The Six Nations

The Six Nations is taking shape with two teams still in line to win a Grand Slam while another lies waiting to end a dream and take the title themselves.

This weekend’s action kicks off in Cardiff on Friday night with Wales aiming to break French hearts before England take on Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday.

 TOP OF THE TREE

After the two opening games England sit top of the tree but only on points difference given France have also won both of their matches.

Wales sit third with three points from their two matches, followed by reigning champions Ireland whose solitary point was won in the opening game against Wales.

Scotland and Italy prop up the table with neither side having managed a point so far but both desperate to evade the ignominy of the wooden spoon.

WALES V FRANCE

Wales are enjoying their best run of form against France since the 1950s – they have won their last four tests against them and have conceded just a single try against the French since 2011.

The hosts are also unbeaten in their last six Six Nations games and coach Warren Gatland has his sights firmly set on a fourth title since becoming supremo in 2008.

France overcame Ireland last time out and currently boast the most carries and metres made in the tournament but they will have to be on top form if they are to withstand Wales and take another step towards Grand Slam glory.

ENGLAND V IRELAND

England coach Eddie Jones is still making an impact and with two wins from two games so far he is on course for the Grand Slam in his first term in charge.

Champions Ireland don’t look the threat they once carried following the retirement of Titanic captain Paul O’Connell so soon after losing Brian O’Driscoll from the squad.

Ahead of the match Jones said: “Playing our first game at Twickenham after two away fixtures will be huge for us. We’re determined to put in a strong performance against a clever Irish side who are the benchmark of European rugby.”

Jones has been accused of playing mind games with his opponents but Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt responded, saying: “I think we’re probably less affected by those extraneous things than you people are.

“That’s because if we’re distracted by that, then that’s something that we’re wasting energy and time on.

“We get little enough time together as it is. And we’re all about making sure that we can be organised, enthusiastic and well-recovered, not distracted.

“People are within their rights to make whatever observation they like from outside the environment. But we know how things are inside the environment.”

ITALY V SCOTLAND

“If we look at Scotland’s first two Six Nations games against England and Wales, they played two big matches – they could have won both,” opined Italy head coach Jacques Brunel.

“For us it will be a very difficult game. We cannot allow ourselves the luxury of thinking that it won’t be. I think that Scotland are one of the most difficult teams to face.”

His counterpart Vern Cotter said: “Italy surprised France and England with their physicality, intensity and quality, all of which we will have to be ready for, and at least equal to, if we are to win in Rome this weekend.

“We have worked hard to improve our game and will stay true to the core values of this team, which is to work hard but stay calm; have belief in our systems, ourselves, and enjoy the opportunity.”

 

By: Joe Cahal

 

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