After a second rest week, the 2020 Guinness Six Nations has turned for the final straight with back-to-back weekends on the horizon.
Round 4 sees two mouth-watering ties from London and Edinburgh, as England and Wales do battle at Twickenham while France take their unbeaten record to BT Murrayfield.
TISSOT ambassador Tom Shanklin gives his thoughts on the upcoming games.
England v Wales (Saturday 4.45pm – Twickenham)
I think Twickenham is always the toughest place to go for every team, but especially Wales. You associate different grounds with different feelings and it is has always been hard to win there, so you associate it with disappointment.
I have played in some heavy losses there, as have some of the guys playing this weekend, so Wales will not always think of fond memories as opposed to somewhere like the Aviva Stadium or BT Murrayfield – even though they have won there a few times.
Twickenham is not the most hostile in terms of the crowd, but the look of the stadium is quite intimidating. It is built like a fortress and always seems very intense, even though the crowd are a bit gentler.
Josh Adams is out for the Championship too and he is a massive loss, his strike-rate right now is incredible. To lose him is a big blow.
How do you take apart England? Well, it’s very very difficult. Wales need to get parity in terms of physicality but then Wales were beaten up a bit by Ireland, who were in turn overpowered by England so that is a concern. Then, they need to try exploit the wider channels. They are going to have it pass it quickly and pass it wide as much as they can.
I am excited to see Liam Williams return. I think it is easier to filter a player back in on the wing than full-back. The way he runs and off-loads can rip teams apart.
In contrast, England have a few guys back with Henry Slade and Anthony Watson fit again. That’s the benefit from having so many players to pick from. I can’t see them changing much from how they played against Ireland and who they picked to play Ireland. How do you?
Jonathan Joseph came in and was excellent on the wing but if you have Anthony Watson, one of the best in the world, fit enough to play in the back three then you tend to go with it. He is a world-class player, so you pick him. It’s a nice dilemma for England to have.
I make them the favourites to win it on Saturday and I’d pick them to win, even though my heart wants Wales. Winning at Twickenham is such a sweet, sweet thing but it happens rarely so the form book says England.
Scotland v France (Sunday 3pm – BT Murrayfield)
Of the two matches this weekend, this is the one to watch for the neutral. It’s likely to be an open game between two sides that love to play attacking rugby, and there is no guarantee France will win.
Their recent record at BT Murrayfield is poor and Scotland are back now after their win against Italy. They were searching for that and did not play at their best but the pressure is slightly off for them here.
I do think Scotland need to pick up another win, or maybe even two, but now they have one under their belt, they will be more confident.
I am excited to see Adam Hastings for Scotland. He’s an elusive No.10 and he reminds me of Dan Parks in the way he kicks and Finn Russell in the way that he moves.
Scotland have some wonderful backs and the counter-attack could be important here, and there are few better than Stuart Hogg so watch out for him.
Scotland can’t take teams on physically and have to create space in other ways. So expect them to try and make it a wide game.
France look beatable to me. There have been times in all three of their matches where they have looked there for the taking and Scotland will attack that.
They have done enough to win games and winning is a habit, there is no doubt about that. But a lot of it will depend on Romain Ntamack. He and Antoine Dupont are so key.
If France have a clean bill of health then I’d pick them to go there and win. They will be too powerful for me. The two locks – Bernard Le Roux and Paul Willemse – are big, big guys. Gregory Alldritt and Charles Ollivon are physical back-rowers, while their backs are very sharp too.
France will be thinking about the Grand Slam too. Whatever they say publicly, their players will be thinking about it. If they had England at Twickenham then maybe they would not be but, as it’s an inconsistent Scotland and Ireland at home, there is no doubt it will be on their mind.
This is a big test for them. Pass it, and they are one step away.