Last weekend, the Six Nations Rugby Union tournament got underway once again with the first game seeing Wales travel to Paris to take on France. The annual tournament, held throughout the early months of the year, pits England, Ireland, Wales, France, Scotland and Italy against each other to see which team is the dominant nation in the northern hemisphere.
This year’s tournament has the added spice of being a crucial set of games in what is a World Cup year, with the World Cup itself taking place in the autumn in Japan. Therefore, teams are not only trying to win the Six Nations, but also to give themselves the best preparation possible ahead of the key tournament later in the year.
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Let’s begin with a look through the action that took place last weekend and how things turned out in the three matches that have already been played.
Six Nations – Week 1 Results
France 19-24 Wales
At half time, all seemed to be going swimmingly for France as they had raced into a 16-0 lead over the Welsh and it seemed that the home side were on course to earn a fine win over their rivals. However in the second half, Wales came out punching and produced a superb display to clinch victory.
Louis Picamoles and Yoann Huget had given the French the lead with two first-half tries but a double from. George North and a try from Tomos Williams as well as a penalty from Dan Biggar was enough to hand the Welsh victory as the French crumbled in the face of a Welsh onslaught in tricky, wet conditions in Paris.
Scotland 33-20 Italy
Scotland hung on to claim an important though not impressive win against the Six Nations whipping boys in Edinburgh. The win was Scotland’s seventh win on home soil in a row in the Six Nations, their best run since 1975.
Five tries, three from Kinghorn and one apiece from Hogg and Harris, four of which were converted, put the Scots into a 33-0 lead and with ten minutes to go the game was effectively over. Italy however rallied late, rattling in three tries and a conversion in a crazy seven-minute spell to cut the deficit to 11 points. It was hardly the resounding victory the Scots would have liked, especially with much tougher tests to come later in the tournament.
Ireland 20-32 England
England produced one of their best performances in Six Nations recent history to earn a stunning win in Dublin against the Grand Slam holders. May went over in the opening minute for England with Farrell converting, before Ireland replied initially with a Sexton penalty and then they took the lead with Healy scoring and Sexton kicking the conversion.
However, that only inspired England on and Daly slid over the line on 29 minutes, Farrell again converting to give England the lead and Farrell then added a penalty just on half time to give England the lead heading into the interval. An Irish fightback was expected but despite a Sexton penalty, it didn’t come as England played superbly, with Slade adding two tries, one of which was converted and Farrell another penalty as England went further in front before a late Cooney try at least saved some face for the beleaguered hosts.
Current Six Nations Table
Six Nations – Week 2 Fixtures
Saturday 9th February
Scotland v Ireland
For seventy minutes of their game against Italy, Scotland looked excellent, but those last ten minutes will have put some real doubt into the Scots minds and Ireland are one team that are capable of taking full advantage. The Irish were not great against England last week but they should have enough quality to bounce back here.
That said, the Scots are on a fine run of wins at Murrayfield and this is not going to be an easy task and I think bonus points could be in short supply here. The Scots have improved markedly over the last two years in this tournament and they will give Ireland a real run for their money, but I feel they will just run short and that the Irish will claim a narrow victory.
Tip – Ireland to win – 4/9 at bet365
Italy v Wales
After winning in France, Wales will be confident of repeating that success against an Italy side that they thrashed in Cardiff in this tournament last season. Wales will not only be looking for the win but also maximum bonus points from this game which would set them up nicely for their next fixture at home against England.
For Italy, this is about putting on a solid display and producing the kind of rugby they showed late on against Scotland. If they can be as explosive here, they can make it tricky for the Welsh, but even so, I would fully expect the visitors to come away from the game with a comprehensive victory.
Tip – Wales to win – 1/25 with bet365
Sunday 10th February
England v France
After producing some sumptuous rugby in the first half against Wales, France showed last week just what they are capable of, however their second half performance was riddled with mistakes and poor judgement, which equally shows how poor this French team can be when put under real pressure.
Having beaten Ireland away last week, I expect England to put the French under even more pressure at Twickenham than the Welsh did in Paris. Mario Itoje will be a loss for England but even so, if they can produce again like they did against Ireland then they should be more than capable of picking up a second win on the tournament here and that would set them up very nicely for their next game, a tough test away to Wales.
Tip – England to win – 1/6