After a fascinating, if slightly cagey start to the Six Nations, fans will be hoping for some more expansive rugby as the sides warm to the task in week two.
Round one re-cap
Calcutta Cup victory over Scotland at Murrayfield gave Eddie Jones a hugely satisfying debut as England coach on the first weekend, leaving the Red Rose as 11/10 favourites for Six Nations glory and instantly robbing Scottish fans of their post-World Cup optimism.
Italy mounted an admirable challenge to their perennial Wooden Spoon status in Paris, playing the most exciting rugby of the weekend, only for a wayward Sergio Parisse drop-goal in the dying moments to let France off the hook, in a 23-21 win for Les Bleus.
Ireland and Wales capped off proceedings with a captivating 16-16 draw in Dublin, so it’s intriguingly poised as the Welsh welcome Scotland and the Irish travel to the Stade Francais next.
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Ahead of week two, here are three big talking points:
Can Wales fly-half Dan Biggar really be fit to face Scotland?
According to Wales coach Warren Gatland, the other players have nicknamed their number 10 ‘Lazarus’, owing to the seemingly mystical powers of recovery Biggar has shown. Having limped off in the first half of the Ireland game with strapping on a sprained ankle, early predictions suggested his tournament participation was compromised. However, constant icing appears to have worked wonders for the fly-half, whose selection borders on astonishing. He is a huge player for Wales, but it could be an unnecessary risk for the 1/5 shots for victory over Vern Cotter’s visitors.
Will France stamp out Ireland’s hat-trick hopes?
Even without retired legend Paul O’Connell in their midst, Ireland matched Welsh brutality in the line at the Aviva Stadium. However, a perceived lack of flair in the backs and a slight injury cloud hanging over kicking maestro Jonathan Sexton, make this Paris examination a particularly tough one. Priced as the slight 11/10 outsiders for the win, if Joe Schmidt’s men come through this, then belief will manifest heading through the competition.
Can Italy give England a scare in Rome, or even beat them?
Sixteen times the nations have drawn swords in the Test arena and 16 times it’s been England who have walked away as victors. England racked up 52 points on their last visit to Rome two years ago, but the Italian’s development since then, and bright start in Paris, suggests this won’t be so one sided. The Azzuri (+16) look a pretty attractive bet at 1/1 in the handicap market for the Eternal City showdown.
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