Rugby plays a major role this week in the national sporting calendar, so there’s plenty to look forward to whether you’re up for a flutter or your interest is as a spectator.
The Six Nations kicks off on Saturday with two internationals: Wales, the defending champions, have the formidable challenge of taking on Ireland, one of the favourites, along with France, in Dublin, and later in the afternoon up in Edinburgh, Scotland face England at Murrayfield in the Calcutta Cup.
With so many important and experienced players out with injury and with Ireland playing at home, a Wales victory would be a shock, so although the Welsh will be highly competitive, punters should probably back the Irish.
Can England recover from last season’s poor results?
Finishing 5th and losing three games meant that coach Eddie Jones came in for a lot of stick which is why after beating South Africa, the world champions, in November, England’s fans expect the improvement to continue on Saturday against Scotland.
Even without captain and fly half/centre Owen Farrell, who’ll miss the entire tournament because of injury, England, in my opinion, may just about be favourites to gain revenge for last season’s defeat by Scotland.
But it should be close encounter at Murrayfield and in a hostile atmosphere expect players, like Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg, to disrupt Jones’ team and to counter-attack quickly as Scotland do under coach Gregor Townsend.
Meanwhile on Sunday in Paris, France, tipped by many to win the Championship, should have no trouble in beating Italy comfortably.
After consecutive defeats can Leicester Tigers bounce back?
The answer is Yes because following the sensational loss to Sale Sharks in Manchester..Leicester were winning21-5 with 30 minutes left..the Tigers are in a strong position to recover because they’re back home at Welford Road where second from bottom Worcester Warriors are the opposition.
You can’t imagine Worcester causing a third defeat on the trot as new Warriors’ coach Steve Diamond tries to rebuild confidence after his side lost at Sixways to Northampton Saints.
Tigers still lead the Premiership on 51 points, and you’d also expect Saracens, second on 44, to beat Bath at the StoneX Stadium.
Bath remain the bottom club in spite of winning their second consecutive league match, so you can expect the West Country team to play with the level of commitment showed on Friday when Harlequins were surprisingly beaten 21-17.
The other games on Saturday see Exeter and Wasps clash at Sandy Park where Rob Baxter’s men will be under pressure to recover from losing at London Irish, and Bristol should be favourites to beat Newcastle Falcons at Ashton Gate.
The action begins on Friday evening at Kingsholm between Gloucester and London Irish and concludes on Sunday when Harlequins, third, meet Sale Sharks at the Twickenham Stoop in a contest that should see free flowing rugby.
Saturday February 5th – Ireland v Wales (Dublin) Scotland v England (Edinburgh)
Sunday February 6th – France v Italy (Paris)
Friday February 4th – Gloucester v London Irish.
Saturday February 5th – Bristol v Newcastle, Exeter v Wasps, Leicester v Worcester, Saracens v Bath.
Sunday February 6th – Harlequins v Sale.