Scott Donaldson previews Round Two action of the Six Nations 2012
Italy vs England
The Italians will have their best chance in years to knock over the new look England team. The Italians have included some more experience in their team with Gonzalo Canale and Marco Bortolami returning to start. England haven't made any changes, with coach Stuart Lancaster hoping for an improved showing from his team.
Some players worth consideration for testrugby.com points are Sergio Parisse and Leonardo Ghiraldini for Italy while England fail to really trouble the scorers much, although lock Mouritz Botha is excellent value.
My pick is that Italy could put some serious pressure on the new look England team up front in front of a passionate crowd. I think England will still win, but it will be close.
England by 5 points.
France vs Ireland
This is the match of the round with France favourites to beat Ireland. France has made a few changes to their team with World Cup hero and my favourite French named player Imanol Harinordoquy coming into the Number Seven jersey. There are concerns over the France lineout, so Yoann Maestri and Dimitri Szarzewski have been included in the starting lineup along with prop Jean-Baptiste Poux. Dimitri Yachvili has withdrawn with injury too and is likely to be replaced by Morgan Parra. Ireland will at least have loose forward Stephen Ferris available for selection. He completes an excellent loose forward trio, while Keith Earls is named at centre. Ireland must win if they are to have any chance of winning the Six Nations 2012, so there will be plenty of feeling in this match.
Players to watch: Wesley Fofana, Julien Malzieu and Louis Picamoles are bargains, Pape did well from lock, while it could be worth buying new starters Harinordoquy, Szarzewski, Parra and Maestri. For Ireland assuming they are selected watch for Rory Best, Paul O'Connell and Sean O'Brien as expensive but safe options. Keith Earls could be worth a shot.
Ireland have only beaten France away once since 1972 and I don't think things will change this weekend.
France by 7 points.
Wales vs Scotland
Wales have a locking crisis, but showed enough against Ireland to suggest that they have enough squad depth to remain title contenders. They will be without Bradley Davies, leaving coach Warren Gatland a selection dilemma with Ryan Jones named at lock. Wales have some exciting players with George North, Leigh Halfpenny, Johnathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Mike Philips, Rhys Priestland and Sam Warburton likely to cut some capers against the hapless Scots.
Scotland have to replace Dan Parks at Number 10 and Greig Laidlaw could be a bargain priced inside back depending on if he sinks or swims. Scotland does have some good point scoring forwards including hooker Ross Ford, lock Richie Gray and loose forward Ross Rennie.
Wales have yet to name their team, but should be too strong at home for Scotland.
Wales by 15 points.
Who are you picking to win these Round Two Six Nations rugby matches?