Six Nations Championship: England set their sights on the Gram Slam

England entertain Wales this Saturday, buoyed by last weekend’s seven-try Italian job and the Grand Slam in their sights. Wales too could still complete the coveted Championship clean sweep, however, they will have to storm Fortress Twickenham to keep the dream alive.

Rugby betting expert Iain Spragg previews this weekend’s matches.

The Red Rose haven’t lost at HQ since the 2015 World Cup.

That’s 13 games unbeaten and counting, and as potent as Warren Gatland’s side were in dispatching Scotland 34-7 in Cardiff, winning in London is an altogether different proposition.

Eddie Jones’s team are as short as 2/9 to make it four wins on the bounce against their Principality rivals. Wales are 17/5 to pull off their first Twickenham triumph in the Six Nations in six years, while a first draw between the sides since 1983 is 28/1.

The outright odds on England winning the tournament have shortened slightly after their 46-15 win in Italy from evens to 10/11. Wales’ prospects of being crowned champions have changed significantly and are now 7/1 after being 16/1 before their Scotland clash.

Wing Anthony Watson and number eight Sam Simmonds both helped themselves to a brace of tries for the Red Rose in Rome. Watson is now the 2/1 favourite to be the Championship’s top try scorer, while Six Nations debutant Simmonds is the second shortest priced in the field at 4/1.

Scrum-half Danny Care is set to start at HQ after Ben Youngs was ruled out for the duration with a knee injury. The Harlequins number nine was England’s joint top try scorer in the tournament in 2017 and is 80/1 to repeat the feat this year.

Wales have named an unchanged starting XV for Saturday after Leigh Halfpenny’s 24-point haul in Cardiff helped dismantle the Scots. His prolific performance has seen the full-back leapfrog Ireland’s Johnny Sexton (19/10) and England’s Owen Farrell as the new favourite at 6/4 to finish as this year’s top scorer.

Ireland vs Italy

This Saturday’s other fixture sees Ireland face Italy at the Aviva in what surely promises to be a one-sided affair. Joe Schmidt’s side have scored more than 50 points in their last two fixtures against the Italians while the Azzurri’s only ever win in Dublin was 21 years ago.

As a result, Ireland are 1/100 to make it maintain their unbeaten record in 2018. They are 1/25 to win by eight points or more, but better value at 1/16 to finish off Italy at least 13 points clear. The struggling Azzurri are 20/1 to record a rare victory in Dublin.

Ireland failed to score a try in their dramatic 15-13 win over France in Paris last weekend. Recent history, however, suggests scoring tries against Saturday’s visitors will not be a problem after they ran in nine in Rome 12 months ago.

Wing Keith Earls touched down twice in that 63-10 romp and is a 3/1 shot to finish as Ireland’s top try scorer this season. Fellow wing Jacob Stockdale is 7/2 while number CJ Stander, a hat-trick hero against Italy last year, is 9/1.

The home side have lost Leinster flanker Josh van der Flier with a knee ligament injury and are likely to promote provincial team-mate Dan Leavy to the starting XV.

Scotland vs France

Scotland clash with France at Murrayfield on Sunday with both teams reeling from their opening weekend defeats. The Scots’ mauling in Cardiff was the more unexpected result but both now desperately need to open their account in Edinburgh.

The home side have only beaten Les Bleus twice since the start of the Six Nations – most recently 29-18 in 2016 – but are still 12/25 to get the win this weekend. France are out at 17/10 while a draw which would not satisfy either team is 22/1.

The sides mustered just one try apiece last week. Centre Peter Horne scored for the Scots against Wales and is 4/1 to top the try-scoring charts for Gregor Townsend’s squad in the Championship. Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour are the same price while Sean Maitland is slightly longer at 5/1.

Wing Teddy Thomas touched down for Les Bleus in Paris and is 6/5 favourite to finish as France’s top try scorer. Fijian-born Virimi Vakatama is 6/1.
Scotland have lost wing Byron McGuigan to a hamstring while France’s teenage fly-half Matthieu Jalibert is out for the whole tournament with a knee injury.

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