Things look fairly straightforward this weekend, with home wins for Wales and Ireland, until you get to that game in Paris on Sunday.
Here are my Six Nations predictions for Round 1:
Wales v Italy
This is a fairly kind start to Wayne Pivac’s tenure as Wales coach, where he has huge boots to fill, following Warren Gatland who always managed to get the best out of his players. They will almost certainly win this one at home, but looking at the teamsheets, I’m not filled with quite so much pity for Italy – it’s not a bad side travelling to the Millennium Stadium.
I think Jake Polledri is more than ready to take over the mantle of Italy’s best player now that Sergio Parisse has retired, and along with Sebastian Negri and Braam Steyn, it’s a half-decent back row that could well cause problems for Wales.
But whilst this is a new era for the Welsh, the backbone of the team is hugely experienced and will pull them through – from Ken Owens, through Alun Wyn Jones, Taulupe Faletau, Dan Biggar and George North to Leigh Halfpenny at the back. They won’t lose to Italy, surely.
Wales by 19
Ireland v Scotland
The Scots hardly ever beat Ireland, and it has been ten years since they won in Dublin, so we’ll start things off on the assumption that this will be a home win. Looking at the lineups, there’s only two or three Scots that I’d select ahead of their Irish counterparts – particularly with Finn Russell on the naughty step – and I’m pretty confident that Ireland will take this comfortably.
I have nagging doubts over Johnny Sexton’s fitness and the selection of Connor Murray ahead of the in-form John Cooney, but that’s a lot of experience at half-back which should see them to an opening day win.
Ireland by 13
France v England
I’m not a huge fan of the Sunday games, and with Eddie Jones naming the team so late in the week, the build-up has been slightly low-key for me. I’m also slightly confused by everyone talking up this French team, with several pundits predicting that they’ll win the tournament and possibly even the Grand Slam.
Surely we’ve been here before, with everyone sucked in by the ‘potential’ of the French side? Yes, it’s a list of players that could be dangerous, but usually when they don the national jersey, they forget what it is they are supposed to be doing and generally implode. Why should it be any different this time? There’s hardly any experience across the lineup, and you look at the team and wonder who will galvanise the troops if things aren’t going their way?
I believe Eddie Jones when he says that England will give them a physical workout, taking them on up front. It’s where England ultimately came undone at the World Cup, even though restoring England’s traditional strength was what Jones promised when he took over in 2016.
A strong defensive effort, some willing ball-carriers in the absence of Billy Vunipola, and some threatening runners out wide – with the semblance of some sort of gameplan – and England should win. I seem to be more confident than most.
England by 9
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What do you think of these picks?