Irish to edge France, Wales to open account v Scots, England to thrash Italy
Hugo Barnard | February 11, 2016
France and Ireland kick off week 2 at 2016 Six Nations
After an enthralling opening round to the 2016 Six Nations tournament, all six countries ready themselves for another weekend of top international rugby union action.
The first fixture of the weekend will see Ireland hoping to live up to the game of the week billing by picking up their first win of the campaign in Paris. While, England and France will be looking for more straightforward victories against Italy and Scotland respectively.
France v Ireland
- Saturday, February 13th
- Stade de France, Paris
- Kick-off: 14:25 GMT
- Live on BBC1
No luck needed for the Irish to break French hearts
Ireland have not lost to Les Bleus since 2011, and will want to continue this run on Saturday afternoon. France’s new coach Guy Noves still has much to prove after his team’s more than average display against the Italians last week, where they were lucky to pick up a last-gasp 23-21 win.
Although Ireland threw away the chance to a gain a crucial opening round victory against Wales, they are still great chances to open their Six Nations account by claiming all the spoils at the Stade de France at 11/10 with Coral.
Les Bleus are the slight odds-on favourites at 10/11, and have made a total of six changes from last weekend to try and respond in the best way possible to their lacklustre performance.
Props Uini Atonio and Jefferson Poirot come in to help the forwards along with flanker Yacouba Camara and second row Alexandre Flanquart. They are ably joined by centre Maxime Mermoz and winger Teddy Thomas.
Zebo and Earls missing, Kearney and O’Brien return
Ireland received further injury setbacks with stand-in full back Simon Zebo missing along with winger Keith Earls, who both picked up knocks against Wales. However, they will be buoyed with the news that the vastly experienced duo of Rob Kearney and Sean O’Brien return to the team.
With the game likely to be decided by the battle of the packs, Jamie Heaslip proves a good punt at 11/2 to score at anytime during the match. Irish winger Andrew Trimble tops the Irish market at 3/1, meanwhile.
For France, the safest bet could be on their nifty full back Maxime Medard, who has made a name for himself by getting crucial tries for club and country. He is a tempting 4/1 to score anytime.
The last two fixtures between these two nations in Paris have ended 17-17 and 22-20 to Ireland, so another tight encounter is very likely. Back the visitors at 4/1 to triumph by 1-5 points, therefore.
Wales v Scotland
- Saturday, February 13th
- Principality Stadium, Cardiff
- Kick-off: 16:50 GMT
- Live on BBC1
Wales to pile on the misery against the Scots
Wales are yet to lose a game against Scotland with Warren Gatland at the helm, with their last defeat coming way back in 2007. To make matters worse for visitors, they have not won in Cardiff since 2002, leading to why the Dragons are strong 2/9 favourites at to continue this unwanted record for the Scots.
Both teams will go into this encounter dissatisfied with their performances last weekend, feeling they could have taken more from their subsequent matches. Despite this, Scotland will still feel they can come away with an unlikely win, which would really cement their worth in this year’s Six Nations, and are at 4/1 to do so.
Gatland has the added luxury of naming an unchanged starting line-up for this clash, but will hope his side make a better start after trailing Ireland at home 0-13 after 30 minutes.
North hoping to end try drought
One thing that Gatland will be wary about, though, is the try drought Wales hero George North is currently going through. North would love nothing more than to put his recent critics to bed by crossing the line against the Scots on Saturday, and he has odds of 11/8 to score anytime.
Scotland coach Vern Cotter has only needed to make one change to his XV that narrowly lost to England, with Duncan Taylor replacing centre Matt Scott, who picked up an injury on Wednesday during training.
Maverick Scottish full back Stuart Hogg was sent off in this fixture two years ago, and will be hoping to keep a cooler head this time around. Much more likely, however, is that he will prove why he is lynchpin of this Scottish backline by scoring last at 18/1.
With Cotter insisting his team will be looking at proving the doubters wrong, this game could be a lot closer than expected.
Italy v England
- Sunday, February 14th
- Stadio Olimpico, Rome
- Kick-off: 14:00 GMT
- Live on ITV1
England to run riot in Rome
The Azzurri have never beaten England in 21 encounters, a record that has stood since 1991. After coming to close in Paris last weekend, and with Eddie Jones still very much in a transition period with this England side, Italy could cause a major shock and rewrite history by beating England at 8/1.
However, England, who showed glimpses of what is in store for this exciting youthful side, will beg to differ that an upset is on cards and so are heavy favourites to maintain their unbeaten record against the Italians odds-on at 1/10.
With last week’s game versus Scotland very much a battle of the forwards, expect tries galore from this England backline with a handicap win of 21-30 points at 3/1.
The only changes to the England squad are the introduction of the uncapped pair Josh Beaumont and Maro Itoje, who play at number eight and flanker respectively. There will be many eyes on exciting prospect Itoje, who has previously captained England Under-20s and gained many admirers while playing for club side Saracens, if he is to make his debut in Rome.
Parisse can provide some cheer for Italy fans
Italy, who are yet to name their squad to face England at the time of writing, will no doubt have their ever-present captain colossus Sergio Parisse available. Parisse always seems to save his best for the big match-ups and can certainly give the home crowd something to cheer about.
Again we saw glimpses of what this slick England backline can do last weekend and, with Jack Nowell scoring a tidy finish against Scotland, do not be surprised if Anthony Watson feels it is now his time to prove his worth to Jones by getting at least two tries here.
Although Jones will no doubt be asking his team to guard their complacency, expect this England side to show off a full array of skills on Sunday and win this match comfortably.
Coral’s top tip: Ireland are terrific 4/1 shouts to beat France by 1-5 points in the clash of the weekend.