Ahead of the first weekend of the Six Nations, SWL has a look at each of the three games to preview the first round of matches.
England v Scotland
To kick off our Six Nations round preview, England begin the defence of their title this Saturday at Twickenham against a talented Scotland side.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the fixture and comes after last year’s match was played in the apocalyptic wind and rain of storm Ciara.
Scotland lost 13-6 that day and finished in a disappointing fourth place overall, but will be looking to show they’ve stepped up from dark horses to title contenders in this year’s Calcutta Cup.
Gregor Townsend’s record in this fixture has seen each side share one win, one loss and a draw including one of the great Six Nations contests at Twickenham in 2019.
However, the Scots will be looking for a first victory in London since 1983, having managed that 38-38 draw in their last visit.
England are coming off the back of not only a Six Nations victory in late October, but also the Autumn Nations Cup, having won eight matches on the trot.
Furthermore the Red Roses have not lost since their opening game of the 2020 Six Nations last February against France.
Both teams have surprised with their selections in the centre, Cameron Redpath and Ollie Lawrence make their Six Nations debuts opposite each other after featuring together for England’s U20s.
England have replaced the injured Sam Underhill with Mark Wilson while Duhan van der Merwe makes his Six Nations debut for Scotland.
Ireland v Wales
To continue our Six Nations round preview, on Sunday, Wales will begin their tournament against a transitional Ireland side at the Principality Stadium.
Wales coach Wayne Pivac has faced a tough start to life as Wales head coach as the Welsh lost four straight games to finish fifth place in last year’s Six Nations.
That was their worst tournament outing since former boss Warren Gatland was on sabbatical in 2017.
Similarly, Ireland had an underwhelming 2020 under new head coach Andy Farrell, despite two convincing victories over Wales, a comprehensive 32-9 triumph in November’s Autumn Nations Cup opener and a 24-14 win in last year’s Six Nations.
Wales have made some controversial selections for Sunday as George North will start at 13 despite winger Josh Adams being suspended, and Dan Lydiate comes back into the side off the back of strong Pro14 form.
Ireland have entrusted young prospect Hugo Keenan with the 15 jersey while James Lowe earns his third cap on the wing.
Italy vs France
The Giuseppe Garibaldi trophy has tended to be a one sided affair, with France winning all but two editions since Italy’s first appearance at the Six Nations in 2000.
Those two slip-ups by Les Bleus in 2011 and 2013 were complete anomalies, and it is hard to see the Azzurri causing an upset this time around at the Stadio Olimpico.
France missed out on last year’s Six Nations title by a bonus point and are out to reclaim the title with a youthful squad led by imposing coach Fabien Galthié.
In contrast, Italy are on a 27-game losing streak in the competition.
They last won in 2015 against Scotland, and have finished with the wooden spoon in their past five tournaments.
The Stadio Olimpico venue is the only factor in Italy’s favour, but last year’s player of the tournament Antoine Dupont and co. should have more than enough to overcome the hosts comfortably.
Italy will be missing stars Jake Polledri and Matteo Minozzi so young fly-half Paolo Garbisi will be relied upon to create attacking opportunities.
France are without Romain Ntamack and Virimi Vakatawa but Matthieu Jalibert and elusive wingers Teddy Thomas and Gabin Villiere should make up for those losses.
Check out all of SWL’s Six Nations coverage here.
Featured image credit: Marco Iacobucci Epp