In Round 4 of the RBS 6 Nations, we saw it all! We witnessed the best try of the tournament so far, with George North crossing over for his first of two against Ireland. At the Stadio Olimpico Sergio Parisse scored the fastest try in the championship after just two minutes and 30 seconds! Only, for that to be topped a few hours later by Jonathan Joseph, who scored after just two minutes and 15 seconds against Scotland! Will this weekend be as exciting? With a Grand Slam up for grabs, I think so!
Scotland v Italy, KO 1230pm, Murrayfield
Yes, all the talk will be about Ireland v England on Saturday but a game I’m looking forward to seeing is this one. Scotland, who had been enjoying a good campaign, slipped up last weekend against England and unfortunately we saw the Scotland of old. They lacked attacking flair and physicality. It was the Master versus the Apprentice and a game Scotland will want to erase from the memory bank.
This Saturday, they’ll be desperate to make amends. It will be Vern Cotter’s last Six Nations Test in charge before he heads to France and he will want to leave on a high.
Italy, in contrast, got off to a blistering start against France but couldn’t hold on for a win. An 80th minute try by Angelo Esposito was some consolation, but a lack luster defence could not fend off the onslaught of Baptiste Serin, Gael Fickou, Brice Dulin, Virimi Vakatawa and Louis Picamoles who ran the show.
Michele Campagnaro has no luck! Once again he will miss the final game of the tournament due to injury. The threat he poses in attack will be sorely missed as he has shown time and time again what a class act he is.
Predictions: Scotland to win by a 15 point margin.
France v Wales, KO 245pm, Stade de France
These are two teams full of confidence with all to play for on Saturday. A win for either team will have a bearing on where they finish in the world rankings. If Wales beat France and Ireland lose to England, Wales could push themselves into fourth in the world rankings and guarantee themselves a top spot in one of the Rugby World Cup 2019 pools. Not bad for a team who before the tournament had everyone doubting their capabilities.
If France win, they will retain a spot in the top eight and put themselves in the second band of seeds for the draw, improving their chances of getting a slightly better pool. France were under pressure last weekend to secure the win but that pressure still remains. Guy Noves’ job is on the line and a loss against Wales may see his tenure come to an end far quicker than he had expected.
He will have the weight of the nation on his shoulders because French rugby is in disarray, not helped by the announcement on Monday that Stade Francais will merge with Racing 92. The announcement saw Stade Francais players go on strike. It’s a merger that could see some players and coaches lose their jobs. A win for France on Saturday may restore some positivity back into a nation that has lost a lot of faith in rugby.
Predictions: Wales to win with Rhys Webb scoring the winning try.
Ireland v England, KO 5pm, the Aviva Stadium
England are now on the verge of something very special, with another shot at a Grand Slam title on Saturday. It may not be the decider match we had all hoped for, with Ireland losing to Wales last week, but it won’t be short of fierce competition. Eddie has already said: “this is England’s World Cup final” Against Scotland we saw an England side operating in top gear, who still had plenty left in the tank and I am sure they will come out firing again this Saturday.
Ireland are a team under pressure and they’ve had a frustrating Six Nations. England have strength in depth off the bench and it will be the ‘finishers’ that could win it for them on Saturday. Joe Schmidt has already said he will need 23 fit guys to beat England and if they don’t, the last 20 minutes may be an uphill struggle.
Predictions: England to win.