DUBLIN, IRL – Super Saturday, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Six Nations Championship. It’s enduring mission: seek out Europe’s best team through five rounds of grueling action and thrilling play…and boldly go where no tournament has gone before.
Well, close enough…
Here are your Six Nations Super Saturday previews:
Scotland vs. Italy
Scotland head coach Vern Cotter will have his last shot at a Six Nations victory today when they face the Italians at Murrayfield.
Cotter, who will hand the reins over to Glasgow head coach Gregor Townsend following today’s match, will be in hopeful search for redemption after last weekend’s shocking 61-21 defeat to the English.
Despite the huge loss, however, Scot would only sent one point behind Ireland and France in second and third, respectively. With a bonus point victory over the Azzurri, Scotland could potential he finish in second place in the table should results go their way.
Cotter’s final match in charge has been given a boost thanks to the clearance of Brian Wilson, Tommy Seymour, and Stuart Hogg during the week following concussion protocols. The three all sustained minor concussion is in the match against England and we’re doubtful earlier in the week. Their presence in the match alone will be a huge confidence boost for the Scots.
The only other change for Scotland comes at hooker where Ross Ford steps in for Fraser Brown. Brown won’t be happy with his demotion to the bench, but should be happy enough that he escaped any sanctioning after dump tackling Elliot Daly last weekend.
As for the Italians, head coach Conor O’Shea Will look to end his first Six Nations campaign with a victory. Of the Italians have already secured the wooden spoon yet again, but a victory will ensure that they do not end up winless in the 2017 competition.
The Italians have lost five on the drop, and O’Shea’s for changes are an obvious attempt to bring that scheduled to attend. Ornel Gega moves into occur while Scotland-born second row, George Biagi, makes his way back into the second row. Maxime Mbanda rounds out the changes in the forwards.
The only change in the Italian backs comes with the replacement of Michelle Campagnaro by Tommaso Benvenuti at outside-center.
France vs. Wales
Super Saturday’s second match between France and Wales is a match up of teams that have yet to figure out their place in world rugby following head coaching changes.
Wales head coach, Rob Howley, has not shown much in the way of overwhelming improvement, considering that they have only nine points to show from what some Welsh pundits have called an extremely successful campaign.
Their notable defeat of the Irish last weekend was a good step for the Welsh, but was only a bounce back victory considering, plain and simply, bad losses to England and Scotland in consecutive rounds.
Howley has decided to go with the exact same team that faced Ireland last weekend. Rhys Webb and Dan Bigger at scrum-half and fly-half, respectively, have been a needed point of consistency in the back line for the Welsh, while captain Alun Wyn Jones has continued to improve his case for the British and Irish Lions tour, maybe even the Lions captaincy.
On the plus side as well for the Welsh, George North looks to be stepping back into his previous form having single-handedly demolished parts of Ireland’s defense last week.
French head coach, Guy Noves, needs a victory against the Welsh to put to rest, at least for now, comments regarding his inability to cement his place as a winning French coach.
The French have struggled through this entire campaign to capitalize on opportunities, limiting their ability to hold onto tight games.
That being said, however, Noves has decided to remain almost completely consistent with his team selection from the side that won in the last round. Sebastian Vahaamahina is the only change for the French, stepping into the second row to provide the French forwards with a step up in physical stature.
If the French are to win today they need to keep constant with their #9-#10 combination’s performance. Camille Lopez has been one of the main bright spots for the French this season, and the new-kid, Baptiste Serin, has the potential to become a great player in the French system.
Ireland vs. England
Saturday’s final match is sure to be a doozy.
England are searching for their second consecutive grand slam as well as a new world record for the most matches one on the international stage consecutively.
Oppositely, Ireland don’t have anything to play for competition wise other than pride following last weekend’s disappointing defeat to the Welsh away. Actually, the Irish have a desperate need for victory considering how poorly they played in this entire championship.
England have exponentially improved throughout this year’s Six Nations, narrowly edging France, Italy, and Wales before absolutely annihilating Scotland and what was supposed to be one of the tightest matches of the competition.
England head coach, Eddie Jones, has decided to go with two changes for the post-St. Patrick’s Day clash in Dublin. Billy Vunipola makes is notable come back following a knee injury earlier in the year, hoping to save his case for a spot on the lions tour before it’s too late. Anthony Watson moves onto the wing to replace Jack Nowell for an extra added injection of pace.
The stellar English back-line continues it’s pairing between Ford, Farrell, and Joseph, while the big second row partnership of Courtney Lawes and Maro Itoje continues again.
Ireland have a lot they need to work on if they are to come away with an upset victory and stop England’s grand slam and world record roll. The Irish line-out has been abysmal through the whole campaign and they have had huge struggles capitalizing and finishing their opportunities.
The inconsistency at fly-half between Sexton and Jackson has made for a jumbled Irish game plan that has really only hindered the team.
There have been bright spots, however, notably in the forwards. CJ Stander Sean O’Brien, and Tadgh Furlong have all made positive impacts in Ireland’s victories, and will need to be at 100% today.
Irish head coach, Joe Schmidt, has been forced to make three changes for today’s clash. Jared Payne makes his first start for Ireland in a while, replacing Rob Kearney at fullback after Kearney was ruled out with injury. Kieran Marmion also steps in to replace the injured Conor Murray at scrum-half, while Ireland’s final change comes in the forwards with Iain Henderson stepping into the second road to replace Devin Toner.
The English have not one back to back grand slams since the 1991 and 1992 campaigns, so they win today for Eddie Jones would make for a perfect trifecta: a second consecutive grand slam, a new world record, and a big boost in England’s world ranking.
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