After a week away from the Six Nations I had to stave off excruciating boredom. I was actually guilted into turning out for my club’s first team as they seem to have a prop shortage and an old, injured fat lad seemed to be the answer to their problem. Luckily I sat warm in a sub suit for the majority of the game and was only brought on to anchor a few scrums, even a crock like me can manage that but this week they have no chance of getting me out in the cold. This middle weekend is the best round of games this year with England taking on the auld enemy in Edinburgh, Wales travelling to Dublin and France taking on Italy in Paris this Friday evening.
France v Italy
France make 5 changes to the team that lost to Scotland a fortnight ago, with a total of 8 players dropped from the squad for “inappropriate behaviour”, to be fair which one of us hasn’t indulged in a bit of that after a game. Amongst the dropped players is Teddy Thomas that was scoring tries for fun and is replaced with Racing winger Teddy Thomas. Another new face to the team is serial naughty boy Mathieu Basteraud after completing his 3 week ban for a homophobic slur. The other changes to the team sees Remi Grosso, Hugo Bonneval and Paul Gabrillagues brought in to take the place of the other party animals.
Italy have had a much quieter, and some would say more boring, lead up to this game. No piss ups, no being thrown out of anywhere, nothing! They probably just trained and ate shit loads of pasta, losers! So all this “good behaviour” means Conor O’Shea only makes three changes to the team that was pounded by a rampant Irish team with two front row changes in the shape of Leonardo Ghiraldini and Andrea Lovotti but more noticeable than the changes upfront sees Maxime Mbanda make his first start on the Italian flank.
Every year I enjoy this game and Italy seem to up their game to take on Le Bleus but this Italian team really did get thumped in the last round. I think the game will be tight till 60 minutes but then the depth of France and their substitutes will show and France will take the win.
Ireland v Wales
Ireland make five changes to the team that thumped Italy, with Robbie Henshaw a long term absentee through injury, Munster’s Chris Farrell is the first player to take the 13 shirt on. Tadgh Furlong and Iain Henderson have also been ruled out late through injury and James Ryan and Andrew Porter are set to take their place. The final two changes see CJ Stander and Cian Healy take back their places in the starting line up.
Wales will be chomping at the bit to right the wrongs from Twickenham two weeks ago and make three changes in hopes of taking the Irish in Dublin. Leigh Halfpenny takes his place at fullback after his late withdrawal in the last game and Liam Williams takes the spot of Worcester’s Josh Adams after recovering from injury. The last change sees Ospreys stand off Dan Biggar brought in to take the place of Rhys Patchell at 10.
There’s no doubt this will be a fantastic game and definitely worth a watch and it certainly a tough one to call. I personally believe that Wales will be worse for bringing back Dan Biggar, Patchell may not be super consistent but he has instrumental in the way that Wales have played, his open running style compliments the young backs around him, and brings an edge the Welsh attack. In Dublin I can’t back against the Irish here, it’ll be a great game but I think Ireland will edge it.
Scotland v England
After the first round, and Scotland’s dismal performance against the Welsh, they really upped their game against the French and will be looking to carry on that trend this week. Gregor Townsend keeps faith in the 15 that took on the French but brings in three new faces on to the bench, prop WP Nel, lock Tim Swinson and Back, Nick Grigg will take their place on the woodwork for Saturday’s game.
England make just one change to the starting team that beat the Welsh with Wasps number 8 Nathan Hughes taking the place of Sam Simmonds after his stint on the sidelines through injury. The only other change sees Alec Hepburn dropped from the squad to be replaced by experienced Harlequins man Joe Marler after his suspension.
This will be another cracker with Scotland always saving their best performance for their neighbours south of the border. Scotland’s hopes will rest on the brilliant Hamish Watson and whether or not he can slow England’s breakdown up or not. We have to look at the past results from both teams and England’s is obviously far superior and will be favourites for this clash and that is where I would put my money, although Scotland will be no push overs.