Six Nations Week 2 – Football & Racing News – Star Sports

Week 2 of the Six Nations is always a crucial time in the Championship and this year’s competition is no different, with France, Wales and Italy on comeback missions whilst last week’s hugely impressive winners Ireland are in pole position in the Championship betting – they’re


to win the title and no bigger than


for the Grand Slam despite having four game weeks to go.

England are next in the betting but a clash with Wales looks more dangerous after Warren Gatland’s men nearly completed one of the great comebacks against Scotland last week (and England were made to work harder than the market expected, and France must pick themselves up off the floor before a testing trip to Murrayfield to face a Scotland side that did – after a second-half meltdown – beat their Cardiff curse last week, meaning it’s once again all to play for.

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Scotland v France (2.15pm, Murrayfield)

 The phrase ‘which French side will turn up’ (and more on France later) was an often-used cliché in years gone by, but perhaps the key question is which Scottish side will turn up, given their two halves against Wales last week.

For 43 minutes they dominated the Welsh, with two Duhan van der Merwe tries, a Pierre Schoeman score and 12 points from the boot of Finn Russell, who was controlling affairs with a style that Lionel Messi would have been proud of. All was set for what looked to be a sure bonus point win and a big statement of intent, before the changes that Warren Gatland made at half time began to kick in and suddenly the teams were completely reversed.

Scotland conceded 14 successive penalties as Aaron Wainwright and Tommy Reffell caused chaos and Tomos Williams ran riot, and yellow cards for George Turner and Sione Tuipulotu only worsened matters. It looked as if the two sides were wearing different colours, and Wales looked sure to complete the comeback at one point before the Scots just held on.

France arrive as wounded animals after being taken apart by Ireland last week. A close game was expected but they were under the pump from the very start and whilst Paul Willemse’s red card (following on from a yellow that arguably could have been upgraded to a red) had a major part to play, they were beaten in all aspects of the game,

Credit has to be given to Ireland – in that form it’s hard to imagine any team in World Rugby having lived with them – but apart from a brief comeback at the end of the first half, France struggled for intensity and were let down by some key underperformers.

Paul Willemse’s red cards will of course be remembered but Johnathan Danty’s poor game really impacted Les Bleus in attack and defence and Yoram Moefana (benched this week) was wasted on the wing. The pack attempted to make up for Willemse in vain – Aldritt, Ollivon, and Cros made 43 tackles between them – but they were outperformed by their opposite numbers and the rampaging Joe McCarthy.

In a way both sides have something to prove on Saturday – Scotland need to regather the momentum they lost last weekend, and France need to regain their best form and quickly – and we should be in for a humdinger.

The last two clashes between these two sides have produced 53 points, and whilst conditions are set to be wet and windy, both sides can beat a line of 45.5 points with

Both sides boast powerful carriers and packs who will be a threat close to the line, and with the boot of Thomas Ramos and Finn Russell, there’s plenty of options for three-pointers to be taken. Key player changes also catch the eye – co-captain Rory Darge returns to the Scotland starting line-up along with Grant Gilchrist and Jack Dempsey, whilst France have returned Louis Bielle-Biarrey to the wing and brought in Cameron Woki for Paul Willemse, both of whom should be more effective carriers.

In a tight game on paper, the 8/11 on Scotland with a 5.5 point start also makes appeal given home advantage.


Scotland: 15 Kyle Rowe, 14 Kyle Steyn, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Sione Tuipulotu, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Finn Russell (cc), 9 Ben White, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Rory Darge (cc), 6 Matt Fagerson, 5 Scott Cummings, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 George Turner, 1 Pierre Schoeman

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

France: 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gaël Fickou, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Louis Bielle-Biarrey, 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Maxime Lucu, 8 Grégory Alldritt (c), 7 Charles Ollivon, 6 François Cros, 5 Paul Gabrillagues, 4 Cameron Woki, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 1 Cyril Baille

Replacements: 16 Julien Marchard, 17 Sébastien Taofifenua, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Posolo Tuilagi, 20 Alexandre Roumat, 21 Paul Boudehent, 22 Nolann Le Garrec, 23 Yoram Moefana


England v Wales (4.45pm, Twickenham)

England and Wales had different starts to their campaigns – England got off the mark with a win in Rome, and Wales went down to Scotland – but that doesn’t come close to telling the whole story as we know and this clash at Twickenham promises to be extremely intriguing.

England picked up a hard-fought victory in Italy, having trailed at half-time after an impressive showing from the Azzuri where they exposed England’s blitz defence – presumably the influence of new specialist coach Felix Jones – in the first half, meaning they had to come from 10-0 and 17-8 down.

They were much improved after the break as they found their rhythm, squeezing the Italians until the game was all but done with heavy traffic, and imposing themselves more physically in the second half. England – despite a composed showing from George Ford and an exciting debut from Tommy Freeman – struggled to hit their attacking stride fully, which is understandable given that half of their starting team was different from the side beaten by the Springboks in the World Cup semi-finals in October (and they gave debuts to five players off the bench).

It was a tale of two halves for Wales against Scotland. They were blown away in the opening half against Scotland, with a non-existent kicking-game, a crumbling line-out and a defence that was being taken apart by slick and powerful runners. But Warren Gatland fired up his troops and made a slew of changes which turned the game on it’s head, and they ended the game dominating Scotland to the same extent as the first half.

