Six Nations preview and predictions
There’s only been one round of matches but only two teams can still win the Six Nations Grand Slam – but all sides still have a chance to win the title. We look ahead to this weekend’s matches and predict which nations will still be in the running for championship glory when the final whistle’s blown on Sunday.
France v Ireland
Ireland’s draw with Wales in Dublin ended ruled out of the chance of a Grand Slam for both nations – as well as a Triple Crown – both Ireland can still make it an unprecedented three titles in a row but will need a win against France in Paris tomorrow if such a dream is to become reality. The Irish dominated the early proceedings against Wales and established a 13-0 lead but a Welsh fight back saw the visitors turn the tables and they looked n course for a memorable 16-13 win before Johnny Sexton stepped up and slotted the ball over the bar to leave the sides with a share of the spoils. Sexton kicked 11 points against Wales and will need to be as clinical against the French whose coach Guy Noves saw his side beat Italy with an unconvincing display last weekend.
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s clash Noves said: “We’ve worked on our defensive organisation to try to counter the Irish. “It will be a difficult match. We hope it will be tricky for Ireland too. We’ve prepared for this match by getting it into our heads that we have to show more power. “I do not know if we will win this weekend – but we’ve had a good week.”
France have not beaten Ireland in their last five games against each other and it’s a fixture that often defines both sides’ chances of championship success. It’s tough call but Ireland’s greater experience and recent record in Paris suggests they’ll remain on course for the hat-trick of titles by emerging victorious in a close game.
Wales clear favourites
Wales take on Scotland in Saturday’s other game and will wear the tag of clear favourites with the knowledge that the Scots are improving and pose a real threat. Fly half Dan Biggar is available for Wales after what the coach hailed as a “miraculous recovery” from an ankle problem. “The boys were joking and calling him Lazarus and stuff,” said head coach Warren Gatland.
“He got through training on Thursday and looked sharp. I spoke to the medics, who thought that the injury was a three to five-week injury, but the scan came back clear and he has worked really hard in terms of his recovery.” It’s nine years since Scotland last beat Wales and by the end of tomorrow it’s more than likely to be ten with Wales set to prove worthy of their favourites tag.
Roses set to bloom in Rome
A romantic Valentine weekend in Rome for English fans looks guaranteed with new coach Eddie Jones instilling steel and grit into an a team still recovering from a shambolic world cup. The new boss has named exciting Saracens’ forward Maro Itoje on the bench and the dynamic, versatile 21-year-old is expected to win his first cap and feature at some point. “We’ve made a few changes to the line-up for Italy,” said Jones. “I believe this is the strongest 23 to go to Rome and get the performance and result we want.” England, like France, have a chance for the Grand Slam and Italy look highly unlikely to prevent them making it two wins from two on Sunday.
By: Joe Cahal