Planet Rugby

6 Nations: Key battles this weekend

07th February 2014 13:28

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France L and Italy s players vie during a scrum

Scrum battle: France v Italy

With the second round of the Six Nations promising to both surprise and tantalise we take a look at some of the key match ups this weekend.

Drico & Darce vs Roberts & Williams

As Ireland's ultimate warrior Brian O'Driscoll lines up against the ever improving Scott Williams, in possibly his last Six Nations season, the evergreen Dubliner will be wanting to prove a point, especially as he's reunited with his partner in crime since U11 age group rugby, Gordon D'Arcy.

Factor in too that Wales' inside centre Jamie Roberts closed the game off in typical fashion against Italy and it's a midfield battle to whet the appetite.

The guile and offloading of D'Arcy and O'Driscoll's unmacthed eye for a gap versus the power of Roberts and the pragmatism of Williams. It's corker of a match up and one for the midfield connoisseurs for sure.

It is a battle that'll have all fans of the sport salivating and one almost too close to call, but with points to prove to Warren Gatland, we think that the Irishmen may just shade it.

'Big' Jim vs the Silent killer

England have managed to throw away two close games against top ranked opposition in consecutive outings. Undoubtedly they'll be looking to impose themselves physically on a Scottish side that brings consistency only in their ability to underperform.

Right in the engine room of this maelstrom will be the duel between the respective enforcers, locks 'Big' Jim Hamilton and Courtney Lawes .

Neither are noted for rugby subtlety. Big hits, power rucking and quality line-out ball combine with massive physical presences for both men.

Scotland improved greatly in the set piece in the November tests, the hard-scrummaging Hamilton learning quickly from some of the New Zealand line-out calls to deliver a couple of sterling performances in that area later on in the month. Meanwhile Lawes, the man ex-England boss Martin Johnson once refered to as his "silent killer," has transformed himself from a sometimes clumsy penalty merchant into a convincing forward leader and crushing tackler.

The similarities between the two big men are striking; both tower well over two meters tall and crush the scales at 120kg. Both are abrasive to the edge of the law and both have a seriously impressive amount of body art adorning their gangling arms!

It will truly be the immovable object meeting the irresistible force and brings a real edge to the fixture. Our view is Lawes probably has a few more facets to his game than Hamilton, so we'll cower behind our settee, let the impacts begin and call Lawes to take the honours.

Front row showdown

Italy and France love to compete in so many areas; art, literature, culinary skill, fashion; but one thing they love most of all is scrummaging!

This is one for all the denizens of the dark arts. Arguably the best two tightheads in world rugby anchor their respective scrums in the bull-like Nicolas Mas and the hirsute Martin Castrogiovanni.

However, on the loosehead, Italy have retired their two propping stalwarts in Salvatore Peruguni and the Count himself, Test centurion Andrea Lo Cicero, thus leaving Alberto De Marchi - with just 13 caps to his name - to fill the number 1 shirt. His compatriot, Michele Rizzo, was well and truly taught a lesson by Adam Jones during the Welsh fixture last week and Italy will need De Marchi to stand up to the equally merciless Frenchmen.

With French loosehead Thomas Domingo in compelling form, we believe that the diminutive but technically brilliant Clermont man will just add extra impetus to the Gallic front row and that France will steal the show, but it promises to be a battle of epic proportions.

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