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Six Nations 2024: England host Wales, France visit Scotland and Ireland face Italy – preview, how to watch and predictions

The opening round of games in this year’s Six Nations did not disappoint, with Ireland laying down a marker with their deeply impressive win in France, England edging out Italy and Wales falling just short of an incredible comeback against Scotland.

More thrills and spills should be expected from the second round of fixtures, starting at Murrayfield as France seek a response against the Scots.

Meanwhile, it’s always a huge occasion when Wales visit Twickenham, where they have not won a Six Nations game since 2012. England have struggled at home under Steve Borthwick, and they will be eyeing an improvement following their less-than-convincing performance in Rome.

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On Sunday, Ireland will expect to maintain their bid for back-to-back Grand Slams when they host Italy, though Gonzalo Quesada’s team gave a good account of themselves in their opener and have nothing to lose in Dublin.

Here, we run through the key storylines ahead of the second round of fixtures, as well as providing our predictions for the weekend’s action.

Scotland v France (Saturday, 14:15)

Scotland got the job done last week, with a blistering start ultimately enough for their first win in Cardiff for 22 years, but Gregor Townsend’s side didn’t do it the easy way.

Scotland raced into a 27-0 lead within 43 minutes as Finn Russell starred at the Principality Stadium, but a stunning second-half display saw Wales cut the deficit to 27-26.

Ill discipline almost cost Scotland in the second half as they gave up 14 successive penalties, but they clung on in a nail-biting finale to avoid a humiliating collapse.

Better will surely be required when they host France, though Les Bleus sorely missed Antoine Dupont in their 38-17 loss to Ireland last week. If they are to have any hope of recapturing the Six Nations crown they lost last year, France simply must respond on Saturday.

Paul Willemse is suspended for the trip to Edinburgh following his red card last week, prompting Fabien Galthie to introduce Cameron Woki into the second row. Louis Bielle-Biarrey has also been drafted in on the left wing, but Galthie has kept faith with Maxime Lucu after he struggled to replicate Dupont’s dynamism last week.

While Ireland have marked themselves out as the team to beat, Saturday’s early kick-off could tell us much about the identity of their main rivals.

England v Wales (Saturday, 16:15)

Saturday’s late kick-off sees England face old rivals Wales, with the hosts looking to step things up after their nervy 27-24 win in Italy.

Borthwick’s side fell behind in their opener, but a dominant second-half performance ensured they got off to a winning start as debutants Fraser Dingwall and Ethan Roots impressed.

Following a turbulent build-up to the tournament, Borthwick handed out five debuts in total, with Fin Smith, Chandler Cunningham-South and Immanuel Feyi-Waboso also making their Test bows off the bench.

Borthwick’s new-look team may not have been wholly convincing last time out, but a victory over Wales would certainly raise expectations, particularly with England set to enjoy home advantage against Ireland in round four.

Wales, though, will be dangerous opponents, as they proved by refusing to go away against Scotland last week.

In the eyes of England scrum-half Danny Care, Warren Gatland’s side have nothing to lose at Twickenham.

“They have some young lads full of talent coming to Twickenham to play their first game,” Care told BBC Sport. “They are a young team with nothing to lose or nothing to fear. We respect them.

“This is the game you want to play in and you want your friends and family there to make them proud. Every time you play against Wales it is an incredible Test match, really physical and feisty.”

Gatland has rung the changes to the trip to London, with fit-again centre George North among seven players introduced into the starting XV, which features an entirely new front row. England, meanwhile, are unchanged.

Ireland v Italy (Sunday, 15:00)

The winner of France’s meeting with Ireland was always likely to be touted as the tournament favourites, but the manner in which Andy Farrell’s men dispatched Les Bleus surprised everyone.

Ireland’s 21-point triumph in Paris was their biggest on French soil since a 24-0 win in 1913, while their tally of 38 points was their best ever against France.

It’s little surprise, then, that Ireland are now being tipped to repeat last year’s Grand Slam. They will certainly be expected to make it two wins from two games against Italy, who have won one of their 41 Six Nations games since 2015.

However, Irish back row Jack Conan will not be taking anything for granted at the Aviva Stadium, having been impressed by Italy’s performance in their narrow defeat to England.

“Italy play with so much passion and emotion and they’re now bringing that accuracy as well,” he said. “They’re so close to getting a few big scalps. You can see it when they play.

“They were unlucky against England but we’ve got to do everything in our power to stop them.

“We’re nearly expecting a tougher defensive challenge this weekend than what we had previously so we’re going to have to be on it from minute one.”

How to watch

Every game of the Six Nations will be shown by either the BBC or ITV in the UK. Scotland’s game against France on Saturday will be screened on BBC One, with ITV1 showing the weekend’s other fixtures.

Predictions

While we expect Ireland to keep their Grand Slam hopes alive with a dominant win over Italy, Saturday’s games should be close-run affairs.

Scotland will certainly push France all the way amid questions over Les Bleus’ ability to cope without Dupont. However, Scotland have seen lock Richie Gray and back rower Luke Crosbie ruled out for the remainder of the tournament in a major double blow, so we’re still siding with France.

Expect Wales to give another spirited performance at Twickenham, but England should have enough about them to make it two from two.

Harry Carr
Harry Carr
Harry is a freelance sports journalist with experience of working for the Racing Post, Stats Perform, Opta Analyst and more, covering major events across all sports but holding a particular love for the beautiful game.
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