Six Nations Round 3 | Preview
25th February 2017
Scotland vs. Wales – Saturday 25th
Wales announced their team for this weekend’s fixture on Wednesday with only two changes to the match day squad. George North returns from injury, replacing Alex Cuthbert on the wing, and Luke Charteris comes in for Cory Hill on the bench. Wales will be looking to build on their two opening performances, especially adding to the attacking structures that they showcased against England. The big focus for Wales will be putting an 80 minute performance together, where they finish the job after getting themselves into a winning position.
Scotland look to bounce back after a tough loss to France on the second weekend.They will want to channel the positives from both that game and their opening day victory over Ireland. Stuart Hogg will seek to continue with his impressive try scoring form and danger from the back, as he tries to get himself involved in as many plays as possible, be it set piece or counter attack. Hogg felt that they had thrown the game away against France last time out, and they will want to rectify that feeling this weekend in Murrayfield.
Some enforced changes have been made by Scotland. Ali Price makes his international debut at scrum half in place of the injured captain, Greg Laidlaw. Gordon Reid, Tim Visser, Ryan Wilson and John Hardie all come into the team also, and Scotland will want all these players to come into the team well so that they build on their opening two performances. It will be a big test for the new captain, John Barclay, but his experience will be the key challenge that Scotland mount this weekend.
Ireland vs France – Saturday 25th
Ireland welcome France to Dublin on Saturday afternoon as they look to truly reignite their challenge on this year’s tournament. They will want to bring a huge level of pace, power and precision to their outing this weekend as they look to outwork this large French side. It may be described as a fixture of brain versus brawn, yet the classic French flair is beginning to return to this side’s play. There is no doubt that for Ireland to be victorious then they will have to out think France and bring another element to their attacking play. There have been several changes to the starting XV for this weekend, Jack McGrath, Rory Best and Johnny Sexton all come into the team. Sexton coming back is both a huge positive and risk for Joe Schmidt as his brilliance could be the difference between the two sides, but his fitness will be questionable. Paddy Jackson’s recent form should allow him to replace Sexton early on, and keep continuity in the Irish game plan.
The battle of the gainline is going to be a major contest in this fixture, with both teams throwing their major ball carriers at each other in order to gain dominance. The likes of Henshaw, Heaslip and Sean O’Brien will need to put in a massive shift for Ireland with France employing the power of Picamoles, Gourdon and Remi Lamerat in the opposite direction.
France have been forced into a number of changes due to injury as flanker Goujon and winger Vakatawa drop out with a bone fracture and thigh injury respectively. They are replaced by Bernard Le Roux and Yoann Huget. Additionally, prop Rabah Slimani comes into the front row in place of Uini Atonio.
England vs Italy – Sunday 26th
England boss, Eddie Jones, has made a number of changes to his 23 for the round 3 fixture against Italy. Danny Care, Ben Te’o Jonny May and James Haskell all come into the starting XV with Mako Vunipola and Henry Slade added to the bench. This is an exciting opportunity for Eddie Jones to test out his whole squad with the faith that his strength and depth will be more than capable to continue their current win streak. As the only 6 Nations side to have never lost to Italy, England will be confident that they can secure their 16th straight win this weekend, but will also be wary that the Italians have a performance in them, just look at their victory over South Africa in the November test series.
The variation in the side for this weekend’s fixture may also allow this England side to show some alternative styles of play, some of which we have had a glimpse at through their impact ‘finishers’ in the opening fortnight of games.
Italy have also made some changes to their lineup. Michele Campagnaro, Tomaso Allan, Giulio Bisegni and Braam Steyn come into the side. Campagnaro has become a real danger for Premiership side Exeter Chiefs, and will be looking to be at his boisterous best against some of his domestic colleagues. Italy will be looking to really up their performance against England this weekend and will look for big performances from skipper Sergio Parisse and the aforementioned Campagnaro with cool heads from the half back pairing of Allan and Edoardo Gori to really have a crack at England in Twickenham.
Looking forward to another brilliant weekend of international rugby which will set up some mouthwatering contests in the final two rounds of this year’s Six Nations.