Ireland claimed the Six Nations championship last weekend as England stumbled to a second consecutive defeat. The two nations meet at Twickenham with the Irish looking to seal a rare Grand Slam, signing off the campaign in some style.

Six Nations Preview and Betting Tips

Joe Schmidt claimed the squad hasn’t been talking about the honours which come with winning at Twickenham. “We haven’t talked about how we might feel like afterwards or what it means because you almost don’t dare,” he said. “You don’t dare to dream about what it might mean at the end of things or what the occasion may be.”

Wales coach Warren Gatland offered England some words of encouragement. “I think England have to win – they will be more desperate,” he said. With Eddie Jones “coming under a bit of criticism,” Gatland believes the tough test will bring the basic instincts out in the English.

“Desperation and showing a bit of character might come through a bit on Saturday,” Gatland continued, before pointing out that victory was essential ahead of the England camp flying to South Africa on tour.

Six Nations Round 5 – Ireland Set for Title Party at Twickenham

Not only that, England are on the verge of equalling their 2006 Six Nations, which was their worst performance in the championship. The wrong set of results could see England finish fifth, confirming this as the worst campaign.

Jones has rung the changes with nine alterations to the XV which flopped in France. Danny Care, Dan Cole, George Ford, and Joe Launchbury are dropped while Nathan Hughes and Courtney Lawes miss out due to injury. Dylan Hartley returns as captain, with Owen Farrell and Ben Te’o at fly-half and inside-centre.

Jonathan Joseph, George Kruis, Sam Simmonds, Kyle Sinckler, and Richard Wrigglesworth all received call-ups with James Haskell and Sam Simmonds returning as well.

The poverty of England’s performance, the inability to both create openings and drive forward in both Edinburgh and Paris, has worn Jones down. His claim that England learn more from defeats than wins is being put to the test with the same mistakes repeated last time around.

Ireland, by contrast, are settled and looking forward to claiming what would be only their third Grand Slam. Jones observed that England have a tough task ahead, not only in technique.

“Ireland is a very good team. We have seen in every game the physical contest has been quite enormous, so we have to meet that physical challenge and then play smart tactically.”

The champions welcome back Iain Henderson at lock as the sole change to the side which battered Scotland. Cian Healy, Rob Kearney, and Peter O’Mahony are passed fit so Schmidt can keep the momentum built with the four wins recorded so far.

Winning the Six Nations capped off a fine twelve months for the Irish. Ireland are unbeaten in 11 test matches, a run which saw them rise to second place in the world rankings.

Schmidt pointed to the work of Andy Farrell, his defensive coach, as the foundation of Ireland’s success. Father of England fly-half Owen, Farrell was praised for “a great job, not just with the team, but with individuals”.

After conceding three tries in Italy and Wales, Farrell coached the team into battening down the hatches. Scotland landed a single try last weekend. While Italy was slack work, Wales worked hard to land their scores.

England, if they are to triumph, will need to work hard for every point.

England vs Ireland Match Tips


Ireland to win at 21/20

To score first and win

Ireland at 2/1

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Wales vs France

Second place rests on the outcome of this match with Wales favourites to overcome an improving France side. Dan Biggar is the notable change at fly-half, recalled by Warren Gatland as he is “defensively…strong and good in the air”.

Leigh Halfpenny returns, as does Scott Williams, with Liam Williams dropped for what Gatland called an “emotional approach” to the game. His yellow card against Italy saw him replaced by Halfpenny with the Wales coach making his displeasure known to the centre.

Wales know victory seals the runners-up spot behind Ireland and given their performances, some will claim it is just reward. There has been an ominous manner about the Welsh attack and their 105-point tally reflecting a vast improvement on last season.

France, like Wales, are playing better this time around with positive signs for the future. Mathieu Bastareaud is captain with Guilhem Guirado absent due to the knee injury suffered in the 22 – 16 victory over England. Hugo Bonneval also misses out due to injury, with his place is taken by Gael Fickou.

Benjamin Fall and Cedate Gomes Sa are the other changes to the French XV at wing and prop respectively.

Wales vs France Match Tips


Wales to win at 7/5

First Try Scorer

George North at 8/1

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Italy vs Scotland

Only a draw between Wales and France, combined with an England defeat will see Scotland take an unlikely second place in this season’s championship. Despite this, 2018 is unlikely to be forgotten quickly by the Tartan hordes as the pour into Rome in search of a win to sign off the campaign in style.

