After two rounds of the Six Nations Rugby Championship, England have once again taken the lead over the other European nations. They are the only nation to go 2-0, with wins over France and Wales.
The third round is a decisive one for France, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, who each have a win and a loss. However, Ireland stands one point above the others because of the new “bonus point” rule. The new points system rewards more try scoring, which aims to make the games more exciting. Whether it is doing so is still up for debate. Despite having scored very few tries and receiving zero bonus points, England remains on top.
Here are our picks for the third round.
Scotland (+114) vs. Wales (-110), Draw (+2500)
As it stands, Scotland (1-0-1, 5 points) and Wales (1-0-1, 5 points) are level on points. Scotland inched a win over Ireland in the first round but was undone by France in the second. Meantime, Wales thrashed France in the first round but fell short to defending champions England.
Scotland were unlucky not to have lost to France. If they had won, they would currently be at the top of the table. The Scots are in great form right now, and with the home advantage, they hold a narrow lead.
Pick: Scotland (+114)
Ireland (-275) vs. France (+330), Draw (+2800)
France (1-0-1, 5 points) have had two extremely close games so far. They finished just one penalty short against England, losing 19-16 by the narrowest of margins. Then they played a great game against Scotland, beating them 22-16. It’s been a tough two rounds for France and they have done well to take five points out of it.
Ireland (1-0-1, 6 points) lost to Scotland and demolished Italy. Winning against Italy is more or less expected, so their six points isn’t particularly impressive. However, their high-scoring games have earned them two bonus points, which puts them in second place overall.
France have exceeded expectations so far and I think that putting them at +330 underestimates what they are capable of.
Pick: France (+330)
England (-10000) vs. Italy (+8000), Draw (+10000)
With such long odds, it’s hard to pick a side. England (2-0-0, 8 points) are off to a great start, beating France and Wales. However, the wins have been by pretty narrow margins and England have been scoring very few points.
Italy (0-0-2, 0 points) have been creamed in both games. They lost their first game 33-7 to Wales, and then were annihilated 63-10 against Ireland.
It’s hard to see the defending champs losing to the perennial wooden spooners, but at +8000, why not take the long odds?
Pick: Italy (+8000)
“Rugby World Cup 2013 – Scotland versus Italy” by Mike Cable [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons