Nick Easter’s Six Nations predictions: One away win on the cards and the ‘test’ Wales will provide England

James While
Sponsored Post

Nick Easter joins us to predict the upcoming Six Nations matches.

Former England number eight Nick Easter sits down with Planet Rugby’s James While to make his predictions for Round Two 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 Adam Jones’ Expert Witness delving deep into the second 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.

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

Scotland v France

Last week’s loss to Ireland will have really shaken the French side up and if they lose this weekend some big questions will be asked. Their much vaunted back-row didn’t turn up last week and other than a very committed display from Francois Cros, the big carriers Charles Ollivon and Gregory Alldritt didn’t do much denting at all.

Scotland’s match went from sublime to poor in two halves and for them to overcome a motivated France the key is their set-piece and how they compete in the lineout. The loss of Richie Gray is big for them, although I like the way they’ve rejigged their back-row in terms of adding Jack Dempsey back in and recalling a fit Rory Darge.

France also need to repeat the job that Jamison Gibson-Park did on Maxime Lucu, a man that will be playing for his place and reputation after last week’s poor display.

Head-to-head: Cameron Woki’s recall is key for France as he’ll add workrate and a sure supply of lineout ball. Grant Gilchrist returns for the Scots and although his superpowers are his abrasion and maul work, whichever of these two locks emerges on top will have a big influence on the match.

Players to watch: Ben White doesn’t get the plaudits he deserves but his knowledge of Lucu from playing in France will be key. I am also looking forward to seeing Nolann le Garrec perform off the bench as if Lucu fails again, Le Garrec is in form and ready to take over as the starting nine.

England v Wales

Here’s two teams in pretty similar rebuilding stages, although England’s Rugby World Cup campaign does give them a slightly better platform to build upon.

The real battleground is going to be how the breakdown pans out; England achieved a lot of sub two second ruck ball in the Italian Test but against that Welsh back-row, who are specialists on the floor, I think that might become an issue. It’s key to clear out hard and directly, with the second man in playing a crucial role and to use width to fatigue the defending stealers, getting them out of position.

England will want structure and will use a kicking game but Wales will thrive upon broken field opportunities and that will test the new Felix Jones defence, which relies upon reloading and fitness to deliver results.

Head to head: I’ve mentioned the back-rows but the real battle is that of the half-backs. Alex Mitchell and George Ford will offer a much better kicking and territorial game, whilst with Ioan Lloyd at 10, more of a utility player, Wales will look to deconstruct as much as possible and could challenge England hard unless that defence we mentioned works well.

Players to watch: Fraser Dingwall for England is a very talented distributor and if he gets into the match he’ll create opportunities for others. For Wales, I am interested to see how young flanker Alex Mann goes – a really spiky and abrasive character who seems to step up every game he plays.

Ireland v Italy

It’s a real shame that Italy are playing with one of the best backlines I can ever recall them having but that their front five simply isn’t as competitive as in times gone by. Tommaso Menoncello and Juan Ignacio Brex are as good as any centre pairing in the Six Nations and if they get enough ball we know there’s gas outside them to finish.

For Ireland, this will be a good chance to mix and match their thinking and to test their new combinations. Already we’ve seen the quality of Joe McCarthy overtaking a player of the quality of James Ryan and the Irish stocks look deep.

Unless there’s a big turnaround in the forward effort from Italy this could be a tough day at the office for the Azzurri, but don’t bet against them to break Ireland’s defence down a couple of times for some flowing rugby from their backline.

Head-to-head: James Lowe’s importance to Ireland’s game is often underappreciated as his running power and pace is backed up by a booming left boot that relieves the pressure on the men in green. This week he is set to go up against the exciting Ange Capuozzo, who returns after missing their opener because of a stomach bug. Their battle should be worth the entrance fee alone.

Players to watch: That man Menoncello in the centres is a fantastic athlete and is as direct and powerful as they come. For Ireland, keep an eye on Andrew Porter, a man that really needs to convince officials that his work in the tight is legal.

The Six Nations predictions is brought to by eToro, the official investing and trading partner of Premiership Rugby.

Tackle investing the smart way and join millions of UK investors on eToro today. The friendly platform for serious investors.

eToro is a multi-asset investment platform. The value of your investments may go up or down. Your capital is at risk.

READ MORE: England v Wales preview: Red Rose to extend Welsh woe and reign supreme at Twickenham