Six Nations England begin title defence against Italy

Eddie Jones's men begin their 2018 campaign in Rome on February 4 against an Italy side who, although they finished bottom and without a win.

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England coach Eddie Jones play

England coach Eddie Jones

(AFP)
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England will start the defence of their Six Nations title away to Italy, it was announced Tuesday after organisers published the fixtures for both the 2018 and 2019 Championships.

Eddie Jones's men begin their 2018 campaign in Rome on February 4 against an Italy side who, although they finished bottom and without a win, briefly caused England problems with their 'no-ruck' ploy at Twickenham during this season's Six Nations.

England are then at home to Wales before travelling to Edinburgh for a Calcutta Cup clash against Scotland and playing France away before concluding their Championship at home to Ireland on March 17 -- the middle game of 'Super Saturday' when all six teams are in action.

Ireland, who denied England back-to-back Grand Slams this year, begin their Six Nations away to France on February 3 with Wales at home to Scotland on the same day.

The Championship has remained a seven-week competition, with rest weeks after the second and third rounds, despite the likes of England's 2003 World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward calling for it to be shortened into a five-week event to better replicate what happens at rugby union's major global tournament.

France will continue to fly the flag for Friday night rugby, which has been criticised for making life more difficult for away supporters in particular, by hosting Italy in 2018 and Wales in 2019.

The 2019 fixture list also has England away to Ireland on the opening weekend -- a potentially key game in deciding the title-winners.

Friday night fixtures

Friday night rugby remains a part of the competition in both seasons, with France hosting Italy in 2018 and Wales in 2019.

The final round of matches on March 16, 2019 sees Italy at home to France, Wales welcoming Ireland to Cardiff and England taking on Scotland at Twickenham.

"We are delighted to confirm the fixture dates for the 2018 Championship, coming shortly after a record-breaking 2017 edition," Six Nations Rugby chairman Pat Whelan said in a statement.

"We enjoyed record figures across TV and digital and look forward to continuing that trend over the next two seasons."

Fixtures (all times GMT)

2018

Feb 03: Wales v Scotland (1415)

Feb 03: France v Ireland (1645)

Feb 04: Italy v England (1500)

Feb 10: Ireland v Italy (1415)

Feb 10: England v Wales (1645)

Feb 11: Scotland v France (1500)

Feb 23: France v Italy (2000)

Feb 24: Ireland v Wales (1415)

Feb 24: Scotland v England (1645)

Mar 10: Ireland v Scotland (1415)

Mar 10: France v England (1645)

Mar 11: Wales v Italy (1500)

Mar 17: Italy v Scotland (1230)

Mar 17: England v Ireland (1445)

Mar 17: Wales v France (1700)

2019

Feb 01: France v Wales (2000)

Feb 02: Scotland v Italy (1415)

Feb 02: Ireland v England (1645)

Feb 09: Scotland v Ireland (1415)

Feb 09: Italy v Wales (1645)

Feb 10: England v France (1500)

Feb 23: France v Scotland (1415)

Feb 23: Wales v England (1645)

Feb 24: Italy v Ireland (1500)

Mar 09: Scotland v Wales (1415)

Mar 09: England v Italy (1645)

Mar 10: Ireland v France (1500)

Mar 16: Italy v France (1230)

Mar 16: Wales v Ireland (1445)

Mar 16: England v Scotland (1700)