The annual ‘Super Saturday’ brings the curtain down on the2019 Six Nations and with Wales going for the Grand Slam, while simultaneously being in danger of missing out on the title, it is still all to play for.
First up it is off to the Eternal City at lunchtime as wooden spoon ‘winners’ Italy welcome France to the Stadio Olimpico. Neither have had good campaigns, with France’s 27-10 win over Scotland the only victory either has managed.
Italy have pushed Wales and Ireland close in their two home matches but were smashed 57-14 by England. Playing in Rome gives them the best shot of success and they appear to be facing an out-of-sorts France.
With just over six months to go until the World Cup, it would be foolish to expect Les Bleus to be showing any signs of having a clue about how they will set-up in Japan.
Former Italy boss Jacques Brunel looks more perplexed by the week and has made six changes for this one, with Wesley Fofana coming into the midfield.
The pair are pretty evenly matched in all, with Les Bleus scoring just three points more than their rivals in the competition, but it could be the Azzurri’s day, with France’s lack of discipline always a worry.
All eyes will be on Cardiff at 2:45pm as Wales aim to complete the Grand Slam against an Ireland team who were in the same situation last season.
Despite being on for the clean sweep, Wales have not played well, barring their second-half showing against England. However, they have a habit of edging big games at the Principality Stadium – as the Red Rose continually seem to find.
Ireland were the pre-Six Nations favourites but have looked shaky at times and fell off the pace in last weekend’s 26-14 win over France. However, they still have a chance of claiming the Championship and Joe Schmidt will be determined to cause an upset in Cardiff.
‘Scruffy’ is a word that sums up both teams’ form this year and it is tough to predict a classic, especially with neither Gareth Anscombe nor Jonathan Sexton on top of their kicking game.
In a World Cup year, this could prove a titanic tussle, but with the home crowd on their side it should be Wales’ day.
The tournament is rounded off at 5:30pm at what could be a rather subdued Twickenham as England and Scotland battle it out for the Calcutta Cup.
Despite being the holders after triumphing 25-13 last February at Murrayfield, the Scots have a terrible record at HQ, not winning at the stadium since 1983.
Eddie Jones has swapped Joe Cokanasiga for Jack Nowell on the wing, while another Exeter man in Henry Slade has also come back into the side.
The Scots are without Stuart Hogg, Blair Kinghorn and Tommy Seymour, so look down to the bare bones.
Of course, much could depend on the result in Cardiff, but England are rightly the 1/25 favourites to win the game and the value has to be found elsewhere.
Having run in 61 points the last time the pair met at Twickenham, and with the Scots not beating anyone barring Italy away from home in this competition since triumphing in Ireland in 2010, a look at the handicap of -19.5 looks a sensible mark, while more positive punters may eye something like the 51/20 for a 21-30 point margin.
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