There were some remarks that Wales would have ended the game as the happier side and there’s certainly plenty they can take from that effort. The new half-back pairings of Tomos Williams and Ioan Lloyd were different class to their replacements, hooker Elliot Dee, and prop Keiron Assiratti stabilised the scrum, Teddy Williams added go forward when carrying, whilst Alex Mann and Mason Grady caused the Scottish defence no end of problems.

Gatland has unsurprisingly kept those second half changes, with bodes well for an improved first half showing, especially if Tommy Reffell and Aaron Wainright’s breakdown work is more stably supported by a better set piece, which makes for a fascinating clash against an England side that ought to be more tuned up after last week’s opening win against Italy.

We’re likely to know a lot more about these two teams after this encounter, but it could be closer than the match odds imply and an 11.5 start for the Welsh could be big, especially if they carry the momentum from last week’s finish against Scotland. The last four meetings have been decided by no more than 10 points, so backing the Welsh with a generous handicap alongside a narrow English win could be the best value.


England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Tommy Freeman, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Fraser Dingwall, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Ben Earl, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Ethan Roots, 5 Ollie Chessum, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Will Stuart, 2 Jamie George (c), 1 Joe Marler

Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Alex Coles, 20 Chandler Cunningham-South, 21 Danny Care, 22 Fin Smith, 23 Immanuel Feyi-Waboso

Wales: 15 Cameron Winnett, 14 Josh Adams, 13 George North, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Ioan Lloyd, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Alex Mann, 5 Adam Beard, 4 Dafydd Jenkins (c), 3 Keiron Assiratti, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Gareth Thomas

Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Archie Griffin, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Taine Basham, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Cai Evans, 23 Mason Grady

Ireland v Italy (3.00pm, Aviva Stadium)

What more can be said about Ireland’s win in Marseille last week? There have been many highlights for Irish fans to enjoy during Andy Farrell’s tenure but last week’s demolition job on France must rank right up there amongst their wins in New Zealand and any of their recent Grand Slam performances, setting the tone for another Grand Slam attempt.

In a statement performance after the heartbreak of their World Cup exit, Ireland reached an intensity that the French were struggling to match even before Paul Willemse’s yellow and red card, and despite a French comeback around half time they eventually pulled away for a five try win.

Joe McCarthy gave a virtuoso performance at lock – justifying Andy Farrell’s call to include him at James Ryan’s expense – Jack Crowley had a hugely impressive Six Nations debut, Calvin Nash was not far behind on the wing, whilst Dan Sheehan (pictured), James Lowe, Jamison Gibson-Park, Bundee Aki, and Robbie Henshaw put in some of their best performances in an Ireland shirt.

A much-changed side will take to the pitch against Italy, with Caelan Doris moving to openside flanker from 8 and taking the captain’s armband, whilst Ryan Baird is rewarded for an impressive club season and Jack Conan takes the 8 jersey.

Tadhg Berine is rested for James Ryan, Finlay Bealham is put in at tighthead prop, Stuart McCloskey replaces Bundee Aki whilst Craig Casey takes over from Jamison Gibson-Park and forms an all-Munster half-back pairing with Jack Crowley.

Italy started impressively against England with superbly crafted scores for Alessandro Garbisi and Tommaso Allan, helped by Juan Ignacio Brex and Paolo Garbisi cutting through the English defence. However, as England grew into the game – and found rhythm in their defence – the Azzuri were smothered in the second half and unable to build on their strong first half effort despite a well-deserved late try for Monty Ioane.

New coach Gonzalo Quesada – who’s made four changes from the side that faced England, including the return of Ange Capuozzo – can take plenty of encouragement from the display, although facing even a changed Irish team is likely to be a different challenge altogether.

Italy shouldn’t be underestimated and could be slightly benefited by the amount of changes Ireland have made, but the strength in depth and quality of the hosts should see them make it two from two.

Ireland’s handicap is set in the 30’s – a mark they’d pass if quite in the same form as last week – but they could take a bit of time to warm into the game and splitting stakes on winning margins could be the best way to play this. Ireland to win by 21-30 points and then to win by 31-35 points could give punters a decent run for their money.


Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 James Lowe, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Caelan Doris (c), 6 Ryan Baird, 5 James Ryan, 4 Joe McCarthy, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter

Replacements: 16 Rónan Kelleher, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Harry Byrne, 23 Jordan Larmour

Italy: 15 Ange Capuozzo, 14 Lorenzo Pani, 13 Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 Tommaso Menoncello, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Stephen Varney, 8 Michele Lamaro (c), 7 Manuel Zuliani, 6 Alessandro Izekor, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 1 Danilo Fischetti

Replacements: 16 Giacomo Nicotera, 17 Mirco Spagnolo, 18 Giosuè Zilocchi, Andrea Zambonin, 20 Ross Vintcent, 21 Martin Page-Relo, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Federico Mori


RECOMMENDED BETS – Scotland v France
BACK Over 45.5 points 3 pts at 10/11 with (⭐


BACK Scotland +5.5 2 pts at 8/11 with (⭐



RECOMMENDED BETS – England v Wales
BACK Wales +11.5 3 pts at 10/11 with (⭐


BACK England to win by 1-12 points 1 pt at 7/4 with (⭐



RECOMMENDED BETS – Ireland v Italy
BACK Ireland to win by 21-30 points 1 pt at 3/1 with (⭐


BACK Ireland to win by 31-35 point 1 pt at 11/2 with (⭐



PROFIT/LOSS (FEB 2024): +19.44 points




Author: Eugene Morris