Wales v Scotland, Saturday 14:45
The last time these two teams met in the Six Nations, Wales cut loose.
Warren Gatland’s side ran in four tries and kept Scotland scoreless until the 79th minute, when Peter Horne touched down for a consolation. Absent that day was George North, arguably the Welsh’s most dangerous backline threat, but the gigantic winger returns for this fixture and will surely strike fear into Scottish hearts.
For all Gatland’s talk about not playing ‘festival rugby’ in this out-of-window match, we reckon his team will approach the game with an attacking mindset – something that will benefit North. As a result, we think there’s a high probability that North will pop up with a try, and the even-money price is attractive when part of a treble.
England v South Africa, Saturday 15:00
Over the past year or so, England have been a bit of a shambles under Eddie Jones. A strong couple of years at the start of the Australian coach’s career at Twickenham was followed by a disastrous showing in the 2018 Six Nations, where they finished fifth.
His side then went down to South Africa and lost two test matches before emerging victorious from a dead rubber at Newlands, a win that may nevertheless have served to improve morale in the England camp.
South Africa are far from world beaters, as was evidenced by their 35-point hammering at the hands of Ireland in last year’s November internationals, and we reckon they won’t have what it takes to put it up to England on Saturday. They lost by 16 points the last time they visited London, and although we don’t envisage such a wide margin this time, it’s possible to see the home side taking it by six or more.
Ireland v Italy, Saturday 20:00
Okay, Italy are sh*te.
There’s no real denying that. They shipped more than 200 points in five Six Nations matches this year, and have lost their last 17 matches in that competition.
Their aggregate score against Ireland over the past three years in the competition is 177 – 44, losing those matches by an average of 44.3 points per game. Which is perhaps why the handicap is currently at (-28) on Ireland.
Still, head coach Conor O’Shea is adamant that Italy are keen to lay down a marker against the nation of his birth, pointing out that Joe Schmidt’s team are the only Six Nations side the Azzurri have failed to leave a mark on. Add to that the fact this fixture is not being played in Dublin, but rather in Soldier Field in Chicago, and you have a recipe for, well, a slightly less emphatic battering of Italy.
We don’t have any faith in Italy winning, or even them getting within 10-15 points of Ireland, but at 11/10, taking them on the Alternative Handicap of (+25.5) is a tempting prospect.