Week One of the Six Nations was always going to be an experimental one from all six coaches’ point of view.
I don’t think anyone expected the France and Italy game to be as close as it was, particularly given the quality difference between the two sides.
England scrapped for a win in Murrayfield in the Calcutta Cup but were penalized time and time again. No one inside the Aviva Stadium was happy with the result on Sunday afternoon, and Ireland were battered and bruised physically.
But the six-day turnaround means there’s a chance to get back in the hunt for the title, starting on Saturday in Paris.
France vs Ireland – Stade de France, Paris – Saturday 14:25 (Live on BBC and RTE)
This is an interesting one to predict.
France were rudderless against Italy, and they easily could’ve lost the game if it wasn’t for Sergio Parisse missing the target from a drop goal. I wasn’t sure what they were trying to achieve on the field.
Ireland were very good in possession against Wales so they’ll be slightly confident, despite a whole host of injuries. Rob Kearney is back for them and he’s always a danger when running from a high ball. I just feel that the French were so disjointed last week, and with six changes made by the new coach, I fancy Ireland at .
Conor Murray is one of my favourite players to watch. He’s very intelligent when he gets inside the opposition 22, showing that again last week with his pick and go try. Once you start scoring, it becomes a bit of a habit, so look at Murray for first try scorer at
Wales vs Scotland – Principality Stadium, Cardiff
Saturday 16:50 (Live on BBC and RTE)
It was a case of the same old story for Wales in Dublin last weekend. They seem to always struggle to cross the whitewash and get the ball over the try line. Despite having more possession and a lot of quick rugby, they just didn’t have the cutting edge to get through Ireland. They had the oppurtunity to win with a drop goal but missed to the right.
All Scotland have to do is defend better than they did against England and they’ll suffocate the Welsh. I think the 10 point handicap is fair, but I’d lean on the side of the Scots at. I’m expecting a very open game of rugby on a great pitch.
The tryscoring market is wide open. The Welsh back three of Williams () North () and Davies () are all worth a punt on, but then you look at Scotland and see the likes of Hogg and Seymour so there’s a bit of value around.
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Italy vs England – Stadio Olimpico, Rome – Sunday 14:00 (Live on ITV and RTE)
Very difficult to call this one. The weather in Murrayfield last week hindered England but they did the job. The scrum was strong and so was the pack but the weather meant we didn’t see much of their back line. Eddie Jones will have been impressed with Billy Vunipola. He had a fair few carries and got a lot of yards when England needed him to.
Italy also have a question mark over them after their defeat to France. I wasn’t sure if it was France playing poorly or the Italians playing well or perhaps both. As always, Parisse was their standout player. He is going to be a huge loss when he eventually retires, and it doesn’t really look like Italy have a ready-made replacement.
With nice conditions, 15 points of a handicap is a nice one for the English, and I think they’ll break that with no real troubles at. Their record in Rome is near impeccable, and with the draw last week there’s a chance for them to stamp their authority on top spot. Vunipola or Anthony Watson for first try scorer.