And it would have been three distractions but for the Ireland v Italy fixture postponement. It’s a shame, but we understand and our thoughts go out to those affected. Anyway, if it had gone ahead, Ireland would have won by 26. Pencil it in.
Last time out, England looked themselves again. They were by far the better team against Ireland and, whilst they were unable to continue the intensity of the first half into the second, they never looked troubled. Youngs, Ford and Farrell were clever with the boot, and it got them two of their tries. The second half was almost a dead rubber – England didn’t give an inch and Ireland weren’t good enough. Advantage Owen in the Farrell v Farrell battle.
A special mention goes out to Sexton’s right boot … what was that all about? It could have been different had it not been for a couple of dreadful miscues.
This week, however, England face a different challenge: a Welsh side that have showed moments of brilliance, but never sustaining it for long enough to earn a win – other than against Italy at home. Credit to Wales last week though; France thoroughly deserved to win, but were made to work right until the last for it. Even when they weren’t at their best, you still couldn’t have bet against Wales nicking it at the death. They’ll have to draw England into an arm wrestle to get a result on Saturday.
Liam Williams is (finally) fit again and returns to the starting lineup in the absence of Josh Adams. The same is true for Josh Navidi who replaces Taulupe Faletau at No8. Anthony Watson and Mark Wilson joined the England camp this week, and they go straight into the starting XV. Man of the match against Ireland, Courtney Lawes, stays on the flank.
We have England by 11 – it seems pretty likely, but it would be just like Wales to spoil the Triple Crown party.
Scotland recorded their first win of the tournament at the third time of asking last week. It seemed like Stuart Hogg had set the tone for a great afternoon of rugby with a great dummy, run and score after 22 minutes. Unfortunately, the rest of the match highlights would fit in a 30 second clip. It was somehow even less watchable than the Calcutta Cup a few weeks ago.
Thankfully one of the great Six Nations ties was played out later that day between Wales and France. Les Bleus continued to display their new brand of Champagne rugby, and it was a pleasure to watch.
Bouthier and Willemse crossed the whitewash before half time, putting them in the driving seat. They put Wales under pressure in the air and made them pay on several occasions – certainly Shaun Edwards had a big part to play in that. After the break, a Romain Ntamack intercept try put them out of reach. Ntamack has been a revelation – it seems like there is no occasion too big for him. The man’s only 20 years old. What a player.
There’s a straight swap in the French backs this week outside Ntamack – Damien Penaud returns on the wing, which means Teddy Thomas is left out of the match day squad. Jefferson Poirot relpaces injured Cyril Baille at prop.
For the home side, Townsend names three changes in the pack and leaves the backline unchanged. Magnus Bradbury drops to the bench to make way for Nick Haining at No8; and Grant Gilchrist comes into the second row, and Fraser Brown is set to win his 50th cap – congratulations Fraser.
We have Scotland by 6 which may go against the gut of most, and to be honest I’d agree. To make these predictions, the Algorithm is looking at matches over the last few years to try and gauge team form. France’s, over the last few years (aside from the last 3 games), has been pretty abysmal. They’ve lost their last 3 games at Murrayfield, so it’s no surprise the Algorithm has them to lose this time round. It will take more of a long term return to form for the French to start getting more favourable predictions! If they sustain this run, it won’t be too long until we see the tide changing.