Now then. I’m not normally one to gloat, particularly as I put my head above the parapet with various predictions on a regular basis and occasionally I get them wrong. However, those that rubbished my predictions last week can feel free to apologise to me, and I will not hold it against you 🙂
Anyway, on to Round 2, which looks relatively straightforward.
Scotland v Ireland
How much should we read into Ireland’s defeat at home last weekend? Were Ireland bad, or were England just too good on the day? They’ll be desperate to get back to winning ways, albeit missing a couple of players through injury, and they haven’t won at Murrayfield since 2015.
The Scots put in a fairly mixed performance against Italy in Round 1, running away with it early in the second half, but then almost conceding a losing bonus point when they took their foot off the gas. They squandered several opportunities during the game, and I fear that any similar profligacy against Ireland will be severely punished.
This is a huge game for Ireland in a tough environment. A victory would put them back on track, and last week’s defeat can be explained away as a bump in the road. A defeat in Edinburgh and their self-belief will be in pieces as the Rugby World Cup looms.
My Superbru prediction: Ireland by 7
Bookie handicap: Ireland -6
Italy v Wales
No fewer than ten changes for Wales as they travel to Rome to take on the Wooden Spoon favourites. It’s a bit of a gamble, and Conor O’Shea would love to spring a surprise on Warren Gatland’s men, but it would be an enormous upset.
Wales have won by an average of 28 points on their last away trips to Italy, and whilst I think it might be tight in the first half, Wales will ultimately prevail.
My Superbru prediction: Wales by 18
Bookie handicap: Wales -18
England v France
I’ve enjoyed the aftermath of France’s capitulation against Wales, with Thomas Casteignede saying the team wasn’t French enough. Losing from that position couldn’t be more French, so I don’t know what he’s talking about!
Les Bleus looked in reasonable shape in the first half, with some pace out wide complementing their enormous bludgeon of a forward pack. Arthur Iturria performed better than expected in the back row, and they’ll cause any team problems up front with their sheer weight. This week they have swapped the pace out wide for additional bludgeon, with Mathieu Bastareaud recalled, and Jacques Brunel has named no fewer than four centres in the starting lineup.
Eddie Jones has made a couple of enforced changes, and Ben Moon and Dan Cole are recalled to the bench to add some ballast and scrummaging expertise in the second half. But if England can turn in another performance like last week, they won’t be too worried about the French.
With Billy and Mako Vunipola back in the fold, as well as Manu Tuilagi in the backs, England finally have some ball-carrying firepower of their own, which should ensure they get over the gainline and provide more quick ball for Ben Youngs and Owen Farrell.
England’s defence was extremely effective in Dublin, and a similar forward effort will help nullify the French back row in the same way that the Irish were outplayed last weekend.
The French can be dangerous, but more often than not they are fairly rubbish, and England will want to send a big message ahead of the Rugby World Cup pool match between these teams in September.
My Superbru prediction: England by 16
Bookie handicap: England -13
Follow Hutch on Twitter: @Hutch_James