Six Nations Preview: Can England and Ireland stay on course for Grand Slam decider?

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It’s another huge weekend of rugby union as the third round of Six Nations games kick into gear.

France play Italy in Paris this evening, then it’s Ireland v Wales and Scotland v England on Saturday.

The Ladbrokes News crew take a look at each game and provide their best bets…

France v Italy

What has become of France? One of the behemoths of the Six Nations for years, Les Bleus have fallen on difficult times.

Jacques Brunel’s side have lost their opening two games against Ireland and Scotland. And that means they’re already battling to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon.

France should still be too good for a beleaguered Italy, though. Conor O’Shea’s team have found the going tougher than usual this year.

England and Ireland both thumped the Azzurri. While this France iteration aren’t near that quality, they can open up against the Italians.

France to win on the -17 Handicap @ Evens

Ireland v Wales

In arguably the game of the weekend, Ireland face a Welsh outfit that present a sizeable banana slip.

These games have become a bit of a grudge match in recent years with Warren Gatland fond of baiting Joe Schmidt.

Both sides are missing some big players. Wales’s injury woes have been well-documented. But now Ireland are without Robbie Henshaw, Tadgh Furlong, and Iain Henderson.

It leaves this game more open than it previously would have been. Ireland are clearly the better team, but Wales are tricky customers. And they have a good record against the Irish, even in Dublin.

Wales to win on the +7 Handicap @ Evens

Scotland v England

Eddie Jones takes his England side north to face the auld enemy at Murrayfield in the Calcutta Cup.

This game will make or break whether England head for a Grand Slam. Win here, and Jones’ team have just France standing in their way of a final day shootout against Ireland at Twickenham.

Scotland are no mugs, though. Gregor Townsend’s side got over a poor opening day defeat against Wales to dispatch France in style.

The Scots have implemented a relatively expansive game under Townsend. However, England under Jones seem to generally always find a way to win.

And if their first XV is good, their replacements are arguably even stronger. If the game becomes a war of attrition, expect Jones to empty the bench and grind the Scots down.

England to win on the -8 Handicap @ Evens

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing

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Cian Carroll

Starting life as a football columnist for his local paper in Dundalk, Cian has written for a number of media outlets with pieces published in The Birmingham Mail and Spain’s El Mundo Deportivo. A lover of football, GAA, boxing, rugby and MMA, he’s a big Aston Villa and Dundalk fan. He can be regularly spotted on various mountain tops.