Here are the latest rugby headlines on Thursday, February 2.
Farrell's response to Gatland
Andy Farrell has come back at Warren Gatland with a sarcastic riposte after the Wales coach suggested Saturday's Six Nations opener was a "free hit" for the home team.
Farrell laughed off Gatland's perceived mind games in which he spoke about Ireland having to deal with the expectation that comes with being the number one side in the world. Wales, as underdogs, have little to worry about, he thought.
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The Ireland coach sarcastically told the Irish Mirror: "I know that's exactly what they're thinking!
"I don't know about a 'free shot'! A free shot in Test match rugby? Where do you get them from? We'd love to be able to buy one of those - maybe I'll buy him a free shot after the game!
"But there's absolutely no doubt that Warren will expect his side to win, and so do I, I expect our side to win.
"His past record shows what he's about in this competition. Finding a way to win has always been key to those teams, and we're very aware of that."
Gatland had said: "I suppose the free hit for us is that the expectation and pressure is on them (Ireland) to win as favourites.
"The secret, and I am sure Andy will be talking about this, is that you don't run away from that, you look to embrace the expectations of being the number one team in the world."
Gatland plans emotional speech
The Wales coach has also admitted he will be highly emotional in the minutes before making his return to a packed Principality Stadium on Saturday.
Gatland takes charge of his first Wales game since 2019 against world number one-ranked side Ireland, and he has revealed what he will say to the players in those final moments before leaving the dressing room.
Writing in his Telegraph column, Gatland said: "It will be difficult to keep my emotions in check when I address the Wales team in the moments before we face Ireland on Saturday.
"I have been thinking about the moment ever since I accepted the offer to return as Wales head coach in December.
"The players carry that responsibility. My message to them will be to question what wearing the Wales jersey means to them and ask what are the expectations of themselves?
"What does it mean to their family and Wales as a nation? I want them to reflect on that because it is what defines us."
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England axe Tuilagi
Manu Tuilagi has been dropped by Steve Borthwick as the head coach named a revamped side for England's Guinness Six Nations opener against Scotland.
Tuilagi, a veteran of 50 caps and a regular choice for the Red Rose for much of the past decade, has not even been named in Borthwick's first 23-man squad.
Joe Marchant takes the 31-year-old's place in the England line-up, with Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell to resume their playmaking axis for Saturday's Calcutta Cup clash at Twickenham.
Wing Ollie Hassell-Collins has been handed his first cap in a rejigged midfield following injuries to Elliot Daly, Henry Slade and Dan Kelly in the build-up to Saturday's fixture.
Ben Curry will be awarded his first cap against major opposition following his debut in an underwhelming victory over the United States nearly two years ago.
Lewis Ludlam joins Curry as the other flanker, with Alex Dombrandt at number eight, while Jamie George starts at hooker after overcoming concussion sustained in Saracens' defeat by Edinburgh on January 22.
Borthwick said: "There are few fixtures in the rugby calendar that excite both players and supporters alike more than the annual Six Nations meeting of the Auld Enemy as they battle for the honour of lifting the Calcutta Cup.
"Another packed Twickenham will witness the start of the next chapter of English rugby in one of the most keenly contested tournaments in the world. There is no doubt that this England team shares the supporters' sense of eager anticipation.
"To a man, the players are determined to play with the commitment, fight and desire that is at the very heart of representing England, the sort of passion that our tremendous supporters rightly expect."
England team: Steward (Leicester); Malins (Saracens, Marchant (Harlequins, 13 caps), Farrell (Saracens, capt), Hassell-Collins (London Irish); Smith (Harlequins), Van Poortvliet (Leicester); Genge (Bristol), George (Saracens), Sinckler (Bristol), Itoje (Saracens), Chessum (Leicester), Ludlam (Northampton), Curry (Sale), Dombrandt (Harlequins).
Replacements: Walker (Harlequins), Vunipola (Saracens), Cole (Leicester), Isiekwe (Saracens), Earl (Saracens), Youngs (Leicester), Lawrence (Bath), Watson (Leicester).
Lions star dropped by Scotland
Gregor Townsend has backed Ali Price to bounce back strongly from his omission from the Scotland 23 for Saturday's Calcutta Cup showdown with England.
The 29-year-old scrum-half has been a mainstay throughout the head coach's five-and-a-half-year reign, winning 58 caps since his debut in 2016.
However, Price has struggled for form at Glasgow this season and has lost the number nine jersey to London Irish's Ben White for this weekend's Six Nations opener at Twickenham.
"Ali and I have worked together for a number of years and he has been very good for us over that period," said Townsend.
"We chatted a week ago about how it was important he improved, whether that was just through training or getting game time with Glasgow at the weekend. He's very aware of that too.
"He's not been able to have as many games with Glasgow as he would have liked but he did play well at the weekend (away to Dragons). He's making progress at getting back to his best.
"Non-selection can motivate you in two ways: it can get you more disappointed or it can give you a reaction to say 'OK, I'm not close to my best and sometimes I won't get to play', but we're already seeing that reaction from Ali and I'm sure he'll be back to his best very soon.
"We backed him in the autumn when he played four Tests for us and he improved during those four Tests but this time he's missed out. We believe we'll see a reaction and get Ali back to his best for the rest of the campaign."
Scotland team: Hogg; Steyn, Jones, Tuipulotu, Van der Merwe; Russell, White; Schoeman, Turner, Nel; R Gray, Gilchrist; Ritchie (c), Crosbie, M Fagerson.
Replacements: Brown, Bhatti, Berghan, J Gray, Dempsey, Horne, Kinghorn, Harris.
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