Scotland out to end Cardiff hoodoo

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend

Once again there is talk of a new dawn in Scottish rugby after a positive autumn international campaign. In the past, these new dawns have never materialised but could this current Scotland set-up be about to end nearly two decades of Six Nations darkness?

A thumping win over Australia and a narrow loss to New Zealand has given everyone hope north of the border that this could be the year Scotland finally mount a serious challenge for the Six Nations.

To do that they will need to massively improve their form away from home and where better to start than in a city where they have not won for 16 years.

Cardiff is a far from happy hunting ground for the Scots and that is reflected in the betting for this game as they will start as 6/5 underdogs, with Wales 20/29.

Head coach Gregor Townsend has a collection of talented backs at his disposal but it is upfront where they are struggling, missing five props and three hookers this weekend.

Meanwhile, Wales have been hit hard by injuries in virtually every department and will be without the likes of Jonathan Davies, Sam Warburton, Liam Williams and Dan Biggar for either the entirety or at least most of the Six Nations.

One area they do look healthy is up front and Wales must dominant the scrum if they are to have a chance of victory.

This one will be tight and with Scotland still to convince that they are a force away from Murrayfield, I’ll side with the Welsh to win by between 1-10 points at 17/10.

The late games on Saturday see a young Ireland team head to Paris to face an unknown quantity in the current France side.

The Irish appear to have plenty of momentum with club sides Leinster and Munster looking dominant thanks to a plethora of up and coming talent, while they too had a good autumn.

Look for Jordan Larmour, Jacob Stockade and Joey Carbery to have break-out Six Nations, potentially starting against France.

Les Bleus come in to the Six Nations seemingly in disarray with Jacques Brunel appointed head coach in December after Guy Noves was sacked. Brunel faces a tough time picking up the pieces of a national set-up battle hindered by the domestic game and injuries to key men.

It will be a new-look France team that takes to the field on Saturday therefore and that can be a dangerous thing. However, Ireland should be good enough to see them off and can be backed at 25/27 to cover the -6 handicap.

Finally, England should open the defence of their crown in style against Italy on Sunday as they start their quest to become the first team to win three consecutive Six Nations.

Like the majority of other nations, England also have injury concerns but the next man up mentality instilled by head coach Eddie Jones means they will not dwell on any absences.

The Azzurri have been going backwards in recent years and will likely be collecting the wooden spoon for a 13th time, come March.

This is the perfect game for England to warm up with and they are worth backing at 4/5 to cover the -20 handicap on offer.

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