Six Nations Week 1 – Football & Racing News – Star Sports

The first Saturday of the Six Nations sees four sides playing catch up – Ireland’s sensational win in France last night has set the standard for this year’s Six Nations, and we should learn plenty after today’s two games, with a huge amount on the line for Italy, England, Wales and Scotland today.

The market foresees two away wins, but hosts Italy and Wales will be determined to have their say on what should be a fascinating day’s action.

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Italy v England (2.15pm, Rome)

This Championship could be something of a crossroads for Italy and England, both of whom have reason to look forward to this year’s campaign.

Italy had a disappointing World Cup – they sealed their place at the next tournament, but the All Blacks and France blew them apart – but new coach  Gonzalo Quesada has plenty of exciting talent to pick from and he can take heart from the performances of Benetton Treviso, who are sitting second in the URC to Leinster, given they supply 17 of the squad.

England’s World Cup campaign – which ended in the narrowest of semi-final defeats to South Africa – was a much needed pick up after a terrible warm-up and a lacklustre Six Nations, albeit with improvement through the tournament, and since then a number of English players – like the debutants Fraser Dingwall and Ethan Roots – have put their hands up with impressive showings in the Premiership and Champions Cup.

Much of this game could depend on which Italy shows up – last year they fought with credit in their Six Nations defeats, with their heaviest defeat being a 17-point loss to Grand Slam winners Ireland, but they were taken apart when stepped up in class at the World Cup.

Assuming England will prove too strong, might pay to assume a spirited showing from the hosts before the visitors’ strength in depth can make the difference. England are 9/4 to win by 11-20 points and 10/3 to win by 21-30 points if they end up being particularly dominant, and those might be the best plays.

Those attempting to take advantage of the Try Again’ offer – where you can back a player for First Tryscorer and get 50% of your stake back as a free bet if they fail to score first but score a try during the match – could do worse than look at Ben Earl or Jamie George as England’s anytime scoring options.

Earl is sure to play a key role as England’s heavy-duty carrier, but George has six tries in the Premiership and Champions Cup this season and has a great record against Italy, having scored five of his 13 international tries against the Azzuri including three in the last two meetings.

Teams

Italy: Tommaso Allan; Ange Capuozzo, Juan Ignacio Brex, Tommaso Menoncello, Monty Ioane; Paolo Garbisi, Alessandro Garbisi; Danilo Fischetti, Gianmarco Lucchesi, Pietro Ceccarelli, Niccolo Cannone, Federico Ruzza, Sebastian Negri, Michele Lamaro (c), Lorenzo Cannone.

Replacements: Giacomo Nicotera, Mirco Spagnolo, Giosue Zilocchi, Andrea Zambonin, Edoardo Iachizzi, Manuel Zuliani, Stephen Varney, Lorenzo Pani

England: Freddie Steward; Tommy Freeman, Henry Slade, Fraser Dingwall, Elliot Daly; George Ford, Alex Mitchell; Joe Marler, Jamie George, Will Stuart, Maro Itoje, Ollie Chessum, Ethan Roots, Sam Underhill, Ben Earl.

Replacements: Theo Dan, Ellis Genge, Dan Cole, Alex Coles, Chandler Cunningham-South, Danny Care, Fin Smith, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso

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Wales v Scotland (4.45pm, Cardiff)

There’s a sense of Deja vu for Wales, who have a young unfancied team going into the Six Nations which the odds stacked against them, and whilst Warren Gatland has managed to pull off incredible shocks before – did anyone have Wales winning back to back titles in 2012 and 2013, for one? – their prospects for this year’s tournament have been badly hit by injuries and absences.

The way Wales won their pool at the World Cup – particularly their destruction of Australia in the final game – had fans daring to dream but since their exit at the hands of Argentina in the quarter-finals, they’ve lost Dan Biggar to retirement, Gareth Anscombe and Jac Morgan to injury, and Louis Rees-Zammit to the NFL to add salt to the wounds and Gatland now has to find a new core to a side at incredibly short notice.

Off field crises in Welsh rugby aren’t helping, and today’s matchday squad is made up (bar the notable exceptions of Daffyd Jenkins and Tommy Reffell) of players from provinces that sit 8th, 12th, 14th and 15th in the United Rugby Championship, reflecting the difficulties the hosts face.

Scotland – who will be disappointed with the way they weren’t able to challenge South Africa and Ireland at the World Cup – haven’t won in Cardiff since 2002 but they’ll probably never have a better chance given the quality Gregor Townsend’s working with. Glasgow’s strong form (third in the URC, qualified for knockouts of Champions Cup) is an excellent base to work from and should ensure good cohesion, whilst Finn Russell and Ben White are both thriving for Bath and Toulon respectively.

The visitors look to have a golden chance for victory here and they can overcome the Cardiff curse; back them to get the job done on a small handicap and to win by 1-12 points.

Teams

Wales: 15 Cameron Winnett, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 James Botham, 5 Adam Beard, 4 Dafydd Jenkins (captain), 3 Leon Brown, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Corey Domachowski.

Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Kemsley Mathias, 18 Keiron Assiratti, 19 Teddy Williams, 20 Alex Mann, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Ioan Lloyd, 23 Mason Grady.

Scotland: 15 Kyle Rowe, 14 Kyle Steyn, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Sione Tuipulotu, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Finn Russell (captain), 9 Ben White, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Jamie Ritchie, 6 Luke Crosbie, 5 Scott Cummings, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 George Turner, 1 Pierre Schoeman.

Replacements: 16 Ewan Ashman, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Elliot Millar-Mills, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 George Horne, 22 Ben Healy, 23 Cameron Redpath.

WILLIAM KEDJANYI

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Author: Eugene Morris