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Watch the NatWest 6 Nations Championship on NBC Sports Gold

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The opening round of the NatWest 6 Nations Championship kicks off on Saturday. England will look to defend last year’s championship in the 19th series.

France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales will look to take England down throughout the five rounds of play, concluding in March. The tournament will continue to use the bonus point format that was used last year. Each match can be seen on the NBC Sports Gold Rugby Pass.

See the Full Schedule | Learn more about NBC Sports Gold Rugby Pass

Wales v. Scotland Preview:

Scotland’s victory over Wales in last year’s Championship snapped a 10-year losing streak against their old enemy. Now they head to Cardiff looking to break an even longer drought – not since 2002 have the Scots descended on the Welsh capital and emerged victorious.

France v. Ireland Preview:

Saturday evening in Paris brings a clash of contrasts. A new-look France under Jacques Brunel take on a settled Ireland side who have been hit the least hard by injuries of any of the home nations.

Italy v. England Preview:

Reigning champions England travel to Italy to kick-off their NatWest 6 Nations which could conclude with an historic third straight Championship success. However, they face five nations desperate to knock them off their perch starting with Italy who welcome the Red Rose to the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

NatWest 6 Nations fantasy update

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In the first of two NatWest 6 Nations Fantasy Rugby specials, we’re looking at the forwards who have impressed so far in the Championship.

After two thrilling rounds of the NatWest 6 Nations, England and Ireland are both unbeaten with Wales and Scotland breathing down their necks with one win each.

Just like the Championship, the fantasy rugby is also heating up with the third week set to be decisive as the quest for supremacy continues.

Hookers

Ireland captain Rory Best leads the way amongst the hookers after captaining Ireland to victories over France and Italy in the opening two rounds.

Best’s points are boosted by a try with England skipper Dylan Hartley not far behind followed by Wales’ Ken Owens and France’s Guilhem Guirado.

See the Full 6 Nations Schedule

Owens is the cheapest hooker amongst the top five performers to date with England’s Jamie George closing in on Hartley despite coming on as a replacement in both games.

Rory Best (14.60) – 67
Dylan Hartley (13.95) – 44.4
Ken Owens (11.55) – 39
Guilhem Guirado (14.35) – 37.6
Jamie George (13.80) – 34.6

Props

England’s start props Mako Vunipola and Dan Cole are the highest scorers here with the former’s 30 tackles and 21 metres carried helping him to top the rankings.

Ireland’s Jack McGrath and Andrew Porter are both cheaper and have scored strong points from their opening two games with Rob Evans offering good value at 11.50 stars.

Mako Vunipola (14.75) – 73.6
Dan Cole (14.15) – 52.8
Jack McGrath (13.00) – 43.6
Andrew Porter (12.70) – 40.4
Rob Evans (11.50) – 33.8

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Lock

The locks continue to offer exciting value to Fantasy Rugby players with Joe Launchbury’s 29 tackles and two defenders beaten putting him at the top here.

England teammate Maro Itoje is a close second with Aaron Shingler, the cheapest option of the five, in third after making 85 meters in the first two games.

Courtney Lawes is a point further back, but much more expensive, with Iain Henderson also offering good value after picking up 55.8 points so far in the Championship.

Joe Launchbury (14.85) – 76.2
Maro Itoje (16.35) – 74.8
Aaron Shingler (13.45) – 69.6
Courtney Lawes (15.05) – 68.2
Iain Henderson (14.25) – 55.8

Loose forwards

Two tries on his NatWest 6 Nations debut has helped Sam Simmonds to the top of the loose forwards but he’s been ruled out of Round Three.

That could see Chris Robshaw selected by more players with a trio of Irish offering value ahead of the visit of Wales to Dublin this weekend.

Sam Simmonds (17.15) – 110.6
Chris Robshaw (14.80) – 75.2
Sean O’Mahony (14.65) – 74.8
Dan Leavy (11.35) – 59.4
CJ Stander (15.35) – 58.6

France’s Morgan Parra to undergo knee surgery, miss rest of 6 Nations

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Clermont Auvergne has reportedly confirmed France scrum-half Morgan Parra will miss the remainder of the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations Championship. The Frenchman is set undergo arthroscopic surgery for a torn meniscus he sustained last month.

Parra, 29, was initially prescribed three weeks of rest following the injury. He is now expected to be out four-to-six weeks before shifting his focus to Clermont’s Champions Cup.

France, seeking their first 6 Nations Championship title, opened their campaign with losses to Ireland and Scotland in the first two rounds.

Action will resume with Round Three on Friday, Feb. 23. Every match can be seen with NBC Sports Gold Rugby Pass.

See the Full Schedule | Watch 6 Nations with NBC Sports Gold Rugby Pass