This weekend’s opening game comes from Dublin, where Ireland host Italy on Saturday afternoon. It’s top of the table plays bottom, and the Italians have heavily rotated their team, with big names like Sergio Parisse, Alessandro Zanni and Andrea Masi all missing. Ireland are missing Peter O’Mahony through injury, and the loss of one of the players of the tournament so far will be keenly felt. The general consensus amongst pundits is that it’s a question of ‘by how much’, not whether, Ireland will win. Our man David Blair agrees, predicting an Irish win by 20. Read his full preview here.
Scotland welcome France to Edinburgh with intense pressure on both coaches. The hosts’ man in charge, Scott Johnson, has again rotated his back-row, with captain Kelly Brown returning from the wilderness on the blindside. They will hope to take the feel-good factor of the last minute win over Italy into this game. Philippe Saint-André, meanwhile, seems to be following the Scott Johnson school of selection, making some bizarre calls, including employing a lumbering second row on the blindside flank and leaving the prodigiously talented Gael Fickou on the bench again, despite an injury to Wesley Fofana. Is this a chance for Scotland to get a win over Les Bleus? Calum Gillon doesn’t think so; he’s predicted a comfortable French win by 11. Read his full preview here.
And finally on Sunday we have England v Wales. A Triple Crown on the line for England, the Six Nations title slipping out of reach for the loser, and revenge on the minds of the English for last year’s 30-3 desecration in Cardiff. Do the players need any more motivation? Oh yes, there’s the small matter of the Rugby World Cup in a year’s time, in which these two will meet on the exact soil on which they do battle on on Sunday. Who will come out on top and take a huge psychological step towards making it out of that pool? Flip a coin, says Jamie Hosie, who has (reluctantly) plumped for an English win by 2. Read his full preview here.
How do you see the weekend unfolding?
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images