Six Nations Round 2 Preview: Are England Ready for Resurgent Wales?6 min read
The opening weekend of the Six Nations was full of surprises, from Wales blowing out Scotland to a last-play winner in Paris. Will things settle down in round 2? Not likely with Wales on their way to Twickenham.
Below is a breakdown of every game from this weekend’s action, plucking out some of the key matchups in what promises to be the very best European rugby has to offer.
Ireland vs Italy (Sat 10th Feb: 2.15pm ITV 1)
Much like Italy’s opening game against England, it is tough to get too excited about this match-up.
Ireland weren’t dominant in their last-minute win against France, but in the end, they proved why they have been tipped as England’s biggest competition. They had poise when it mattered most and will get a nice confidence boost this week against an out-of-place Italy.
Ireland are 34-point favourites, so it is once again the try scorer markets that provide the only real value here.
Robbie Henshaw anytime try scorer
Dan Leavy anytime try scorer
Rob Kearney to score 2 or more tries
England vs Wales (Sat 10th Feb: 4.45pm ITV 1)
I wasn’t expecting this to be such a hard game to pick, but one week changes everything. Wales were made to look very good against Scotland, while England left Rome with more injury problems and face their first real test of the year this weekend.
Scrum-half Ben Youngs will miss the rest of the Six Nations, moving Danny Care into the starting role. Much like Billy Vunipola’s replacements on the back row, Care is more than capable in the position and has plenty of experience. However, it effects the depth of the squad – something England needed every bit of to secure a late win over Wales in 2017.
One of the most interesting match-ups here is the battle of minds between these head coaches. Warren Gatland is yet to record a win over England under Jones but has a historically great Six Nations record and always has his team ready to march into Twickenham. Look out for fireworks.
The youth vs experience battle across the back-rows could be the difference in this one, and it’s genuinely a tough call. It’s been unwise to bet against England at home for a years now, so I’ll stick with my gut and say they win a close one.
Wales +12-point handicap
Last team to score – England
Jonathan Joseph anytime try scorer
Scotland vs France (Sun 11th Feb: 3.00pm BBC One)
Scotland’s aspirations of kicking the tournament off to a fast start did not go to plan. We saw about 10 minutes of a good Scotland team, and 70 minutes of one chasing their own tails.
Skip forward a week and Scotland have taken every measure possible to avoid a repeat. Six players from last week’s starting line-up have been replaced, including promising young scrum-half Ali Price, who moves back to the bench in favour of the veteran Greg Laidlaw. We don’t know how much of a difference all the changes will make, and there is a good chance it will turn out to be an over-correction to a bad day at the office. However, we do know that Scotland won’t play like they did last week again.
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) February 8, 2018
France on the other hand played much better than expected in the opening round and would have beaten an in-form Ireland side if not for a missed penalty with under five minutes to go. But therein lies my issue with this current France team.
They have plenty of talent and seem to be under better guidance, though for them to do real damage in the tournament they will need to play much smarter rugby and get the situational calls right. I’m just not sure how well this show goes on the road.
I always like to see a team bounce back after being embarrassed on a big stage, so I’ll take Scotland to win this one by at least 5-points.
Scotland to score the 1st try
Scotland winning margin 6-10 points