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Discussion Starter #1
3 matches this weekend, 14-15 Feb.

1st up will be France v Ireland followed by Wales v Scotland. Sunday would see Italy v England.

Review from BBCSport

France v Ireland

Understrength Ireland will face a massive task in Saturday's RBS Six Nations opener against France in Paris.

The Irish go into the game without Brian O'Driscoll which results in Paul O'Connell getting the captaincy.

The absence of Denis Hickie and Geordan Murphy means Gordon D'Arcy and Tyrone Howe are drafted into the backs.

For the French, Jean-Baptiste Elissalde replaces the retired Fabien Galthie at scrum-half while William Servat and Pascal Pape will start in the pack.

Ireland are still reeling from their 43-21 thrashing by the French in the World Cup quarter-finals while France have their own revenge to take after being outplayed by England in Australia.

Both sides will have to do without the services of some of their most celebrated players with Keith Wood having hung up his boots.

On the French side the inspirational Galthie and hooker Raphael Ibanez have also called it a day.

Irish coach Eddie O'Sullivan said the squad felt sick after their World Cup hammering but they could be in for more pain at the Stade de France.

France got a fast start in the World Cup game and the visitors will surely be doing everything in their power to prevent a repetition on Saturday.

Bernard Laporte's side tore into the Irish in the World Cup and the game was over as a contest by half-time.

Laporte has been rearmed with a new four-year contract but a poor Six Nations could see him lose several of his backroom staff, who have been placed on probation.

The French are already looking ahead to a possible Grand Slam decider against England in the final weekend of the Six Nations but that is unlikely to mean that they won't give the Irish full concentration.
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France: N Brusque (Biarritz); V Clerc (Toulouse), Y Jauzion (Toulouse), D Traille (Pau), C Dominici (Stade Francais); F Michalak (Toulouse), J Elissalde (Toulouse); S Marconnet (Stade Francais), W Servat (Toulouse), P De Villiers (Stade Francais), F Pelous (Toulouse, capt), P Pape (Bourgoin), S Betsen (Biarritz), O Magne (Montferrand), I Harinordoquy (Pau).
Replacements: Y Bru (Toulouse), J Crenca (Agen), D Auradou (Stade Francais), T Lievremont (Biarritz), D Yachvili (Biarritz), B Liebenberg (Stade Francais), P Elhorga (Agen).

Ireland: G Dempsey (Leinster); S Horgan (Leinster); K Maggs (Bath); G D'Arcy (Leinster), T Howe (Ulster); R O'Gara (Munster), P Stringer (Munster); R Corrigan (Leinster), S Byrne (Leinster), J Hayes (Munster), M O'Kelly (Leinster), P O'Connell (Leinster) capt, S Easterby (Llanelli), K Gleeson (Leinster), A Foley (Munster).

Replacements: F Sheahan (Munster), S Best (Ulster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), V Costello (Leinster), G Easterby (Rotherham), D Humphreys (Ulster), A Horgan (Munster).
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I pick France to beat Ireland, but it will be a tight game. The home advantage should matter in the end.

paw;)
 

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Discussion Starter #2
France v Ireland stats

FRANCE V IRELAND (STADE DE FRANCE)

Head to Head - All-Time
Played 77
France Won 44
Ireland Won 28
Drawn 5

Biggest wins - France
Points - 45-10 1996
Margin - 44-5 2002

Biggest wins - Ireland
Points - 27-25 2000
Margin - 24-0 1913

France v Ireland at the Stade de France
1998 France 18-16
2000 Ireland 27-25
2002 France 44-5

France v Ireland in the new Millennium
2000 Ireland 27-25
2001 Ireland 22-15
2002 France 44-5
2003 Ireland 15-12

But most importantly: France 43-21 Ireland (RWC03)

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Discussion Starter #3
2nd match up

Wales v Scotland

Wales and Scotland will begin their 2004 Six Nations campaigns when they meet in Cardiff on Saturday.

