The Six Nations kicked off last weekend and all involved will be hoping to get through this years competition without a repeat of last years fractured competition caused by a seven month suspension of proceedings due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Need a Six Nations VPN?
The Ireland vs Italy match, originally scheduled to take place on March 7th was one of the first major sporting events to be called off as a result of the pandemic and served as the first real notice to those in the UK and Ireland that things were a lot more serious that our governments had been letting on up until that point. Fun Fact: ‘Six Nations VPN’ is one of the most searched phrases on Google!
🏉 Six Nations VPN 2021
📺 Free Live Rugby Streaming on BBC & ITV + Catchup on BBC iPlayer & ITV Hub
📅 6 February – 20 March
Having begun on February 1st, the competition didn’t end until October 31st and saw England crowned Champions for the 29th time overall, and the 7th time in the current format, narrowly beating out France on points difference.
This season’s competition has already seen some quality action as well as a couple of somewhat surprising results, if not out and out upsets. This weekend there are, as usual, three well laid out games of which the organisers and broadcasters would like you to watch all of them, so to get you in the mood we thought we’d throw together a quick preview of the three games.
🏴 England vs Italy 🇮🇹
Saturday 13 March | 1415 GMT
For the 28th time in total and the 22nd time since the competition expanded to allow their inclusion, Italy will face England this weekend seeking their first ever win. This will be the 16th meeting of the sides on English soil and the hosts will be looking to maintain their 100% dominance over their Italian visitors. Italy are massive underdogs heading into this game, and for good reason. It’s not just that they have lost 27 straight matches to England, it’s also that they’ve been beaten by two or more scores on 24 of those 27 occasions. Only in 2010, 2012 and 2013 did they manage to cause England real problems and contest a close game. In recent years these games have not been very competitive with the average margin of victory in the last four games being 30 points. The English are the only team in the Six Nations that Italy, still very much an emerging nation in the Rugby world, are yet to beat. They hold multiple victories over Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France but the English are the last mountain they need to conquer in the Northern Hemisphere.
Last year the sides met at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome and England ran out 34-5 winners in the match which clinched the 2020 Six Nations Championship for them. Italy did give England a good test in the first half and went into the break trailing by just four points before England ran away with the contest in the second half.
England are the number two ranked team in world rugby right now according to the World Rugby Rankings, holding a narrow advantage over 3rd placed New Zealand and trailing only reigning World Champions South Africa. They began their 2021 Six Nations campaign in disappointing fashion losing a low scoring game at home to Scotland, and losing the Calcutta Cup at the same time. The 11-6 loss was also notable as England, having averaged almost three tries per game in last years Six Nations, failed to cross the end line with their only scores coming from two penalties by Owen Farrell.
By contrast, Italy sit a lowly 14th in the World Rugby Rankings. In truth, it would be close to impossible for them to be any higher than 10th given the strength of the other Six Nations teams as well as those in The Rugby Championship. Of those nine teams, Argentina are the only real comparison for the Italians given their similar history and rise within the game. Historically both teams sit well behind England, France, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa as Rugby powerhouses. But Argentina appear to have done a much better job at developing talent and becoming competitive than the Italians have. Argentina drew twice with Australia and beat New Zealand last year, whereas Italy were demolished by France in their first match of this years Six Nations, losing by a score of 50-10.
Both teams are likely to ring the changes from last weekend, but, regardless of who plays, England will expect an outcome similar to that of their French counterparts. Defeat to Italy would be massively embarrassing and could see the position of Eddie Jones come under question.
🏴 Scotland vs Wales 🏴
Saturday 13 March | 1645 GMT
The late game on Saturday afternoon will see the 127th meeting of Scotland and Wales, as the two sides come together to contest the Doddie Weir Cup for the 4th time. Wales have held historical superiority in this clash, with 73 wins compared to 50 for the Scots. Scotland were victorious when the sides met last year however, and with two wins in the last five contests they will be hopeful that the tide is turning in their favour after a terrible run where they won only one of fourteen contests between the two. From a Welsh point of view, they will look at their dominance over most of the past two decades as payback for Scottish superiority in the two that came before.
The sides met in the final round of last years competition in a game that had nothing other than pride, and the Doddie Weir Cup, on the line and Scotland heading home with the cup under their arm after a hard fought 14-10 win in Llanelli.
Scotland were ranked number 7 in the World Rugby Rankings before their defeat of England and will expect to see their name higher on that list if they can overcome Wales as well. That win over England marked was a sign of the growth of Scottish Rugby in recent years and was the pay-off they’ve worked for as they’ve rebuilt their team and embraced the plethora of talented young players who in previous years would have been shunned as older players were allowed to live off past glories. The dynamism of their young pack was the highlight of the win over the English, as they dominated the breakdown and drove England backwards over and over again.
Wales sit 9th in the rankings after a very disappointing 2020 campaign that saw them win only one game, to basement dwellers Italy. The positive for the Welsh was that they pushed England and France every step of the way, losing both games by less than less than five points and had a similar outcome against the Scots. Only Ireland beat them by more than one score, and Wales took swift revenge for that this season as they opened their 2021 campaign with a 21-16 win over the Irish in Cardiff last weekend.
Two sides coming off big wins should mean two confident sides heading into this game. Two confident sides should make for a cracking game of Rugby.
🇮🇪 Ireland vs France 🇫🇷
Sunday 14 March | 1500 GMT
The 100th meeting between Ireland and France comes as the two sides are in contrasting situations. France are a team on the rise, favourites to win this season’s competition and desperate for redemption after they underestimated Scotland last year, lost in Murrayfield and cost themselves what had seemed like a certain Grand Slam and a first title since 2010. They’d done much of the heavy lifting with victories over England and Wales, as well as a win over Italy, but slipped up at Murrayfield. Ireland on the other hand are in somewhat of a transitional phase, as they’ve had to witness the retirements of Sean O’Brien, Rob Kearney and Rory Best over the past 18 months and haven’t yet replaced those three stalwarts as yet. Though France dominated the rivalry from the mid 50s into the early 10’s, Ireland have enjoyed victory in six of the last eight to somewhat close France’s historical lead of 57 victories to 35.
These team met in the final game of last season’s Championship with France running out 35-27 winners in a game that left both sides reflecting on what could have been. Victory for Ireland could have seen them crowned winners, while France were left to rue that defeat in Scotland knowing that even a bonus point on that day would have seen them crowned Champions.
Ireland rank number 5 in the world but come into this game having suffered a disappointing defeat to Wales in the first outing of this years competition, a defeat that saw Peter O’Mahony sent off and earn himself a three match ban which will start this weekend. That early red card to O’Mahony cost his team massively as despite having taken a 16-6 lead into the second half they eventually ran out of steam and lost 21-16 as Wales made the man advantage tell. Andy Farrell will have to ensure that his team show more discipline this weekend so as not to set themselves on the back foot against a team that will not give them a moments rest.
France sit just above Ireland in the rankings at number 4 and began this years Championship by beating up Italy in Rome last weekend in a match that served as little more than a training session for them. They ran in seven tries, with five members of the backline accounting for six of them. That should provide a good confidence boost to players who’s performance can fluctuate drastically depending on their confidence and attitude.
Having beaten Ireland so recently, France will believe they can repeat the trick and leave Dublin with a comprehensive win to set themselves on the path to the title. For Ireland, a response is needed after last weekend.
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