The Six Nations kicks off at 2.15pm on Saturday, when Warren Gatland’s Wales take on Scotland. The bookies might rate Scotland ahead of injury-hit Wales as third favourites (behind England and Ireland respectively) but Gatland’s team can gain belief from the European success of Scarlets and Cardiff Blues this season – as well as the all-consuming confidence of WG himself, who sees Wales as front-runners.
Millennium Stadium: home of the brash?
Millennium Stadium Six Nations by Chris Brown is licensed by CC 2.0
Wales are certainly not a side that young, emerging Scotland can afford to underestimate; even with stalwarts such as Sam Warburton and Dan Biggar in the physio room, George North could start on Saturday and the likes of Ross Moriarty and Owen Williams will be keen to prove themselves as vital to their country as their missing captain and fly-half.
But with near a full squad to select from, (excluding injured Toulouse lock Richie Gray) Scotland Head Coach Gregor Townsend will feel he can start the campaign for a first Six Nations win since 1999 with a win.
France’s new coach Jacques Brunel and his young, hungry squad will enter their tie against Ireland at 4.45pm with a twin sense of optimism and caution. The likes of teenage lightning bolt Matthieu Jalibert and flying lock Sekou Macalou could well emerge from the tournament as stars - but with a long list of creative backs out of commission, Ireland should have too much experience and know-how for Les Blues to earn two (or more) points.
Sexton will look to blast Ireland into a fast start
Jonathan Sexton RWC 2015 by Warwick Gastinger is licensed by CC 2.0
The Green Men head into the tournament in fine form, having won seven consecutive Test Matches in the past year. And with the likes of James Ryan and Chris Farrell providing backup for Devin Toner, Iain Henderson and Bundee Aki, their strength in depth is enormous. Joe Schmidt’s team should be able to dispatch France comfortably on their road to regaining the Six Nations.
The last game of the weekend sees England travel to Rome for a British GMT kick-off time of 3pm. Such is Eddie Jones’ obsession with perfection, he is probably still smarting from England’s “failure” to secure a Grand Slam in 2017’s Six Nations win. But with an injury list that includes Billy Vunipola, Nathan Hughes, Henry Slade, Kyle Sinckler and possibly Chris Robshaw and Mike Brown among others, he will happily take a win over Italy to start with.
can outgun Italy, despite low numbers
Rugby 2012 Six Nations France by Skadd77 is licensed by CC 3.0
And he’ll probably get it. Italy have just one win in their last eleven tests and while the long-term future of the Azzurri certainly looks brighter under Conor O’Shea, they simply should not have enough quality throughout their team to pose England a significant threat.
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