So here it is, the weekend of truth. Will Wales win a Grand Slam or will France rediscover themselves? Should Wales lose, can England do enough to pip them to the title or will Irish eyes be smiling on St. Patrick’s Day at HQ once more? And who will avoid an unwanted Wooden Spoon?
Out of the 12 games to date I have got 8 correct predictions, so a full house this weekend would push the percentage over the 70% mark! In Rome it’s the battle of the bottom two with Italy and Scotland continuing their recent annual shoot out for 5th place. Scotland have the more talented team but the pressure of the occasion and the strength of the Italians at home makes this a close one to call. Scotland took a step back in losing in Dublin last time out whilst Italy took a step forward in subduing the home side in Cardiff. It’s a tight one to call but I am going to go with Scotland. Italy still struggle to score tries whilst at least the Scots seem to have broken the drought in this area in the last three games. Not pretty but I think Scotland will do enough with it likely to go the distance.
In Cardiff there is a slam at stake but any welsh fans thinking this is a formality are mistaken. The French have miss-fired badly in the tournament to date and the number of changes in selection suggests a slightly panicked air to their preparations. For any other nation this would be a disadvantage but as we saw at the World Cup, the French thrive in disarray and with the pressure off them in terms of winning a championship they may well fire this weekend. Wales huffed and puffed against Italy but that was always a game they wanted to be done with in a professional manner so that they could build to this week. The fact that they weren’t at their best should ensure that complacency is not an issue and there is the little matter of a World Cup semi-final to motivate them. The opening quarter will be important but I think Wales have enough to win and in the last quarter I think they will make the game safe so they are not hanging on at the end.
There has been much said in the build up the game at Twickenham with Messrs Ferris and O Callaghan certainly stirring the pot. England have been reserved and kept their focus and will be confident having won in Paris. Again there is little to choose between the teams. O’Brien returns to the openside for the visitors but the midfield keeps its place once again. England go with the same line up as they did in Paris save for the recall of Strettle for the unlucky Sharples. The packs would appear to be well matched but the loss of O’Connell and the return to form of Croft could tip the line out in the home sides favour. I think England have the edge behind. I still think the Irish midfield is too small and this will no doubt be an area which the big English ball carriers will target. If England can get on the front foot them I think they will score tries and win by more than a score in what has become a high scoring affair in recent years.
So there you have it. Wales to win the slam, England to make it a miserable St. Patrick’s Day for the Irish and Italy to take the Wooden Spoon! But what do you think? I’ve been getting plenty of comments but none through the site. I assume dear readers you must all be in agreement! Just off to polish my inflatable leek….!