A sensational opening round will be a tough act to follow, but you can rest assured, the Natwest Six Nations will show no signs of relenting in Round 2 with some fierce action set to unfold.
Wales travel to Twickenham to face England as one of rugby’s oldest rivalries is renewed once again, while Ireland will be looking to claim a big win against Italy and Scotland and France both look for their first win of the competition as they do battle on Sunday.
Ireland v Italy
Round 2 gets underway in Dublin on Saturday afternoon as Joe Schmidt’s Ireland, fresh from a thrilling victory in France, welcome Italy to the Aviva Stadium.
Ireland, well – Johnny Sexton, produced a moment which will enter rugby folklore in Round 1 as the Leinster Rugby fly-half landed a 45-metre drop-goal after 41 phases of play to snatch a last-gasp victory from the hands of France, while Italy were put to the sword by a rampant England, eventually being condemned to a 46-15 defeat in Rome.
A similar scoreline in favour of Ireland would not be a surprise given recent encounters between the nations, with the emerald isle claiming 58-15 and 63-10 victories in the last two editions of the Six Nations and if Schmidt’s men are to be in contention come Round 5, a bonus-point is a necessity on home soil this weekend.
Conor O’Shea, the Italy head coach, will have found encouragement in the Azzurri’s performance against England, picking up tries by stretching the defence and some good phases of play, but ultimately, Ireland should be way too strong and should complete a hat-trick of demolition jobs on the visitors.
England v Wales
Saturday evening plays host the pick of the Round 2 clashes of one of rugby’s fiercest rivalries is reignited under the evening skies of Twickenham Stadium as reigning Six Nations champions England welcome Wales across the border, with both clubs seeking back-to-back wins.
Last season saw Eddie Jones’ break Welsh hearts as a late Elliot Daly try scraped an unlikely 21-16 victory for England in Cardiff, adding even more fuel to this weekend’s fire – especially given Wales’ opening salvo as they defeated Scotland convincingly despite odds seemingly being stacked against them.
Warren Gatland is never a man to doubt his squad and he of course knew Wales would win, but injuries to key players have been a concern for the New Zealanders at the helm of Welsh rugby, but he does have winger George North among his replacements this weekend, but his starting XV remains unchanged.
Jones has been forced into a switch with Ben Youngs ruled out through injury, meaning Danny Care will become England’s most capped scrum-half, while Jonathan Joseph is the only other change are England opt for pace and power in the backline as they look to claim fourth successive victory over their Welsh rivals – the last time the visitors had success at Twickenham being in a Rugby World Cup campaign home fans would rather forget.
Scotland v France
After having hearts torn at the Stade de France last weekend Jacques Brunel’s France have to pick themselves up quickly for a trip to BT Murrayfield where they will lock horns with a Scotland side desperate to bounce back from Round 1 defeat also.
Scotland came into the Natwest Six Nations with renewed expectation given their form under the tutelage of Gregor Townsend, but a humbling 34-7 reverse in Wales has brought them back to the drawing board and if they are to get their campaign moving, victory over France is a must, yet you can never count Les Bleus out in the Six Nations.
France were excellent defensively against Ireland, especially their talismanic skipper Guilhem Guirado, who made more tackles than any other player in Round 1, while Scotland’s attacking flair was absent without leave in Cardiff, paving the way for a tasty Sunday afternoon showdown.
Scotland have a dismal record against France, having just one win – the 2016 Six Nations victory – in the last 12 meetings between the nations, but with a raucous Murrayfield faithful behind them Townsend’s men will be desperate to find their try-scoring best and inject hope into their Six Nations bid.