SIX NATIONS

AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

STAR RUGBY PREVIEW: Six Nations Super Saturday 2023

Another brilliant Six Nations comes to an end with Super Saturday, a feast of rugby with three back-to-back fixtures to end the tournament.

Ireland and France were the pre-tournament favourites, and both have dominated the tournament, with Ireland long odds on to complete a grand slam against England and France even shorter to make it 4 wins from 5 with victory against Wales. Scotland suffered back-to-back defeats against Ireland and France and are looking to make it three against Italy, who have played excellent rugby but remain winless.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Scotland v Italy 🇮🇹 (12.30pm)

How good can a team be without two their best players? We’ll find out a lot about Scotland as the injuries Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg suffered in a bruising defeat against Ireland – when they were much better than the 22-7 scoreline suggested – means they must turn to Blair Kinghorn and Ollie Smith in their place.

There will be a sense of what could have been for the Scots, who stunned England at Twickenham and then trashed Wales – and whilst they did lost to France and Ireland, they went down fighting at the Stade de France and were harshly treated by the Irish scoreline.

Players such as Sione Tuipulotu (three try assists), Huw Jones (four tries) Ben White, Duhan van der Merwe, Pierre Schoeman, Zander Fagerson and Jack Dempsey have enjoyed standout tournaments and can give Scottish fans hope for the upcoming World Cup, although one might be disappointed with the impact that their bench failed to have against Ireland.

Blair Kinghorn will need to hit the ground running whilst Smith must repeat the potential he’s shown for Glasgow, but Kinghorn and White can get going then Townsend’s side will feel confident about another win at Murrayfield.

Italy are set for another wooden spoon, but that does not do justice to the improvement that they’ve made over the last year. Kieran Crowley’s side beat Australia and Samoa in the Autumn and started the campaign by pushing the French to the limit, and whilst they didn’t put England under the same pressure, they performed with real credit when hosting Ireland (lost 34-20).

Their defeat against Wales (29-17) showed that there’s still improvement to come – Italy squandered multiple attacking opportunities and suffered a yellow card in both halves – and it underlined the quality of rugby being played under Kieran Crowley.

In the likes of Tommaso Allan, Edoardo Padovani, Zebre debtutant Simeone Gesi and Juan Ignacio Brex they have three excellent backs who can threaten defences, whilst an open game – and the absence of Finn Russell – could help Paolo Garbisi, so Italy should back themselves to score points at Murrayfield, although they’ll have to retain their composure with and without ball in hand.

Scotland are asked to give around 16 points to Italy, a handicap which looks a little on the big side considering the importance of the changes they’ve been forced into and the improvements Italy have made since. Italy have a tempting handicap here, but their lack of composure against Wales was worrying and the best angle here may be to back a high scoring game. Starsports.bet offer 4/6 on over 50 points, and that looks fair in what could be a shootout between the two sides.

If this is an open game then the wingers should play a big part and Italian debutant Simone Gesi could make a perfect start to his international career. Gesi has scored seven tries for Zebre in the URC this season, including a double at Edinburgh and tries against Leinster and the Sharks, and he could well go under the radar here for a try considering the match odds.

Scotland v Italy
Guinness Six Nations 2023
Murrayfield

HEAD-TO-HEAD RECORD
2022: Scotland won 33-22 in Rome
2021: Scotland won 52-10 in Edinburgh
2020: Scotland won 28-17 in Florence
2020: Scotland won 17-0 in Rome
2019: Scotland won 33-20 in Edinburgh
2018: Scotland won 29-27 in Rome
2017: Scotland won 34-13 in Singapore
2017: Scotland won 29-0 in Edinburgh


🇫🇷 France v Wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 (2.45pm)

Two teams with very different tournaments meet as France look to end their campaign in style over Wales at the Stade de France. The French have probably relinquished their title but they lost little in defeat at the Aviva, when the intensity of Ireland (and the depth of the hosts’ bench in the second half) proved to be too much for them.

They’ve been unbeaten otherwise, managing to grind their way past Italy on the opening weekend, holding off a thrilling Scottish comeback after reaching a 19-0 lead in week three, and then tearing England apart 53-10 at Twickenham last week. Apart from Ireland – and Italy at time during their opener, which was in Rome – nobody’s been able to live with the French at peak intensity, and Wales face a mammoth task here.

Warren Gatland’s side gained a much needed victory against Italy last time out when a streetwise performance saw them take a bonus point from Rome, but the Italians were both wasteful and hot-headed that day, and better can be expected from the French.

The performances of Rio Dyer, Joe Hawkins and Mason Grady will have given hope for the future – whilst Jac Morgan and Dafydd Jenkins have bright futures – but facing a French side that’s hit their stride will be a whole different level and one has to assume that France will give Rhys Webb, arguably the outstanding player for Wales last week, a much harder time than the Italians did at 9.

