There are fewer games on tap this weekend than last, but that isn’t to say that there is no intrigue in the two Tests that will be taking place. England renews their rivalry with Ireland as two sides who are looking to reach the World Cup semi-final at a minimum work to fine-tune their squads. In the other game, Scotland looks to get some measure of revenge – and to prove they didn’t peak as a side too early this Wolrd Cup cycle – as they take on France.
Here are the games:
England vs. Ireland – Twickenham, England
Eddie Jones is still tinkering with combinations for his England team with the World Cup just around the corner.
The biggest piece of team news this week is that Owen Farrell and George Ford will take to the pitch together against Ireland. This is the first time the pair will have started a Test for England together in 14 months. Jones clearly wants to look at his options and see how England perform with two of his No. 10s – and two of his best playmakers – working together. Ford will play at pivot, with Farrell at 12 and Manu Tuilagi at 13.
Jonny May and Ben Youngs will start for the first time all summer, while Sam Underhill and Tom Curry are back in the team after injury.
Ireland will hand a Test debut to Leinster fly-half Ross Byrne as they name a strong side to take on England in London.
The team is massively changed from the one that beat Italy, with 12 players coming in and one positional change as the Irish field a side that looks a lot like the one that will open their World Cup campaign in Japan.
The center partnership of Garry Ringrose and Bundee Aki is developing well, while the exciting Jordan Larmour retains his place in the side and is shifted to wing. Jean Kleyn – the recently qualified lock from South Africa – retains his place as he bids to be a bolter for the Irish 31-man squad.
Ireland have been warm-weather training in Portugal before this game and that might not be perfect when facing an England side more battle-tested after a couple of Tests against Wales. The fly-half situation without Johnny Sexton and Joey Carbery is also a concern. Look for England to win a close one, with a victory by 1-10 points at 1.60 with BetXChange looking viable.
Scotland vs. France – Murrayfield, Scotland
Scotland have made the small number of 14 changes for this one after their 32-3 defeat in Nice last weekend. The only Scot to retain his place in the starting side is fullback Stuart Hogg.
The expected World Cup pairing will start this one in the halves, with Greig Laidlaw captaining the team at No.9 and Finn Russell wearing the No. 10 jumper.
Scotland has won each of its last two matches with France in Edinburgh and the team knows that it is important to have a good performance here with so many World Cup starts back in the fold.
France have had their World Cup preparations hit by the news that lock Paul Gabrillagues will miss the Rugby World Cup after picking up a six-week ban.
Gabrillagues was named in the starting lineup for this clash with Scotland, but the 26-year-olds place has been taken by Felix Lambey. The reshuffle also means that Romain Taofifenua will come in on the bench here, as well as taking a spot in the French 31-man squad to Japan.
France destroyed Scotland last week, but this is a very different Scottish side. They mean business and want to get back to the free-flowing rugby we have seen under Gregor Townsend in the recent past. Look for the hosts to win by 1-10 points at 1.75 with BetXChange.