We’re just days away from Round Three of the 2019 Guinness Six Nations – and the battle for glory is about to ramp up to new levels.
France welcome Scotland to the Stade de France, with both teams looking to bounce back from defeats in Round Two in authoritative style.
Meanwhile, a potential clash for the ages awaits as unbeaten Wales and England are on a collision course in Cardiff.
And on Sunday, Round Three’s third and final showdown sees Italy and Ireland do battle at the Stadio Olimpico.
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 Three, former Wales centre and two-time Grand Slam winner Tom Shanklin has cast his eye over all three encounters.
France vs Scotland:
I think that the French are going to win that one.
They are a team that is full of individual brilliance, you look at that team and the quality is there – without a shadow of a doubt – but they’re not functioning.
They can’t be this average. I just can’t see it being three losses on the trot. There has to be a moment in which the French come to life and what better moment than at home, in front of your home crowd, just to get a feel-good factor back in French rugby.
Scotland, I think, are going to be without Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell is on a six-day turnaround and he went off with a concussion for Racing at the weekend. That’s certainly going to have an impact on that team because he is the one that ignites their attacking play and their backline.
I think that the French will bring a power game, as we’ve seen them do, and I can’t see Scotland being as good kicking tactically as England were with Owen Farrell because he’s the best man in the world at that.
I think we’ll see a pretty tight, aggressive, confrontational French team, and I think they’ll be more physical than Scotland.
Wales vs England:
Two worlds collide, rival nations in a primitive clash, venting years of frustration – sorry, that’s Rocky IV!
If you are picking on form over the Guinness Six Nations, the first few games, you’ve got to look at England. England will be favourites because we’ve not really seen a weakness in that team.
They came out of the blocks firing against Ireland and we saw them put a weak French team to bed. It’s amazing what two games can do – two, big good games have been great for the confidence because 12 months ago, they finished fifth.
When you get two teams like this, it becomes really tight and little instances in phase play are where you can create spaces and holes.
What I will say, with England still being favourites, is it’s a tough place to come. It’s quite hard, as well, to analyse this Wales team so far because they’ve played a pretty poor half against France but they came back and they won.
They made ten changes for Italy, so we’ve not really seen any consistency with selection with this Welsh team.
They are two wins from two, so I think that’s good from a Welsh perspective and it’s difficult for England as they won’t have too much footage of Wales playing in the combinations.
It’s always nice for a team like Wales to come into this game at home and be underdogs as well. The pressure is on England, because everyone talking about the hype of England, how well they’ve played.
So, the pressure is on England and we always say in Wales that suits a Welsh team better, and you look at some of the previous Grand Slams that Wales have won – they’ve not been expected to win and they’ve been underdogs.
And if Wales potentially win against England at the weekend, they’ll go on to win the Championship. I’ll put money on it – not much, but a bit!
Italy vs Ireland:
Ireland will get a bonus-point win – they’re a really well-drilled team. They were beaten well by England and I think that surprised everybody.
They beat Scotland but didn’t really play that great, we’ve not seen the best of them at the moment in this Guinness Six Nations so far.
What I will say is that bonus points are absolutely huge. It can be the difference between second, third and fourth.
Ireland didn’t pick one up against England, Wales didn’t pick one up against Italy, which I think potentially could come back to haunt them because teams will finish on the same wins, but then it’s dictated by how many tries you’ve scored.
If Ireland want to potentially win the Championship, and they still can win it, they need bonus points and I can’t see anything different.
You look at Jacob Stockdale, every time he kicks the ball you end up scoring a try. Then Joey Carbery, who came off the bench against Scotland, looks like a real handful and a really dangerous runner at 10, and if you have a dangerous runner at 10, it creates a lot of space out wide.
As for Bundee Aki; I love watching Bundee Aki play. He’s probably been a bit quiet in the first few games but I watch him every week for Connacht and the guy has got a skillset that I think people underestimate.