Andrew Robinson previews week two of the Six Nations as Wales face a tough test in Paris against France and Scotland have a must-win tie at home to Italy.
Six Nations 2013: Scotland v Italy
This clash was billed as the battle for the wooden spoon ahead of the tournament starting and it still could be, but Italy go into it full of confidence.
That confidence comes for their battling performance against the French on the first weekend, where they secured a 23-18 win over Les Bleus, just their second since joining the event in 2000.
Sergio Parisse and Martin Castrogiovanni were the heroes of the hour and the pair will be looking for more of the same when they travel to Murrayfield to take on Scotland, who whimpered their way to a 38-18 loss at Twickenham.
There were some nice pieces of play and some lovely running rugby from Stuart Hogg and Sean Maitland, but Scott Johnson’s side lacked the quality needed to put the old enemy to the sword.
This weekend the pair meet in Edinburgh and an Italian win would surely guarantee they avoid the wooden spoon this year – they have nine already – so missing out on it this year wouldn’t be too much of an issue.
With Wales, France and Ireland still to come for the Scots, a defeat to Italy makes it very unlikely they’ll get anything else from the tournament, although if the French continue to play the way they did last weekend you never know.
Scotland have home advantage this weekend and that makes them 8/15 favourites with Paddy Power to get some points on the board. Even though Italy have a very poor away record, one of their wins came in Edinburgh.
The Azzurri ran out 37-17 winners in 2007 thanks to three early tires that gave them a 21-0 lead after just seven minutes, thanks mostly to Scotland gifts.
If Johnson’s team are as friendly this time around as they were six years ago, Italy’s price of 6/4 looks very tasty indeed.
The Scots will need a big performance against the Italians if they want to avoid finishing bottom of the Six Nations table in 2013, as they are currently the 8/11 favourites to do so.
Italy are 23/10 second favourites for it, but if you think they are ready for their break out season in the event, you can have a flutter on them at 7/2 to pick up three wins in the tournament or 25/1 to make it four.
Six Nations 2013: France v Wales
Both Wales and France are in a position they never thought would be the case after week one of the 2013 Six Nations tournament, with each falling to embarrassing defeats.
There were very different reasons for the embarrassment, with Wales being humbled at home to a mighty Ireland, with BOD on fine form, while France fell to a gritty Italian performance.
Wales were expecting a spirited performance, but an awful first half found them 23-3 down at one stage. They did fight back, but left themselves far too much to do.
The French on the other are in shock after a loss in Rome. They never looked comfortable against Italy’s brute strength and were undone by a Martin Castrogiovanni try in the sight of the posts.
Both will be looking to get things back on track this weekend and a failure to do so will mean they will most likely be out of the running for the trophy this season.
The Parisian crowd will be expecting a performance from the top drawer and with Wales’ defence looking poor against Ireland the French are 1/4 favourites to add to the Welsh’s woes.
But, it might not be all one way traffic. If the Dragons come out of the block breathing fire and manage to frustrate the crowd, they could battle their way to a famous win. They are 11/4 to do just that on Saturday.
France’s loss at the weekend has altered the betting for the Six Nations significantly, but the side is unpredictable and could go on a run of four straight wins against the tougher opposition in the event.
Philippe Saint-Andre’s men are now 11/2 to lift the Six Nations trophy when March rolls around, but with away games in England and Ireland to come, it will be a tough ask.
With Ireland’s old guard rolling back the years and England’s youth coming to the fore, the sides have been installed as the leaders of the pack at 17/10 and even money respectively to add to their Six Nations haul of trophies.