Round 2 – Points to Prove
The first blood may have been spilt but there is a long way to go before a Champion emerges in the 6 Nations.
In Round 1, we saw the first steps of new England and France sides, who both recorded victories but can that continue? There was a rare draw between Ireland and Wales, who are now both unable to claim a Grand Slam but still more than capable of winning the title.
England travel to Rome to face Italy, a side they have never lost to but they will not be complacent after being run close in the past. France are at home again to take on the current Champions and Wales host Scotland, a team desperate for victory after 8 losses in a row in the Championship.
France’s reign under Guy Noves didn’t get off to the most confident start after being minutes away from losing to Italy for the first time at home in the 6 Nations. Now the French side who haven’t won the title since 2010 will take on the two times running Champions, Ireland, at their stadium in Paris.
Ireland meanwhile will be looking to bounce back after only take one point from one of their home games (the first time they’ve opened the tournament with a draw since 1979). They will be heading to Paris with some amount of optimism however, having not lost to France since 2011. If they do lose, their dreams of a record third Championship in a row will become very unlikely.
France Starting XV: Maxime Medard, Teddy Thomas, Maxime Mermoz; Jonathan Danty, Virimi Vakatawa; Jules Plisson, Sebastien Bezy; Jefferson Poirot, Guilhem Guirado (capt), Uini Atonio, Alexandre Flanquart, Yoann Maestri, Wenceslas Lauret, Yacouba Camara, Damien Chouly.
Ireland Starting XV: Rob Kearney, Andrew Trimble, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Dave Kearney, Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Jack McGrath, Rory Best (capt), Nathan White, Mike McCarthy, Devin Toner, CJ Stander, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip.
The stakes are high for Wales v Scotland. Despite huge improvements made to the Scotland team over the last two years, they have no victories in the 6 Nations to show for it.
Heading to Cardiff to get one against Wales is a tall order for the men in blue, who have not won a match there since 2002. The visitors will also be disheartened to hear that Wales talisman, Dan Biggar, is fit for the match.
Strong favourites to win, this is still a key match for Wales. In a Championship that is so closely fought, every point counts and they will be looking for an emphatic win over the Scots. Wales haven’t played at home since their RWC victory over Fiji but will be looking forward to their return to ‘The Cauldron’ often cited as being a very difficult stadium for visitors. Scotland have agreed to have the roof closed, which will make for an electric atmosphere and attacking rugby.
Wales Starting XV: Liam Williams; George North, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Tom James; Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Rob Evans, Scott Baldwin, Samson Lee, Luke Charteris , Alun Wyn Jones, Sam Warburton (capt), Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.
Scotland Starting XV: Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Mark Bennett, Duncan Taylor, Tommy Seymour, Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (capt); Al Dickinson, Ross Ford, WP Nel, Richie Gray, Jonny Gray, John Barclay, John Hardie, David Denton.
England head to Rome defending their never beaten record against host Italy. While it may seem to be an obvious result, Italy surprised most viewers last Saturday, surpassing expectations, coming painfully close to a record win against France. In front of a home crowd, Italy are always capable of an upset.
However, England’s coach Eddie Jones has expressed he wants to see a big result at Stadio Olympico, as the ever crucial points difference could make all the difference. After getting +30 points on the Italians last year, Jones will be looking for a similar result.
Italy Starting XV: TBC
England Starting XV: TBC