Six Nations Rugby Championship: Round 2

It's make or break for France at Twickenham on Sunday

David Hollywood looks forward to round two of this years’ Six Nations Rugby Championship

The Aviva stadium witnessed the game of the weekend in the opening round of Six Nations fixtures.

England provided answers while Ireland face more questions after they were turned over at home for the first time in 12 games.

Elsewhere Scotland secured a bonus point win against Italy in less than impressive fashion while Wales got their campaign off to a perfect start with a win over France on Friday night.

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Scotland v Ireland (Virgin One/BBC One 2.15pm, Sat Feb 9th)

Scotland threatened to cut loose against Italy on a number of occasions but ultimately fell away to concede 17 points in the last 10 minutes. Crucially though the win was secured, bonus point and all.

For Ireland, matters are a good deal more fraught. A loss at Murrayfield this weekend and their Six Nations title aspirations will go the way of their Grand Slam hopes.

They were physically bettered by England according to Joe Schmidt. Physically battered is probably a more accurate description. Zero turnovers at the ruck was indicative of their lack of aggression and it’s fair to expect a much improved showing against Scotland.

While Ireland have beaten the Scots in three of the last four meetings, the average gap between to two sides is 8.5 points. It’s typically a close game. Scotland have beaten Ireland in three of the last four fixtures held at Murrayfield.

This match now appears a good deal closer than it did prior to the opening weekend. If Ireland and Joe Schmidt take their medicine and learn the lessons offered in defeat to England, they should have too much for Gregor Townsend’s side.

Ireland to win.

Italy v Wales (Virgin One/ITV 4:45pm, Sat Feb 9th)

There’s a recurring theme of Conor O’Shea’s tenure as Italy head-coach. Decent performances are punctured by moments of complete defensive failure. A late run of scores in the last ten minutes at Murrayfield last weekend bore no fruit in terms of points on the board.

And so they continue their painful search for a first Six Nations win since 2016.

Wales enjoyed the perfect result in Paris but their performance was a good deal away from perfection. That being said they won’t need to be at their best to take the full five points against Italy in Rome.

It’s now 12 years since Italy last beat Wales. In all, it’s only happened twice in the history of head to heads between these two sides.

While Warren Gatland’s side should account for Italy handily enough, Italy have managed to keep them within sight when playing in Rome more often than not.

Available at a price of 5/6, Italy to win at +18.5 seems good value. In Wales’ last six visits to Rome the hosts have finished within 20 on four occasions.

England v France (Virgin One/ITV 3pm, Sun Feb 10th)

Eddie Jones’ side delivered a signature performance against Ireland.

Every aspect of their game hummed with a vigour and sense of direction that was so sorely lacking in last year’s competition.

A performance even approaching that level should account for France.

For the French, this is not the game they need right now. In an error strewn effort in their first round clash with Wales they showed in fits and starts that they can compete at the higher echelons of this tournament.

Unfortunately for Jacques Brunel and co they showed in equal measure how they’re not ready to challenge for Six Nations silverware in 2019.

I still think the French can wreck a ship or two along the way this season. Scotland look the most exposed with a trip to Paris scheduled for round three. France win there and an unlikely win in Dublin will at least be considered.

Round one proved this is an open championship, a result for France here would really light the competition up.

A record of no wins in six Twickenham visits leaves an expectation of an England win.

Verdict

First up, we have Ireland’s crucial trip to Murrayfield. One bad game doesn’t sink a team of this quality. That’s now a working theory as opposed to a certainty.

We’ll know plenty more about both sides following this encounter.

Ireland with a -5.5 handicap to win at 4/5

Italy more often than not survive the handicap line when at home to the Welsh.

They’re 5/6 to win with a +18.5 start.

The first Sunday game of the tournament sees England welcome France to Twickenham. They’re short to win here and with good cause. As mentioned in last week’s preview, I won’t be sticking my neck out too far on France as they can do anything and everything.

England to win with a -6.5 handicap at 4/11



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*Odds were correct at time of publishing the article