Steve Hansen's side suffered a late blow when hooker Robin McBryde and lock Robert Sidoli pulled out with injuries.

Scotland start with three new caps, scrum-half Chris Cusiter, flanker Allister Hogg and centre Tom Philip.

The visitors hope to gain revenge for the 23-9 pre-World Cup defeat, while Wales seek their first win in a Championship opener since 1997.

Wales captain Colin Charvis is keen that his side do not get bogged down by the weight of history and the country's heightened anticipation after an encouraging World Cup.

"We have to put history behind us and move on - and that includes our good performances in Australia," Charvis told BBC Sport.

"Playing in France, I've felt the benefit of being away from the Welsh media. We must forget all the baggage and improve from our performances in the World Cup.

"Scotland have a new coach (Matt Williams) and he will bring a breath of fresh air to their game."

Scotland coach Matt Williams says he had no choice but to blood youngsters in the Six Nations cauldron, but insists that his players are up to the job.

"It was essential we brought youth in after losing five backs and two opensides since the last Championship," said Williams.

"These guys have come through a very good system and it's very important we help those guys and give them time.

"We're going to provide them with the opportunity and experience and the only way they can get better is if they go out and play in that arena. I have confidence in these guys."

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Wales: G Thomas (Warriors); R Williams (Blues), S Parker (Warriors), I Harris (Blues), S Williams (Ospreys); S Jones (Scarlets), G Cooper (Warriors); D Jones (Ospreys), M Davies (Warriors), A Jones (Ospreys), G Llewellyn (Ospreys), B Cockbain (Warriors), C Charvis (Tarbes), M Williams (Blues), D Jones (Scarlets).
Replacements: T Shanklin (Blues), C Sweeney (Warriors), D Peel (Scarlets), G Jenkins (Warriors), H Bennett (Ospreys), M Owen (Dragons), J Thomas (Ospreys).

Scotland: B Hinshelwood (Worcester); S Danielli (Bath), T Philip (Edinburgh), B Laney (Edinburgh), A Henderson (Glasgow); C Paterson (Edinburgh, capt), C Cusiter (Borders); T Smith (Northampton), G Bulloch (Glasgow), B Douglas (Borders), S Murray (Edinburgh), S Grimes (Newcastle), C Mather (Glasgow), S Taylor (Edinburgh), A Hogg (Edinburgh).
Replacements: R Russell (Saracens), G Kerr (Leeds), J White (Sale), S Cross (Edinburgh), M Blair (Edinburgh), D Parks (Glasgow), S Webster (Edinburgh).

Referee: Donal Courtney (Ireland).
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I pick plucky Wales to edge out Scotland in this contest.

paw;)
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Match stats: Wales v Scotland

WALES v SCOTLAND (CARDIFF)

Head to Head - All-Time
Played 108
Wales won 58
Scotland won 47
Drawn 3

Biggest wins - Wales
Points - 35-12 1972
Margin - 35-12 1972, 29-6 1994

Biggest wins - Scotland
Points & Margin - 35-10 1924

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Result: Wales 23-10 Scotland

Scorers:

Wales:

Tries: Williams (2), Jones
Cons: Jones
Pens: Jones (2)

Scotland:
Tries: Taylor
Cons: Paterson
Drop goals: Paterson
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Just merged some threads.

France, as expected, had too much to overcome the Irish. Once again, the Irish backline looks too flat against the classy French, led by the creativity of Michalak. Once again, the Irish looks a shade poorer than the French. But overall, it was an entertaining game with lots of very good expansive and running rugby.

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Discussion Starter #10
Courtesy of BBCSport

France 35-17 Ireland

France: 35
Tries: Clerc, Pape, Jauzion, Elissalde
Cons: Michalak (3)
Pens: Michalak (3)

Ireland: 17
Tries: Foley, Howe
Cons: O'Gara (2)
Pens: O'Gara

France cruised to a comfortable win against Ireland in the RBS Six Nations.

