Friday, 19 March 2010

Six Nations Week 5: Previews and Predictions

Wales v Italy

Wales haven't been firing in this tournament and their line out and scrum have been less than effective.  However the return of scrum-half Mike Phillips and loosehead Gethin Jenkins is a boon for coach Warren Gatland, and 18-year old Tom Prydie becomes both the youngest man to play for Wales and the youngest ever to play in the Six Nations when he starts on the wing.  Whoever loses this match will be vying for the wooden spoon with Scotland, and the losers will take home the booby prize if Scotland overturn the Irish in the final game to be played at Croke Park. 

Italy have been hit by three injuries: Centre Andrea Masi, lock Carlo Del Fava and flanker Paul Derbyshire are all out.  Despite Italy's win against Scotland and rallying last 15 minutes against France, Nick Mallet's men won't have enough to get past Wales at a pulsating Millennium Stadium.

My prediction:  Wales by 18.

Ireland v Scotland

Declan Kidney and his Ireland team only have an outside chance of winning the championship, and that relies on England tripping up their rivals France later on in Paris.  But the Triple Crown is there for the taking, and if Ireland beat Andy Robinson's Scotland they will notch up their fifth home nations clean sweep in seven years.

The Scots are propping up the table with a solitary point, courtesy of their tedious draw against England last weekend.  With Ireland gunning for the prize to crown their final match at Croke Park and Scotland's try-scoring drought, I can only see this game going one way.

My prediction:  Ireland by 12.

France v England

A revamped England will run out in Paris in the tournament finale, but I think favourites France will pack too much of a punch for the visitors.  Ben Foden and Chris Ashton, team mates at Northampton, will hopefully inject some pace and cutting edge into the England backline.  We know their link-up play is in fine form after watching them in the Guinness Premiership and Heineken Cup this season.  Lewis Moody returns from a brief stint on the bench, and he will lead out England in the absence of Steve Borthwick.  Mike Tindall starts in the centre, probably to try and contain the rampaging Mathieu Bastereaud. 

France are oozing class in every position at the moment.  Morgan Parra, Imanol Harinordoquy and Clement Poitreneaud are but three of their top class players in a team dripping with talent.  The French have been firing this Six Nations, and they will be too much for Martin Johnson's stuttering England team.

My prediction:  France to win by 16.

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