Round 4 of the 2022 Six Nations Championship takes place this weekend after a fallow week for the teams to regroup and refocus. France is the only undefeated team in the competition and they face Wales here before hosting England in Round 5. The final game of the round on Saturday evening should be a cracker as England host Ireland with both teams knowing only a win will keep them in the running for the prize.
Here is a look at the matches.
Wales VS France – Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
France seems to have finally put all the component parts together and they truly look like the best team in the world right now after their domination of Scotland last time out. Wales are fifth in the table with just one win and five points from three games, but they gave England a real scare last time out after spotting their opponents a 17 point lead. If the game goes another five minutes they probably win.
There are probably only two or three Wales players that would get into the French side, with Liam Williams and the resurgent Alex Cuthbert the two most likely. The French pack is just outstanding – it is impossible to move Uini Atonio and Cameron Woki is a monster in the lineout – while their established half-back pairing of Antoine Dupont and Roman Ntamack is full of creativity and flair. The Millennium Stadium is always a hard place to go, but France is flying. Take the visitors -8.5 at 9/10 with BetXchange.
Italy VS Scotland – Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Scotland beat England in Round 1, should have beaten Wales in Round 2, and then had the chance to apply scoreboard pressure on France in Round 3 before Stuart Hogg dropped a potential try and the French ran out comfortable winners. Italy has had its doors blown off by everyone, with their closes defeat being by 27 points at the hands of Franch in Round 1.
The Italians must have done something to anger the rugby Gods as last week they were reduced to 13 men after 18 minutes thanks to a combination of a red card and having to go to uncontested scrums. They were further reduced to just 12 men for the last six minutes of the game, with Ireland romping away to win by 51 points.
Italy’s attitude will be interesting here as they catch a Scotland team needing to bounce back from consecutive defeats. Head coach Gregor Townsend has made five changes to his starting XV, with a first Six Nations start being handed to wing Kyle Steyn replacing the banned Duhan van der Merwe and Hamish Watson and Matt Fagerson recalled to a more familiar-looking back row. Scotland will win, but I like Italy to hang around and cover the 19.5 point spread.
England VS Ireland – Twickenham Stadium, London
The betting suggests this should be close with away side Ireland just a one-point favorite over the English at Twickenham. Ireland sit second in the table with 11 points, while England is in third with 10. Whatever the result here, the winning country will likely need England to beat France next weekend to win the Six Nations crown.
Ireland has made the expected change at fly-half, with starter Johnny Sexton replacing Joey Carbery in the No. 10 shirt. He partners in-form Jamison Gibson-Park in the halves while Bundee Aki returns at center. The Irish team is full of confidence and big match players, with their pack certain to give England all it can half on its home park.
Eddie Jones has recalled Sam Simmonds to the No. 8 shirt as he replaces Alex Dombrandt who has just returned from isolation following a Covid-19 issue. The midfield remains the Achillies Heel of this England team and with both Manu Tuilagi and Owen Farrell out of contention through injury it is Henry Slade starting at No. 12 and Joe Marchant at No. 13.
I like Ireland to win this and cover the small spread. Their lineup just feels more settled than an England team dealing with injuries both in the centers and at hooker.