Six Nations Week 5 | Preview
18th March 2017
Scotland vs Italy – Edinburgh – 12.30
The first game of this Super Saturday is the contest between Scotland and Italy at Murrayfield. Two sides who have had promising tournaments, albeit Scotland on a more consistent level. They will be disappointed with their showing in Twickenham last weekend and will want to right that tomorrow with a strong and clinical performance against the Italians. Italy have shown some signs of what’s to come but on the whole have been outclassed in every 80 minutes played so far.
There is still a great deal to this game. For Scotland, Vern Cotter’s final game in charge and a chance, still, to finish this year’s tournament in second place. Additionally, the humbling by the Auld Enemy last weekend will drive them on to endeavour for a show of real quality in this final round of fixtures.
Scotland are forced into one change by injury, Richie Gray replaced by Grant Gilchrist and the only other change occurs at hooker as Ross Ford is preferred to Fraser Brown.
Italy will too add further evidence to the debate that they really are making strides to becoming regularly competitive in the tournament. They have shown an ability to be a thorn in the side, most notably the first half against England, but have, unfortunately, not put the full performance together. Conor O’Shea knows this is going to take time to build a system in Italian rugby that will sustainably create competitive performances but will be confident that some steps along that road have been achieved in this year’s competition.
France vs Wales – Paris – 14.45
Up next on Super Saturday is the clash between France and Wales from the Stade de France. Both sides will want to continue their performances from last weekend, with France beating Italy and Wales putting in a heroic performance against Ireland to notch up a great win in Cardiff last Friday night.
They name a completely unchanged side, ignoring the calls to start young Sam Davies and Nicky Smith. They will want to build on the huge physical and powerful performance they produced last weekend and prove that last weekend was not a one off in this tournament.
The French only make one changed from the side that beat Italy a week ago, with lock forward Sebastien Vahaamahina replacing Julien le Devedec. As Eddie Butler put it so wonderfully “It’s dead rubber drab isn’t it? An end-of-campaign anti climax… except there’s no such thing.” France will want to continue their progression under Guy Noves, through competing ferociously to dominate the gain line in order to unleash the always dangerous French backs.
Ireland vs England – Dublin – 17.00
A mighty clash to finish off our Super Saturday of Six Nations rugby. Prior to the tournament this clash had all the makings of a head on head for this year’s title but alas as it panned out England have the championship all sealed up for a second successive year. They have back to back Grand Slams to play for and what a remarkable achievement that would be, putting them in a small group of six teams to complete the feat in 107 years. Additionally, they look to beat the all Black’s record for most consecutive wins. This is an exciting weekend for this England team as they rubber seal what has been an amazing 12 months for them under Eddie Jones.
Only two changes are made to his side for this weekend, with Billy Vunipola and Anthony Watson coming into the starting team for Nathan Hughes and Jack Nowell respectively, both drop to the bench. England will come into this game knowing that this will be a dangerous Ireland side, wounded by their performance so far in this tournament and ready to show the form that saw them end New Zealand’s unbeaten run only four months ago.
Ireland come into this weekend with nothing to play for in regards to the Championship but will be as fired up for this fixutre as they could be. Another loss could see them fall another place in the World Rugby rankings, which could have drastic consequences for their seeding for the Rugby World Cup in Japan. They play for their pride, always a dangerous source of motivation, after a tournament that has been, going by their very high recent standards, disappointing.
Finally, they play to spoil the English party and there St. Patrick’s weekend is no better weekend to do such a thing. They have suffered some unfortunate withdrawals due to injury as key operators Conor Murray and Rob Kearney drop out, to be replaced by Kieran Marmion and Jared Payne respectively. Iain Henderson replaces Devin Toner in the second row as Joe Schmidt looks to add another dimension to their front five.
A huge clash between two powerhouses of European international rugby that may show how truly special this England team is or that there is still a lot more to come from this Ireland side.