A pivotal weekend in the Six Nations kicks off in a few hours as Wales take on Italy at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. Some have suggested the dropping of captain Sam Warburton is to protect him for more important games, but both the camp and the player have been keen to emphasise that he really is hurt, and would not be playing were this France in Dunedin.
The bookies don’t give the Italians much hope, installing Wales as crushing favourites (1/33, SkyBet) to win the match and take another step towards the Grand Slam. This is probably justified given the total lack of progress Italy have made over the last three years, and there could be tries too if North and Cuthbert click.
Scotland (10/3, Ladbrokes) will pop to the Aviva today in the later game, and with their hosts Ireland (3/10) are a clear favourite despite the loss of Sean O’Brien to injury. Actually, with the flanker being replaced by O’Mahony, we may be seeing another future star, and O’Brien has faded slightly of late, so it may be the wake-up call he needs to refocus.
France (11/25, BetFair) host England (11/4) in Paris on Sunday, and despite a loss to Wales the English camp has been buzzing this week. If they are allowed to compete with France under the control of a competent referee, not the walking, bleating joke that is Steve Walsh, scourge of rugby and hogger of mirrors, then we may see a really good game here, and some lovely play.
Overall, Wales are 9/20 with Betfair to win the Championship, and 8/15 to do the Grand Slam with Bet365. This year has been a fantastic, open affair so far and we can only hope it continues through and gives us a few more brilliant battles.