Ireland and England maintained their perfect starts while France also won on week two of the Women’s Six Nations, but which teams will be standing tall after round three?
The Irish still lead proceedings on 10 points with England second on nine. France sit third on five points, Wales fourth on four, Scotland fifth with one and Italy have zero points.
This weekend sees round two’s biggest losers Scotland and Wales locking horns. A rampant England at their old stomping ground looking to romp Italy and early leaders Ireland hoping to be third time lucky against a reinvigorated France.
After a one week break, the 2017 Womens Six Nations Championship is set to resume and here are the matches to come in round three…
Scotland v Wales
Progressive Scotland were given a harsh reality check by a fired up France as they lost 55-0 in week two following their agonising defeat to Ireland in round one.
The Scots were still in the contest at half time as they trailed 17-0 before the French ran in six second half tries to run away with the game.
Wales too suffered a crushing 63-0 home loss to a clinical England, which brought Rowland Phillips’ five-match unbeaten start as head coach to a stuttering halt.
The Welsh were outclassed as the ruthless Red Roses showed no mercy in scoring 11 tries at Cardiff Arms Park in front of a stunned 4,000-plus strong crowd.
“We go by the quote: ‘It’s not over when you lose, it’s over when you quit’,” said a defiant Welsh scrum-half Sian Moore of her country’s heavy defeat to England.
“There are no quitters in our squad, so we will bounce back and it will make us stronger.”
Both teams go into this encounter badly needing a win to kick-start (in the case of Scotland) or re-start (in the case of Wales) their respective campaigns following recent setbacks.
Prediction: Wales by 20
Scotland: 15 Chloe Rollie, 14 Megan Gaffney, 13 Lisa Thomson, 12 Lisa Martin (c), 11 Rhona Lloyd, 10 Helen Nelson, 9 Sarah Law, 8 Jade Konkel 7 Louise McMillan, 6 Jemma Forsyth, 5 Deborah McCormack, 4 Emma Wassell, 3 Lindsey Smith, 2 Lana Skeldon, 1 Tracey Balmer
Replacements: 16 Lucy Park, 17 Heather Lockhart, 18 Katie Dougan, 19 Sarah Bonar, 20 Lyndsay O’Donnell, 21 Jenny Maxwell, 22 Eilidh Sinclair, 23 Lauren Harris
Wales: 15 Dyddgu Hywel, 14 Jasmine Joyce, 13 Kerin Lake, 12 Rebecca de Filippo, 11 Elan Evans, 10 Elinor Snowsill, 9 Rhiannon Parker, 8 Rachel Taylor 7 Sioned Harries, 6 Alisha Butchers, 5 Melissa Clay, 4 Rebecca Rowe, 3 Amy Evans, 2 Carys Phillips (c), 1 Cerys Hale
Replacements: 16 Lpwri Harries, 17 Gwenllian Pyrs, 18 Caryl Thomas, 19 Siwan Lillicrap, 20 Nia Davies, 21 Sian Moore, 22 Robyn Wilkins, 23 Gemma Rowland
Date: Friday, February 24
Venue: Broadwood Stadium
Kick-off: 18:20 GMT
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Joy Neville (Ireland), Alex Pratt
TMO: Stefano Pennè (Italy)
England v Italy
All guns blazing England will be buoyed by their impressive 63-0 demolition of Wales, which took their scoring spree to 89 points without concession since France led 13-0 at half-time in week one.
Despite the staggering margin of victory, the Red Roses are still seeking perfection in their performance and know a similar, if not better display will be required to see off Italy.
“They are a good attacking side and they will be spirited,” said England head coach Simon Middleton of the Italians.
“We will look to put the little things right and reinforce the things we did well. We are really looking forward to another huge Six Nations performance.”
To do so, they will need to unravel a dogged Italy side which has proven difficult to break down against both Wales and Ireland – especially in the opening half.
The Azzurre were level with Ireland 3-3 at the interval before succumbing to another second half collapse as the Irish ran in four tries after the restart.
While England are heavy favourites to win well, Italy are sure to put up some firm resistance as they aim to frustrate the World Champions.
