Round two of the Guinness Six Nations is just around the corner, with two entertaining clashes on Saturday in Edinburgh and Rome, followed by Le Crunch at Twickenham on Sunday.
It all kicks off at BT Murrayfield where Grand Slam champions Ireland will be looking to bounce back from their defeat to England in Dublin, while Scotland are seeking a second successive win to start their campaign.
Then all eyes turn to Rome where Wales are targeting a second successive away win, a week on from their miraculous comeback in Paris, as they take on Italy.
Finally, on Sunday, it is England against France, the two great rivals meeting after contrasting opening weeks – France let slip a big half-time lead at home to Wales, while England claimed five points at the Aviva Stadium.
Tissot, the official timekeeper of the Guinness Six Nations, has invited some rugby experts and legends to share their views on the games and the teams throughout the Championship.
Ahead of round two, former France captain and coach Philippe Saint-André has cast his eye over all three encounters.
Scotland v Ireland
The Scots have two teams in the quarter-finals of the European Cup. They have made lots of progress and have found a balance. Before they had a game that was based on pace and playing out wide but sometimes they would struggle up front. Now it feels like they have sorted their problems at scrum and lineout as well as in mauls.
For Ireland, they are the second best team in the world and aren’t used to losing, let alone two in a row, so I expect it to be an explosive game in Edinburgh. My prediction would be for a narrow Irish victory.
Italy v Wales
Italy produced some interesting stuff in the last few minutes. They were lacking in a few errors in the first half, so the question is, will be they be able to resolve those problems in Italy?
The Welsh are on a great run of wins, that is now ten in a row, so they will arrive with a lot of confidence. They did something which has never been done in the Guinness Six Nations, coming from 16-0 down at half-time to win, in difficult weather conditions at the Stade de France. That shows the mental and physical resources of a team that will never give up. So I expect them to win in Rome.
England v France
For Le Crunch, there are two good things. One is that France have an extra day to recover, and the second is that Maro Itoje won’t be there for England, but when you see the intensity with which England played, it’s been an eternity since we won at Twickenham. I hope that France have recovered well from their defeat. A Crunch is still a Crunch, so even though England are big favourites, I don’t think there will be a big margin, I don’t expect France to be thrashed.
Last year, we beat them in France, two years ago we lost by very little at their place. So we will have to start well, to try to maintain the same intensity we showed against Wales but for 80 minutes. You can’t give up, you have to stay lucid and be capable of defending for long periods. That is the problem for our players because in the Top 14 the phases aren’t played at the same intensity, it’s not as fast and it’s more of a one-out game, whereas at international level the ball moves a lot more so you have to be able to play at high intensity while keeping your control, your discipline and your lucidity. Whatever happens, it will be the big moment of the weekend because Le Crunch is Le Crunch.