John Barclay admitted last weekend took a savage toll on the Scotland squad with Ireland’s relentless physicality in Dublin leaving the players more tired than at any point in the Six Nations so far this season.

Despite this, they dust themselves down and head to Rome looking to put another marker on the ground. It would be the first time the Scots have managed to end consecutive championships with three wins, and only the third time they have recorded that return since Italy joined the other five nations.

The Italians have enjoyed more success against the Scots than any other Tier 1 nation, with eight previous victories, six of which came on their home turf. It would be a major surprise if they repeat that feat this time around. Indeed, the Scots will be looking to record their best-ever win in the Italian capital, improving on 2016’s 36 – 20 victory.

The Azzurri campaign has been pock-marked with ill-discipline, with the 49 penalties conceded so far on course to smash through last season’s 50. It was apparent from the opening game against Ireland that this was going to be a problem for the Italians and if fairness to them, they didn’t disappoint.

The Scots have the discipline to wait for the errors to happen and the ability to capitalise.

Italy vs Scotland Match Tips


Scotland to win at 1/8

Winning Margin

Scotland 26 – 30 at 15/2

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Six Nations Round 4 Preview

After their win over England in the Calcutta Cup last time out, a rejuvenated Scotland head to Dublin looking to add another notable scalp to this year’s collection. France and England were cowed into submission but beating Ireland on their home turf would surely top both of those victories.

The Irish know victory hands them the Six Nations title this season as well as the chance of their third Grand Slam with England their last opponents. Motivation won’t be a problem for the nation currently ranked third in the world.

Elsewhere, England lick their wounds by travelling to Paris for their clash with France. The hosts were unconvincing 34 – 17 winners over Italy last time around while England were just blown away at Murrayfield. Italy and Wales meet in the final match.

Six Nations Round 4 Preview

A fascinating weekend’s rugby awaits!

France vs England Preview

England were swept aside by a courageous Scotland in the Calcutta Cup last time around, with the hosts winning an excellent match in a fixture which fails to live up to expectations on so many occasions.

Now the Red Rose crosses the channel for a match which historically decided the outcome of the title. If Les Bleus win, Ireland will almost certainly be crowned Six Nations champions with a game to spare. Eddie Jones’ team are desperate to take their place at Twickenham with everything to play for.

If they are to win in Paris, it will be done the hard way. Jack Nowell is the latest casualty, ruled out for the remaining games of this year’s Six Nations after suffering an ankle injury in training.

Dylan Hartley is Jones other concern. The England captain suffered a tight calf and is under the medical team’s supervision ahead of the weekend. Luke Cowan-Dickie and Kyle Sinckler are called into the squad, with Harry Williams, the Exeter prop, also suffering from a muscle injury.

If Hartley fails to recover, Jamie George will take his place in the starting line-up while Owen Farrell wears the captain’s armband.

It caps a miserable time for Hartley with several former England internationals questioning his captaincy. Lawrence Dallaglio was the latest to voice his concerns after Scotland’s win. Eddie Jones, however, remains steadfast in his loyalty to his leader on the pitch.

The England coach is ready to ring the changes above and beyond his injury worries with Sam Underhill in line for a return after a toe injury, as well as Ben Te’o and Richard Wrigglesworth. The former offers a more physical presence in the midfield area while the latter’s understanding with Farrell at club level being a driving force behind their successful European Champions Cup campaign this season.

Jones is expecting a “slogathon” this weekend with heavy rain predicted in the build-up. It is dictating his thoughts on team selection with the Australian declaring that whoever is selected at “10 and 12 will be done on who we feel is the best for that game.”

France vs England Match Tips:


England to win at 7/19

Winning Margin:

England by 6 – 10 at 9/2

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Ireland vs Scotland Preview

Ireland hold the aces as far as this year’s tournament is concerned with only a surprise defeat to Scotland this weekend giving England the edge. The Scots are expected to field an XV which is largely unchanged from that which won the Calcutta Cup so convincingly. Blair Kinghorn will make his debut this weekend though, in for the injured Tommy Seymour.

