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2023 Six Nations: Round Two Preview


The Six Nations came back with a bang last week. 

Ireland ruined Warren Gatland's return, Scotland clinched a Calcutta Cup hat-trick and World Cup favourites France survived a scare against Italy.  

So what lies ahead in round two? Read on for a preview of this weekend's action. 

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Six Nations decider in Dublin? 

We may only be heading into round two, but Ireland's clash with France at the Aviva Stadium looks set to define the tournament. Andy Farrell's men showed just why they're the world's highest-ranked team in cruising to a 34-10 victory over Wales last week; their first-half performance was close to faultless. Meanwhile, world No2 side France came close to suffering an upset in Rome but fought back from behind to edge out Italy in a gutsy 29-24 win. 

Neither side will be at full strength for the match; Ireland will be without experienced front-rower Tadhg Furlong and the electric Jamison Gibson-Park, while France came into the tournament with a string of injuries to key players including centre Jonathan Danty and lightning-fast Gabin Villiere. Both teams have players who can fill in, but getting the balance right will be key in a game of small margins.  

Italian job isn't straightforward for bad starters England

Steve Borthwick's reign got off to the worst possible start last week as England suffered a third straight Six Nations defeat to Scotland. Despite the loss, there were some positives; Max Malins justified his selection with two tries and Ellis Genge gave a powerful performance in the front row. But their kicking game was off and critics continue to question the selection of Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell in the half-back positions.

On current form, Italy are a threat that England should take very seriously. The Azzurri continued their upwards trajectory with a superb performance against France and had chances to win the game. Full-back Ange Capuozzo is a genuine world-class talent who epitomises their attacking flair — England will need to be wary of his finishing.

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Scotland search for consistency against struggling Wales

It would have been understandable if Scottish celebrations went gone long into the night after their side's 29-23 victory over England in the Calcutta Cup — no doubt featuring many replays of Duhan van Der Merwe's outstanding solo try. But Gregor Townsend will be hoping there's no lingering hangover for his side, who, in recent years, have tended to falter as the championship progresses.

In each of the last two years, Scotland have opened their Six Nations with a win against England; in 2021 they went on to win two more games, and last year they notched just one further victory. To perform consistently throughout this Six Nations, they need to start strong against a Welsh team lacking in confidence. 

Warren Gatland's return didn't go to plan against Ireland; in fact, Wales suffered their heaviest home defeat in the competition since 2001. But the New Zealander has never lost to Scotland as Wales head coach and will be hoping for a reaction. And he may decide to give his side a more youthful overhaul, given the impressive performances of youngsters Rio Dyer and Joe Hawkins against the Irish.

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