What to expect in Round 3 of the Guinness Six Nations?

Scotland celebrate against Wales
The opening rounds of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations have given us plenty of incredible drama and Round 3 is set to provide more of the same.

The opening rounds of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations have given us plenty of incredible drama and Round 3 is set to provide more of the same.

Unbeaten Ireland and Scotland will put their records and title credentials to the test in Italy and France respectively, after impressive wins in Round 2 on home soil.

And there is the small matter of England’s trip to Cardiff, with Warren Gatland still searching for his first win since re-taking the Wales head coach job and Steve Borthwick making his first away trip as England boss.

Another incredible weekend of action to follow then next week, after the first of the rest weeks, but what can we expect from three gigantic clashes?

READ MORE: Match officials for Round 3 of the Guinness Six Nations

Can Scotland win in Paris again?

At the end of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations, Duhan van der Merwe sealed top spot on the try scoring charts with his fifth of the campaign at the Stade de France as Scotland defeated France 27-23 – their first win in Paris since 1999.

That came during the Covid-hit Championship, with no fans in attendance and the match delayed by a month.

This time will be a totally different ball game, as Scotland look to win back-to-back away clashes with France for the first time since 1928.

It has already been a Championship packed with history for Gregor Townsend’s men, winning consecutive away matches against England for the first time since 1909, before ending their opening rounds hoodoo with a win over Wales – the first time they have won their first two matches since the 1996 Five Nations.

Now comes the next test, reigning champions France in front of a packed-out Stade de France for the first time this year, still reeling from defeat to Ireland last week.

Scotland are in excellent form, with Matt Fagerson in particular impressing so far, while Finn Russell is in the form of his life in the Scotland jersey, but they will have to take their game up another level against France.

For Les Bleus, it is a case of getting back to winning ways, and getting their Championship back on track, led on by world class captain Antoine Dupont.

The winner takes it all, but who will it be?

READ MORE: Player of the Championship contenders: The five stand-out players so far

Ireland and Italy to play game of contrasting styles in Rome

World number one side Ireland have been at their very best so far, routinely dispatching Wales in Cardiff to end their decade-long winless streak, before getting the better of France in a truly sensational match at the Aviva Stadium.

Now they head to Rome, where they will be heavy favourites to secure their third bonus point, having averaged 51.67 points the last three times they have faced the Azzurri.

But this will be a match of totally differing styles, with Ireland’s forward pack filled with world class talent, while Italy’s backline has been firing so far, inspired by the magician that is Ange Capuozzo.

Ireland benefited from France’s willingness to play from everywhere in Dublin, and this year under Kieran Crowley, Italy have been running from their own try line to very mixed effect.

Against England the one thing Italy lacked was maul defence, with all five of England’s tries coming from the driving maul, something that will have concerned Crowley given how strong Ireland are in that area.

But this Italy side, perhaps unlike those in the past, is fearless, and they have the players to cause any side serious harm.

Damian Penaud’s sensational try in Round 2 came in broken field, and that is something Italy will look to create – if Crowley’s men can cause chaos against an extremely well drilled Ireland defence, they will believe they can re-create the historic victory of 2013.

But none of that will matter if they cannot stop Ireland up front, something nobody has been able to do so far this season, can Italy be the first?

READ MORE: top tries of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations so far

Who will thrive under pressure at Principality Stadium?

There is no doubt the Principality Stadium has played host to some huge high-stakes clashes over the years, not least the title-deciding game that pitted Wales against England in 2013.

This Saturday, England again are the visitors, facing a wounded Wales team following their timid defeats so far this Championship.

But if there is one game Wales and Gatland look out for, it is England, and roared on by their passionate supporters in Cardiff, there is no doubt they will be upping their game.

This year’s clash between the two close rivals may not be a battle for the title, but the pressure is perhaps even higher when trying to get your first win.

Gatland is in that position, and will face selection headaches after very few put their hand up in Edinburgh, while Borthwick looks to make a first statement win on the road.

Neither side have looked fluent so far, with the obvious exception of England’s maul against Italy. Both defences are lacking cohesion, while there is a lot of chopping and changing to discover who makes a first team with just seven months to go to the World Cup.

It is certainly going to be a massively intriguing battle in Cardiff, between two sides who have a lot to prove – the real question is, who can thrive under the pressure and make that big step forward?