Gregor Townsend, the Scotland coach, declared himself “delighted with the result against England” which consolidated their position off the back of the win over France. Sean Maitland is under no illusions that they face a “different beast” in the Irish to the one they faced in England.

Confidence is high in the camp but Townsend and Maitland both observed that they have plenty to work on if they are to improve their record at the Aviva Stadium. It’s been four defeats since Ireland moved there with the closest being a 28 – 22 loss in 2015.

But this is a Scottish team which is taking their past and burying it. The tries against England were the first scored at Murrayfield in 14 years while the win was the first in a decade. Beating the French was as rare as hen’s teeth, with this year’s only the second time since 2007 that they have emerged victorious in that fixture. Self-belief is not an issue for the visitors.

Ireland though are resolute at home and received good news on the injury front. Gary Ringrose returns and is likely to partner Bundee Aki in midfield after Chris Farrell joined Robbie Henshaw on the sidelines. Winger Andrew Conway should return from injury next week ahead of the trip to Twickenham.

Six Nations Preview

Keith Earls underlined how ready the Irish are for this weekend’s challenge: “It is a massive match for us and the pressure of playing in the Aviva; we have a good record there, but the Scots are on a high at the moment.”

It’s a title decider for the home side and their momentum ought to be enough to carry them through.

Ireland vs Wales Match Tips:


Ireland to win at 3/10

To Win Both Halves:

Ireland at 11/10

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Wales vs Italy Preview

Warren Gatland is taking the opportunity to rest some of his squad and will make 10 changes to the line-up which lost 37 – 22 in Dublin. Only Liam Williams, Steff Evans, Hadleigh Parkes, Gareth Davies and Cory Hill survive the cull.

The Wales coach defended himself by declaring, “It is challenging making changes, but we have picked a really exciting team and Sunday is their chance.” Italy have shipped 136 points in their three games so far and Wales will expect to add significantly to that total at the weekend.

They recorded their most emphatic win over the Italians in Cardiff last time around, with the 67 – 14 scoreline flattering only the visitors whose best result in the Millenium Stadium was an 18 – 18 draw in 2006.

Wales vs Italy Match Tips:


Wales to win at 1/28

Winning Margin:

Wales by 31 – 40 at 7/2

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Please note betting odds quoted are subject to change. View the latest  Six Nations Betting Odds

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Six Nations Round 3 Preview

The Six Nations biggest match – the Calcutta Cup – returns to Murrayfield this weekend with Scotland fresh from victory in Paris, hosting England, currently second in the table and seemingly invincible.

Quietly motoring along at the top of the table, Ireland are happy with the attention being shown to England. It enables them to go about their business unfancied and ready to meet Eddie Jones’ men for a title decider, if everything goes to form.

A tricky test this weekend though. Wales were well-beaten by England but will fancy their chances in Dublin. The question is whether they can rise to the occasion or be sunk by a diligent Irish side.

A fascinating weekend’s rugby awaits!

Scotland vs England

When it comes to the Calcutta Cup matches, Scotland are unfailingly optimistic. This year, Doddie Weir believes, is Scotland’s year. With 61 caps, the former lock-forward claimed that “if it if it’s going to be any year, it’s going to be this year,” which sums up the Scottish position.

There’s no doubt that they can beat England. The passion, the crowd, everything which Weir rightly said can carry them along, aren’t tangibles. There is no ‘star turn’ who makes you sit up and think, “Yes! This can be Scotland’s year.” The hope is more based on the law of averages, that England’s stranglehold on the fixture must eventually end.

And England are in charge. Last year’s 61 – 21 triumph at Twickenham was the exception – or just exceptional – with the previous eight wins have been closer affairs for the English.

It’s been ten years since Scotland’s 15 – 9 win at Murrayfield came at a time where the two nations traded wins briefly. How the Saltires would fly with unfettered joy if it was a victory repeated this weekend.

Gregor Townsend named an unchanged team following the 32 – 26 win against Les Bleus. As good as the victory was, there’s not too much to be read into beating France at present; they are a shadow of their former glories. The French gifted the Scots victory with Greig Laidlaw kicking half-a-dozen penalties in the second half thanks to their persistent transgressions.

On the bench, Townsend recalls Nick Grigg, Willem Nell, and Tim Swinson, with the latter pair coming back into contention after injuries suffered against Samoa in the Autumn internationals.

