Friday, February 22, 2019

Six Nations Round 3 Preview: France v Scotland, Wales v England

It’s come down to a battle of undefeateds at the Millennium on Saturday for the probable 6Nats crown. And here’s the rub: if an international player plays in a league outside their native country, they would have been expected to play last weekend as was the case for standoffs Dan Biggar, Wales-Gallagher Premiership, and Finn Russell, Scotland-Top 14, while international players who play in a league in their own nations get a rest.
No rub, you say? Well in the same match at La Défense Arena wherein Russell played the greater part of it, a trio of significant French internationals on Racing’s opponent, Toulouse, were not even rostered. Similarly, Dan Biggar played for Saints last weekend (and went off with a knock in the second stanza), while his potential oppo Saturday, Owen Farrell, had a rest. And one might say that is an aspect governed by contractual terms, but still, more than coincidence?

And one might further say, “doesn’t matter, because Gareth Anscombe’s starting, but how much did Biggar’s “knock-and-sit” come into Warren Gatland’s decision to field the Kiwi? 

France v Scotland 

France (1) v (5) Scotland  at Stade de France, 7:15am Saturday, 2.23: with Les Bleus 0-2-0 and losing ignominiously to Wales in the opening round and then last round to England by the greatest margin ever, excitement such as not seen since La Revolution is bouncing allover the country with the rolling head brigade out in full voice, demanding everyone from head coach Jacques Brunel to a ticket taker or two be replaced toute suite; Scotland have split thus far after a pair of Tests, looking good against Italy and failing the Ireland exam.
And Monsieur Brunel delivered wholesale changes to his backline with Morgan Parra and Camille Lopez being dropped through the side in favor of youngsters Antoine Dupont (22 yrs) at 9 and Romain Ntamack (19 yrs) at 10. Fullback Maxime Medard has been relegated to the bench in lieu of 23 years old Tommie Ramos; and the midfield of Gael Fickou and Matthieu Bastareaud will be looking to blast holes in their opponents three-quartersline.
Vern Cotter has thrown the switch on a number of slots as well, but through injury rather than prior performance. Peter Horne starts in place of injured Finn Russell at 10, while Blair Kinghorn fills the 15 shirt for an ailing Stuart Hogg; South African-born Josh Strauss takes over for the injured Ryan Wilson and 23 years old blindside, Magnus Bradbury, gets the 6 jersey; Jonny Gray and Grant Gilchrist form up in the engine room while Ben Toolis provides cover at lock off the bench.
Weather will be damned near perfect: low 60s and clear.
Wales v England

Wales (8) v (10) England at Millennium, 9:45 MST: Wales have changed two from their Italian win, Gareth Davies at 9 due injury Tomos Williams and Cory Hill comes on in the engine room for Adam Beard who’ll start on the bench.
England see Mario Itoje and Mako Vunipola out with injury from their tight five and calf-strained Chris Ashton being replaced by Joe Cokanasiga as last man on the bench. Courtney Lawes and Ben Moon start in relief at numbers 5 and 3 resp. while Joe Launchbury takes Lawes’ seat on the pine. 

Weather is meant to be abso perfect in Cardiff with temperatures in the low 50s, cloud cover and the littlest bit of wind for the Test whose outcome must produce the 2019 Six Nations champion.

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