Warren Gatland’s six changes – with the more experienced George North and Nick Tompkins replacing Mason Grady and Joe Hawkins at centre – are presumably with experience in mind, but even Wales’ veterans will struggle to hold France at their best.

The outstanding performers for Les Bleus this campaign have been numerous – the likes of Thomas Ramos, Gael Fickou, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont Gregory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon and Cyril Baille could easily be in a team of the tournament – and with strength in depth off the bench too, it could be a long afternoon for Wales.

Clashes between the pair have been tight in the past but Wales have conceded 34 points to Ireland, 35 to Scotland, 20 to England (when Owen Farrell missed four kicks at goal), and 19 to an Italy side that missed several opportunities whilst having two yellow cards.

Wales lost to Ireland and Scotland by 24 and 28 points respectively, whilst England should have won by more than the 10 points they managed in Cardiff – and France can put a similar margin on Wales here.

France v Wales
Guinness Six Nations 2023
Stade de France, Paris

HEAD-TO-HEAD RECORD
2022: France won 13-9 in Cardiff
2021: France won 32-30 in Paris
2020: France won 38-21 in Paris
2020: France won 27-23 in Cardiff
2019: Wales won 20-19 in Oita (RWC quarter-final)
2019: Wales won 24-19 in Paris
2018: Wales won 14-13 in Cardiff
2017: France won 20-18 in Paris


🇮🇪 Ireland v England 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 (5.00pm)

Ireland are just two points from Six Nations glory and 1/10 for a Grand Slam after a perfect campaign, with visitors England reeling from a record home defeat against France last week at Twickenham.

Andy Farrell’s side deserve huge credit for their campaign so far – a statement win over Wales in Cardiff (35-7) was followed up by an even more impressive performance against France (32-19) in what could arguably be called the highest quality game of the year so far.

A changed side managed to get the better of an improving Italy in Rome, and then showed grit along with class to put 14 answered points on Scotland at Murrayfield in a game which took it’s toll as they lost Caelan Doris, Dan Sheehan, Iain Henderson, Ronan Kelleher and Garry Ringrose to injury.

Henderson, Kelleher and Ringrose won’t make it back in time – indeed Henderson’s World Cup dreams may be over thanks to his forearm fracture – but Doris returns to make a first choice backrow with Peter O’Mahony and Josh van der Flier, whilst Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw make for a very experienced centre pairing, so Ireland may not be as affected by last week’s game as the injury sheet suggested.

England are on a retrieval mission after their 53-10 dismantling by France last week, when they could not cope with the power and intensity of the French and were out of the game by half time. Gegory Aldritt, Charles Ollivon, and Francois Cros simply blew away Lewis Ludlam, Jack Willis and Alex Dombrandt.

That backrow pairing are now expected to face the best backrow in Europe – possibly the world – and whilst a physical response is sure to be coming, Ireland look to have the advantage in the pack. Owen Farrell’s return and the inclusion of Manu Tuilagi give an idea of the English gameplan, but Ireland will be more than happy to fight fire with fire and on home soil, they look too strong for their visitors.

A handicap of anything from 14-20 points will tempt many and it’s hard to argue against that, whilst there could be more value in the winning margins. Ireland have won their four games by 24, 13, 14, and 15 points, so ditching the 11-20 and 21-30 point winning options could be the way to go.

One of James Lowe or Mack Hansen has scored in each of Ireland’s four games during this tournament, so anytime tryscorer bettors could be interested in prices of 4/5 and 10/11 for them to score anytime, whilst the pair could be first tryscorer options as well – but the best bet could be for a comprehensive Irish win.

Ireland v England
Guinness Six Nations 2023
The Aviva Stadium, Dublin

HEAD-TO-HEAD RECORD
2022: Ireland won 32-15 in London
2021: Ireland won 32-18 in Dublin
2020: England won 18-7 in London
2020: England won 24-12 in London
2019: England won 57-15 in London
2019: England won 32-20 in Dublin
2018: Ireland won 24-15 in London
2017: Ireland won 13-9 in Dublin
2016: England won 21-10 in London
2015: Ireland won 19-9 in Dublin

WILLIAM KEDJANYI


RECOMMENDED BETS – Scotland v Italy
BACK Over 50.5 points 3 pts at 4/6 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Simone Gesi Anytime Tryscorer 1 pt at 2/1 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)

RECOMMENDED BETS – France v Wales
BACK France Win By 21 – 30 Points Inclusive 2 pts at 5/2 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK France Win By 31 – 40 Points Inclusive 1 pt at 9/2 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)

RECOMMENDED BETS – Ireland v England
BACK Ireland to win by 11-20 points inclusive 2 pts at 5/2 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Ireland to win by 1-10 Points inclusive 2 pts at 3/1 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)


PROFIT/LOSS (MAR 2023): LOSS -28.78 points


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