The final round of group games in the Autumn Nations Cup will decide next weekend’s final line-up, and England and France are strong favourites to meet in a Twickenham decider on December 6.
Both nations have two wins from two – Les Bleus host Italy at the Stade de France on Saturday evening while England travel to Llanelli to take on Wales earlier in the day.
Ireland, overpowered by England last week in the Twickenham rain, have an easier assignment against Georgia on Sunday and will be expected to run up a convincing win.
Fierce Rivals Used to Close Contests
After the two Nations’ starkly contrasting performances in 2020 it’s no surprise that England are
1/15 to come away from Wales with a win. The Red Rose wrapped up their sixth consecutive win in last week’s Ireland showdown while the Welsh snapped a six-match losing run with a far from convincing 18-0 success over Georgia.
Wales coach Wayne Pivac rested some key men for that clash and brings back Alun Wyn Jones, Taulupe Faletau and Dan Biggar to take on England, and those experienced players know only too well how close-fought this fixture has been over the years.
Eight of the last ten meetings between these teams have been decided by a single-figure margin and England have not won in Wales by more than Saturday’s 15.5-point handicap since the World Cup-winning generation of 2003.
England are looking dominant in defence, having conceded just 12 points in their last three games, but they have yet to find their scoring rhythm.
Wales have brought back Leigh Halfpenny at fly-half, and his defensive strength plus long-range goalkicking could prove invaluable in keeping the scores close, and the hosts can make the best of their generous handicap start at odds of
All Change for Les Bleus
France have defied their reputation as a mercurial outfit this year, suffering just one defeat as new head coach Fabien Galthie has put a stop to the endless tinkering of selection that hampered their consistency in past years.
However, he has made wholesale changes for the visit of Italy, with just two players retaining their place in the starting 15 from last week’s win in Scotland and five debutants in the side.
They are still 15-point favourites against the Azzurri, who have lost by more than that margin on nine of their last 11 visits to Paris.
However, four of their last five defeats have come by 11 to 20 points and that looks a good winning margin to focus on against a much-changed French side, who are
9/2 to win by 11-15 and
5/1 to triumph by 16-20.
Ireland Set for Stroll
Ireland have played Georgia three times in Dublin, winning by 42, 49 and 70 points, and are asked to give up 35 points in Sunday’s Aviva Stadium showdown.
Georgia have relished the chance to be involved in top-tier competition but have lost their Autumn Nations Cup matches to Wales and England without registering a point, while they managed only one converted try in an earlier warm-up against Scotland.
Ireland, eager to atone for last week’s defeat to England, will see a winning margin in the mid-30s as the minimum they need.
Head coach Andy Farrell has handed Billy Burns his first start at fly-half but otherwise, it’s a familiar line-up, with Conor Murray back at scrum-half and plenty of options on the bench.
Ireland’s back three are all odds-on to get on the scoresheet but at
21/10 the returning Murray could be worth an interest in the tryscorer markets. The Munster man has 15 tries in 90 appearances and may find himself in the right place in a close-quarters battle with the Georgian pack.