Round 3 of the 2022 Six Nations Championship takes place this weekend with the table in an interesting state. France lead the standings with two wins out of two, while every other side except Italy has one win and one defeat. Matches this weekend will go a long way towards deciding who will be in the running over the last couple of rounds as it will be hard for any team – other than France – to lose this weekend and still make a push for the crown.
Here is a look at the matches.
Scotland V France – Murrayfield, Edinburgh
The closest game on paper this week is the first one up as the Scots look to defender Murrayfield as 6.5 point favorites against the French. Scotland has made three changes to their team, with Rory Darge making his first start in a back row alongside another change in Magnus Bradbury. Hamish Watson retains his place. The final change sees Zander Fagerson starting at tighthead with WP Nel on the bench.
France is playing like the best team in the world right now with their combination of size and speed allying with their technical ability. They will, however, have seen how England failed at Murrayfield in Round 1 and the Scots really are a different proposition on their own patch. France changes just one with Jonathan Danty coming in for the injured Gabin Villiere at 12. I like France to win by a couple of tries, but keep an eye on the weather as anything rough will play far more into the hands of the home side.
England VS Wales – Twickenham, London
England simply cannot find a way to keep explosive center Manu Tuilagi fit and healthy. The 30-year-old was set to make his first appearance of the tournament on Saturday after recovering from a hamstring injury. Tuilagi was named in the starting XV for the clash at Twickenham, but he has since been withdrawn after suffering another hamstring injury in training. Eddie Jones had previously called Tuilagi a “Test match winner”, something that England will have to do while finding another partner for Henry Slade in midfield. In better news, Courtney Lawes is fit to play and will start as captain.
Wales will be without English-based dop Callum Sheedy and Louis Rees-Zammit after both returned to their clubs during the first fallow week of the tournament. The pace of Rees-Zammit is always a threat and his exclusion is a detriment to the backline. Taulupe Faletau returns in the No. 8 shirt on his comeback from injury, while Josh Adams has also recovered from a knock and will start on the wing. I shade England to cover the 8.5 points at home with BetXchange, but just keep an eye on the starting lineup.
Ireland VS Italy – Aviva Stadium, Dublin
The 39.5 points that Ireland is favored to win by over Italy with BetXchange seems like a monumental number. They will have to reach it without lock Iain Henderson who tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday and will have to miss the clash. The big news for Ireland will be the starting fly-half. While captain Johnny Sexton has recovered from injury, it looks like Ireland might start Joey Carbery for the second week in a game that they should win with ease. Italy has been progressing well (finally) at the age-group level, but the speed with which Ireland plays is going to give them problems. I would be much more comfortable with a number around 35, but I do expect Ireland to score early and often here.