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

It has been a long fortnight for Rugby Union fans, with the Six Nations taking its fallow week after round two.

However, the competition is back with a bang on Saturday, with Ireland looking to preserve their Grand Slam hopes at home to Wales in the early kick-off.

Then, all eyes will be on Murrayfield as old enemies Scotland and England face off for the Calcutta Cup. The old trophy is not the only thing on the line there, though, with Steve Borthwick’s visitors one of just two teams with a perfect record after two games. Could they yet challenge Ireland?

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The weekend’s action wraps up in Lille, with France looking to build on their win over Scotland against Italy.

Here, we run the rule over the key storylines ahead of the third set of Six Nations fixtures.

Ireland v Wales (Saturday, 14:15)

It’s fair to say Ireland couldn’t have enjoyed a better start to their Six Nations campaign.

Having posted a statement victory in France on the opening night, Andy Farrell’s team crushed Italy 36-0 in their second fixture. Ireland have won their two games by a combined margin of 57 points, and no other match in this year’s tournament has been decided by more than a four-point margin.

Ireland have made light of suggestions they could struggle in the aftermath of Johnny Sexton’s retirement, with Jack Crowley filling the void at number 10 and scoring his first international try last time out.

Scrum-half Conor Murray sees plenty of similarities between Crowley and Sexton, saying of the former: “He’s still a young 10.

“If you think about Johnny when he was that age, he was still learning and making mistakes and doing really good things too, so that’s just part of the journey for Jack. He’s been really impressive and he’s very well-respected within the group.”

Wales, meanwhile, are one of two teams still awaiting their first victory, having squandered a half-time lead in their 16-14 loss to England at Twickenham on matchday two.

While Warren Gatland’s youthful team will be big outsiders in Dublin, assistant coach Rob Howley says they will look to stymie Ireland’s rhythm.

“The challenge for us is making them as uncomfortable as we can,” Howley said. “For every minute that we can do that we can ask different questions of them.”

Scotland v England (Saturday, 16:45)

The headline fixture of matchday three pits Scotland and England against one another at Murrayfield, with the hosts chasing a fourth successive win over their old rivals.

The week off will have been particularly welcome for Scotland, who were denied victory over France in bizarre fashion last time out. A TMO review denied Sam Skinner a potential matchwinning try at the death, with that contentious decision capping a dreary game which boss Gregor Townsend described as “a blight on rugby”.

Having had a fortnight to reset and refocus, Scotland will be desperate to inflict more Calcutta Cup woe on England, having triumphed 29-23 at Twickenham last year.

Reflecting on that victory, Townsend said: “Last year meant so much to me from a personal point of view.

“I thought it was going to be my last Six Nations, so I was probably more emotional after that game than others I’ve coached.”

From England’s perspective, Saturday’s game is about much more than revenge, with Steve Borthwick’s side still perfect after two games.

They have not been entirely convincing, having to fight back for their victories over Italy and Wales, but defence coach Felix Jones is backing them to grow as the tournament progresses.

“It’s a work in progress. There are loads of things still to work on, but also some good bits that we want to retain,” he said last week.

“We are at a level where you can’t blind yourself to things that need attention, but you want to draw positives from a tournament where winning counts.

“Our ambition is to win each game with the end goal of trying to win the Six Nations this year. But there is still a long way to go.”

France v Italy (Sunday, 15:00)

England’s emergence as perhaps the most likely challengers to Ireland owes much to France’s struggles, with Fabien Galthie’s team underwhelming thus far.

Galthie came under fire following France’s comprehensive defeat to Ireland, and only that aforementioned TMO call saved them from another defeat in Scotland.

Already missing Antoine Dupont after he chose to sit out the Six Nations, France will also be without stand-in captain Gregory Alldritt when they welcome Italy to Lille on Sunday, with the back-rower suffering a gash to his thigh last time out.

Despite France’s issues, nothing less than a convincing performance – and scoreline – will be deemed acceptable against Italy, against whom France have won 14 straight games since suffering a surprise defeat to the Azzurri in the 2013 Six Nations.

France crushed Italy 60-7 in Lyon at last year’s World Cup, and with last week’s win in Scotland doing little to quieten criticism of Galthie, the France boss needs his team to put on a similar show on Sunday.

How to watch

Every game of the Six Nations will be shown by either the BBC or ITV in the UK. Ireland versus Wales and France versus Italy will be screened by ITV this weekend, with the BBC showing England’s headline meeting with Scotland on Saturday.

Predictions

Round three of this year’s Six Nations features two heavily-fancied home teams in Ireland and France, either side of a difficult contest to call at Murrayfield.

Wales don’t possess the attacking quality to threaten an upset of a powerful Ireland side, though they do have the necessary grit to prevent a total blowout. We’re backing Farrell’s team by 15 points in Saturday’s early game, while France should earn a morale-boosting win over Italy on Sunday, complete with the bonus point.

In the main event, we’re siding with Scotland by the narrowest of margins. Borthwick’s team have made a habit of causing their own problems so far in the Six Nations, with poor discipline and basic errors almost costing them against Wales.

Scotland are far more accomplished than England’s last opponents and will be doubly incentivised after their controversial defeat to France, so we’re backing them to nick it by three.

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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