Former England international and current NBC pundit Alex Corbisiero believes the Round 2 clash between Ireland and France will be crucial in deciding who wins this year’s Championship.
Sunday’s hotly-anticipated contest sees two of this year’s title favourites go head to head at the Aviva Stadium, after experiencing vastly different starts to the 2021 Guinness Six Nations.
Les Bleus played some simply terrific rugby in their 50-10 victory over Italy in Round 1, with Antoine Dupont stealing the show in a resounding victory over the Azzurri, while Andy Farrell’s side fought hard after being reduced to 14 men in the 14th minute but went down 21-16 to Wales at Principality Stadium.
The Men in Green will be looking for a response this time around, and Corbisiero – who won the 2011 Championship with England – thinks victory for France would put them in pole position to lift the trophy on March 20.
“Ireland will be hosting France, and this could really decide the whole make-up of the competition,” Corbisiero said on NBC Sport.
“If France win that game then I’m pretty confident that they will go on and win the tournament – that’s how big a game it is.
“I think Ireland are going to be real contenders in that match, even with a man down [against Wales] there were a lot of positives, and if they can build on that it sets up a big game next weekend.”
Round 2 gets underway at Twickenham on Saturday afternoon, as England and Italy look to put opening-day defeat behind them and kickstart their respective campaigns.
Eddie Jones’ side will still be smarting from the 11-6 defeat to Scotland in Round 1 and will be targeting an impressive showing against the Italians to regain some confidence heading into the later rounds of the competition.
Later in the day, two teams who emerged victorious from the first weekend of the 2021 Championship face off at BT Murrayfield, as Scotland host Wales with both sides looking to make it two wins from two and keep themselves fighting for a place at the top of the table.
Gregor Townsend’s side will be full of confidence after registering a first win at Twickenham in 38 years with their courageous performance last weekend, while the visitors will be looking to build on their comeback win over the 14 men of Ireland.
And NBC Sport pundit Corbisiero is expecting fireworks in both of Saturday’s matches, with all four sides having a point to prove heading into Round 2.
“It was an underwhelming fight from England and there’s going to be a lot of question marks and worries about them,” the former England star said.
“England have a game against Italy to try and put some things right and show some attacking rugby, which everyone wants to see from them.
“I think Scotland against Wales is huge now, both of these two came away with upset victories which is massive, so whichever one of them goes two from two will put them in a really good place in the competition.”