Six Nations Week 3 – Football & Racing News – Star Sports

The Six Nations returns after a fallow week with the Championship effectively at the half-way point. It’s a big week for the title race, with Ireland (at home to Wales) and England (away to Scotland) still unbeaten, although the market still sees Andy Farrell’s men as overwhelming favourites at


to win the title and


for a Grand Slam.

England are also unbeaten in their two games, although a clash with Scotland at Murrayfield is likely to provide them their toughest test of the championship so far, a task made no easier by the revenge mission the Scottish will be on after victory was all but stolen from them against France a fortnight ago.

The weekend ends with an intriguing fixture, as France – who have been a shadow of the team that went off favourites for the World Cup last year – face an Italy side who will have nothing to fear if Les Bleus don’t up their standards and quickly. Once again, it’s all to play for!

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Ireland v Wales  (2.15pm, Aviva Stadium)

It’s a measure of how good Ireland have been that the handicap Wales receive in Dublin (23.5 points) is almost as big as the one Italy are given in Paris (25.5) on Sunday. After two dominant wins the men in green are just 1/50 to go three from three in the tournament – a remarkable price but a reflection of their form and home record.

Warren Gatland’s side were considered virtual outsiders at the beginning of the tournament, but they could well have come here with two wins after big efforts against Scotland and England. A first-half disaster on the opening weekend proved to be a blessing in disguise, forcing Gatland into changes that saw them nearly pull off the biggest comeback in Six Nations history, and they gave England a serious fright at Twickenham, leading 14-5 at half time and going down by just two points.

The backrow of Aaron Wainwright, Tommy Reffell, and Alex Mann impressed against England last week and whilst this is another big step up, their ability to disrupt opposition ball could give them a chance of making life slightly uncomfortable for an Irish side which has shown the fastest ruck speed in the championship so far.

Wales didn’t manage to cut loose against England as much as hoped, but Cameron Winnett and Rio Dyer have shown a lot of promise and Tomos Williams has provided some game-changing moments from 9 for the visitors, who may pack slightly more of a punch than the market suggests.

Going to Ireland – who made changes against Italy and didn’t come out of third gear to win 36-0 – is obviously a different ballgame here, and an away victory would be a huge shock. Ireland have won their last 17 home matches and their opening weekend performance was arguably as good as any during the Farrell era.

After making six changes against Italy – including a rest for Tadhg Berine, Tadhg Furlong, Jamison Gibson-Park and Bundee Aki – Ireland are almost back to full strength bar Hugo Keenan’s injury, and we can all expect a big power packed showing from the hosts.

It’s hard to quibble with Ireland’s status as favourites, but Wales may be able to keep things reasonably respectable and backing the hosts to win by 11-20 and 21-30 points could be the best way to play things.


Ireland: 15 Ciaran Frawley, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Joe McCarthy, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter

Replacements: 16 Ronan Kelleher, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Oli Jager, 19 James Ryan, 20 Ryan Baird, 21 Jack Conan, 22 Conor Murray, 23 Stuart McCloskey

Wales: 15 Cameron Winnett, 14 Josh Adams, 13 George North, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Sam Costelow, 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 Dillon Lewis, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Mackenzie Martin, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Ioan Lloyd, 23 Mason Grady


Scotland v England (4.45pm, Murrayfield)

A grudge match of the highest magnitude here, with an angry Scotland – still fuming over what should have been a win against France last week – facing their traditional rivals England, who made it two wins out of two against Wales last week, although not without a lot of jeopardy considering their two yellow cards and the 14-5 deficit they faced at half time.

Steve Borthwick’s men – led by Ben Earl, Maro Itoje and Will Stuart going forward – deserve credit for their fightback but they will need to be better again at Murrayfield, facing the best attacking side they’ve met so far.

Their blitz defence improved as the game went on against Italy – although their attack spluttered on that occasion and had similar issues against Wales – but attempting to stop the Scottish runners, orchestrated by Finn Russell and Ben White, will be a much harder task.

With the return of Blair Kinghorn – hugely impressive for Toulouse this season – to fullback, the settled centre-pairing of Huw Jones and Sione Tuipulotu, and Duhan van der Merwe and Kyle Steyn as a deadly wing combination, Scotland will feel confident of providing England with their toughest test so far.

England have made five changes to their starting line-up from their tight win over Wales, with George Furbank chosen over Freddie Steward, whilst Danny Care replaces the injured Alex Mitchell and Bath’s Ollie Lawrence returns to centre to add power in the backline.

