A record comeback and a last-gasp match-winning try made for an exciting opening weekend of the Women's Six Nations with Ireland claiming the first try-bonus point to top the table from fellow victors England and Wales.

Two of those come face to face in the weekend's opening match when world champions England tackle Wales at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday lunchtime, while Ireland will wrap up the action on Sunday against Italy in L'Aquila.

Defending Six Nations champions France and Scotland meet in between with both seeking to bounce back from opening losses.


With Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 only six months away, for defending champions England, France, Ireland, Italy and Wales the Six Nations takes on extra significance as part of their preparations for the showpiece event in Ireland from 9-26 August.


England coach Simon Middleton has named an unchanged squad for their second round match against Wales in Cardiff, meaning second-row Tamara Taylor will join the rugby centurions' club with her 100th test since her debut against New Zealand in October 2005.

The Red Roses scored 26 unanswered points in the second-half to beat France at Twickenham in their opening match and Middleton insists it is "essential this week that we don't leave that performance until the second-half" in round two against a Welsh side who sit below them on point differential after a 20-8 victory over Italy.

"Wales come into the game on a roll having built a run of five wins from five," Middleton said. "They are a tough side to play at home but we are confident in our preparation and the quality of the 23 players we are sending out on Saturday."

Wales coach Rowland Phillips has made only one enforced change to his starting line-up with Shona Powell-Hughes ruled out through injury, Alisha Butchers stepping in from the bench on the blindside with Sioned Harries moving across to fill the number eight jersey vacated by Powell-Hughes. Nia Elen Davies comes onto the bench.

"Women's rugby is growing from strength to strength in this country. That's reflected in the growing fan base," said Rowlands. "As a national side we're still improving, but playing the world champions in the capital city this weekend will be another great step in our development."

In brief

  • Wales won the last meeting between the sides on Welsh soil in the 2015 Championship (pictured) – 13-0 at St Helen's with Catrin Edwards and Laurie Harries the try scorers that day
  • Wales have won their last five matches, although only the win over Italy was a test match
  • England completed the biggest comeback in Women's Six Nations history in round one, turning a 13-0 half-time deficit into a 26-13 win over France
  • Cardiff Arms Park was the venue for the inaugural Women's Rugby World Cup final back in 1991, a match which England lost 19-6 against the USA
  • This will be Wales' first competitive match at Cardiff Arms Park since it was announced as their official home late last year.

Rankings predictor

With seven places and 12.14 rating points separating the two teams in the rankings, England can only improve their rating by a maximum of 0.13 points with an emphatic victory at Cardiff Arms Park. Wales will climb above the USA into eighth if they beat the world champions, a result which will see the Red Roses surrender their second place to Canada. To climb more than one they must win by more than 15 points and Ireland lose to Italy in L'Aquila by the same margin. The Welsh will fall one if they lose and Italy then upset WRWC 2017 hosts Ireland on Sunday.


France coach Sam Cherouk has kept faith with his starting line-up that surrendered a 13-0 half-time advantage to lose their opening match against England at Twickenham, making only two changes to his bench with Marine Ménager – the sister of flanker Romane  – replacing the suspended Caroline Boujard and Annaëlle Deshayes coming in for Arkya Aït Labib.

Scotland, seeking to end a seven-year winless run in the Six Nations, have made only one change to the side which suffered heartbreak at the death against Ireland in the Championship's opening match last Friday. Coach Shade Munro welcomes Lana Skeldon back to the starting XV at hooker in place of the injured Rachel Malcolm.

"The players stepped up last week and really took it to Ireland for the whole 80 minutes. While we were disappointed to lose to Ireland, the players walked off with confidence and belief that they can compete on this stage," insisted Munro. "The focus for this week is to build on our performance."

In brief

  • Scotland's last Six Nations victory was against France on 6 February, 2010 when they won 10-8 at Hawthornden.
  • Jade Kronkel scored two tries in last weekend's loss to Ireland – the first Scottish player to score a brace since Lucy Millard did in that last Six Nations win
  • The 15 points scored by Scotland in the last-gasp loss to Ireland was their most in a Six Nations match since scoring the same against France in 2008
  • France haven't lost a match on home soil since an 18-16 loss to Canada in the Women's Rugby World Cup 2014 semi-finals at the Stade Jean Bouin
  • This will be the first women's international to be held in La Rochelle

Rankings predictor

France cannot improve their rating, regardless of the margin of victory – a consequence of the 18.33 rating points separating the sides. Les Bleues will lose a minimum of two rating points with defeat, but will only fall from fourth if they lose by more than 15 points or Ireland win by the same margin in Italy. Scotland could gain as many as three points with an emphatic victory of France, but even that would not be enough to lift them above South Africa into 12th. 

ITALY (10) v IRELAND (5)

Hannah Tyrrell will make a rapid switch from sevens to 15s after being named on the wing for Ireland's visit to Italy, only days after returning from Sydney where she helped Ireland reach only their second Cup quarter-final since the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series began in 2012-13.

The only other change to the starting line-up that scraped past Scotland in round one is the promotion of Elaine Anthony from the bench into the second row alongside Marie-Louise Reilly. 

The Azzurre have made only one change to their starting line-up for their second home match of 2017, Maria Magatti stepping off the bench on the wing with Sofia Stefani moving to inside-centre in place of Paola Zangirolami who drops to the replacements. 

In brief

  • Italy's only win against Ireland came in their first meeting, in Nice in 1997
  • Ireland won last year's encounter 14-3 at Donnybrook in Dublin
  • Ireland won 30-5 when the sides last met on Italian soil in the 2015 Championship
  • Stadio Tommaso Fattori will host its first ever women's test match 
  • Ireland secured their first Six Nations Grand Slam in 2013 by beating Italy 6-3 in Parabiago, Niamh Briggs kicking their two penalties that day

Rankings predictor

Ireland will slip to a new low of sixth if they suffer defeat to Italy with their WRWC 2017 pool opponents Australia the beneficiaries. They could gain as many as 1.26 rating points with a win by more than 15 points, but that won't be enough to improve their position unless France lose heavily to Scotland. Italy can't slip from 10th even with defeat given the 7.39 point cushion they enjoy over Samoa, but can climb two places if they win and Wales lose to England.