This year's Six Nations championship is one-week-old. As we head toward another action-packed trio of matches, there's plenty of team news, squad selections and lineup issues to discuss.
We've got lots to wade through, so let's get right to it.
Ireland vs. Wales
Wales head into the clash against Ireland with arguably the biggest boost they could receive. Sam Warburton, the nation's captain and talisman, is set to start his first match since November—reported by Steve James of The Telegraph.
Warburton replaced Dan Lydiate with 16 minutes left during the 23-15 win over Italy. The workout proved a vital one and will have helped the player blow away any cobwebs ahead of facing an Ireland side that will be full of confidence after defeating Scotland 28-6.
Prop Gethin Jenkins is also destined to replace Paul James, while Andrew Coombs looks set to deputise for the injured Luke Charteris.
Joe Schmidt also has reason to get excited. The Ireland coach welcomes back his skipper in the shape of Paul O'Connell, who has recovered from a chest infection in time for the match, reported by BBC Sport.
Gordon D'Arcy makes his first appearance of this year's Six Nations at the expense of Luke Marshall, perhaps for tactical reasons, as hinted by Paul Williams of Rugby World:
Joe Schmidt clearly saw Jamie Roberts V Italy. D'Arcy very clearly brought in to shut down the 12 channel.— Paul Williams (@thepaulwilliams) February 6, 2014
Schmidt will be without Sean O'Brien for the rest of the tournament after the flanker underwent shoulder surgery. Even so, he is confident of a decent performance, per Sky Sports:
We certainly miss Sean. But the one thing I would say, I thought Peter O'Mahony, Chris Henry and Jamie Heaslip all chipped in and added a little bit of value that covered for Sean last week in the win against Scotland.
Scotland vs. England
Chris Fusaro is set to earn his first cap at open-side flanker against England. In a shock move by Scott Johnson, Fusaro will take over from captain Kelly Brown, who is deemed surplus to requirements against a strong England side, per BBC Sport:
"We felt the balance wasn't right in the team [with Brown]. We needed a ground feeder and Chris fits that," commented Johnson.
Greg Laidlow replaces Brown as captain in a match that Scotland will need to be wary of. England narrowly lost 26-24 to France last time out and need a swift victory to keep their campaign on track.
Tommy Seymour has been selected in place of the injured Sean Maitland for the Scots, while Johnson has benched Duncan Taylor in favour of Matt Scott, reported by Reuters.
England have no injury concerns or squad rotations to worry about. They head to Murrayfield needing a morale-boosting win after the late loss to France and should certainly be outlined as favourites after Scotland's toothless loss to Ireland during the first week.
France vs. Italy
Should France be considered favourites for the Six Nations?
Philippe Saint-Andre will be pleased with France's ability to grind out the aforementioned win against England. The coach will also know victory over Italy leaves Les Bleus in a terrific position for the rest of the tournament.
Even so, he will initiate a trio of alterations to freshen things up against a gutsy Italian side. Left-winger Hugo Bonneval receives his chance against the Azzurri, taking over from the dropped Maxime Medard, per Sky Sports.
Yoann Maestri replaces Alexandre Flanquart at lock, while Dimitri Szarzewski is rewarded for his match-winning assist against England with a place in the side over Gael Fickou. The experienced hooker will continue a remarkable run of appearances, as noted by OptaJonny:
65 - Since Dusautoir (65) debuted for France in June 2006 only Dimitri Szarzewski (67) has made more appearances for Les Bleus. Stalwart.— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) January 19, 2014
Italy are yet to announce their team, but they are expected to start with a similar lineup to the side that ran Wales so close in their opening fixture.