Ireland the focus in interesting first round of Six Nations Championship

Ireland the focus in interesting first round of Six Nations Championship

It is one of the most interesting Six Nations Championships in many years after a 2018 mixtures of unexpected victories and defeats by five of the six nations doing battle.

Forget about Italy as a possible winner of the Championship and most probably also as a team that could cause an upset.

But from Ireland, who will feel the pressure as the world’s best team despite its second ranking, to Scotland who surprised Wales and England in last year’s Championship, there is enough quality to beat any of their adversaries on a given day.

FRANCE vs WALES, Stade Francais (Friday, 10pm)

In the first match, Friday night in Paris, the French will not run out as favourites against Wales, who have climbed to number three in the world Rugby rankings and won seven matches on the run against Southern Hemisphere opposition.

France are still smarting from their loss to Fiji during the year-end tests, but have a wily and experienced coach in Jacques Brunel

With a near monster pack of forwards, he will have devised possible ways of breaking the solid Wales defence. But one has the feeling that the match on Friday night could be won at the breakdown, though, and here Wales have a distinct advantage.

Teams ‒

France
15 Maxime Medard, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Wesley Fofana, 12 Romain Ntamack, 11 Yoann Huget, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Arthur Iturria, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 3 Uini Antonio, 2 Guilhelm Guirado (capt.), 1 Jefferson Poirot. Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Demba Bamba, 19 Felix Lambey, 20 Gregory Alldritt, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Gael Fickou, 23 Geoffrey Doumayrou.

Wales
15 Liam Williams; 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Josh Adams; 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (capt.), 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans. Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Owen Watkin

SCOTLAND vs ITALY, Murrayfield (Saturday, 4:15pm)

On Saturday, Scotland should have it much their own way against Italy who have nog won a Six Nations match since 2015. They were wooden-spoonists I 11 or their last 15 championships, losing four times to Scotland.

But after three defeats, and Scotland’s good performance in the 2019 Championship and also in the year-end tests, they would be out-and-out favourites against a team who finished last in the last three championships.

Teams ‒

Scotland
15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Blair Kinghorn, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (capt.), 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Jamie Ritchie, 6 Sam Skinner, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 WP Nel, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Allan Dell. Replacements: Jake Kerr, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Gary Graham, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Ali Price, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Chris Harris

Italy 
15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 Michele Campagnaro, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi; 8 Sergio Parisse (captain); 7 Braam Steyn, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Dean Budd, 4 David Sisi, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Andrea Lovotti. Replacements: 16 Luca Bigi, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Federico Ruzza, 20 Jimmy Tuivaiti, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Ian McKinley, 23 Edoardo Padovani.

IRELAND vs ENGLAND, Aviva Stadium (Saturday, 6:45pm)

The clash between Ireland and England in Dublin could well be the first round’s highlight.

England imploded last year after Eddie Jones’ men won the 2016 and ’17 Championships, including a Triple Crown in 2016.

Ireland were champions the preceding two years and also last year and are favourites to repeat the win.

But they have the pressure on them against an England side that lost a series to South Africa but bounced back nicely in the year-end matches to beat South Africa, Australia and Japan and lose by a single points against the All Blacks.

However, if one had the few British Pounds or Rands to wager, it should be on Ireland, although they will have to contend with the power of Manu Tuilagi at inside centre in his first start since the third Test against New Zealand in June 2014.

Teams ‒

Ireland
15 Robbie Henshaw; 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale; 10 Johnathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 James Ryan, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (capt.), 1 Cian Healy. Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Quinn Roux, 20 Sean O’Brien, 21 John Cooney, 22 Joey Carbury, 23 Jordan Larmour.

England
15 Elliot Daly, 14 Jonny May, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Jack Nowell, 10 Owen Farrell (capt.), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Mark Wilson, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola. Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Dan Robson, 22 George Ford, 23 Chris Ashton.