Last weekends result means that only Wales can win the Grand slam, with France and Ireland fighting out a 17 -all draw in the rearranged match at Stade de France. Ireland, leading 17-6 at half time, looked as if they would win their first match in France for many a year, until France remembered how to play rugby. For the second consecutive match their half time team-talk worked as France re-emerged after half time a different team, scored two tries, played great rugby yet just failed to win the match. After such a great recovery they have now dropped both their half backs-who would be immediate picks in any other international team! But then again, the French selection policy is a bit mercurial!
The first match of this weekend is Wales and Italy and this will be a real test of Jacques Brunel’s Italian squad. Good performances for around only 60 minutes in each of Italy’s 3 matches to date needs to be resolved, otherwise this Welsh side, the only team in the competition who can now win the “Grand Slam”, will score tries for fun. The changes made by Brunel-Burton returns at stand off, Semenzota at scrum half, Canale at centre and le Cicero at prop, with Mirco Bergamascos reappearance after injury- will give the Italian side more bite but perhaps not enough grunt- to stop the rampant Welsh team. Let’s also hope Italy have brought their kicking bots with them! Wales, by any analysis, are playing the best all round rugby in the Tournament, have home advantage, and have the “hwyl” of the Welsh fans to support them. Sadly, a predicted Home win.
Ireland put so much effort into last Sundays match and with only a 6 day recovery, they now face Scotland in Dublin, on Saturday evening. Make no mistake, this Scotland side are on an improvement path and an away win at Aviva stadium is predicted. The new faces in the Scottish team, the physicality of the forwards, against the underperforming Irish line-out, now without captain Paul O’Connell, and the fact that this will be the 3rd match for Ireland in 3 weeks, will swing the match towards the Scots on tour. This weekend is actually a practice for the travelling Scottish fans, so they can rehearse the songs and stories and rugby antics before the visit to Rome in 2 weeks time.
The final match of the weekend is France and England in Paris. The French do not need much motivation to perform against England, and while England have recorded many outstanding performances in France, their inexperienced team, having played exceptionally well all season, against many predictions, will find the pace and occasion possibly a bit daunting when this match kicks off at 3.00 in the Stade de France on Sunday. This might well be a match for the connoisseurs with France playing open and adventurous rugby, and England still trying to find their optimum style. The English team is relatively stable, but without some of the experienced top club players such as Toby Flood, and in the pressure of the Stade, will test the ability and technical resolve of the team. A predicted home win!
So the Italian and Scottish fans are now looking forward to the big match-Italy – Scotland in Rome on 17th March. This match which brings a close to the 6 Nations tournament for both teams, and will be an occasion to remember, irrespective of the result. Some serious Scottish fans are taking in both away matches, and having a holiday during the week between Dublin and Rome. This itinerary would have a serious impact on both wallets and kidneys, and is only advised for serious rugby tourists!