I predicted the three winning nations in the opening round but the manner of Wales’ victory came as a huge surprise.
Welsh coach Warren Gatland might just be the only person on the planet who genuinely believed that Wales were going to thrash Scotland – and that they did. That 34-7 bonus point victory certainly raised a few eyebrows over at Twickenham.
Meanwhile, Johnny Sexton produced another moment of magic to lead Ireland to victory at the Stade de France.
Trailing as the clock ticked past 80 minutes, Ireland – after well over 40 phases of attack – were saved by their fly half once again as he kicked a superb drop goal to spark jubilant scenes on the French turf.
It was business as usual for England over in Rome. As expected, Eddie Jones’ men ran away with this one in the end, touching down for seven tries in the 46-15 success.
England must work on the defensive aspect of their game ahead of the blockbuster battle with Wales this weekend though. Check out my top tips on the action…
IRELAND vs Italy
Ireland needed a late Sexton drop goal to defeat France in Paris but Joe Schmidt’s side won’t have too many problems here.
With respect to Italy, Ireland are one of the top two rugby nations in the northern hemisphere and the visitors may be up against it if the home side go for the jugular. 7/10 for Ireland to win by 31 points or more is a decent price.
Conor O’Shea will relish a first trip to the Aviva Stadium as Italy head coach and some may fancy Italy on the handicap.
A four-try bonus point win for Ireland looks inevitable but the visitors will be determined to notch a score or two of their own. O’Shea is a master tactician and he could have something up his sleeve ahead of Saturday’s clash.
For me, Ireland will be too strong and if they start quickly, this one could get ugly for Italy.
It is a complete mismatch and Schmidt’s men will prove that this weekend – take the 7/10 on offer for Ireland at -30.5 on the handicap.
ENGLAND vs Wales
A tough one to call. England, plagued by injury issues but still able to select a formidable squad against Italy, take on Warren Gatland’s new-look Wales at Twickenham in the pick of this weekend’s games.
The Red Rose have won five of their last six games against Wales, including last year’s titanic battle at the Principality Stadium, but that record will mean absolutely nothing when the two teams step onto the field.
Will England miss the likes of Elliott Daly, scorer of the winning try last year, Billy Vunipola and Ben Youngs? Potentially. Fortunately for the hosts, Eddie Jones is blessed with one of the most complete squads in international rugby.
Gatland has gone with an unchanged team for this one and he will be hoping that his side play their attractive Scarlets-influenced brand of rugby. Wales were ruthless when thrashing Scotland on the opening weekend…
8/5 for England to win by 1-12 points is a decent price. The selection has landed in four of their last five victories against Wales and that is my top tip ahead of the Twickenham showpiece.
SCOTLAND vs France
If anyone has a point to prove this weekend, it is Scotland. Gregor Townsend’s side were on the back foot from start to finish against Wales and they never really recovered after falling 14 points behind early on.
Scotland have their fair share of injury woes but you would like to think that this side have enough quality to put France to the sword.
In years gone by, France have developed a reputation as one of the most inconsistent teams in world rugby. With new head coach Jacques Brunel at the helm, the French will be looking to build a platform for success ahead of the 2019 World Cup.
This is a transitional period for Les Bleus and this year’s competition is something of a learning curve for Brunel and his backroom staff.
France snatched defeat from the jaws of victory last time out and a second loss beckons if Scotland are able to regain their form.
Townsend’s side put 50 points on Australia back in November and the home fans will be expecting a big effort. I still fancy this one to be tight though, Scotland to win by 1-12 points is worth backing at 7/5.