The Irish were only 11-10 down five minutes into the second half but France then produced a devastating 14-point burst to stretch clear.

Vincent Clerc, Pascal Pape, Yannick Jauzion and Jean-Baptiste Elissalde scored the hosts' tries, with Frederic Michalak kicking 15 points.

Ireland's tries came from Anthony Foley and Tyrone Howe, with Ronan O'Gara kicking their other points.

When the two sides met in the World Cup France destroyed Ireland's hopes within the first 20 minutes and the visitors came out determined not to let the same happen again.

The fired-up Irish dominated territory for the opening quarter, but all they had to show for their efforts was a fifth-minute O'Gara penalty as they produced a series of threatening attacks but could not break the French defence.

France finally got on the board after 20 minutes when Michalak succeeded with his second penalty attempt and five minutes later Les Bleus scored the first try of the game.

Damien Traille splintered the Irish midfield with a slashing break and Toulouse flyer Clerc crossed in the corner.

Michalak, whose kicking game fell apart against England in the World Cup semi-final, made a total mess of the conversion, but he added a penalty after half an hour to give France an 11-3 lead at the break.

To their credit Ireland hit back four minutes into the second half as Foley profited from good work by O'Gara to rumble over for a converted try but the score only succeeded in sparking France into life.

They stretched away again as the debutant second row Pape scored under the posts after a searing Nicolas Brusque counter-attack and within minutes they had their third try as Jauzion sauntered over.

With Michalak converting both tries and adding a penalty France were home and dry at 28-10 with 20 minutes to play.

It looked ominous for the Irish but they once again lifted their game and scored their second try when Howe wriggled over, with O'Gara converting.

But the final word went to France as Michalak converted Elissalde's try after the French had produced a trademark counter-attack.

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France: N Brusque (Biarritz); V Clerc (Toulouse), Y Jauzion (Toulouse), D Traille (Pau), C Dominici (Stade Francais); F Michalak (Toulouse), J Elissalde (Toulouse); S Marconnet (Stade Francais), W Servat (Toulouse), P De Villiers (Stade Francais), F Pelous (Toulouse, capt), P Pape (Bourgoin), S Betsen (Biarritz), O Magne (Montferrand), I Harinordoquy (Pau).

Replacements: Y Bru (Toulouse), J Crenca (Agen), D Auradou (Stade Francais), T Lievremont (Biarritz), D Yachvili (Biarritz), B Liebenberg (Stade Francais), P Elhorga (Agen).

Ireland: G Dempsey (Leinster); S Horgan (Leinster); K Maggs (Bath); G D'Arcy (Leinster), T Howe (Ulster); R O'Gara (Munster), P Stringer (Munster); R Corrigan (Leinster), S Byrne (Leinster), J Hayes (Munster), M O'Kelly (Leinster), P O'Connell (Leinster) capt, S Easterby (Llanelli), K Gleeson (Leinster), A Foley (Munster).

Replacements: F Sheahan (Munster), S Best (Ulster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), V Costello (Leinster), G Easterby (Rotherham), D Humphreys (Ulster), A Horgan (Munster).
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From BBCSport

Wales 23-10 Scotland

MATCH DETAILS

Wales: (18) 23
Tries: Williams (2), A Jones
Con: S Jones
Pens: S Jones (2)

Scotland: (3) 10
Try: Taylor
Con: Paterson
Drop goal: Paterson

Wales made a promising start to their RBS Six Nations campaign with a convincing win over Scotland.

Wing Rhys Williams bagged a brace of tries, prop Adam Jones also went over and Stephen Jones grabbed eight points.

In response, Scotland could only manage a try from Simon Taylor and five points from Chris Paterson.

The hosts led 18-3 at the break after some dazzling back play and sealed the win over their shell-shocked visitors early in the second half.

