Six Nations Round Five Preview
After an exciting tournament, we come to the final weekend of the 2022 Six Nations. The tournament has been a good one and there is still a huge amount to play for across this weekend.
Wales vs Italy
The first game on Saturday sees the current bottom two teams battle it out, with Italy unable to avoid the wooden spoon even if they beat Wales this weekend.
Wales head into the Millennium stadium on the weekend off the back of a very disappointing loss to France last weekend, having been the better team for large parts of that game. Wales held down the French attack excellently, allowing them to only score 13 points. But Wales just weren’t quite clinical enough to get past the French.
But Wayne Pivac’s team will still be exceptionally pleased with their performance last week, pushing the best team in the world more than they have been pushed over the last twelve months. It was a very surprising result considering Wales have had a poor tournament so far, with close losses to England and France as well as a battering in the first game against Ireland.
So Wales will be looking to go out on a high, and they have a big boost heading into this game. Wales most capped player Alun Wyn Jones returns to the team for the first time in five months, as Jones returns from a dislocated shoulder sustained in the warm up for the Lions tour late last year.
It is a huge return for Wales whose team includes Dan Biggar making his 100th cap for Wales. There are seven changes to the Welsh team, with Dewi Lake, Dillon Lewis, Johnny McNicholl, Louis Rees-Zammit, Uilisi Halaholo and Gareth Davies all returning to the team. They have a great chance of ending their Six Nations campaign on a high on Saturday.
Italy’s tournament has been one of good performances and bad results. They were particularly impressive last week, scoring three times against Scotland as Ange Capuozzo made a brilliant debut off the bench, scoring twice in the second half.
Italy have also seen good performances throughout their young squad. Monty Ioane, Paolo Garbisi and Michele Lamaro all had played well throughout the tournament and all of them are under 24. Italy have an incredibly young but talented squad and they are showing improvement this tournament.
Off the back of his excellent debut off the bench, Ange Capuozzo is rewarded with his first start for Italy. The only other change to the Italian team is Marco Fuser coming into the second row, with Niccolo Cannone moving to the bench. It shows that Italy have not had much change over and therefore can hope to build a team that are used to playing with each other.
Kieran Crowley’s men will head into Cardiff with hopes of getting a positive result for the first time since 2015. The Italian team has still had a good tournament, but they will hope to finally win a game this Saturday in what looks to be a great start to an exciting day of rugby.
Ireland vs Scotland
The second game on Saturday is the first with title implications, with Ireland needing a win on Saturday to give them any hope of the country’s fifth Six Nations title. This comes at the back of a positive tournament for the Irish, who have built off the back of an incredibly impressive Autumn series which included a win over New Zealand.
This years Six Nations started with an impressive win over holders Wales, but thanks to a six point loss to France in Round 2, their destiny is not in their own hands. Ireland need a win and for England to somehow win defeat France for a shot at another title.
The Irish team has made three changes to the side which beat 14 man England last weekend. Iain Henderson, Jack Conan and Mack Hansen have all been brought into the team, with James Ryan, Andrew Conway and Peter O’Mahony all making way. James Ryan and Andrew Conway were both injured in last weeks game, while Peter O’Mahony drops to the bench.
It gives Irelands front row a great opportunity to put in a good performance, after struggling last week against Ellis Genge and Jamie George. Johnny Sexton will look to control the game alongside Jamison Gibson-Park. The backs feature talent like Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose.
It is a very strong team for the Irish. But it may not be that simple for the Irish. Scotland have been a bogey team for some of the big teams in the last few years, beating France last year. Scotland will be keen to spoil any Irish hope and end their campaign on a high note.
Gregor Townsend’s team have had a slightly disappointing Six Nations so far, considering the teams excellent start to the tournament. When Scotland beat England and won the Calcutta Cup in the first game of the tournament, many fans thought this could finally be the tournament that Scotland competed for a Six Nations title.
But since then, Scotland’s only other win being a not so simple encounter against Italy. A close loss to Wales was followed up by France showing their quality in a 36-17 win for the French.
The reason why it is so disappointing is the wealth of talent that Scotland have. Zander Fagerson, Rory Sutherland, Hamish Watson, Ali Price, Finn Russell, Chris Harris, Duhan van der Merwe and Stuart Hogg were all Lions last year and have all played a part for Scotland in this Six Nations.
But yet they still head into this final game with the prospect of finishing fifth again. Really has not been the tournament for Scotland. But they still have the chance for a huge upset heading into this final weekend. Ireland are beatable and Scotland have a very talented squad.
But they aren’t going to see all of that talent. Incredibly surprisingly, Finn Russell has been dropped for the final game, with Blair Kinghorn starting at fly-half in Dublin. The other change to the team see Johnny Gray returning after injury, taking Sam Skinners place in the team. It is a huge call to drop Finn Russell.
Scotland are taking a big risk this weekend, but if Blair Kinghorn and their other talent can be firing, it may not be such a simple encounter for the Irish.
France vs England
Le Crunch looks set to be an incredibly title decider on Saturday night. If Ireland can beat Scotland, this game will not only decide whether France get the Grand Slam, but also if France can actually win their first Six Nations title since winning the Grand Slam in 2010.
They certainly have a healthy squad to do it with. Frances only change to the team which beat Wales in Cardiff last week is Damian Penaud returning, who missed the game with Covid-19. Penaud replaces Yoram Moefana.
Frances captain and World player of the year Antione Dupont leads his team out this weekend as they aim to finally to take advantage of the teams incredible talent. Romain Ntamack partners Dupont, with an incredible amount of talent in the backs including Jaminet, Fickou and the returning Penaud.
It is going to be a big game for the front row of Cyril Baille, Uini Atonio and Julien Marchand, as England’s front pack are coming off the back of their best performance this tournament. Paul Willemse will look to continue his brilliant form and the back row need a big game this weekend.
On England’s side, they head into Paris with the chance for a massive upset, but while also staring down the possibility of another 5th placed finish. It seems as though England’s final game will decide how successful this changing teams campaign has been.
England started poorly, losing the Calcutta Cup to Scotland in the first match. After wins against Wales and Italy, the 82 second red card last week meant a huge uphill battle against Ireland. While the Irish ran out 32-15 winners, England put in an incredibly courageous display, particularly in the scrum.
Set pieces will be key to this game, so it is interesting that Eddie Jones has decided to make five changes to the team. Will Stuart comes in to replace Kyle Sinckler, with Nick Isiekwe and Sam Underhill also coming into the scrum to replace Charlie Ewels and Tom Curry who are both unavailable for this game.
The backs are also much changed, with Eddie Jones turning to experience in Ben Youngs, facing up against Antoine Dupont. Max Malins drops out in the last change, with Freddie Steward moving to the wing and Northampton full back George Furbank coming into the side for the first time in the Six Nations.
It means England will be without probably five key players, with Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi, Johnny May, Tom Curry and Luke Cowan-Dickie all missing the game. Frustrating for England, but France will revel in the opportunity.
The final game of the Six Nations looks set to be a thriller, with France hunting a Grand Slam and England looking for the perfect ending to their Six Nations campaign. No matter the results, it looks to be a brilliant weekend of Six Nations rugby.