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Stephen Ferris previews Ireland v England, Scotland v Italy and France v Wales in Six Nations

| 18.03.2021

It’s a stacked Saturday of Six Nations action including France v Wales in Paris.

Former Ireland international Stephen Ferris previews each match and picks out his tips as the championship reaches its climax. You can check out the latest Six Nations odds here.

Ireland v England – 4.45pm Saturday 20th March

Both teams are coming into the game with a renewed confidence after brilliant wins last weekend.

Ladbrokes have England as 2-point favourites, and after that superb victory against France who would
argue?

England have won the last four meetings between the two sides, with Ireland’s last victory being the one that lead them to the Grand Slam in 2018.

Neither of these two teams will be winning grand slams this year, however there is still lots to play for other than just the bragging rights.

Lions selection isn’t too far away. This is the perfect shop window for Warren Gatland to see what some
of his potential Lions are made of.

It’s important for the players on both sides to remember that being selfish in a game of rugby can be detrimental to your chances of winning the match.

The Lions is built around teamwork, so just do your role and everything will hopefully fall into place for you personally, and for the team. I can’t wait to see who roars on Saturday afternoon.

Ireland are playing at home for the second time in this championship. It didn’t go to plan against France a
few weeks ago when they just fell short. If the truth be told they didn’t deserve to win that game, but
they have quickly bounced back with huge shifts against Italy and Scotland which has given all of us Irish
fans a lot more hope.

Ireland needs to have more attacking threats in this game. They need to offer more than just one out runners and high bombs off the boot of Jonny Sexton.

Will Ireland come with a different game plan than what we have witnessed so far in the tournament? I’m not so sure, I think it will be more of the same but with bigger physicality and more tempo when they get the chance.

The Irish lineout has been masterful at times during the Six Nations, so get this firing again in
attack and defence, and they will frustrate the hell out of England.

‘Rattled. Badly coached. Not good enough. Limited game plan. Not picking on form.’ These are
only a few things that have been said about the England team over the last number of weeks.

They silenced a good few critics last weekend, however if Ireland turn over the World Cup finalists, then await
the backlash once again from the English media who are just waiting for their team to slip up once again.

Can they handle the pressure? We will soon find out.

Betting tips

Ireland +3 at 10/11

Scotland v Italy – 2.15pm Saturday 20th March

This game is a dead rubber. However, I think there is actually good value on the betting market so it’s
going to grab a lot of people’s attention.

The handicap for this game is 27 points. When you take into consideration that Scotland have only beaten Italy by more than this margin twice in the last 13 games, then surely you would be thinking that Italy could hold off the Scots for parts of this game and finish off the championship showing some credibility.

Italy have conceded 187 points in their four matches. That’s an average of 47 points per game. The
betting points handicap has only been beaten once by Italy and that was against England in round two of
the championship.

There is only going to be one winner in this game and of course that is Scotland. Priced at 1/100 it’s probably not worth your while tipping Scotland to win, but can they start scoring more points and put Italy to the sword for a fifth straight game? I think so.

If Scotland can sort out their shambolic lineout and keep Finn Russell on the pitch for 80 minutes, then I
think they can score 40+ points which will pile on more pressure to Italian rugby.

It’s due to be perfect weather conditions on Saturday afternoon in Edinburgh which should help with ball in play time and limit mistakes.

Every rugby fan is waiting for the Scotland team to produce another breathtaking performance which we all know they are capable of, however there are still so many question marks over the mentality of this team, due to the fact they cannot get the job done in tight games.

I’m not expecting this game to be tight, so Scotland won’t be under huge amounts of pressure to perform, and
that’s why I’m going to back the Scots to blow away Italy just like all the other teams have.

A quick word on Italy who have been massively underwhelming once again in this year’s Six Nations. They
haven’t won a game since 2015 in the Six Nations and they look further away than ever to stopping the
rot.

Italy have been the whipping boys for too long. Their U20s and U18s are starting to perform well
and are causing bigger nations headaches in the junior competitions.

So do we persist with Italy in the hope that some of these younger players will be able to make that step up to international level? Or do we open the door to Georgia, Romania. or even the USA if Italy were to fall out of the championship?

Let’s have a little more faith in my opinion and continue to help and improve Italian rugby.

Betting tips

Scotland –28 points at 10/11

Draw on handicap at 25/1

France v Wales – 8pm Saturday 20th March

Grand Slam for Wales or a potential championship winning performance from France and to break
Welsh hearts? What a game we have on our hands for Saturday night.

France will be devastated that they didn’t put England away last weekend when they had their chance.

Playing sublime rugby and having purple patches during the game that even had New Zealanders
watching with anticipation is a huge credit to France. However, they just fell short and it’s still a loss
which is written down in the history books.

France must dust themselves off and go again. They still have a championship to play for and it would be a huge success if they managed to lift that trophy in the coming weeks.

The last time France won the Six Nations Championship was in 2010 and realistically they
haven’t even been close until the last year or two.

Have they turned a corner? I think France could be one of the hot favourites come the Rugby World Cup in 2023 if they keep improving at the rate in which they have showed over the last year.

Dynamic, physical, accurate and well coached. This French side are a joy to watch and hopefully they give us all another great spectacle against Wales.

The Welsh however are not going to go down without a fight. They are big underdogs in this game like
they have been throughout this championship. The handicap is currently at nine points and with so much riding on this for Wales I think that is generous.

Some of the Welsh players are in top form. George North, Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric, Louis Rees-Zammit, Josh Adams just to name a few are playing with confidence and belief. A team that has experience as well as youth who seem to be fearless is a very dangerous combination.

I fancy France to win this game, but not by more nine points. I’m backing Wales to upset the handicap odds
and deliver a performance that will take this championship to the wire.

Betting tips

Wales +8 at 10/11

View the latest Six Nations odds.

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

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