Rugby union fans, the Six Nations is back. Last weekend was dull with no international rugby on our television screens but supporters can now focus on the upcoming games. And what a weekend it could turn out to be – you won’t want to miss a single minute.
France are in turmoil and a home defeat to Scotland could signal the end of Jacques Brunel’s tenure as head coach. The visitors were second best against Ireland but Scottish fans will be expecting big things ahead of Saturday’s trip to Paris.
All eyes will be on Cardiff for Wales vs England on Saturday evening. The Principality Stadium will be packed to the rafters for that clash and punters are having a hard time splitting the two teams - England are slight favourites at 11/20 in 888sport’s rugby betting odds.
Last but by no means least, Italy will host Ireland on Sunday afternoon. Ireland showed great resilience to win last weekend and Joe Schmidt’s men will be targeting a bonus-point victory this weekend. They are not out of the Six Nations title race just yet.
Without further ado, it is time to get down to the tips. With three huge games taking place over the course of the weekend, there is plenty of international rugby for punters to get stuck into.
France vs SCOTLAND (2:15pm)
France were woeful at Twickenham two weeks ago – England exploited their weaknesses early on and continued to do so throughout.
Les Bleus had no answer for England’s offensive prowess and French fans will be demanding an instant response this weekend.
Brunel has chopped and changed his starting line-up during his tenure as France head coach and that lack of continuity has not helped.
888sport are going 2/5 for a French win in Paris but punters may wish to hold off before trusting France at such a short price.
39/20 for a team of Scotland’s calibre is an excellent price. Yes, Townsend’s side do tend to fall short away from Murrayfield but Scotland will see this one as a winnable game.
This is the perfect chance to send out a statement ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell are both likely to miss Saturday’s clash but Scotland have the strength in depth to just about cope.
It probably won’t be a classic but Townsend’s men may just about edge part their opponents at the Stade de France.
TIP: Scotland (+7.5 points) to win @ 7/10
WALES vs England (4:45pm)
Wales fans are confident ahead of Saturday’s showpiece fixture in Cardiff; and with good reason.
Warren Gatland’s side have won 11 Test matches in a row and a 12th this weekend will set a new national team record. A blockbuster battle looks likely.
Despite their run of form, Wales were fortunate against France in Paris before labouring to victory over Italy in Rome.
Gatland knows that Wales will need to be much better against what is a very strong England side.
England were sensational against Ireland in Dublin and Eddie Jones’ side followed that up with a convincing win over France.
However, this is their biggest test yet – whether Jones is willing to admit it or not. Wales are no slouches and the hosts will fancy their chances….
This one will go right down to the wire. Wales and England are well matched on paper and the Principality Stadium crowd may swing it in favour of the home side.
The draw at 22/1 is in play but I will be taking Wales with +5.5 on the handicap.
TIP: Wales (+5.5 points) to win @ 7/10
ITALY vs Ireland (3pm)
Italy were solid enough against a much-changed Wales side and plenty of punters will fancy the hosts to push Ireland to their limits this weekend.
I’m not suggesting that Italy are going to win by any means but Ireland might not have everything their own way.
With that result two weeks ago in mind, taking Italy (10/11) at +27.5 on the handicap isn’t as barmy as it sounds.
Ireland are likely to make changes from the side that won at Scotland and we could see the hosts keep this one respectable.
Ireland are still in with an outside chance of winning the Six Nations title but putting a run of form together may be more important.
Building momentum ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup is now Schmidt’s top priority – chances are Wales or England will win the crown.
There’s not much value in backing Ireland this weekend. As is the norm against Italy, most are expecting Ireland to rack up a cricket score but Schmidt will be focusing on areas other than the scoreboard.
Avoiding injuries could be huge ahead of a big 2019. It wouldn't be a huge surprise to see Ireland rest a few key men for this one...
TIP: Italy (+27.5 points) to win @ 10/11
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*