The Six Nations moves toward its St Patricks Day crescendo next week but the fifth round of fixtures may prove decisive in deciding who the champions will be come Saturday week.
The penultimate round of games have two tremendous clashes in store as the unbeaten Irish host in form Scotland while the enigmatic French host the hitherto disappointing English.
Wales are sure to see off the limp Italian challenge to round off the games but the question is will the spread be breached?
First up Ireland look to claim a bonus point win which will all but ensure the championship prior to their trip to Twickenham. The Irish have been robotic since their last gasp win away to France swotting away the Italian challenge before comfortably beating Wales after an early scare.
The manner in which they find a way to win is truly impressive and we expect it to be the same again on Saturday. Scotland stunned a sub par England at Murrayfield but away to Ireland is a truly different animal and the Irish should find it well within their compass to cover the -10 point start.
Next up are the French who have been competitive in all of their games- losing close battles to Ireland (thanks to a last second drop goal) and away to Scotland.
They dismissed Italy with the minimum of fuss last time and will be looking forward to taking on an out of sorts England in Paris. Jacques Brunel can be content with the progress in his inaugural championship and we think they will run England close. With a +7 point head start they are a must for any multiple.
Only once in their last seven attempts have England covered that margin visiting Stade De France. Given the upward trajectory of the hosts and the one dimensional style of England an upset may indeed happen but we’ll stick to the handicap.
Lastly Wales get a free spin this week at home to Italy who have played well going forward this year but have leaked points consistently, particularly in the latter stages.
We think that the -28 points is surmountable and that Wales will put on a show. Historically Italy have waned following their first few matches and with a lack of depth on the bench dont be surprised to see Wales run up a considerable score.
Recommendation: 1pt treble – Ireland -10 vs Scotland, France +7 vs England & Wales -28 vs Italy @7/1