's during the opening two rounds.

Ireland are without Caelan Doris for the rest of the Championship and also had to face France without the totemic James Ryan, who was forced off in the defeat to Wales at the Principality Stadium.

The Irish pack isn’t the same without Ryan leading by example from the engine room, but after a spell on the sidelines the 24-year-old says he is refreshed and ready to return against Italy.

“The doctors didn’t feel like I’d hit my markers in terms of a six-day turnaround,” he said about his recovery. “You’ve a number of markers that you have to get through and they didn’t feel I quite got through them all so it was decided not to make me available for the France game. Last week I was back training and I was feeling good. I feel great now.

“It was early in the week they made the call. It was fine. It’s probably better knowing early in the week than later on, it gives you that clarity, it kind of gives you certainty and a plan. Look, it was fine. It’s part of the game. It’s great to be back and available.”

Townsend gets his wish

Scotland will still be smarting from their defeat to Wales at Murrayfield, a result which brought them back to earth with a bang after their opening round win away to England. It would have infuriated Gregor Townsend even further if this Sunday's match against France in Paris had been cancelled due to a Covid-19 outbreak in the French camp.

Postponing the fixture for a week could have left the Scots without 10 of their frontline players who were scheduled to be released to their clubs, with the Scottish Rugby Union pressing for the game to go ahead.

And on Wednesday afternoon they got their wish, as it was confirmed the match will go ahead, meaning Townsend will have close to a full-strength squad at his disposal.

A Gloucester match-up to savour

Two of the standout moments of the Six Nations so far were provided by Gloucester wingers, Louis Rees-Zammit and Jonny May. Rees-Zammit's score against Scotland was a stirring display of skill and speed, with Stuart Hogg stuck in the mud as he tried to catch the 20-year-old speedster.

May, meanwhile, showed nous and athleticism to dive and score in the left corner against Italy at Twickenham – a visually stunning, if controversial, try. On Saturday the Cherry and White team-mates are likely to line up opposite each other at the Principality Stadium, a match-up to savour.

By the numbers: 100

George North is set to earn his 100th Wales cap on Saturday. He's still only 28.

Word of mouth

At the moment Eddie probably thinks someone has cloned me. The person he thought he had in his team is at home and the other person is here. – England's Billy Vunipola gives a withering assessment of his recent performances.

On this day: February 25th, 2012

Ireland were winless when they met Italy in the third round of the 2012 Six Nations – a defeat to Wales had been followed by their visit to France being postponed due to an unplayable pitch.

Like this year, Ireland desperately needed a big win against the tournament minnows, and duly produced with a 42-10 victory at the Aviva Stadium. Keith Earls opened the scoring in the 15th minute before talisman Sergio Parisse responded for the Azzurri.

There was to be no wobble however, with Tommy Bowe (twice), Tom Court and Andrew Trimble all crossing as Johnny Sexton slotted seven of his eight kicks. Declan Kidney's side would go on to draw with France, beat Scotland and be thrashed 30-9 by England to finish third in the table as Wales won the Grand Slam.