Six Nations Round 3: Vital Matches

Six Nations Round 3: Vital Matches

Round three of the RBS Six Nations kicks into action this weekend after the fallow week and it promises to be the best yet. The results of all matches are vital to the final standings.

On Friday night, Wales look to get their campaign back on track when they host France.

The pre tournament favourites - but not mine I hasten to add - have struggled to get their game going. I feel Wales have been over-hyped for a while now.

Under Warren Gatland, Wales have only won 51 percent of their games and won a paltry one game out of their last 22 against NZ, Australia and South Africa.

Yes they have had their moments during that time with a Grand Slam in 2012 and not forgetting the freak performance against England last year.

But they sit at seventh in the world rankings for a reason, and after watching Gatland's Lions struggle against the Aussies in what should have been a comfortable series win, I feel he is underutilising his resources with a restricted game-plan.

After all that, they will go into this game as favourites against what has been an inconsistent French side.

A French win, however, would make them strong favourites for the title.

Wales have always struggled against organised attacking outfits but I don't feel France come under that category just yet, despite the wealth of attacking options available to them.

George North looks to be starting in the midfield and while he is an outstanding attacker, his defensive game will be tested against the likes of Wesley Fofana.

Wales will just have enough to squeeze out a win at home.

The second game has traditionally been the clash for the wooden spoon and so it proves again this year. Italy host an under-pressure Scottish side and must feel confident of getting the job done against a team who has scored just six points in their first two games.

Not much has gone right for the beleaguered Scots this year but if their is a silver lining to their campaign it is that this game is very winnable. The gulf in class is not as apparent in this fixture and this is probably the only fixture Scotland can realistically win.

The Italians are also winless but haven't had trouble scoring points and rightly go into the game favourites. But I'm picking the upset as the Scots circle the wagons and finally produce a good enough performance to get them across the line.

It's easy to play when your backs are against the wall. It can bring out the best in a team and I fully expect Scotland to fight back and win.

All eyes will be on the Twickenham for the final game of the round. Ireland are full of confidence after their demolition of Wales and England have taken a blow with the loss of Dan Cole for the rest of the tournament.

He has been a cornerstone of Stuart Lancaster's pack during his tenure and it's one of the few positions that has question marks over depth in the English squad. 

Bath's David Wilson looks to take over the all important No.3 jersey. He is lacking match fitness and will not play the full game but his tussle with Cian Healy will be pivotal.

This game will provide a great picture of where this young England side stand at the moment on their road to the 2015 World Cup and the loss of Cole tilts the balance in Ireland's favour for me.

Joe Schmidt has revitalised this Irish team and has them playing a more expansive, heads up style.

An interesting stat is that Ireland are five from five against England when Brian O'Driscoll, Paul O'Connell and Gordon D'Arcy all start. I think they are the form team of the competition and a win could well set up a winner-takes-all clash in Paris in the last round.

So after going with the favourites thus far, I'm picking Scotland and Ireland to win against the odds this weekend in what should be an enthralling weekend of rugby.


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