Lawrence should add more go forward if he’s ready to go after missing the opening two matches to injury, and we can expect a hard-hitting and pragmatic approach from England – something that will give Finn Russell plenty to think about after turning down three-point attempts against France only for their late try to be disallowed.

Scotland’s favouritism on home turf looks deserved but match odds of 


with make no appeal and a tight game is expected. Recent Calcutta Cups have been tight – since 2018 Scotland have won this fixture in the last three years by margins of six, three and five points, none of the last six meetings has been won by more than 12 points and there was a draw in 2019.

Star offer 13/10 on either side winning by less than 8 points in the ‘Tri-Bet’ market, which makes strong appeal in a six-point handicap game. Of the two sides, Scotland make marginally more appeal, although the draw may be worth a saver too.


Scotland: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 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 Jamie Ritchie, 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

England: 15 George Furbank, 14 Tommy Freeman, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Lawrence, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Danny Care, 8 Ben Earl, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Ethan Roots, 5 Ollie Chessum, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Jamie George (c), 1 Ellis Genge

Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Will Stuart, 19 George Martin, 20 Chandler Cunningham-South, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Fin Smith, 23 Immanuel Feyi-Waboso

France v Italy (3.00pm,  Stade Pierre Mauroy)

Pre-tournament expectations are often torn to shreds in the first game weeks of the Championship, but it’s fair to say that no side has underperformed as much as France. Short-priced favourites before a ball was kicked or thrown in anger, they were blown away by Ireland on the opening night and were gifted victory at Scotland last week by a contentious late TMO call after a lacklustre and error-strewn performance.

Just what exactly is going on is hard to pinpoint – France are missing some key players, not least Antoine Dupont, some players such as Jonathan Danty are off-colour, and the departures of key coaches Laurent Labit, Karim Ghezal and Raphael Ibanez may have affected cohesion – but this is not the same outfit that was one of the best sides in world rugby and for the foreseeable, they have to be opposed.

France won their pool clash at the Rugby World Cup 60-7 but this is very much not the same outfit based on what we’ve seen and whilst Italy weren’t able to lay a glove on Ireland a fortnight ago, according to the markets no side will be able to do that this year and a misfiring French outfit gives them a better chance of being competitive than going to Dublin.

Italy coach Gonzalo Quesada has made six changes to his side after defeat to Ireland last time out in a bid to freshen things up with a new scrumhalf in the shape of Martin Page-Relo and a new flanker in the impressive Ross Vincent, and if they can get the ball to Juan Ignacio Brex, and Ange Capuozzo they can cause the visitors problems; It’s worth remembering that they have the second highest tackle evasion in the Championship, second to England.

Italy are 8/11 with a 28.5-point handicap start and that makes plenty of appeal given France’s performances so far, especially with Gregory Aldritt also injured for the hosts.


France: Thomas Ramos; Damian Penaud, Gaël Fickou, Jonathan Danty, Louis Bielle-Biarrey; Matthieu Jalibert, Maxime Lucu; Cyril Baille, Peato Mauvaka, Uini Atonio, Cameron Woki, Posolo Tuilagi, Paul Boudehent, Charles Ollivon (capt), François Cros.

Replacements: 16 Julian Marchand, 17 Sébastien Taofifénua, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Romain Taofifénua, 20 Alexandre Roumat, 21 Esteban Abadie, 22 Nolann Le Garrec, 23 Yoram Moefana.

Italy: Ange Capuozzo; Tommaso Menoncello, Juan Ignacio Brex, Federico Mori, Montanna Ioane; Paolo Garbisi, Martin Page-Relo; Danilo Fischetti, Giamarco Nicotera, Giosue Zilocchi, Niccolo Cannone, Federico Ruzza, Riccardo Favretto, Michele Lamaro (capt), Ross Vintcent.

Replacements: 16 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17 Mirco Spagnolo, 18 Simone Ferrari, 19 Matteo Canali, 20 Andrea Zambonin, 21 Manuel Zuliani, 22 Stephen Varney, 23 Leonardo Marin.


RECOMMENDED BETS – Ireland v Wales
BACK Ireland to win by 11-20 points 1 pt at 11/4 with  (⭐


BACK Ireland to win by 21-30 points 1 pt a 5/2 with (⭐



RECOMMENDED BETS – Scotland v England
BACK Under 7.5 ‘Tri-Bet’ 4 pts at 13/10 with (⭐


BACK Scotland to win by 1-12 points inclusive 1 pt at 13/8 (⭐


BACK Tie 1 pt at 20/1 (⭐



BACK Italy +28.5 2-Way Handicap 5 pts at 8/11 with (⭐



PROFIT/LOSS (FEB 2024): +10.12 points





Author: Eugene Morris