Round 2 was a bit of a shocker for me, having picked Wales to beat Ireland, which precipitated a significant fall in the rankings. As we pass the halfway stage of the competition, time is running out to catch up, so hopefully these picks will be spot on.
Here are my Superbru predictions for Round 3 of the Six Nations this weekend.
Italy v Scotland
This is looking like the Wooden Spoon decider once again, despite a few signs of encouragement for Scotland, but they should favourites for this one. Italy haven’t won a Six Nations game since their win over Scotland in 2015, and they don’t seem to be able to close the gap.
Gregor Townsend has selected a team that suggests he’ll play a more direct, physical game than we saw against Ireland (we didn’t really see anything in the rain against England), and I’m not expecting a try-fest in Rome.
Scotland by 7
Wales v France
The unbeaten French travel to Cardiff for their first away game of the tournament, and this will be a real test of their title credentials. They have shuffled their backline a little, with Virimi Vakatawa returning in the centres and Gael Fickou shifting to the wing, but I think this game will be won up front.
Both teams will roll out a well-drilled Shaun Edwards defence, and whilst I wouldn’t expect this match to be particularly high-scoring either, I think the home side will have the edge.
Wales are fielding the most experienced starting XV in Six Nations history in terms of caps, and the all-Lions back row of Ross Moriarty, Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau looks fairly formidable and well-balanced to me.
When you add in the experience all over the park, plus home advantage and the fact that French players don’t like away matches, everything points to a Wales win.
Wales by 9
England v Ireland
This is also Ireland’s first away trip of the Six Nations, and they are also unbeaten so far – win this one, and they’ll be clear favourites for the title and possibly the Grand Slam.
Looking at the recent history between the teams, England have won 4 of the last 6 matches, including last year’s impressive win in Dublin and the Rugby World Cup warm up that ended 57-15 to England. Those two matches helped the wheels fall off Joe Schmidt’s reign in the lead up to Japan, and with many of the same players lining up in green at Twickenham, how much of a psychological edge will England have?
Along with the World Cup semi-final, those wins over Ireland were among the best performances under Eddie Jones, but the concern is that England have not been able to produce that sort of form consistently and for every world-class performance, there are four of five that are awful.
If things aren’t going England’s way, they lose control and don’t seem able to change their approach mid-game, and Ireland will relish the opportunity to disrupt and knock the likes of George Ford and Owen Farrell off their game.
Eddie Jones’ selection is rather odd once again, with Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry and Jonathan Joseph all selected out of position, whilst Ben Youngs returns at scrum-half. There are no fewer than 5 locks in the squad and no back three cover at all.
I can’t quite fathom what the intention is, particularly with the out-of-form Joseph on the wing, when Ollie Thorley was in the 27-man squad this week. Is Eddie Jones just winding us all up now?
Nevertheless, the optimist in me tells me they’ve had two weeks since the Scotland match to prepare for this, their first match at Twickenham, and you’d think that in that time they would have devised a gameplan that will overcome Ireland. If they have and it works, they might just win this, since on their day, England can dismantle any other team. If it fails, there probably won’t be a plan B, Ireland might just nick it and serious questions will need to be asked about Jones’ tenure as head coach.
England by 8