Things were going so well last weekend, having correctly predicted the outcomes of the first two games, and picking up SportGuru margin points for accuracy in both.
But then a shrill blast from the whistle of Wayne Barnes put paid to dreams of a clean sweep and my Ireland by 5 prediction was left in tatters.
Here are my predictions for this weekend’s matches.
Italy v England: England by 13
I’m slightly concerned about this match, on the basis that Italy had a lot of possession and territory against France, and it wouldn’t take a huge improvement for them to convert that into points – particularly at home, and particularly against an inferior English team.
I’m also aware that England still showed alarmingly little in attack at Murrayfield, and it could be another drab affair riddled with errors. But then again, it wouldn’t take a huge improvement to see a few line breaks and the odd try.
For all the ball Italy enjoyed last week, they still looked fairly shabby in defence, and so I’m predicting a similar match – great effort and workrate by Italy, which is ultimately fruitless, and then a few tries for England as their defence holds firm and the home side’s mistakes eventually come. My slightly optimistic prediction is England by 13.
The Paddy Power handicap is England -8 and the average SportGuru prediction is England by 11.
France v Ireland: France by 5
I’d really like to predict a famous Ireland victory on Saturday night, but sadly the odds are stacked against them. They’ve not won in Paris since Brian O’Driscoll scored a hat-trick in 2000, and they missed their talisman in their defeat at home to Wales last week.
Their attack looked slightly bereft of ideas at times, and their first line of defence didn’t seem to be as aggressive as it has been.
France on the other hand look pretty formidable on paper. They didn’t reach their full potential against Italy, and they may have another sub-standard performance, but all the evidence is pointing to a French victory and it’s unwise to bet against it.
My SportGuru predicion is France by 5, the Paddy Power handicap is France -9 and the average SportGuru prediction is France by 6.
Wales v Scotland: Wales by 8
This game looks like an easy one to pick at first glance, with Wales victorious in Dublin and on a roll, whilst Scotland can’t score a try. Should we expect a big score for Wales?
I’m not so sure. The Scottish defence can be pretty determined so I don’t think Wales will have it all their own way, and I’m expecting more from their attack as well.
With Dan Parks stepping down, Greig Laidlaw starts at fly-half and will be out to prove a point – he looked much more ambitious when he came on against England, and could add the unexpected element in attack. I also expect them to be motivated by their result at Millennium Stadium, when Thom Evans was seriously injured and they threw the game away in the last 3 minutes.
That said, I can’t see Scotland winning, but I have a feeling it will be closer than some people are anticipating.
My prediction is Wales by 8, the Paddy Power handicap is Wales -12 and the average SportGuru prediction is Wales by 11.