Wales have the opportunity to claim one of the most surprising Grand Slams in the history of both the Six Nations and its predecessor on Saturday but look set to come unstuck against a classy France side in Paris.
Before that, Scotland will attempt to add some gloss to what has been another underwhelming campaign by beating Italy, while resurgent Ireland have the chance to end their four-game losing streak against England.
Much-Changed Scot Won’t Have it Easy Against Italy
The Championship could not have started better for Scotland, ending a 38-year wait for a win at Twickenham by beating England 11-6 on the opening weekend.
That result was followed by talk of a potential Grand Slam, only for ill-discipline to cost them in defeat to both Wales and Ireland. Gregor Townsend’s side still have an extra game to play after their postponement against the French and will be looking to outclass the Azzurri.
Italy have again fallen short throughout the Six Nations and it is now 31 games since their last tournament victory, ironically coming against the Scots at Murrayfield in 2015.
Franco Smith has looked to experiment but so far to no avail, although as always, his team will not lack commitment against their hosts, who have made seven changes, including shifting Stuart Hogg to fly-half.
4/5 as an anytime tryscorer and that might be a good price as he is likely to run early as he adapts to the limited time at first receiver compared to at full-back.
With that thrown into the mix, and with the Azzurri’s pride at stake, they could cause their hosts some difficulty and backing them at
4/5 with what looks a generous +27.5 handicap may not be a bad idea.
Ireland Can End England Hoodoo
Neither Ireland nor England will look back on the 2021 Six Nations with overwhelming fondness but head into their final games on the back of morale-boosting victories.
Saturday’s match is arguably a trial for this summer’s British & Irish Lions Test series and after holding his nerve last weekend at Murrayfield, Jonathan Sexton will be out to impress as he targets a third tour.
Another Lion who gets a chance, albeit in a different role, is Elliot Daly. A starting wing in New Zealand four years ago, Eddie Jones appears to have abandoned his mission to turn him into a full-back and the 28-year-old has been given a run in his favoured 13 position.
Daly will line up directly against the brilliant Robbie Henshaw who will test his defence from the off as the Irish aim for a first victory over the Red Rose since winning the Grand Slam in 2018.
Despite beating France 23-20 last weekend, England have been plagued by inconsistency, while victories over Italy and Scotland have boosted morale in the Ireland camp.
Andy Farrell has called on his side to play with courage and in what will be back-row CJ Stander’s final game in green, the 30-year-old being
4/1 in the anytime tryscorer market, the
13/10 on a home win might prove the steal of the weekend.
Fabulous France Too Good for Wales
After just one win last year and a disastrous autumn, few would have anticipated Wales heading into their final match with a chance of the Grand Slam.
All that stands in their way is this fresh-faced France side that have wowed the rugby-watching public over the last 12 months.
Last week’s 23-20 defeat to England quashed their own hopes of a clean sweep but with Scotland to come, Les Bleus can still win the Championship if they avoid handing their visitors a losing bonus point.
Wales began their 2019 Grand Slam campaign with a 24-19 win under the Parisian lights but only two of France’s starting XV from that night make the side here.
The battle on the visitors’ right-wing could be telling with Louis Rees-Zammit, chasing a fourth try of the tournament as an 8/5 anytime tryscorer, up against Damian Penaud, who is
7/5 to grab his third score in the same market.
Wayne Pivac’s men are sure to have their moments and deserve their chance. However, France rarely disappoint when playing on their own patch on the closing night and are
29/20 to win by 1-12 points.
*All odds correct at time of writing