Nick Easter’s Six Nations predictions: England to end Calcutta Cup hoodoo and ‘fear’ for Wales

James While
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Former England forward Nick Easter makes his Six Nations round three precitions.

Ex-England forward Nick Easter makes his Six Nations round three predictions.

Ex-England number eight Nick Easter sits down with Planet Rugby’s James While to make his predictions for Round Three of this year’s Six Nations.

We have teamed up with eToro, the official investing and trading partner of Premiership Rugby, to cover the 2024 Six Nations, previewing and reviewing the entire tournament.

Following on from Chris Pateson’s Expert Witness into the third round, we have asked Easter to make his predictions for the upcoming games in the championship.

And just to make it a bit of fun, we’ll be making our own predictions for each match and will track our performance week-by-week to see whether we can outsmart our illustrious guests.

Last week, Easter and Planet Rugby correctly predicted all three winning teams, but the former England star was four points closer to the correct margin of victories than our predictions.

Without further ado, here are Easter’s predictions and previews.

Ireland v Wales

I fear for Wales in this match, given that Ireland will come into the game refreshed and recharged after a few of their stars were rested against Italy.

Wales have battled hard and punched well above their weight in this tournament, but there are a lot of issues positionally within their team, and they’re very much going through a rebuild and exploration stage.

Ireland, meanwhile, are looking even more cohesive than last year, and their ability to have options of a carrying nine or ten, together with a long exit strategy from either their half-backs or James Lowe, will cause Wales no end of issues.

The biggest problem that Gatland’s men face is they lack control and experience at ten, with a number of options tried but none shining so far.
I call this 35-12 to Ireland in a game that I think Wales will struggle to get any form of return from.

Head to Head: Two heartbeat young locks will have a right old tussle as Dafydd Jenkins and Joe McCarthy go up against each other. Jenkins is an outstanding prospect and superb in maul defence, whereas McCarthy’s abrasion has taken the Irish pack up another notch.

Players to Watch: For Wales, it’s Sam Costelow, a man that’s struggled so far to get to grips with the pace of test rugby. If Wales are to succeed, then he needs to shine. Ireland’s regular full-back Hugo Keenan is injured, but Ciaran Frawley has been in impressive form for Leinster, and he has a golden opportunity to express himself with no downside.

Six Nations: Ireland v Wales predictions. Planet Rugby (35-20) and Nick Easter (35-12).

Scotland v England

Another real humdinger ahead of us at Murrayfield and Scotland will want to right their perceived wrongs in the last round against France. However, there’s something about the Scots mentality that embraces being the underdog but doesn’t deal well with the pressure of being favourites as they are in this game.

With a filthy day predicted, the gainline battle and setpiece success will inform the outcome, and it’s no surprise Gregor Townsend has gone with his most physical pack and also recalled WP Nel at tighthead.

The clash in midfield of the wonderous handling of the Scottish backline against the English rush will be interesting, but people are forgetting that this Felix Jones system goes back to Jacques Nienaber and the Springboks in 2019, so it’s nothing new. However, the resilience that England have shown, together with their kicking accuracy, means I believe that Borthwick’s men will do a job here in a close scoring game that will see England by 5, so I am calling this 21-16 to the visitors.

Head to Head: I’ve mentioned the breakdown, and we’ll see a clash of styles here. England will look to clear and hit hard, but Scotland have the poachers to do damage. Sam Underhill and Rory Darge are two high-quality opensides, and whoever wins that personal battle will go a long way to getting his side home.

Players to Watch: For me, it’s almost another head-to-head with Ollie Lawrence back and raring to go against the superb Sione Tuipulotu. Both players are crowd-pleasers to watch, and I’ll be interested to see how Lawrence goes after his injury issues.

Six Nations prediction Scotland v England: Planet Rugby (30-20) Nick Easter (16-21)

France v Italy

France without Dupont is like playing cricket against New Zealand without Kane Williamson. They simply are a much lesser side without him. While everyone understands the chaos he brings in the attack, the real issue has been missing his exit kicking. He clears 50m plus off either foot, and that’s the difference between restarting in the opposition half or the wrong side of your own 10m line, crucial margins at test match level.

I also believe that whilst Peato Mauvaka is an outstanding open-field hooker, the solidity of Julien Marchand in setpiece and in breakdown has been sorely missed, and the French lineout has suffered as a result.

France need their big back-row runners to step up and put in performances as they’ve done in previous years, and if they do that, France will win by 15 or 20, around the 32-15 mark. But they cannot afford to underestimate the gas in the Italian backline – the only issue the Azzurri have is if their forwards can man up enough to get usable ball, and from what I have seen thus far that’s a real concern.

Head to Head: Surprisingly, Italy have shifted the in-form Tommaso Menoncello from inside centre to the wing with Federico Mori nudged into the midfield. The Bayonne midfield is in a similar mould to Menoncello, being a big, brawny but skilled centre who runs great lines and can also fill in on the wing and goes up against the known class of Jonathan Danty. Danty hasn’t been his formidable self this season, and his defence has been lacking on a number of occasions, so I’ll be interested to see how he goes against the impressive Benetton man.

Players to Watch: For Italy to have any chance, Danilo Fischetti must cope with the extreme power of Uini Atonio up front. Fischetti is wonderful around the park, but he’ll be up against the heaviest tighthead side of a scrum in the world. Francois Cros has been France’s most consistent player to date, and his industry is key to providing a fast ruck ball for his hungry backs to feed off.

Six Nations: France v Italy predictions. Planet Rugby (38-18) and Nick Easter (32-15).

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