Six Nations Predictions – Round 5

Six Nations Predictions - Round 5
By Quintin van Jaarsveld

12 March 2020, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld

Six Nations Predictions – Round 5

Due to the global spread of the coronavirus, the Six Nations spotlight will shine on Wales and Scotland this weekend, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

The Cardiff clash is the only one of what was originally scheduled to be the final weekend of the championship. The crunch clash between France and Ireland on Monday became the third match to be postponed due to the deadly COVID-19 epidemic, after last weekend’s Ireland-Italy contest and Saturday’s Italy-England encounter. These matches are now slated to take place at the end of October.This, coupled with France’s shock 28-17 loss to Scotland in Edinburgh last weekend, has left the title picture up in the air. France prop Mohamed Haouas’ moment of madness, when he punched Scotland flank, Jamie Ritchie, in the 37th minute, earned him a red card and ended Les Bleus’ bid for a first Grand Slam since 2010. The spectacular implosion also saw them relinquish top spot on the log, and has opened the door for England to swoop in and snatch the silverware.

Following their 33-30 win over Wales last weekend, Eddie Jones’ side have moved into pole position on 13 points. France, also on 13, have dropped to second with England having a narrow edge via points-difference – 15 compared to France’s 13. They are now the favourites given they’re expected to pile up the points and secure a full-house when they eventually face Italy, while France have a much sterner test in Ireland. For France to drag the trophy out of the fire, they’ll need to claim a bonus-point victory over the Irish and have England somehow fail to match that feat against the abysmal Azzurri, who remain winless. England are, thus, the most likely to lift the trophy.

Last Sunday’s shake-up has also given Ireland a glimmer of hope. They’re on nine points but have played one fewer game than the rest of the teams, thus, back-to-back bonus-point wins away from home over Italy and France would land them the crown irrespective of the outcome of the England-Italy match.

Scotland’s win over previously unbeaten Les Bleus moved them up to third place on 10 points, however, they have less of a chance of a shock title triumph than fourth-placed Ireland. They have to beat Wales in their own backyard this weekend’s, need Ireland and England to somehow lose to Italy and the Irish to draw with France. Fifth-placed Wales and wooden spoonists Italy are out of the running.

BET: SIX NATIONS

Turning the focus back to this weekend, here’s how we see things playing out at the Millennium Stadium:Scotland were significantly helped by Haouas’ deserved red card, but it’s a welcome win nonetheless. It was Gregor Townsend’s team’s second victory of the championship, following the 17-0 whitewash of Italy, and gives them valuable momentum.

Wales, in contrast, have no momentum to speak of. The opening-round 42-0 walloping they gave Italy seem a distant memory as the defending champions have crashed to three straight defeats – to Ireland (24-14), France (27-23) and England – since, the first such losing skid since 2007.

The 33-30 scoreline at Twickenham last weekend flattered the Welsh as England controlled the game from the onset. They led 20-9 at half-time and stretched their lead to 33-16 on the hour mark before England centre Manu Tuilagi’s controversial red card five minutes from full-time allowed Wales to score two quick tries, which made for a more respectable albeit misleading scoreline.

What Wales did show was heart. They never let up or stopped believing. The brilliant breakaway try from the kick-off at the start of the second half showed what they’re capable of. Such brilliance has just been too few and far between for a team in transition. New coach Wayne Pivac’s plan to revolutionise the gameplan, which had been rooted for 12 years under Warren Gatland, will take time and the teething problems of their change in tactics are what’s seen their reign fizzle out.

The big question here is, can Scotland spring another upset? Barring lightning striking twice in the form of another red card assist, it’s highly unlikely. They’ve missed their best player, Finn Russell, dearly from a play-making perspective, with the star flyhalf stood down for the championship. Fifteen on 15, the Scots have been impotent on offence, failing to cross the whitewash in the losses to Ireland (17-12) and England (13-6).

History also strongly suggests there won’t be another Scot shock. Wales have won nine of the last 10 meetings between the two nations, with Scotland’s last success (29-13) coming at home in 2017. What’s more, Scotland have been dreadful on the road in recent years, winning just three of their last 10, those victories coming against Argentina in 2018, Georgia in 2019 and the recent Rome clash against the Azzurri. They haven’t tasted victory in Cardiff in 18 years, and that streak will be extended when the weekend’s clash is said and done.Prediction: Wales by 11.

Total points scored: 41.

Suggested BET: Wales to win by 8-14 points at 2.90

BET: SIX NATIONS

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