Wales, looking to build on an impressive World Cup, assumed control from the outset and took just three minutes to show Scotland they meant business.

Iestyn Harris' half break fed full-back Gareth Thomas before openside Martyn Williams supplied Rhys Williams to fly over in the corner.

Scotland, not yet aware of what was to come, hit back and stayed in touch through Paterson's drop goal.

The Scots were further boosted when Stephen Jones, who earlier converted Williams' try, missed a simple penalty attempt in front of the posts after 11 minutes.

But Wales continued to press and another flowing back move, sparked by Rhys Williams at acting stand-off, sent frizzy-haired prop Adam Jones over in the left corner.

Scotland managed to stem the red tide briefly but Wales launched another scintillating attack minutes later from their own 22, only for Thomas' score to be ruled illegal after crossing.

And the home side maintained their momentum with a Stephen Jones penalty to lead 15-3 after 25 minutes.

The Scots enjoyed their best spell in the second period of the first half, with a Simon Danielli break setting up a series of promising phases.

But they opted to run a penalty in Wales' 22 and came away pointless after Gareth Cooper cleared.

Seconds later, Wales increased their advantage with a Stephen Jones penalty before the half-time whistle was blown.

Wales came out in equally-determined fashion after the break, and soon had a Shane Williams try disallowed for a foot in touch before Rhys Williams made amends after a flowing move from a scrum on the right.

With the game more or less won Wales slacked off and Scotland had a chance to enjoy some possession, spurred on by young scrum-half Chris Cusiter.

The visitors spurned an attacking scrum several metres out inside the last 10 minutes, but after some late pressure number eight Taylor went over for a consolation.

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Wales: G Thomas (Warriors); R Williams (Blues), S Parker (Warriors), I Harris (Blues), S Williams (Ospreys); S Jones (Scarlets), G Cooper (Warriors); D Jones (Ospreys), M Davies (Warriors), A Jones (Ospreys), G Llewellyn (Ospreys), B Cockbain (Warriors), C Charvis (Tarbes), M Williams (Blues), D Jones (Scarlets).
Replacements: T Shanklin (Blues), C Sweeney (Warriors), D Peel (Scarlets), G Jenkins (Warriors), H Bennett (Ospreys), M Owen (Dragons), J Thomas (Ospreys).

Scotland: B Hinshelwood (Worcester); S Danielli (Bath), T Philip (Edinburgh), B Laney (Edinburgh), A Henderson (Glasgow); C Paterson (Edinburgh, capt), C Cusiter (Borders); T Smith (Northampton), G Bulloch (Glasgow), B Douglas (Borders), S Murray (Edinburgh), S Grimes (Newcastle), C Mather (Glasgow), S Taylor (Edinburgh), A Hogg (Edinburgh).
Replacements: R Russell (Saracens), G Kerr (Leeds), J White (Sale), S Cross (Edinburgh), M Blair (Edinburgh), D Parks (Glasgow), S Webster (Edinburgh).

Referee: Donal Courtney (Ireland).
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paw;)
 

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Third game of the week.

From BBCSport

Italy v England

England play their first competitive match since becoming world champions when they play Italy in Rome in the RBS Six Nations on Sunday.

England will go into the match without retired captain Martin Johnson and injured fly-half Jonny Wilkinson.

But the reigning Six Nations champions should still run out easy winners.

The Italians have a much-improved side but they have only ever won twice since joining the Six Nations and failed to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.

Italy have been boosted by the return to fitness of Santiago Dellappe and Denis Dallan.

Full-back Mirco Bergamasco is also in coach John Kirwan's squad but has to settle for a place on the bench.

Italy will be lead by flanker Andrea De Rossi because of scrum-half Alessandro Troncon's absence.

Calvisano's Paul Griffen will make his Test debut in place of Troncon.

England will have Paul Grayson deputising for Wilkinson at fly-half while number eight Lawrence Dallaglio captains the World Cup winners.

