The annual dogfight for the Calcutta Cup has been rather one-sided of late. The Red Rose have held a vice-like grip on the game’s oldest trophy for a decade and Scotland will need more than bravery to wrestle the silverware from the Auld Enemy in Edinburgh on Saturday.
Scotland vs England
Unbeaten England huffed and puffed their way to a narrow but controversial 12-6 victory over Wales at Twickenham a fortnight ago. Eddie Jones insisted in the aftermath that winning was all that matters and the odds reflect his blunt assessment, shortening from 10/11 to 8/11 on his team to defend their Six Nations crown.
Scotland found redemption in their 32-26 triumph over France after their opening day humiliation against Wales. It was too little too late in terms of the Championship betting with Gregor Townsend’s side now 50/1 from 40/1 to claim the title. They began the tournament at 12/1.
England are firm favourites (2/7) at Murrayfield this weekend to make it three from three this year. The home side are 13/5 to finally reclaim the Calcutta Cup, while the draw – a repeat of the stalemate in Edinburgh in 2010 – is 24/1.
The Murrayfield showdown could be decided by the respective boots of Greig Laidlaw and Owen Farrell. Laidlaw’s match-winning 22-point haul against the French took him above the Englishman in the scoring charts, but Farrell remains shorter at 15/8 to Laidlaw’s 9/2 to finish as the tournament’s top points scorer.
Townsend has named an unchanged XV for Saturday, with prop WP Nel back on the bench after recovering from a broken arm. Jones has parachuted Nathan Hughes in at number eight for the injured Sam Simmonds while Joe Marler and James Haskell return to the bench after serving bans.
Ireland vs Wales
Saturday’s early game sees Ireland host Wales at the Aviva. The Irish haven’t beaten Warren Gatland’s boys in the Championship since 2014 but are nonetheless clear favourites to maintain their Grand Slam charge at 8/25. Wales are out at 5/2 to make it four wins in their last seven visits to Dublin.
Ireland were rampant two weeks ago against Italy, scoring eight tries and it’s 19/5 on Joe Schmidt’s boys to open the scoring this weekend with another five-pointer. Wales drew a touchdown blank at Twickenham in round two and are 23/5 to first trouble the scorers on Saturday with a try.
Ulster wing Jacob Stockdale scored twice in the Azzurri rout and is the shortest-priced Irishman at 5/1 to be this season’s Six Nations top try scorer. Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny also has two tries to his name but is out at 20/1 to emerge as the tournament’s most prolific finisher.
The home side have called up fit-again centre Garry Ringrose as cover for Robbie Henshaw and are hopeful forwards Iain Henderson and Tadhg Furlong will recover from knocks. Wales have made three changes to their starting XV with Halfpenny, Liam Williams and Dan Biggar all back in action.
France vs Italy
France and Italy will make history on Friday night when they play in Marseille. It will be the first time Les Bleus have staged a Six Nations game outside Paris but the two whipping boys of the tournament will be more concerned about opening their Championship accounts.
No team has so far scored less points or tries than the French. No side has conceded more points or tries than the Italians this season. Neither nation has a win to their name and they’re now 500/1 and 1000/1 respectively to win the Six Nations.
The French are still the overwhelming favourites to record a morale-boosting win at the Stade Velodrome at 1/12. The Azzurri, who have lost 36 of their 39 matches against their continental rivals, are out at 16/1.
France fans can get more enticing odds on Jacques Brunel’s team winning by 13 points or more at 21/50. It’s 27/10 on a home win by 1-12 points while the prospect of a rare Azzurri triumph by the same margin is 9/1.
Les Bleus, however, are in a familiar state of disarray after dropping eight players in the wake of a late-night incident in Edinburgh a fortnight ago. They’ve also lost scrum-half Morgan Parra to a knee injury and Brunel has made five changes to his side for Marseille, recalling Mathieu Bastareaud in midfield.
Italy are in no better shape with just four wins in 19 Tests since Conor O’Shea was appointed head coach in 2016. The Azzurri have drafted in veteran hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini and prop Andrea Lovotti to beef up their front row.
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