Prediction: England by 30
England: 15 Sarah McKenna, 14 Amy Wilson Hardy, 13 Emily Scarratt, 12 Rachael Burford, 11 Kay Wilson, 10 Emily Scott, 9 La Toya Mason, 8 Sarah Hunter (c), 7 Marlie Packer, 6 Alex Matthews, 5 Tamara Taylor, 4 Harriet Millar-Mills, 3 Laura Keates, 2 Vicky Fleetwood, 1 Justine Lucas
Replacements: 16 Amy Cokayne, 17 Rochelle Clark, 18 Sarah Bern, 19 Poppy Cleall, 20 Izzy Noel-Smith, 21 Natasha Hunt, 22 Katy Mclean, 23 Amber Reed
Italy: 15 Manuela Furlan, 14 Sofia Stefan, 13 Michela Sillari, 12 Paola Zangirolami, 11 Maria Magatti, 10 Beatrice Rigoni, 9 Sara Barattin (c), 8 Elisa Giordano, 7 Isabellla Locatelli, 6 Lucia Cammarano, 5 Alice Trevisan, 4 Elisa Pillotti, 3 Lucia Gai, 2 Melissa Bettoni, 1 Marta Ferrari
Replacements: 16 Elisa Cucchiella, 17 Gaia Giacomoli, 18 Valentina Ruzza, 19 Michela Este, 20 Valeria Fedrighi, 21 Ilaria Arrighetti, 22 Veronica Madia, 23 Elisa Bonaldo
Date: Saturday, February 25
Venue: The Stoop, Twickenham
Kick-off: 13:00 GMT
Referee: Graham Cooper (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Claire Hodnett (England), Local
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
Ireland v France
For the second match running a lucky Ireland grabbed an all-important four try bonus in the last play of the game in Italy, as they did in Scotland.
Without being impressive, the below par Irish have taken the maximum points haul from their first two fixtures to lead the table going into round three.
“We took away the bonus point even-though we didn’t perform as well as we should have,” admitted Ireland flanker Claire Molloy after the Italy win.
“We tried to play an expansive game,” said Ireland head coach Tom Tierney of his team’s style of rugby.
“When it’s done right, it is effective. But when the accuracy isn’t there you’d nearly pull your hair out sometimes.”
Ireland though know they will need to produce their best showing to date in this year’s Championship if they are to overcome a revitalised France.
Les Bleus scored nine tries as they overwhelmed Scotland 55-0 to get their campaign back on track in round two after losing in England.
The Irish will be without captain Niamh Briggs, who is ruled out of the tournament with injury, as they hope to make it three from three.
Prediction: France by 8
Ireland: 15 Mairead Coyne, 14 Kim Flood, 13 Jenny Murphy, 12 Claire McLaughlin, 11 Eimear Considine, 10 Nora Stapleton, 9 Mary Healy, 8 Paula Fitzpatrick (c), 7 Claire Molloy, 6 Ciara Griffin, 5 Marie Louise Reilly, 4 Sophie Spence, 3 Ailis Egan, 2 Leah Lyons, 1 Lindsay Peat
Replacements: 16 Ciara O’Connor, 17 Ilse van Staden, 18 Ruth O’Reilly, 19 Ciara Cooney, 20 Nichola Fryday, 21 Larissa Muldoon, 22 Nikki Caughey, 23 Louise Galvin
France: 15 Jessy Tremouliere, 14 Camille Grassineau, 13 Caroline Ladagnous, 12 Elodie Poublan, 11 Shannon Izar, 10 Camille Cabalou, 9 Jade Le Pesq, 8 Safi N’Diaye, 7 Romane Menager, 6 Marjorie Mayans, 5 Audrey Forlani, 4 Lenaig Corson, 3 Julie Duval, 2 Gaelle Mignot (c), 1 Lise Arricastre
Replacements: 16 Caroline Thomas, 17 Annaelle Deshayes, 18 Celine Ferer, 19 Laetitia Grand, 20 Yanna Rivoalen, 21 Lucille Godiveau, 22 Marine Menager, 23 Patricia Carricaburu
Date: Sunday, February 26
Kick-off: 12:45 GMT
Referee: Sara Cox (England)
Assistant Referees: Beatrice Benvenuti (Italy), Helen O’Reilly (Ireland)
TMO: Sean Davey (England)
By Aron Hegarty