The Six Nations is really starting to get interesting now, with Round Three of the action looming. This just adds to the already packed rugby we have had with the start of the Super Rugby season, with ten massive games for your viewing pleasure.
IRELAND VS ITALY
The Italians have been competitive in both their matches this season, but they still don’t seem to have that killer instinct – as was evident against when they conceded a nine-point lead against England. Not much would have changed in the last fortnight and unless the Irish are very poor on the day there can only be one winner.
The most intriguing of all the individual showdowns will be at flyhalf – where the younger Jonathan Sexton (Ireland) will be able to rely on his experience of Test rugby (all 10 caps) against the ‘rookie’ Tobias Botes (Italy), who will make his first Test start, despite being a year older. They are also two very different players, the attacking flyhalf against a player with a more educated boot. Jamie Heaslip (Ireland) against Sergio Parisse (Italy) is always worth the entry fee.
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Gordon D’Arcy, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Paul O’Connell (captain), 4 Donncha O’Callaghan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Tom Court, 18 Donnacha Ryan, 19 Peter O’Mahony, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Ronan O’Gara, 22 Fergus McFadden.
Italy: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Giovanbattista Venditti, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Luke McLean, 10 Tobias Botes, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Michele Rizzo.
Replacements: 16 Tommaso D’Apice, 17 Fabio Staibano, 18 Antonio Pavanello, 19 Simone Favaro, 20 Fabio Semenzato, 21 Kris Burton, 22 Gonzalo Canale.
Date: Saturday, February 25
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Kick-off: 13.30 (13.30 GMT)
Expected weather: Overcast with patches of sunshine. High of 10°C and a low of 6°C.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), David Changleng (Scotland)
TMO: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)
ENGLAND VS WALES
A lot has been made of England’s ‘unbeaten’ run this season, but closer scrutiny will reveal that they beat the two worst teams in the competition and struggled to do so. Wales, however, have been far more impressive – just as they were in reaching the World Cup semifinals last year. In terms of skill and talent, Wales just look so much more capable.
By the nature of the game Owen Farrell (England) and Rhys Priestland (Wales) will be pivotal to their teams. They are two of the most talented playmakers in the Northern Hemisphere and it will be an exciting contest. The midfield battle will be just as crucial, as the English duo of Manusamoa Tuilagi and Brad Barritt will be up against two of the best in the business, Jonathan Davies and Jamie Roberts of Wales.
England: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Tom Croft, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Matt Stevens, 18 Courtney Lawes, 19 Phil Dowson, 20 Ben Youngs, 21 Toby Flood, 22 Mike Brown.
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Michael Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Paul James, 18 Ryan Jones, 19 Justin Tipuric, 20 Lloyd Williams, 21 Stephen Jones, 22 Scott Williams.
Date: Saturday, February 25
Venue: Twickenham, London
Kick-off: 16.00 (16.00 GMT)
Expected weather: Cloudy with some morning rain, but progressively more sunny as the day wears on. High of 13°C and a low of 4°C.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland), Pascal Gauzere (France)
TMO: Iain Ramage (Scotland)
SCOTLAND VS FRANCE
Scotland will be desperate to secure their first victory of the Six Nations when they take on a formidable French outfit in their clash at Murrayfield on Sunday. Scotland can win this one. They have done it before and were less fortunate than they needed be in their defeats at the hands of England and Wales, where their own lapses cost them dearly.
France, of course, are a powerhouse, just beaten finalists at the World Cup, but at Murrayfield on Sunday, Scotland could just win. It would be a shock to history if they did but surprises are the spice of sport. Of course, surprises are possible and even delightful, but we think that France will be just too skilled, too fast and too settled for Scotland and will win by 15 points or more.
They take up positions at opposite ends of the field but both Stuart Hogg and Maxime Médard are players who can break a game open, Médard with the advantage of so much excellence about the place and Hogg with his youthful exuberance. At scrumhalf there is an interesting contrast between calm, deliberate Dimitri Yachvili of France and all-action Mike Blair of Scotland. Then there is the battle of the locks – skilled Richie Grey and combative Jim Hamilton against combative Pascal Papé and novice Yoann Maestri.
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Rory Lamont, 13 Sean Lamont, 12 Graeme Morrison, 11 Lee Jones, 10 Greig Laidlaw, 9 Mike Blair, 8 David Denton, 7 Ross Rennie, 6 John Barclay, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Geoff Cross, 2 Ross Ford (captain), 1 Allan Jacobsen.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Ed Kalman, 18 Alastair Kellock, 19 Richie Vernon, 20 Chris Cusiter, 21 Duncan Weir, 22 Nick De Luca.
France: 15 Maxime Médard, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Aurélien Rougerie, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Julien Malzieu, 10 François Trinh-Duc, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Imanol Harinordoquy, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (captain), 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Pascal Papé, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Jean-Baptiste Poux.
Replacements: 16 William Servat, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Lionel Nallet, 19 Julien Bonnaire, 20 Morgan Parra, 21 Lionel Beauxis, 22 Maxime Mermoz.
Date: Sunday, 26 February 2012
Kick-off: 15.00 (15.00 GMT)
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Possible weather conditions: Foggy but fine with a high of 12°, dropping to 6°
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Alain Rolland (Ireland), Simon McDowell (Ireland)
TMO: Geoff Warren (England)
Thanks must go to Rugby365 for the information.Tweet