Wales win real value in Twickenham title decider, Ireland and France to respond
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | March 11, 2016
There’s just the small matter of a likely title decider at Twickenham between England and Wales in week four of the 2016 Six Nations.
It’s the headline match for sure, and watch out for these “illegal scrummages” both camps have been banging on about. The visiting Dragons remain well-treated at 13/8 with Coral in the outright Six Nations betting, however, for another tournament triumph under Warren Gatland.
Before England and Wales clash, former holders Ireland will seek a response against Italy in Dublin; while, on Sunday, France travel to Scotland against whom they have a magnificent recent record.
Ireland v Italy
- Saturday, March 12th
- Aviva Stadium, Dublin
- Kick-off: 13:30 GMT
- Live on ITV1
Azzurri perfect opposition for Irish to bounce back
Ireland have a 100 per cent home record against Italy, suffering their only ever loss to them in Rome, and that is why Joe Schmidt’s side are overwhelming odds-on match favourites at 1/25.
Punters can enhance the Irish to evens by taking them in the handicap market, however, which is set at 24 points – an amount they have covered against the Azzurri in three of the last five head-to-heads.
Given outgoing Italy coach Jacques Brunel has named yet another half back combination, the lack of consistent selection about his XV means the visitors to Dublin are worthy 14/1 outsiders.
Injuries behind Italian changes
There are four changes in all for the Azzurri; Guglielmo Palazzani makes his first Six Nations start at scrum half as Edoardo Gori is injured, with Edoardo Padovani in for Kelly Haimona alongside.
With the forwards losing experienced hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini and lock Josh Furno, Italy go with Davide Giazzon and George Biagi as respective cover.
Influential Azzurri captain and number eight Sergio Parisse is rated their most likely try threat at 11/4 anytime, while replacement full back Luke McLean is another who has scored against Ireland before.
No Payne no gain for Earls and Trimble
Schmidt welcomes Jared Payne back in at centre with Stuart McCloskey making way despite an admirable international debut against England last time out. Irish injuries have still not abated, however, with Rob Kearney out, so Simon Zebo starts at full back in just two changes.
Winger duo Keith Earls and Andrew Trimble both love scoring against Italy, so that is why they are odds-on at 5/6 to cross anytime here. Earls, who has four tries in six Tests when previously paired with this opposition, is better 7/1 to go over first and 3/1 for two tries or more.
Scrum half Conor Murray grabbed a try in last year’s Six Nations match and also crossed last time out against England, where he proved a key Ireland player. It’s 6/4 for Murray to do so again here.
England v Wales
- Saturday, March 12th
- Twickenham Stadium, London
- Kick-off: 16:00 GMT
- Live on ITV1
Away win trend may continue
Last year’s two meetings between the Red Rose and Dragons saw the visiting team win, so the Welsh are awesome at 11/5 to keep that pattern going. Just like their hosts, neither team has lost a Six Nations fixture in the 2016 campaign.
England are odds-on 4/9 favourites to avenge their terminal Rugby World Cup loss here yet, Italy apart, have failed to win convincingly. Captain Dylan Hartley has urged his teammates to push on and take the Six Nations Triple Crown by defeating the Dragons.
“We’ve been runners-up for the last four years, so we were lacking something minuscule. It may be that mental edge,” said Hartley. “The older guys are worried about walking away without winning anything big.”
Davies has Webb breathing down his neck
Gatland’s recall of Rhys Webb to be among the Welsh replacements for this game means there are two quality scrum halves in visiting ranks. Gareth Davies retains the starting jersey for now because of his incredible tryscoring form, but welcomes the competition.
“We all knew that as soon as Webby was fit he was going to be straight back in the squad. I expected it,” said Davies. “It is a bit of extra pressure for me but I enjoy it.”
Davies’ stats of six tries in his last eight internationals, including the last against England here in September, make him a tasty 10/3 anytime chance. To repeat having the final say, he is 11/1.