Danny Grewcock fills Johnson's boots at lock while flanker Joe Worsley comes in for Neil Back.

Scrum-half Matt Dawson is replaced by Gloucester's Andy Gomarsall while Jason Robinson moves from wing to centre.

Bath's Iain Balshaw is given the chance to reignite his international career as he comes in at full-back, with Josh Lewsey on the wing.

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Teams:

Italy:
A Masi (Viadana); N Mazzucato (Calvisano), C Stoica (Montpellier), M Dallan (Treviso), D Dallan (Treviso); R Wakarua (Brescia), P Griffen (Calvisano); A Lo Cicero (Lazio), F Ongaro (Treviso), M Castrogiovanni (Calvisano), S Dellape (Treviso), M Bortolami (Padova), A De Rossi (Calvisano, capt); A Persico (Leeds), S Parisse (Treviso).
Replacements: S Perugini (Calvisano), C Festuccia (SKG Gran Parma), C Checchinato (Treviso), Silvio Orlando (Treviso), S Picone (Treviso), R De Marigny (Overmach Parma), M Bergamasco (Stade Francais).

England:
I Balshaw (Bath); J Lewsey (Wasps), W Greenwood (Harlequins), J Robinson (Sale Sharks), B Cohen (Northampton); P Grayson (Northampton), A Gomarsall (Gloucester); T Woodman (Gloucester), S Thompson (Northampton), P Vickery (Gloucester), D Grewcock (Bath), B Kay (Leicester), J Worsley (Wasps), R Hill (Saracens), L Dallaglio (Wasps, captain).
Replacements: M Regan (Leeds), J Leonard (Harlequins), S Shaw (Wasps), C Jones (Sale Sharks), M Dawson (Northampton), O Barkley (Bath), H Paul (Gloucester).
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England to win, without a doubt. The extent of it will depends on whether the players turned up the heat. My guess is it will be a 30-point margin. 20 will be less than expectations while 40 could be undermining Italy.

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prediction is a 25-30 points win for England

Italy 17-England 43 ;)
 

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Italy played well, but their defensive play was very bad... in the front we definitely held our own... the backs were dreadful though
 

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No surprise with the score, England will probably win every game in the competition. Wait and see how we fair against the others to judge any improvement.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
England completely steamrolled past Italy. Though Italy posed some threat earlier, especially with that drop-goal a la Wilkinson, but the class in the end will show, as epitomised by the scoreline. It wasn't unexpected, but with Robinson on fire, the most memorable of which the first try, the margin was never in doubt.

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Thanks to BBCSport

Italy 9-50 England

MATCH DETAILS

Italy: 9
Pens: Wakarua (2)
Drop goals: Wakarua

England: 50
Tries: Robinson (3), Balshaw, Lewsey, Grayson, Jones
Cons: Grayson (3)
Pens: Grayson (3)

World champions England lived up to their billing with a comprehensive victory over Italy in the RBS Six Nations in Rome on Sunday.

Elusive centre Jason Robinson scored a hat-trick as England ran in seven tries in their first competitive match since winning the World Cup.

Full-back Iain Balshaw, wing Josh Lewsey, fly-half Paul Grayson and replacement Chris Jones also scored.

Italy's Rima Wakarua could only manage two penalties and a drop goal in reply.

England were ahead within a minute through a Grayson penalty but Italy soon hit back courtesy of a well struck Wakarua drop goal.

England's early attacks lacked a cutting edge but when Balshaw found himself faced by two props there was only ever going to be one winner.

Grayson converted and added a penalty to give his side a 13-3 lead midway through the half and, once Wakarua had slotted his first penalty, the visitors extended their lead with a dazzling Robinson score.

The Sale flyer fielded a poor kick and linked with Josh Lewsey before producing a trademark side-step to leave Wakarua grasping at thin air.

The Kiwi-born fly-half and Grayson then swapped penalties, before Robinson finished off some fine interpassing between Balshaw and Cohen to score his brace on the stroke of half-time.

