The 2023 Six Nations concludes this weekend with Round 5 action. Ireland will be looking to complete the Grand Slam as they host an England team coming off its third-worst defeat of all time against France last weekend. The French host Wales and Italy travels to Scotland in the other two games.
Here is a look at this week’s games with odds from BetXchange.
Scotland VS Italy – Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Scotland has had a weird tournament. They could have beaten France if not for a mad 15 minutes to open the match, and they arguably should have finished closer to Ireland last weekend as the Irish saw their starting pack drop like flies to the point they had a flanker throwing in lineouts and a prop hooking.
The Scots still sit third in the table, but it feels like a tournament of missed opportunities save for their win over England. They will have to beat Italy without plenty of star influence, with Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg missing out after picking up injuries late against Ireland.
Italy sits bottom of the log with just one bonus point for their efforts in this Six Nations. Many thought they could have beaten Wales last weekend, but a Welsh team that has struggled mightily under Warren Gatland won 29-17 in Rome.
This is a country that can’t get out of its own way to win. They run too much ball from bad positions on the field, and their set piece – especially the lineout – falls apart at critical times. They should have beaten France, but instead, they will end the tournament with no wins when Scotland wins – but fails to cover – here.
France VS Wales – Stade De France, Paris
Gatland continues to shuffle his deck as he tries to discover the combinations that can move Wales forward post the 2023 World Cup. He has made five changes to his backline, with the only enforced move being Louis Reed Zammit coming in at fullback for the injured Liam Williams. The rest of the moves – George North and Nick Tompkins in the centers and Dan Biggar at fly-half – see veteran starters replacing more inexperienced hands.
France looked sensational against a very poor England outfit at Twickenham last Saturday. Uini Antonio returns at prop following his two-game suspension, while Seckou Macalou remains on the bench to deliver more impressive pop as a replacement flanker. Their backline is phenomenal, with Antoine Dupont – the best player in world rugby – controlling everything from No. 9.
France wins this by as many as they like, and I think they cover the 21 to pressure Ireland as they close the point difference before the Irish kick off against England.
Ireland VS England – Aviva Stadium, Dublin
It is not a great time to be an England rugby fan. Steve Borthwick is the right man for the top job, but his style of squad building requires time that he doesn’t have before the 2023 World Cup in October. On the other hand, Ireland is rolling along, though there are injury concerns after their attritional matchup against Scotland.
The good news for Ireland is that Caelan Doris and Dan Sheehan are fit to start against England. Doris is especially important – he is in sensation form at the back of the scrum – and there are a couple of experienced and talented replacements in Robbie Henshaw and Ryan Baird who replace the injured Garry Ringrose and Iain Henderson, respectively.
England’s musical chairs at No. 10 continues with Owen Farrell recalled ahead of Marcus Smith. Farrell feels like more of a Borthing stand-off than Smith, and it is always interesting when he plays a team his dad coaches. It is still a matter of time before George Ford gets involved in the serious discussion to be Borthwick’s starter.
Other changes for England include the exciting Henry Arundell coming in on the wing and Manu Tuilagi – who appears to be healthy and not suspended – starting at 12 (still not his natural position.) England can’t look worse than they did against France, but they have no form to suggest they will win here. I would back them to cover, as Borthwick will demand a response after their Twickenham meltdown.