North and Cuthbert considerable threats to hosts
Dragons wing duo George North and Alex Cuthbert have both bagged braces in this fixture before, and are part of an unchanged XV fielded by Gatland for this Red Rose trip.
North has two in as many Tests prior to this one, so features in a sweet 7/1 wincast Wales. Wide cohort Cuthbert, meanwhile, is available at anytime odds of 7/2 in that Six Nations betting market.
What Gatland must be wary of, however, is England matching his side. Webb’s return to the bench is offset by an influential player being back in the fold for the hosts…
Tuilagi set to tale centre stage in second-half
While Red Rose boss Eddie Jones has also kept faith with the same XV that beat injury-plagued Ireland last time out, Manu Tuilagi is available for international duty from among the home replacements for the first time in almost two years.
This powerful centre has scored in this fixture before, and Tuilagi’s return to action during the second-half is almost inevitable. If it’s a less lauded anytime tryscorer punt you’re after, however, then look no further than England flanker James Haskell.
With three career crossings against the Dragons on his CV, Haskell has put three-quarters of his total international points tally on the board when paired with this opposition. Take Haskell at a fine price of 15/2 to get another try here.
Watson and Joseph will want to repeat crossings
Although keeping discipline and avoiding conceding too many penalties within the range of Dan Biggar’s boot is essential, if the Red Rose are to show they’ve learned anything from the Rugby World Cup, the hosts are not without dangermen of their own.
Anthony Watson and Jonathan Joseph, who is the Six Nations’ leading tryscorer for a second successive season, went over in Cardiff and need to produce from the wing and centre – especially the latter, who has Tuilagi’s considerable shadow lurking in the background.
While Watson is a 12/5 anytime favourite for England, Joseph of course appeals at that tasty 10/3 price also available on deadly Davies above.
Scotland v France
- Sunday, March 13th
- Murrayfield, Edinburgh
- Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
- Live on BBC1
Les Bleus look good to bounce back
Since Italy entered the competition in 2000 and it became the Six Nations, Scotland have beaten France just once. There is thus some value in taking Guy Noves’ travelling team at 6/5 to maintain their terrific recent record against the Tartan team.
Vern Cotter’s crew, who have won just one Six Nations match in 10 attempts and last tasted victory at home in February 2013, are somewhat short at 5/6 to thwart Les Bleus.
They must do so without centre Mark Bennett, meaning Glasgow Warriors temmate Alex Dunbar comes in to partner Duncan Taylor. South Africa-born Josh Strauss make his first Six Nations start at number eight, replacing Ryan Wilson.
Fofana returns for France
Noves is boosted by the return of powerful back Wesley Fofana, twice a tryscorer in four Tests against Scotland, but he will play on the wing with Maxime Mermoz partnering the coach’s former Toulouse charge Gael Fickou at centre.
Fofana had been struggling with a rib injury but, now fit, is a real threat for Les Bleus at an awesome 11/4 for a try anytime. Fickou, meanwhile, is a terrific 10/3 in the same market. If it’s in-play rugby betting that appeals, then watch out for Maxime Medard off the bench.
There’s a host of changes for France, with Scott Spedding recalled at full back and Francois Trinh-Duc getting the nod at fly half over Jules Plisson. Noves also makes some forward alterations with Yacouba Camara (number eight) and Yoann Maestri (lock) coming into the XV.
Hogg and Seymour the Scots to side with
Like French threat Fofana, home side full back Stuart Hogg has a couple of tries in four Tests in this fixture, so is a superb 7/2 to cross anytime.
Tartan team wing Tommy Seymour boast the same return in one match less, however, and crossed last time out in the win over Italy. Siding with Seymour at a terrific 12/5 is also appealing for punters.
Nobody has kicked more points in this year’s Six Nations than Scotland skipper Greig Laidlaw, and odds of 11/8 say the first scoring play will be a penalty kick from the hosts.
Coral’s top tip: England have much to prove, and it pays to back Wales at 11/5 for a Twickenham win.