Trailing 26-9 Italy looked on the verge of folding after the break, but they regrouped and were lucky not to open the scoring when Andrea Masi broke through and chipped ahead.

For the best part of 15 minutes, England struggled to find their rhythm but the inevitable finally arrived when Lewsey stepped inside and beat three men on his way to the line.

Italy looked shell-shocked and England added insult to injury when Robinson latched onto Will Greenwood's pass to complete his hat-trick.

Grayson's conversion hit the post from wide out, but luck was soon smiling on him.

The Saints fly-half chipped ahead and the ball bounced straight back into his arms to leave him with a simple score, which he duly converted to make it 45-9.

With both sides then bringing on a series of replacements, the game grew increasingly scrappy.

The visitors had the final say, however, when Jones pounced on a loose ball to bring up the half-century and cap an impressive start to England's Six Nations defence.

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Teams:

Italy:
A Masi (Viadana); N Mazzucato (Calvisano), C Stoica (Montpellier), M Dallan (Treviso), D Dallan (Treviso); R Wakarua (Brescia), P Griffen (Calvisano); A Lo Cicero (Lazio), F Ongaro (Treviso), M Castrogiovanni (Calvisano), S Dellape (Treviso), M Bortolami (Padova), A De Rossi (Calvisano, capt); A Persico (Leeds), S Parisse (Treviso).
Replacements: S Perugini (Calvisano), C Festuccia (SKG Gran Parma), C Checchinato (Treviso), Silvio Orlando (Treviso), S Picone (Treviso), R De Marigny (Overmach Parma), M Bergamasco (Stade Francais).

England:
I Balshaw (Bath); J Lewsey (Wasps), W Greenwood (Harlequins), J Robinson (Sale Sharks), B Cohen (Northampton); P Grayson (Northampton), A Gomarsall (Gloucester); T Woodman (Gloucester), S Thompson (Northampton), P Vickery (Gloucester), D Grewcock (Bath), B Kay (Leicester), J Worsley (Wasps), R Hill (Saracens), L Dallaglio (Wasps, captain).
Replacements: M Regan (Leeds), J Leonard (Harlequins), S Shaw (Wasps), C Jones (Sale Sharks), M Dawson (Northampton), O Barkley (Bath), H Paul (Gloucester).
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paw;)
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Understandably so, Sir Clive pleased with the easy run-out. From BBCSport

Woodward satisfied with win

England coach Sir Clive Woodward was satisfied with a job well done after his side cruised to a comprehensive 50-9 victory over Italy.

The world champions never looked in trouble against a physical Italian team and were able to run in seven tries.

"I am very satisfied. To come here and put 50 points on a very committed side is very pleasing," he said.

"Collectively we were a bit rusty and there is a lot still to do, but I am pleased with the first win."

Woodward also paid tribute to Jason Robinson, who was moved to centre and sealed a livewire display with three impressive tries.

The decision to play Robinson at centre rather than wing or full-back had been questioned in some quarters.

But Woodward said: "I have been listening to what people have been saying and I just smile. The game is moving on and as long as he is on the pitch you can play him anywhere.

The game got a bit scrappy at the end but it is a very good start for us

"It is fantastic for him to score three tries. He is upping a gear since the World Cup final.

"I am also pleased for Henry Paul that he came on as a substitute, he deserves his second cap.

"The pair are a big testament to the league game and we are very lucky to have them."

Robinson, however, was keen not to take all the credit for England's victory.

"It is brilliant to score the tries but the guys inside work hard to give me the ball," he said.

"The game got a bit scrappy at the end but it is a very good start for us.

"Italy were very physical, were up for it and never stopped. It was a good win for us."
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yes, I'm pleased with that result. Woodward said before the match the Italians would be physical, in fact he said they were probably the most physical team in the competition. Good to get such a convincing game under our belt. Solid;)
 
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