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Natwest 6 Nations 2018 1st Round Preview

By | Published February 2, 2018

Wales vs Scotland

As the Scots haven’t won in Cardiff for 16 years, they’ll look to put that right. However, the Welsh are different at home and the cauldron of the Principality Stadium is like no other in the world. On paper, Scotland look to have the stronger team what with the likes of Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour coming into some great form in the European Champions Cup. Byron McGuigan also joins the back three and he’ll have to prove his worth to Head Coach Gregor Townsend, after an impressive first full start against Australia scoring two tries. The one thing with the Welsh selection is the mole amongst the Scarlet ranks who could help the Scots; John Barclay. The Scottish captain would have done his best to detail the habits of the Scarlets players in the starting XV for Wales, but he can’t predict everything that might happen on Saturday.

Wales will want to target the inexperienced front row Ken Owens while Rob Evans will especially try to do a job on Jon Welsh when it comes to scrummaging time. They have repeated a feat they did when Warren Gatland became head coach in 2008: picking a majority of the national team from one club. Back then it was the Ospreys, now it it’s the Scarlets of Llanelli who will dominate the team on Saturday. Having said that, it was surprising to see that James Davies was not given his first start and that Navidi has moved to to Number Eight, a position he is not in-experienced at, having played there for the Cardiff Blues. It is also the first chance to see Worcester Warrior’s Josh Adams debut for Wales. As the top try scorer of the Aviva Premiership, can he bring that form to international level? Who knows? Rhys Patchell has been drafted in to fill the gap left by Dan Biggar and Rhys Priestland and leads almost an entire Scarlet backline apart from Adams. Gareth Davies steps up for the injured Rhys Webb. In all, the first game of the Six Nations this year could well be ranked as one of the best with both sides looking to play with flair and passion in Cardiff.

Prediction: Scottish Win by 10 points.

 

Wales

Position Scotland
Rob Evans 1

Gordon Reid

Ken Owens

2 Stuart McInally
Samson Lee 3

Jon Welsh

Cory Hill

4 Ben Toolis
Alun Wyn Jones © 5

Johnny Gray

Aaron Shingler

6 John Barclay ©
Josh Navidi 7

Hamish Watson

Ross Moriarty

8 Cornell du Preez
Gareth Davies 9

Ali Price

Rhys Patchell

10 Finn Russel
Steff Evans 11

Byron McGuigan

Hadliegh Parks

12 Huw Jones
Scott Williams 13

Chris Harris

Josh Adams

14 Tommy Seymour
Leigh Halfpenny 15

Stuart Hogg

Elliot Dee

16 Scott Lawson
Wyn Jones 17

Jamie Bhatti

Thomas Francis

18 Murray McCallum
Bradley Davies 19

Grant Gilchrist

Justin Tipuric

20 Ryan Wilson
Aled Davies 21

Greig Laidlaw

Gareth Anscome

22 Peter Horne
Owen Watkin 23

Sean Maitland

 

France vs Ireland

Head Coach Brunel has built a bridge of experience and confident youth in his first XV for France with players such as Bordeaux-Begles’ Fly-Half Mattieu Jailbert making his debut against the Irish. Brunel has not had long his French squad, however it seems that the French will enter the tournament with everyone having to second guess their game play. A lot of new names in the team is a sign of experimentation after the efforts of Guy Knoves and confidence in the players. But even with home advantage it will be a tall order for L’Equipe de France. Joe Schmit has been quiet and composed in the lead up to the tournament and the team he has selected to play in the Stade de France is representative of his style of play and the form of the Leinster and Munster players in particular.

A big talking point is Cian Healy taking over Jack McGrath on the Loose Head Prop position, a sign of the competition between the two players. Also with the absence of Sean O’Brien, Josh van der Flyer is coming in to the Openside Flanker position. Ireland will come into the game with confidence after an impressive Autumn campaign and this will be one of the biggest tests this Irish side has had in recent years.

Prediction: Irish Win by 5 points.

 

France

Position Ireland
Jefferson Poirot 1

Cian Healy

Guilhem Guirado ©

2 Rory Best ©
Rabah Slimani 3

Tadhg Furlong

Sebastien Vahaamahina

4 Ian Henderson
Arthur Iturria 5

James Ryan

Wenceslas Lauret

6 Peter O’Mahony
Yacouba Camara 7

Josh van der Flier

Kevin Hourdon

8 CJ Stander
Maxime Machenaud 9

Conor Murray

Matthieu Jalibert

10 Jonathan Sexton
Virmi Vakatawa 11

Jacob Stockdale

Henry Chavancy

12 Bundee Aki
Remi Lamerat 13

Robbie Henshaw

Teddy Thomas

14 Keith Earls
Geoffery Palis 15

Rob Kearney

Adrien Pelissie

16 Sean Cronin
Dany Priso 17

Jack McGrath

Cedate Gomes Sa

18 John Ryan
Paul Gabrillagues 19

Devin Tonner

Marco Taulegigne

20 Dan Leavy
Antoine Dupont

21

Luke McGrath

Anthony Belleau

22

Joey Carbery

Benjamin Fall 23

Fergus McFadden

 

Italy vs England

Eddie Jones’ hand has been somewhat forced given the extensive injury list they have. But the timely return of Mike Brown and Chris Robshaw ensures that the English have some experience at the Stadio Olypmico. Ben Te’o has not played rugby since October, so it was interesting to see him start over Johnathon Joseph in the Outside Centre position. Itoje and Lawes will swap the roles between Blindside Flanker and Second-Row during the course of the match. It looks close to a starting XV that Eddie Jones will want to select come the Japanese Rugby World Cup. Will Connor O’Shea have any tricks up his sleeve to fox Eddie Jones again? Personally, I don’t think there will be any.

Italy will initially want to keep the game tight and then release their quick backs. Having had only grasped their first taste of international rugby in November of last year, there is a lot of in-experience amongst the Italian selection. Zanni will get his 100th cap in the Second Row against England and Sergio Parise will only be 18 caps short of the record held by Ritchie McCaw for the most capped international player in the world after Sunday’s match. O’Shea is brave to bring on a lot of young talent against England.

Prediction: English Win by 40 points.

 

Italy

Position England
Andrea Lovotti 1

Mako Vunipola

Leonardo Ghiraldini

2 Dylan Hartley ©
Simmone Ferrari 3

Dan Cole

Alessandro Zanni

4

Joe Launchbury

Dean Budd

5

Maro Itoje

Sebastian Negri

6

Courtney Lawes

Renato Giammarioli

7

Chris Robshaw

Sergio Parisse ©

8

Sam Simmonds

Marcello Violi

9

Ben Youngs

Tommaso Allan

10

George Ford

Mattia Belini 11

Johnny May

Tommaso Castello

12 Owen Farrell

Tommaso Boni

13

Ben Te’o

Tommaso Benvenuti 14

Anthony Watson

Matteo Minozzi

15 Mike Brown
Luca Bigi 16

Jamie George

Nicola Quaglio

17 Alec Hepburn
Tiziano Pasquali 18

Harry Williams

George Biagi

19 George Kruis

Maxime Mbanda

20

Sam Underhill

Edwardo Gori

21 Danny Care
Carlo Canna 22

Johnathon Joseph

Jayden Hayward 23

Jack Nowell