NatWest Six Nations 2018 Round Two
Round Two begins with a wounded Italy travelling to Dublin to face Ireland before England and an unchanged Wales lock horns in a mouth-watering Anglo-Welsh clash at Twickenham. Scotland and France round off the weekend on Sunday in Edinburgh, both looking to register their first wins of the championship after opening day defeats.
Ireland v Italy
- Saturday 10th February 2018, 14:15, Aviva Stadium
- Ireland 1/100, Italy 28/1, Draw 28/1 - BetVictor
Ireland began their Six Nations with a dramatic, last-gasp 15-13 victory against France in Paris. Behind on the scoreboard, away from home in the last play of the game, Joe Schmidt’s side put together 41 phases from their own 22 before Johnny Sexton delivered a pinpoint drop goal to snatch victory from the jaws of the defeat. It was a stunning, heroic ending to an absorbing game, and the men in green will be full of confidence after that remarkable fightback.
Italy succumbed to an ever-predictable 46-15 loss against England on the opening weekend. Granted, the Azzurri weren’t widely expected to beat one of the best sides in world rugby for the first-ever time, but head coach Conor O’Shea will be exasperated with large parts of yet another defeat. They’ll need to front up in Dublin against a buoyant Irish side or it could be another long 80 minutes for the plucky Italians.
The smart money is conclusively on Ireland to secure their second consecutive Six Nations victory against Italy before an all-Celtic clash against Wales in a fortnight’s time. The home side are overwhelming favourites with the bookmakers and, after coming through a tough examination in the bearpit of the Stade de France, Italy embody a varied but less formidable proposition. The hosts are 1/8 on with 888Sport to win both halves at the Aviva Stadium, and flying winger Jacob Stockdale is an enticing 11/2 with Boylesports to score the game’s first five-pointer. Ireland may be without flanker Josh van der Flier through injury, but they should be targeting a four-try bonus point against the travelling Italians.
Italy have beaten Ireland four times in their history, most recently in 2013, but face a tall order if they’re to do so again. They’re 19/1 to be leading after 20 minutes on Saturday but were well beaten 63-10 in last year’s corresponding fixture. Their relatively inexperienced outfit must front up in the eye of an imposing Irish storm, and the gifted yet inconsistent Carlo Canna could come in for Tomasso Allen at fly-half. The visitors are 16/1 to be leading by 1-7 points at half-time in Dublin, but whichever way you look at it, it’s hard to look beyond an Irish victory.
Sports.net’s Top Tip
Ireland to win by 21-25 points
England v Wales
- Saturday 10th February 2018, 16:45, Twickenham
- England 1/5, Wales 4/1, Draw 22/1 - Ladbrokes
England’s 31-point win over Italy was the picture-perfect start for Eddie Jones’ men in preparation for the tougher challenges that lie ahead, starting with the captivating visit of a rejuvenated Wales this weekend. It was a professional job from England in their Six Nations opener, a no-nonsense display encapsulated by the ever-blossoming partnership developing between Owen Farrell and George Ford. An expectant Twickenham crowd will demand a second victory on the bounce for an England side who start as favourites, so the players must contend with a weighty amount of expectation.
A depleted Wales outfit stole the show against Scotland, registering a 34-7 victory as they out-classed, out-gunned and out-muscled a sluggish Scottish side in front of an army of adoring Welsh fans. The likes of Aaron Shingler and Josh Navidi really came of age on the Test stage, with try-scoring debutant Josh Adams another to impress in the red jersey. Although England at Twickenham signifies a greater challenge, Warren Gatland’s men will be quietly confident of repeating their heroics from the 2015 Rugby World Cup, the last time they secured victory against the Red Rose.
The Anglo-Welsh clash between these two proud rugby nations is always one of the highlights of the rugby calendar, and England’s Richard Wigglesworth has been called up the squad after fellow scrum-half Ben Youngs was ruled out of the rest of the Six Nations through injury. The Saracens man could have a role to play from the bench in south-west London, with the hosts 5/18 with 888Sport to be leading on the hour-mark. England have only lost one game since Jones took charge, and 4/9 England/England Half Time/Full Time odds from William Hill are reassuring for England fans.
Wales head coach Warren Gatland has named an unchanged XV to take on England, keeping faith with the same team who caught the eye so admirably in Cardiff. They’re 9/4 with Betfred to reach 10 points first this weekend, a tricky proposition given they’re missing the likes of Sam Warburton, Toby Faletau and Dan Biggar. Keep an eye on Worcester’s fearless winger Josh Adams, 5/2 with Boylesports to cross the whitewash at any time. England will provide a much stiffer examinations of Wales’ title credentials than Scotland did, so the visitors, captained by Alun-Wyn Jones, will need to raise their game considerably if they’re to register their first victory over England in three years.
Sports.net’s Top Tip
Scotland v France
- Sunday 11th February 2018, 15:00, BT Murrayfield
- Scotland 1/2, France 7/4, Draw 20/1 - Coral
All the pre-tournament whisperings that this could be the year where Scotland finally a mount a serious assault on the Six Nations title were quickly silenced as Gregor Townsend’s men were ruthlessly embarrassed on the road in Round One. The manner of their 27-point loss to Wales in Cardiff is hugely alarming for the Scottish faithful, with their eye-catching autumn campaign quickly becoming a distant memory. Fresh personnel in the XV against France should rejuvenate an outfit that was bullied off the park last weekend.
France’s last-gasp two-point loss to Ireland may have been agonising for head coach Jacques Brunel to comprehend, but Les Blues will need to pick themselves up again at BT Murrayfield in this clash between two winless sides. In what is very much a transitional, youthful and inexperienced French outfit, they’re still finding their feet as part of a new coaching set-up, so the game in Edinburgh will be a good test of where French rugby is right now.
Scotland’s injury list has grown after the Cardiff horror show, with Byron McGuigan the latest to be unavailable for selection. Chris Harris and Cornell du Preez really struggled to have any impact on the game, whilst star men Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg were uncharacteristically quiet in a hesitant performance from Townsend’s men. However, they have the chance to right the wrongs from Round One against France and are 6/4 with Betfred to register victory by 1-12 points. Their pack was tormented against Wales with an ineffective back-row, suspect scrum and faltering line-out. They must get their basics right this weekend and, if they do, 8/15 odds from William Hill in the race to 10 points offers signs of encouragement.
France will be kicking themselves after relinquishing a winning position in the dying seconds against Ireland, and will be eager to get back to winning games up in Edinburgh. Lionel Beauxis, Baptiste Couilloud and Louis Picamoles have all been brought into the squad after injuries in Round One, and Les Bleus are 6/1 with 888Sport to win both halves. Captain Guilhem Guirado was the tournament-high top tackler last weekend with 31, and the hooker is 17/10 with UniBet to see his side leading on the hour-mark. This game has all the makings of a close, tight game between two winless sides in need of a reaction after opening round losses.
Sports.net’s Top Tip