After last week’s thrilling games, starting off with a dramatic comeback in Paris and ending with a seismic result in Dublin, the Six Nations flies into round two this week, with teams already scrambling to save their tournaments.
France face the daunting task of visiting Twickenham, Ireland travel to Murrayfield to take on an attractive Scotland team, and Italy host Wales. In what should be an excellent week before the break, our rugby union expert guides you through the best bets of this week’s Six Nations.
Scotland v Ireland
Scotland had a magnificent first hour against Italy to open the tournament, as their injury-hit squad took a commanding 33-3 lead before allowing some sloppy late tries which made the scoreline closer than the match seemed.
At Murrayfield, Scotland are always tough opposition, and will feel they can put points on an Ireland team that has just shipped over 30 points at home. Scotland are home underdogs, at 13/8.
Ireland were caught flat footed by England in the first five minutes at the Aviva Stadium last weekend, and never really adjusted to the ferocious physical play. A late try flattered Ireland who, in truth, were the poorest they’ve been in recent memory.
One would expect them to bounce back against Scotland, but the odds of 4/9 don’t appreciate in my opinion how difficult a game they will face. Suddenly the Irish have a visible chink in their armour, and a one dimensional game plan that involves kicking it to Scotland’s most dynamic player, Stuart Hogg.
It should be a thrilling contest, and I am taking Scotland to win by 1-12 points, available at 9/4.
Italy v Wales
Italy suffered with numerous injury problems in the build up to their game against Scotland, so to score 20 points was impressive. Truthfully however, they just weren’t good enough and consistently look out of touch with the rest of the teams who are incredibly competitive.
With some good players, and of course influential captain Sergio Parisse, there is always a danger if Italy play well, but normally it is in patches rather than a full 80. This will have to change if they are to have any chance of beating Wales, and are 8/1 to pull off the home win.
Wales had a fantastic second half against France, and pulled off a remarkable turnaround to leave Paris with a win. They should cruise to victory against Italy, even after Warren Gatland made a raft of changes. They are a very short 1/16, however I think a 3 converted score handicap is about right, and would recommend backing Wales on a -20.5 handicap, available at Evens.
Worcester winger Josh Adams is 7/1 to score first. The wideman loves darting over in the corner, and should find plenty of space against this Italian team.
England v France
After England stormed to victory against Ireland in the last round, and France had Wales on the ropes for 60 minutes before an inexplicable implosion, ‘Le Crunch’ is eagerly anticipated on both sides of the Channel.
England open as comfortable favourites at 1/8, and have a big, powerful bench to empty against tired French legs, which could be the deciding factor. I think it will be a much closer game than some pundits may expect, and expect England to win by 1-12 points, available at 7/4.
France looked so good in the first hour against Wales, but have made wholesale changes after the manner of the defeat. Battering ram centre Mathieu Bastareaud returns to the midfield, and Gael Fickou starts on the wing in the most eye-catching of the changes. Pleasantly for the Twickenham groundstaff, 150kg monster tighthead Uini Atonio is injured, and France will miss his bulk in the scrum. France are 5/1 to win at Twickenham.
Jonny May is in fine form at the moment for England, and scored after only two minutes in Dublin. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Leicester flyer crash over the white line multiple times, and he is 7/2 to score twice or more.