Stephen Ferris looks ahead to Scotland v Wales and Ireland v France in Six Nations
The Six Nations is back for round two this weekend and there’s plenty at stake.
Scotland will look to build on last week’s triumph against England while Ireland will be hoping to get back to winning ways against France.
Our man Stephen Ferris gives us his thoughts and tips ahead of the big games.
Scotland v Wales – 4.45pm Saturday 13th February
What an opening game for Scotland in this year’s championship, getting off to the best possible start with a hugely impressive win against the big favourites, England.
The 6-11 scoreline to Scotland flattered England, and let’s not beat around the bush here, it was a monumental upset considering Scotland had not won at Twickenham since 1983.
The Scots forced ferocious pressure onto England which made for a high penalty count, and ultimately closed the gate on any sustained pressure England tried to build.
Stuart Hogg, Hamish Watson and Cameron Redpath were real leaders for Scotland, but it’s fair to say that everyone with the thistle on their jersey played exceptionally well.
Something we are not used to seeing from Scotland is that consistency, and if they are going to be serious contenders for this championship then they have to be even more ruthless with their opportunities over the coming weeks.
What Wales are going to turn up this week? They had numerous injuries heading into the Ireland game on Sunday, however that injury list looks even bigger now.
Dan Lydiate, Johnny Williams, Hallam Amos and Thomas Williams will all be unavailable for their trip to Murrayfield, and unfortunately it looks like Dan Lydiate will miss the rest of the season with a cruciate ligament knee injury which is very sad news after he just made a comeback into the international team.
Josh Adams is still suspended, but Liam Williams will come back in after serving his own suspension, and to be honest this is the only positive for Wayne Pivac when it comes to squad strength.
Wales vs Ireland was not a game of high quality, and I still feel Wales aren’t quite where they need to be.
A bit of resilience shown to come from a losing position against Ireland and that will definitely give them a little bit of belief. However, it’s going to take more than belief to win this game away from home against a buoyant Scotland.
Wales have lots more injuries, they are travelling from home comforts this week, they stumbled across the line against a 14 man Ireland team, and they have not shown us that they have turned a corner, yet.
But maybe this is the opportunity to silence all the doubters once again. And of course, Wales won convincingly enough in 2019 when they last paid Scotland a visit. Two unbeaten teams, and as Gerry Cinnamon would sing “She is a belter”.
Scotland v Wales betting tips
The weather looks set to be freezing cold with the chance of snow.
Murrayfield I believe has underground heating, so hopefully there are no issues of a frozen pitch.
Weather in rugby can play a huge part in the betting so always keep an eye out for that. As long as it’s not bucketing it down in Edinburgh, I believe Scotland will win this one.
First try scorer: Is he the most powerful winger in the Six Nations? Duhan van der Merwe at 8/1.
Ireland v France – 3pm Sunday 14th February
Would you believe that Ireland are now 7/1 to win the tournament, which puts them into fifth spot ahead of Italy in the outright betting for this year’s championship.
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t see that coming considering Ireland still got a losing bonus point out of the game in Wales last weekend, and of course that was playing with 14 men for 66 minutes of the full 80. A big win this weekend and all that can change.
Ireland are back home to the Aviva Stadium. However, with no screaming Irish fans making their way to the stadium, and with no travelling French fans singing “Allez Les Bleus” it certainly takes away from the enormity of the French coming to town. Personally, playing against the French, at home, in front of a packed-out stadium was definitely a huge highlight of my career.
Ireland controlled large parts of their game against Wales last weekend. They also made a number of game-changing mistakes which gave Wales an entry point into the match, and fair play to Wales, they capitalized on these.
The chances of Ireland’s great hope, Jonny Sexton, leading Ireland to a Rugby World Cup in 2023 seems to be fading with every game he plays.
Yet another concussion on Sunday, he suffered a hamstring niggle two weeks previously against Munster, and took another head knock which forced him off against Ulster the week before that. Not great reading and that’s only the last month we are talking about here.
Sexton has a long history of head injuries too, and spent a good bit of time on the sidelines during his spell with Racing 92 after getting knocked out against Australia in 2014.
So why all this negative chat surrounding Jonny Sexton you ask? Because he is 35 years of age, the captain of Ireland, and rarely finishes a game. Ireland needs to fill Jonny Sextons boots, maybe now is the opportunity to do so during this championship.
When Sexton was on the pitch for Ireland last weekend he made glaring mistakes that he has been getting away with when playing the odd game for Leinster.
Kicking the ball out on the full, missing touch, and not controlling the game like we have all witnessed in years gone by. It’s a worrying time personally for Jonny Sexton because of how vulnerable his body seems to be, but also because Andy Farrell doesn’t seem to have faith in other outhalves for the big games.
Lastly on this, it’s never good seeing anyone go off injured, and I hope Jonny Sexton makes a full recovery.
Ireland will be saying in training this week that they have to bounce back. It’s been a long time since France have come to Dublin as favourites, and after a convincing win away in Italy last week you can see why they are now the bookies favourites to win the Six Nations outright. Those odds slashed to 5/4.
Reading tabloids about why this French team is starting to tick, would lead you to say that they have found their mojo and that their Six Nations mentality has changed.
Ronan O’Gara said this week in an interview for RTE: “While coaching at Racing92, it was unbelievable to hear some guys say they weren’t interested in going into French camp. Now it’s different, now they would run the 200km from La Rochelle (where O’Gara coaches now) to get to French camp.”
Amazing to read of the change in mindset and this has had a huge impact on the way they are playing.
They now have Sean Edwards looking after their defence, a Head Coach that seems to have won over the players and fans, and lastly, a more professional approach to their training which is transferring onto the pitch. France are now a force in World Rugby, and will they send another message to their rival countries against Ireland on Sunday afternoon? We will wait and see.
Ireland v France betting tips
Expect a few changes in the Ireland team.
3 HIA’s against Wales, and hopefully the lads pass the return to play protocols but this is a concern.
A wet and windy day is forecast and I’m intrigued to see if France can show us all that they are a side that can adapt from week to week.
Double: Scotland 6-10 point winning margin at 4/1 plus France 6-10 point winning margin at 4/1. The Double is 24/1.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.