Eddie Jones meanwhile, is set to name his side closer to the weekend but has called James Haskell and Joe Marler into his squad, having served their suspensions which kept them out of the Six Nations so far.

Sam Simmonds injury means Nathan Hughes of Wasps is added to the 25, with a place in the starting line-up likely.

England will hope for the same sharp start at Murrayfield as they showed at Twickenham against Wales. Jonny May land two tries in the opening 20 minutes with Owen Farrell’s conversion wrapped the home scoring and it’s a testament to the English strength and discipline that the Welsh were limited to two penalties.

While Jones was satisfied with the defensive work, he will expect more from offensive situations, particularly with Ireland holding a two-point advantage at the top of the table. A more clinical approach will be demanded by the Australian.

Scotland vs England Match Tips:


England to win at 2/5

Team to Score First:

England at 13/11

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Ireland vs Wales

Italy were taught a harsh lesson last time out in Dublin with the 56 – 19 win enough for Ireland to move to the top of the table. The flamboyance of the win over the Azzurri was a great confidence boost for Joe Schmidt’s team and underlined the variety available to the head coach this season.

If England think the Six Nations will be a procession, Schmidt and his men are ready to stand toe-to-toe with Eddie Jones.

Controlling possession has been the key to Ireland’s two victories so far with the Irish making a similar amount of passes in the thrashing of Italy (243) as they did in the 15 – 13 win in Paris (250).

Using their centres as pivots has been a key change to their style and Robbie Henshaw’s absence could prove critical in deciding the outcome. With just over half the number of open play kicks compared to Wales (39 vs 70), Ireland’s approach to the game is markedly different to previous years.

The biggest concern for the Irish is Tadhg Furlong. The tighthead prop tweaked his hamstring against Italy and may be given more time to prove his fitness such is the impressive nature of Wales’ scrummaging this year. Andy Porter or Chris Ryan will replace Furlong if he doesn’t make the kick-off.

Warren Gatland recalls Dan Biggar and Leigh Halfpenny to his starting line-up, along with Liam Williams on the wing.

Ireland vs Wales Match Tips:


Wales to win at 4/1

Winning Margin:

Wales 1 – 7 at 5/1

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France vs Italy

The wooden spoon will most likely be decided by this match. France, with two bonus points, are favourites and welcome Mathieu Bastareaud back following his three-match suspension for a homophobic slur in a Champions Cup tie.

Jacques Brunel is still looking for his first win as Les Bleus coach and makes four other changes to his starting XV with Hugo Bonneval, Benjamin Fall, Paul Gabrillagues, and Remy Grosso drafted in.

Two intriguing changes to the replacements arise with Baptiste Couilloud at scrum-half and fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc. The former may well make his debut for France at some point during the 80-minutes while the latter capitalizes on the ruthless disciplinary action taken against those questioned by Scottish police after the defeat against Scotland.

Conceding 102 points in two games was hardly surprising but is a damning statistic. Defensively, they were a shambles in Dublin which following the final 30 minutes against England will concern Conor O’Shea.

Italy will look to avoid the one-sided nature of those defeats, but it is hard to see them taking anything from this game beyond a resounding defeat.

France vs Italy Match Tips:


France to win at 1/9

Winning Margin:

France 21 – 30 at 7/2

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Please note betting odds quoted are subject to change. View the latest  Six Nations Betting Odds

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Round 2 Preview

After a pulsating first weekend of matches, the Six Nations returns with all eyes drawn to Twickenham where England meet Wales. The two nations impressed in their respective wins over Italy and Scotland, from which they took maximum points.

Below we preview this weeks Six Nations matches.

Six Nations Preview and Betting Tips

Ireland’s 15 – 13 win in Paris was overlooked but no less impressive and sets them in a good position to keep the pressure on at the top of the table. We look ahead to this weekend’s matches which will have a big bearing on the outcome of this season’s championship.

England vs Wales

Eddie Jones knew he would face making at least one change to the side which won comfortably in Rome. Ben Youngs knee ligament injury sidelines him for four months with Richard Wrigglesworth added to the bench. Danny Care slots into the starting XV and in doing so, surpasses Matt Dawson as England’s most capped scrum-half.

