Wales grabbed the headlines on the first weekend of the Six Nations, as they put ‘dark horses’ Scotland to the sword in Cardiff. Warren Gatland’s men showed flashes of their best, but they will need to be perfect for 80 minutes if they are to become the first team to beat England at Twickenham in the Eddie Jones era.
The defending champions were predictably dominant against Italy, as they opened up their campaign with a comfortable victory. Before the tournament got underway, this weekend’s visit of the Welsh was also expected to be another stroll for the Red Rose, especially given all the injuries their neighbours are having to deal with.
But what Wales showed against Scotland, apart from that Gatland has released the shackles on their attacking ambitions, is that they feel like a team with a point to prove having been written off due to the absences….hence why Gatland has named the same team to face England.
However, while they smashed Scotland’s brittle confidence, they will find England are made of sterner stuff.
The defending champions have won five of the last six meetings and it is tough to see beyond them edging this one, despite Wales’ win last week and the loss of Ben Youngs to injury.
The Welsh are, however, worth backing to lose by less than 11.5 points in the handicap market, available at 25/26. Their defence was superb against Scotland last week and they are fancied to keep it close on Saturday.
Another tight encounter could come at Murrayfield on Sunday, when a battered Scotland play host to France. The word “embarrassed” has been uttered a lot by the Scots in the wake of that Cardiff hammering and Gregor Townsend will be hoping he gets the right kind of response from his players this weekend.
Scotland have been tremendous on home soil in recent years and start the game as 5/12 favourites. They’ll have to negotiate a French side who showed a lot of grit and fight against the Irish last week, and Les Bleus will be keen to make this another attritional affair.
A France win is a tempting 37/20 and given they have won 11 of the last 12 meetings with the Scots, including on four of their previous five visits to Edinburgh, it is worth taking a chance on.
Finally, we come to Ireland against Italy. It is a struggle to bring to mind what the Azzurri add to the Six Nations, other than the chance to visit Rome. They have failed to progress as had been hoped when they were introduced to the tournament and are likely to suffer another heavy loss in Dublin.
The Irish should have wrapped up last week’s game in France before Johnny Sexton’s drop goal, but lacked the creativity to get over the tryline. Coach Joe Schmidt will likely give his players a bit more freedom this week, so a home win by a margin of 21-30 points at 3/1 is the call here.
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