Wales 1.26 v Ireland 3.85 – Friday 20:05 GMT
It’s amazing how close the points differentials are in this competition, only England’s victory over Italy hasn’t been close. It is the nature of the beast and in tight games this France team have shown they have what it takes to get through against both Italy and then Ireland.
They have shown they have that determination to win and this will be a really close game. If Wales play to their potential they should win but if France play hard and try and give them a doing up front, which they are good at now, then this game could turn into a battle and that would suit the French.
France always have the ability to self-destruct but they have showed a wee bit more discipline so far. The Welsh are excellent at winding them up but Ireland tried that too.
It is amazing, from a team that you used to be able to name seven or eight of them, France now have a team where it is hard for many people in the UK to recognise any of them. It goes to show that different coaches have different ideas and this is working for France at the moment.
This won’t be easy for the French but Wales have only won one of their five games under the Friday night lights in the Six Nations, so you could say the home side are up against it.
Wales came back well from their opening day draw against Ireland and have been fairly good. They always manage to turn it round and their world class players like Jamie Roberts and George North know when to turn it on and they scored some great tries against Scotland.
I think Wales are a pretty competent side but their forwards cannot continue to be as competitive as they have been. Alun Wyn Jones seems to go on forever, and that is testament to his fitness levels, he puts his body on the line so much. You wonder how long Warburton may last with his physique and the positions he gets himself in too.
The Welsh have developed the habit of winning at the Millennium but I think France may just edge this one.
France -1.5 to win 4.10
Italy 3.55 v Scotland 1.30 – Saturday 14:25 GMT
It is nine losses in a row for Scotland, our second worst run in the competition’s 145-year history. It is all pretty desperate.
This is a must-win against Italy but it is not going to be easy. If you look at the match-ups recently they have been decided by the odd score. Just a couple of years ago Duncan Weir dropped a last second drop goal to win it and Scotland conceded a try in the last few seconds last year.
I think Italy were desperately unlucky not to win against France when they were undone by a poor refereeing decision and Scotland have been on the end of some poor decisions as well. It always seems to go against the less fancied sides.
This is going to be a real battle and it is not going to pretty.
Scotland need to take a risk and play some rugby, then they have a chance of doing pretty well but England took a good hour to break the Italians down and showed great composure. What worries me is that I am not sure that Scotland, at this moment in time, with their desire to halt this losing run they are on, I’m not convinced they can play with such composure, especially if it is close going into the last quarter.
Scotland have lost six of those aforementioned nine games on this run by seven points or less and it is a case of failing to execute properly. They have been slack and gifted the opposition the late score to take them through. They are not a bad side but the records say different.
Simply put they have to get a victory, however it comes, and then get the hell out of Rome.
Scotland to win 1.30
England 1.27 v Ireland 3.75
I thought England did well against Italy, they were patient and stuck to their guns. They didn’t do anything too fancy and, as so often happens, the stronger side came through on the latter stages.
Eddie Jones can be fairly satisfied with them so far but as Clive Woodward said, that is the second division games out of the way and now it is time for the first division games.
This game is a different kettle of fish but I do think England will have too much for Ireland.
It is the Twickenham factor. They will love being back there, the crowd will be right behind them and everyone will be on a high. England have done well, they have done what they had to do. I don’t think they are playing good rugby but it is winning rugby and that is all that matters.
They will be too good for Ireland.
The Irish have almost become desperate. They had poor World Cup and they have tried to do too much in many respects. They are playing with a team who are desperate to win but without really knowing how to do so.
The loss of key players has been massive. Paul O’Connell is the biggest loss along with Sean O’Brien and Peter O’Mahony. They have lost guys who have been at the heart of the forward pack for years and any team would struggle to cope with the loss of players of that calibre.
I think England are better up front and will give Ireland a tough time but I also think their backs are better at this moment in time. England will be desperate to right the wrongs of the World Cup on home soil and that will give them the edge.
England to win with at least 8 points difference 1.82