Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
The fate of the Six Nations trophy may have been decided last weekend but there's still another round of intense rugby action to go. This weekend will see champions England travel to France with the hope of securing their 13th Grand Slam.
Prior to that fixture, Wales host an Italian outfit that were run rampant by Ireland last weekend, while the Irish host a Scottish team who are coming off the back of a historic victory over France.
Wales v Italy | Saturday 19 March | Principality Stadium | 16:30
To Win (80 Mins)
Wales 1/100 | Draw 50/1 | Italy 20/1
Wales (-35.5) 9/10 | Italy (+35.5) 9/10
It’s been a bit of a disappointing campaign for Warren Gatland’s side. Injuries to key players prior to and during the tournament left them hamstrung. Despite the injury blows, the Dragons did manage put in some mesmerizing displays during their campaign.
They showed their traditional grit and determination right from the outset by coming back to secure a draw away from home against the Irish. They demonstrated that same fire and passion in spades during the final 10 minutes against the English last week. Trailing 25-7 on the 70-minute mark, the Welsh stormed back into the game with two tries. The first of which, came courtesy of George North who was put through by a delicate offload from Liam Williams. Toby Faletau dotted down shortly after North to bring Wales within 4 points of the English. Gatland’s men were unable to add more points to the scoreboard, however, and the game ended 25-21 in favour of Eddie Jones’ side.
While the Welsh showed brilliant character last week with their late resurgence, the Italians put in one of most insipid displays against the Irish. While the Azzurri were always in for a tough game in Ireland’s back yard, the manner in which they simply rolled over and took their pasting was rather embarrassing. They fell off tackles, couldn’t get a foothold in the scrum – an area in which they pride themselves, mind you – and seemed to have their minds on the flight back home rather than the match. They thoroughly deserved their 58-15 hiding, in my humble opinion.
In terms of team news for this weekend, Wales are likely to rotate for this clash. I expect to see the likes of former Waikato Chiefs man, Gareth Anscombe, Bath pivot Rhys Priestland, and flanker Justin Tipuric all elevated from the bench to the starting line-up. I suspect Italy will opt for a similar route as their opponents, with Braam Steyn, Kelly Haimona, and Luke McLean all likely to make the starting XV.
Verdict: Wales (-35.5) 9/10
This may be a game to leave out of your rugby multiple and not put a lot of money. It’s a massive margin and while the Welsh are capable of clearing it, it’s just a bit too big for me to throw any substantial money at. It may be best to let sleeping dragons lie and avoid this game.
Ireland v Scotland | Saturday 19 March | Aviva Stadium | 19:00
To Win (80 Mins)
Ireland 7/20 | Draw 20/1 | Scotland 9/4
Ireland (-7.5) 9/10 | Scotland (+7.5) 9/10
The game of the round will see an Irish outfit who are coming off the back of a massive victory over the Italians take on a Scottish side who will be in a buoyant mood after defeating the French. Both sides were spectacular last week, with the Irish putting on an exhibition of running rugby at the Aviva Stadium and the Scots pummeling the French into submission at Murrayfield with some hard running and heavy hitting.
This game is ultimately a battle for third spot on the Six Nations log. While the Irish will view a third place finish as well bellow par, the Scot’s will be elated to finish so high up the standings. The Scots will be hard tasked to achieve this feat however as history heavily favors the Irish. The two sides have squared off 16 times since the 5 Nations was expanded to include six teams in 2000. Ireland have won 13 of these fixtures while the Scots have only mustered up three victories.
Having said all that, I must add that this Scottish side is in a different class to the ones that turned out in the early to mid-2000’s. Mentor, Vern Cotter has got his team focused and playing to their strengths. Their backline looks a lot more potent and they are starting to score five pointers a lot more frequently than in previous years.
The hosts will be looking to end their campaign on a high so expect a full strength Irish squad to take to the pitch, although, pivot Johnny Sexton could be given a rest if his injury niggles flair up during the week. With a third place finish on the line, the Scots will surely field a full strength squad for this one.
Verdict: Ireland (-7.5) 9/10
The Irish were really impressive last weekend and while the Scots have been fantastic this term, I think they are going to struggle to keep it within the +7.5 margin. Back the hosts to clear the handicap at 9/10.
France v England | Saturday 19 march | Stade de France | 22:00
To Win (80 Mins)
France 24/10 | Draw 20/1 | England 3/10
France (+7.5) 9/10 | England (-7.5) 9/10
The one team you don’t want to take on with a Grand Slam on the line is the French. Yes, they’ve been a lot more conservative this year, but they still have the ability to produce an upset result, especially at the Stade de France.
The English also showed last week that they are capable of imploding when the pressure is on. Having taken a comfortable 17 point lead with only ten minutes of the game left to play, the Eddie Jones’ side capitulated and allowed the Welsh to come back into the game. This would have irked Jones no end. The former Wallaby and Japan mentor, is a hard man to please and I can guarantee you that he would have laid into his charges behind closed doors despite them securing their first Six Nations crown in 5 years.
While England survived a late scare, the French were outdone by Scots for the first time in a decade. Le Bleu were actually alright last week but seemed to run out of steam in the second half, which is expected when you consider that the vast majority of the squad hadn’t competed in the Six Nations until this year. The heavy fixture list, due to the French players competing in Top 14 games during the Six Nations bye weekend’s, seems to have taken its toll on this new look French outfit.
They’re going to need to find some zeal for this week’s game, as the English are going to come to the Stade de France with their tails up. With some weary legs in the French camp, Guy Noves may well make a few changes in order to freshen things up. If he does opt to go this route, I expect to see fullback Maxime Medard and scrum half Sebastian Beezy come into the starting XV. England are likely to take a polar opposite approach to that of their opponents and field an almost identical matchday 23 to the one that secured the Six Nations title at Twickenham last week.
Verdict: England (-7.5) 9/10
The English have been immaculate this campaign and I can’t see them putting in a poor performance against the French. Back Eddie Jones’ side to claim the Grand Slam and clear the -7.5 margin at 9/10.
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