My accumulator for Week Two was a winner – Scotland landing the third and final leg of the 10/1 treble. But that was then and this is now; it is time to focus on this weekend’s fixtures and it could be a HUGE weekend of international rugby union.
The first and only Friday game of this year’s tournament takes place this week, with France taking on Italy in Marseille. Will the venue change have an adverse effect on Les Bleus or will it be a case of business as usual for the hosts? Only time will tell.
And then we have two mammoth fixtures on Saturday. Wales, still in with an outside chance of winning the Six Nations title, travel across the Irish Sea to Dublin for what is expected to be another physical encounter.
Wales gave a decent account at Twickenham last time out but fell short – although many will feel that Gareth Anscombe’s try should not have been ruled out. On another day, the visitors could have won that game and a trip to the Aviva Stadium poses a different type of battle.
In the third and final match of the weekend, England travel north of the border to face Auld Enemy Scotland in the Calcutta Cup. Eddie Jones’ side rode their luck against Wales and will need to improve here – Scotland are rock solid at Murrayfield.
Once again, it should be a fantastic weekend of rugby and plenty of punters will be getting stuck into 888sport’s union betting markets in the coming days. Check out my thoughts on the action below…
FRANCE vs Italy
France will feel aggrieved to be languishing in fifth spot with two defeats – and with good reason. Les Bleus came within a whisker of beating Ireland on the opening weekend before Johnny Sexton’s miraculous drop goal and France also led for large parts of their Week Two loss at Murrayfield.
Building on those performances is the most important thing for France, and a bonus point victory could be on the cards in Marseille. If Les Bleus play at their brilliant best, Jacques Brunel’s side have the quality to run riot; that is why I am going with the hosts to win by 17 points or more.
Italy struggled against both England and Ireland and it isn’t going to get any easier for the visitors. Conor O’Shea is a shrewd operator but even he may struggle to come up with a viable game plan to slow France down. Penalties have hindered Italy’s progress and France can capitalise on Friday night.
TIP: France -16.5 on the handicap @ 5/6
Ireland vs WALES
As expected, Joe Schmidt’s men ran riot against Italy. That in itself might not be a feat worth boasting about but the manner of Ireland’s victory was very impressive indeed – it certainly raised a few eyebrows. Connor Murray’s try was the highlight, with the Munster scrum-half touching down finishing off a slick Irish move.
But this will be a much greater test. Wales, hard done by at Twickenham in Week Two, will be determined to respond with a win and three Lions heroes will return for the Dublin showpiece. Liam Williams, Dan Biggar and Leigh Halfpenny are all fit enough to start and that should give Wales a huge boost.
With that in mind, I fancy Gatland’s men to keep this one close. Wales came out on top in this fixture last year and the visitors should have enough in the tank to push Ireland all the way. They may not win but 19/20 for a 9.5 point lead is generous and punters should think about snapping that up.
TIP: Wales +9.5 on the handicap @ 19/20
Scotland vs ENGLAND
The Jekyll and Hyde of this year’s Six Nations, you don’t quite know which Scotland side is going to turn up – although you can probably predict an early onslaught from the hosts in this fixture. With the Calcutta Cup up for grabs, Scotland will be determined to build on the victory over France and plenty of pundits have hinted at a home win here.
Eddie Jones’ men travel north of the border in buoyant mood; most of the post-match talk after the Wales game surrounded the Anscombe try but that won’t bother Jones at all. That distraction has allowed England to get on with their own preparations for this clash and the visitors will be quietly confident having won their last eight games against Scotland.
Murrayfield has been a fortress in recent times, with Scotland winning nine of their previous 11 home games – and one of those defeats was to New Zealand. The selection has landed in two of England’s last three trips to the home of Scottish rugby and 13/8 is a fair price given the recent form of Gregor Townsend’s side.
TIP: England to win by 1-12 points @ 13/8
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*