The only other change Jones makes is of little surprise. Jonathan Joseph’s performance as a replacement in Rome warrants inclusion from kick-off with Ben Te’o making way at outside centre.

Given it was Te’o’s first game since injury, it’s no surprise Jones is managing his return carefully. The Worcester player flagged after performing well in the first half, with 17 metres covered. Although he covered 9 metres, Joseph was electric and nimble on his feet; 2 runs and 5 passes for the latter against 1 and 6 for Te’o.

With over 730 caps between them – only Sam Simmonds and Mario Itoje have less than 20 caps – the XV is not short of the experience the occasion demands. Recent meetings between the two nations err towards tight matches; only two matches saw a margin of victory of more than 10 points.

Warren Gatland named an unchanged side to face England, taking pride in the Welsh victory over Scotland. The 34 – 7 win “made people sit up and take notice” he claimed, which is undeniable.

It was more the manner of victory. More comfortable than many thought but forged from a relentless energy. The Welsh pounced quickly on the lose ball to, hinting at the flamboyance and artistry of the great sides from the 1970s with the way in which they countered the Scots.

Where England were more the playbook, Wales best phases were off the cuff.

Where the Welsh will need to be vigilant is from the set-plays. Line-outs and scrums are used effectively by the English and while Wales were effective against Scotland in these areas, England are at another level. The introduction of Simmonds adds pace to the pack; an air of unpredictability in a team which prides itself on following the rules.

The two playing styles offered up by the coaches offer an intriguing contrast. Wales were

England hold the advantage in the recent head-to-head at Twickenham, winning seven of the last 10.

England vs Wales Match Tips:


England to win at 1/5

Win Margin 5 Way:

Home side 1 – 12 at 17/10

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Ireland vs Italy

The 15 – 13 win in Paris largely skirted under everyone’s radar following Wales and England’s impressive wins. The Irish won’t complain; they are confidently going about their work while others take the headlines but make no mistake; this is a squad which is going to be in mix when the title is decided.

Ireland hold the historic advantage in the fixture, winning 22 of the 26 previous meetings, including the last 10 at home. Last season’s 63 – 10 win in Rome followed an equally impressive 58 – 15 win in Dublin the year before; three of the last four in the fair city have been won by a 30+ points margin.

Joe Schmidt is taking the opportunity of a game Ireland should win to make changes. CJ Stander drops into the replacements with a Six Nations debut for Jack Conan. Dan Leavy continues at flanker where replaced Josh van der Flier in Paris after his knee injury ruling van der Flier out for the season.

Other changes will see David Toner and Jack McGrath come in at lock and front row respectively.

Schmidt demands his team win and led by Rory Best, who ties with Paul O’Connell for third in the all-time caps list on Saturday when he makes his 108th appearance, they proved their endurance against a dogged French team.

One man not in danger of being dropped was Johnny Sexton whose drop goal proved decisive in Paris. Schmidt is not underplaying the threat the Italians pose but is expecting his team to kill the game off early.

Ireland vs Italy Match Tips:


Ireland to win at 1/100

Home First Scoring Play:

Penalty at 18/10

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Scotland vs France

While Italy are favourites for the wooden spoon, the loser of this match is sure to give them a run for their money. The French arrive at Murrayfield knowing their last visit saw Scotland produce one of their finest performances in many years to win 29 – 18. It’s their only victory in the last 10 meetings between the two sides and only their second in the last 10 in Edinburgh.

Peter Horne is without Byron McGuigan, Richie Gray and Duncan Taylor this weekend with McGuigan returning to Sale as his tournament is over after suffering a hamstring injury in Cardiff.

Horne is relying on a positive response to the calamitous match where the Welsh outfought and outthought Scotland at every turn. With the Calcutta Cup next, this is a match they must win if there is to be a sense of change in the nation’s rugby.

France face probably a tougher mental task that Scotland. The disappointment of the nature of last weekend’s defeat, so close to the final whistle, will undoubtedly affect them. With the Scots knowing that they must perform better if they are to live up to their coach’s claim that they can still win the Six Nations!

Scotland vs France Match Tips:


France to win at 19/10

Race to 10 Points:

2 at 15/10

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Please note betting odds quoted are subject to change. View the latest  Six Nations Betting Odds

For specialized and comprehensive local and international online rugby betting as well as all major sports betting visit Keith Ho BetXchange.



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