The Six Nations tournament hasn’t disappointed so far and there’s already been plenty of adrenaline-fueled action on the field. Last week saw England overcome Italy by 47-17 despite not really firing on all cylinders, and one wonders if their porous defence may come back to haunt them as it did in last year’s competition. Scotland and Wales fought out a thrilling encounter which the Welsh looked well in command of, but having come back to draw to within three points of their visitors, the Scots were left to rue what might have been if they hadn’t given away so many penalties. Perhaps the tie of the weekend was the brutal match between Ireland and France, which saw an impressive Irish (and Jonathan Sexton) performance in standing up to the powerful French, and running out 18-11 winners. We tipped England to beat a -28.5 Handicap, and Ireland to beat France in our preview last week, and we’re getting our bets on early for the next round of matches which take place on 28th February and 1st March.
Ireland v England
This is the big match that Rugby fans have been waiting for since the Six Nations fixtures were announced. The two best sides in the competition, and the two favourites to win it, go head-to-head in a battle that ought to go a long way to deciding the destination of the Six Nations trophy, the Triple Crown, and even the Grand Slam. We’ve already tipped Ireland to complete those achievements, so we have a vested interest in this result already, but it’s still very hard to look past Ireland on home ground. They showed in Dublin last week just how tough they can be when standing up against the physical French onslaught, and in Sexton they have a man on top of his game with the kicking skills to boot. They’ve now won their last nine tests and are playing with a machine-like efficiency. Their defence won them the Six Nations last year as they conceded so many fewer than England to have a better points difference. It could be their defence that wins them this match, and they’ll need to be on top of their game to hold out against a free-scoring England.
Admittedly, those 47 points that England scored were against Italy, but there was a lot to like about the way England scored the points, particularly the running and two tries of Jonathan Joseph. England were actually the last side to beat Ireland when they won 13-10 in last year’s tournament, and they’re also the last Northern Hemisphere side to beat them in Dublin – the 12-6 Six Nations win of 2013. However, the Irish look formidable at the moment, and England will have to be at their very best to get anything here. They were fairly average in the first half against Wales, but turned it round with an excellent second half performance; they’ll have no such luxuries against Ireland and a poor start will be punished. They also racked up the points against Italy, but that was all that was expected of them and it will have little bearing on this game against much, much better opposition.
Ireland just look that little bit stronger than England, and with the vociferous home support behind them they can secure a famous victory. If they win here they will know that only a home match against Scotland and an away game in Wales stand between them and the clean sweep. The players will be fully aware of that before kick off, and will be told in no uncertain terms to make this one count.
Scotland v Italy
Scotland have performed well but failed to live up to the potential of their play so far in the Six Nations, and it’s the same old story for them. There was plenty to like about the way they started against France, and they even scored the opening try, but five French penalties put paid to their effort and they were defeated 15-8. Again they played pretty well against the Welsh in the 23-26 defeat, and things looked good when full-back Stuart Hogg ran in the opening try, but again too many penalties given away resulted in a 16-10 Welsh lead at half-time. They scored another try in the dying seconds to bring the scores to 23-26, and it might have been a different story had they not handed the initiative to Wales early on.
Despite the lack of points on the board though, those two performances were a decent level for Scotland, and they played some good rugby. They’re taking on an Italian side who will provide a much ‘easier’ test than either France or Wales, and with fixtures against England and Ireland to come, the Scots know that this is probably their only realistic chance of winning a game in this Six Nations tournament.
Italy for their part, have had two of the toughest fixtures so far, losing 26-3 to Ireland in Rome, then 47-17 to England at Twickenham, but those results had to be expected and there’s a reason why Italy have won the wooden spoon in the Six Nations nine times in fifteen attempts.
The two sides fought out a close friendly in Scotland last year with the score ending 30-29 to the Scots, but the previous four meetings in Scotland would have seen them overcome a -11 points handicap. The scorelines were 34-10, 23-12, 21-8, and 26-6. With that in mind the Scots can be backed to raise their game in front of their own fans and ensure that they don’t finish up as the worst side in this year’s competition.
Both tips make plenty of appeal as singles, but for those who prefer the bigger odds, the double is:
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