Six Nations: Italy host Ireland while Scotland travel to France
Ireland are heavily odds-on with Coral at 1/6 to win their opening Six Nations match against rank outsiders Italy.
Having lifted the trophy last year, plus wins over Australia and South Africa in the Autumn internationals, Joe Schmidt’s side are now third in the world rankings, though the coach has stressed the need to keep grounded.
“Rankings or the tag of favourites – I don’t think either of those are going to tangibly add value to performances,” said Schmidt. “You just try and get better at what you are doing.”
Both sides will meet in the group stage of the Rugby World Cup later this year, though Ireland have to guard against complacency. Two years ago they slumped to a shock 22-15 loss in Rome, and had three men sin-binned, though this was before Schmidt took charge.
Key to any victory will be Tommy Bowe and Simon Zebo, who are 5/1 and 6/1 respectively to score first. For the home side Sergio Parisse and Leonardo Sarto head the betting and are 5/1 and 11/2 respectively to cross the whitewash in the anytime market.
Meanwhile, France welcome Scotland, and will see this Six Nations as a great test to measure how far they can realistically go in the World Cup. They are odds-on at 2/9 to beat Scotland, who will be hoping to amass at least six points.
French winger Teddy Thomas has been tipped to be star at this tournament, and the 21-year-old talent is 6/1 to score the first five points, while Scotland’s Dutch-born star Tim Visser will want to make his mark, and is a very good value at 4/1 to net anytime.
Teams for Italy v Ireland
Italy: 15-Andrea Masi, 14-Leonardo Sarto, 13-Michele Campagnaro, 12-Luca Morisi, 11-Luke McLean, 10-Kelly Haimona, 9-Edoardo Gori; 1-Matias Aguero, 2-Leonardo Ghiraldini, 3-Martin Castrogiovanni, 4-Joshua Furno, 5-George Biagi, 6-Alessandro Zanni, 7-Francesco Minto, 8-Sergio Parisse (captain).
Replacements: 16-Andrea Manici, 17-Alberto de Marchi, 18-Dario Chistolini, 19-Marco Fuser, 20-Marco Barbini, 21-Guglielmo Palazzani, 22-Tommaso Allan, 23-Giovanbattista Venditti.
Ireland: 15-Rob Kearney, 14-Tommy Bowe, 13-Jared Payne, 12-Robbie Henshaw, 11-Simon Zebo, 10-Ian Keatley, 9-Conor Murray; 1-Jack McGrath, 2-Rory Best, 3-Mike Ross, 4-Devin Toner, 5-Paul O’Connell (captain), 6-Peter O’Mahony, 7-Sean O’Brien, 8-Jordi Murphy.
Replacements: 16-Sean Cronin, 17-James Cronin, 18-Martin Moore, 19-Iain Henderson, 20-Tommy O’Donnell, 21-Isaac Boss, 22-Ian Madigan, 23-Felix Jones.