Red Dragons to have too much fire for Ireland

Six Nations

Rugby League
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Published: 08/02/2014

After winning starts for both sides Ireland and Wales will do battle this Saturday (14:30, BBC) at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin, in the Six Nations Championship. Bookmakers Ireland the 5/6 (STAN JAMES/SPREADEX) favourites for the game after a comprehensive opening performance over Scotland that saw them emerge as 28-6 victors. Throw in a packed passionate home support and the presence of influential lock Paul O’Connell and the Irish are going to be tough to defeat especially with memories of their first week defeat of Wales in the 2013 campaign.

Wales though have not not lost on their travels in this tournament since 2011 and it is rare to see odds of 5/4 (ladbrokes) on such a talented side. A narrow 23-15 victory over Italy in the first week might be more a reflection on the improvements the Italians have made in recent years. The return of Sam Warburton will be a massive boost for them and they will not give the Irish anywhere near as much freedom in the scrum as the Scots did. The bottom line is that the Welsh have been there and done it at this stage in these crucial games before and they are still the team to beat.

The second game of the day comes from Murrayfield (17:30, BBC) and is for the Calcutta Cup as Scotland entertain England. The English are the strong favourites following five wins and a draw from the last six meetings between the pair. While both sides lost last time out it was the English who can take much more encouragement from their performance going down to a narrow two point loss to the French. It is hard to see past England though odds of 1/5 (GENERAL) do not appeal.

Scotland can take comfort from a reasonable show in the first half against the Irish though the problem, as has been in the case for the past few years, was an inability to convert possesion and territory into tries. If you think Scotland can raise their game against their old rivals especially with the torrential rain forecast then you can get them at 5/1 (GENERAL).

Danny Care dominated for England against the French before a shock subbing and he looks excellent value at 14/1 (paddy Power/ladbrokes) to be named man of the match.

The final game of the weekend is the battle of the European sides on Sunday and sees the French entertain the Italians (15:00, BBC). France are the 1/20 (betfred/888 SPORT/unibet) favourites for the game as they look to build on their opening day victory over England against an Italy side that have lost eight of the last ten meetings between the pair.

Italy will take heart from the fact that they have won two of the last three meetings between the pair although both these wins came in Rome. Against Wales the Italians caused a number of problems and kept the scoreline down to eight. It is probably asking too much for them to see off France at their own ground at odds of 16/1 (SKYBET/boylesports) though I would be tempted to side with them on the handicap market. You get Italy with a 20 point head start at evens (boylesports/william hill) and this is the way to play the game. The Italians showed a lot of fighting spirit against the Welsh last weekend while the French showed against England signs they can become complacent when hitting the front.

BEST OF THE BETS

GOLD: Wales to beat Ireland, 5/4 (ladbrokes)
SILVER: Italy +20 on the handicap v France, evens (boylesports/william hill)
BRONZE: Danny Care man of the match v Scotland, 14/1 (paddy Power/ladbrokes)

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