The predictions in Round 2 were relatively straightforward, with Ireland beating Scotland ending any hopes of an upset, whilst Wales overcame Italy and England thrashed France.
Somewhat unusually, 4 of the 6 matches so far have ended in away victories, and I think there could be another two this weekend.
It’s 6 out of 6 for my Six Nations picks, and I’m looking to make it 9 from 9 after this weekend.
France v Scotland
All the injuries to Scotland have made this a slightly easier pick. If Finn Russell, Huw Jones and Stuart Hogg were all fit, amongst others, I might have backed the Scots to claim their first win in Paris since 1999. The French are in disarray, of course they are, but they showed enough in that first half against Wales to show they are capable of playing effective Rugby, and back at home, I suspect they’ll resort to the power game to steamroll this weakened Scotland side.
My Superbru prediction: France by 8
Bookie handicap: France -6
Wales v England
The two remaining unbeaten teams go head to head in Cardiff, and it’s always a thriller, particularly with a potential Grand Slam for both sides still on the table. The last 5 matches have been won by an average of 4.6 points, and England have won 5 of the 6 meetings since that 30-3 drubbing in 2013.
So far in this tournament, Wales won in Paris, which is no mean feat, but it wasn’t entirely convincing. They started terribly, and then France let them back into the game through various errors, finally allowing France to prevail. Then against Italy, they made a raft of changes and never really got going, winning by ‘only’ 11 points.
England, on the other hand, have finally looked like they have a gameplan, along with the personnel to execute it effectively – powerful ball-carriers, a well-balanced back row, Owen Farrell as the playmaker at 10, an encouraging midfield partnership, and borderline world class performances in the back three.
On form, England should win this.
But, in Cardiff, against England, with Warren Gatland hatching wily plans, you never quite know the level that Wales can reach. They have two England games to analyse, and they’ll be better-prepared than Ireland and France to counter the opposition tactics.
Anything can happen on the day, but based on what we have seen so far this year, I’m backing England.
My Superbru prediction: England by 6
Bookie handicap: England -4
Italy v Ireland
I don’t enjoy watching Italy play. I’m all for development in Rugby and for creating more countries that can challenge at the World Cup, but I can’t discern much progress from the Azzurri, and they tend to stifle games rather than throw everything at the opposition. Is damage-limitation the best option for Conor O’Shea’s men, or should they be throwing it around aiming to entertain, even if they risk losing by a little more?
Joe Schmidt has made a few changes for Ireland, particularly up front, but key men Conor Murray and Jonny Sexton both start, and it’s not a question of whether they will win, just by how many – particularly with Sergio Parisse out for Italy.
I think the bookies are over-egging things slightly, and I’ve backed Italy with a 30-point handicap.
My Superbru prediction: Ireland by 23
Bookie handicap: Ireland -30
Follow Hutch on Twitter: @Hutch_James