Ireland will still be trying to figure out what went wrong against England as the reigning Six Nations champions prepare to go to Murrayfield in Week 2.
If their 2019 World Cup is a success, Joe Schmidt’s Ireland might look back on their 32-20 defeat at the Aviva Stadium to the Red Rose as the moment they were given a real wake-up call.
The darlings of northern hemisphere rugby have rightly received countless plaudits for their efforts in 2018 but no team, not even the All Blacks, can afford to stand still.
As for Scotland, Gregor Townsend’s men did what they needed to do in week 1 with a 33-20 victory over Italy in Edinburgh.
The Scots ran in five tries, with Blair Kinghorn bagging a hat-trick against an Azzurri side which did fight back and score three tries late on when Scotland took their feet off the gas.
Those late scores could also give Scotland a little more focus, as if they needed any, ahead of the arrival of the Irish on Saturday.
Looking at team news, the Scots have been hit by the loss of front-rower WP Nel which is a big blow for the hosts’ ambitions in the scrum and further means the home side will look keep the ball and avoid set pieces as much as possible.
Ireland have picked up a number of knocks after their bruising encounter with the English.
Back-rower CJ Stander and Devin Toner are out in the pack, while centre Garry Ringrose will also miss the clash at Murrayfield.
Ireland will miss Stander’s powerful running and work around the breakdown but they do have the luxury of more strength in depth than the Scots.
Ireland lost on their last visit to Murrayfield, with a 27-22 defeat in 2017 and it looks set to be another close one this weekend.
The Irish were also the last team to win in Edinburgh in the Six Nations back in 2016 and the Scots’ ground has become somewhat of fortress since then with wins over Australia, England, France, Ireland and Wales.
This once again should be a tight affair which Ireland might be able to edge, but the handicap market in Scotland’s favour could be the way to go.
Many will still be wondering how Wales got that victory away in Paris in their opening game but it puts Warren Gatland’s side in a great position for the remainder of the championship.
The French imploded after leading 16-0 at the break and Wales took their opportunities, with winger George North grabbing the headlines with a brace.
It was always vital Wales got off to a winning start, especially with their first two games away from home before some big encounters back in Cardiff.
A trip to Italy this weekend does provide the potential for a banana skin but judging by Italy’s efforts at Murrayfield, the Welsh should have little to fear.
The Azzurri are always going to be more of a force on their own patch but the side seem to have taken a step backwards in recent tournaments.
Skipper Sergio Parisse is edging towards the end of his career and he looks set to leave behind a side which continues to struggle with strength in depth.
Italy picked up a fair few knocks of their own in Edinburgh and head coach Conor O’Shea will have to shuffle the pack somewhat ahead of the arrival of the Welsh in Rome.
The Azzurri could have been three tries down in the opening stages of the defeat to Scotland, and Wales are likely to come out of the blocks quickly.
It is hard to see Wales making the same mistakes as the Scots in the final stages either, which suggests this could be a comprehensive margin of victory for the visitors.
Wales will get the job done in the Eternal City and then they can look forward to welcoming England to the Principality Stadium on February 23.
Eddie Jones and his coaching team deserve great credit for their performance across the Irish Sea and will be full of confidence ahead of the arrival of the French to Twickenham.
England’s returning Vunipola brothers plus having centre Manu Tuilagi back has given the Red Rose a real lift in quality.
Skipper Owen Farrell continues to impress, and it was the Saracens man who made 2018 World Player of the Year Jonathan Sexton look pretty average at the weekend.
Across the Channel, France imploded last weekend like only they can, as they threw away a great position to beat the Welsh in Gatland’s final season in the competition with the men in red.
Individual errors in open play and missing shots at goal during the first half ultimately cost the French big time in Paris and they will be a threat if they can eliminate those costly mistakes from their game.
However, this ever-improving England side are looking really dangerous now with their tails up and they will be doing all they can to ensure their efforts in Dublin last week were not in vein.
The French will have their moments in this contest, so do not for a minute expect the hosts to have it all their own way for the 80 minutes at HQ on Sunday.
That powerful French pack will provide some punch for 60-65 minutes but then England’s superior fitness and ability to move the opposition around the park, should take its toll.
This should be a good win for England and then the men in white can start to dream of a Grand Slam, which would be a fantastic achievement, especially with the World Cup in Japan edging ever closer.
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