Before Ireland’s crucial game this Sunday we will see Scotland play host to Italy and France the same to Wales. All four sides are finding themselves in turmoil of sorts with underperforming the operative word. Can Scotland show the results of their new coaching team with a result worthy of the quality and can Wales put themselves back in contention against the strongest French side for some time?
Scotland come first on Saturday and will arguably have the most pressure on their shoulders. They’ve some patience those Scottish fans, many Irish followers gave up after far less dredge and misery. One win per campaign has been the expected high point for the Scots for a few years and usually it comes over the Italians. Now under Vern Cotter Scotland are showing a hell of a lot of promise but still no return. Four changes from last week’s team, one forced by suspension to Finn Russell and the other due to Richie Gray’s arm injury, should be a welcome sight for fans however. This tournament is gone for them but if they can meld their form with the right personnel to finish the job then the Scots can look forward eagerly to the World Cup.
Italy on the other hand are swaying spectacularly in form this year. Martin Castrogiovanni looks set to miss out due to a dog bite (there are no words) and he may not be missed to be honest. Unlike Parisse, the hairiest man in rugby just doesn’t have it in the tank anymore. Jacques Brunel won’t be able to work miracles. Maybe, just maybe, another opening quarter like we saw against England last week could have Scotland rattled but if the Celts manage to string their new found attack together in full there can really only be one outcome.
Wales and France, similar to Ireland VS England in that only one team will remain in contention come the final whistle, should be a cracker. France finally look dangerous again with Phillipe Saint Andre seemingly burying the hatchet and Morgan Parra being put into the starting XV. There is no denying the man’s talent and the difference he made against Ireland when he came onto the pitch. If France are to stand any chance of overturning a rabid Welsh team playing catch up you can rest assured that he will be crucial to their efforts. Will he kick though, that is the question.
Wales on the other hand come to a crossroads on Saturday. Yes they returned to winning ways against Scotland but they made it anything but easy and a little more composure would have seen Scotland home with the win. Calls have been made about Gatland being out of ideas and you do have to wonder when players like George North and Alex Cuthbert seem so anonymous with ball I’m hand in recent games. Shaun Edwards would do well to hone the set piece and get these two onto the ball rather than cry found of choke tackles too. Whether this is a winding down of Gatland’s rein or not you can rest assured that Wales are the top bet to produce a surprise in any given year. Maybe they can do so this Saturday and put themselves back in the race.
Image courtesy of scotsman.com