THE TABLE AFTER ROUND TWO –
U20 6N preview: Ross Thompson on learning to swim in the deep end
PRO14: Ultimate club man Harley to break Warriors appearance record
PRO14: Edinburgh are getting used to making their own luck
ROUND THREE PREDICTIONS –
FRANCE v ITALY
- Tony Stanger: France win by 23
“France to start strong then fade but still too much for the Italians.”
- Tom English: France win by 12
“Results-wise this is the worst French team in 50 years, but surely the embarrassment of last week will spark enough of a response to get past Italy.”
- Craig Gossman: France win by 10
“Off field issues to make it tighter than normal but France to come through.”
- Simon Taylor: France win by 15
“France to win despite themselves .”
- Phil Smith: France win by 27
“Playing in Marseille is a positive move by France, as well as an intelligent one in respect of results that they have achieved there. Despite the changes I suspect a full onslaught of their powers will be coming Italy’s way.”
- Rory Baldwin: France win by 40
- Viki Mendelssohn: France to win by 25
“The boys in green will be too strong in every area of the pitch for the Italians.
- Peter Wright: France win by 11
“Home advantage should be enough.”
- Stuart Bathgate: France win by 9
“After two narrow defeats, France should eventually prevail against the Italians, but it won’t be pretty.”
- David Barnes: Italy win by 2
“It would be great to see all those pompous elitists who want to see Italy thrown on the Six Nations scrapheap eat their words, and France are vulnerable. ”
- Dougie Vipond: France win by 15
“The French were shocking at Murrayfield a fortnight ago, ill-disciplined and out of condition. They’ve got no wins from 2 in this championship and although Italy have been showing signs of improvement, France will bludgeon their way to victory..”
- Angus Vipond: Italy win by 3
“Italy could cause an upset this year. They have shown they have a young exciting team and if they are to beat anyone this Six Nations it will be France.”
- Barry Thomson: France win by 16
“Tighten up a bit on their discipline and home advantage should count for something.”
- Andrew Slorance: Italy win by 7
“Enigmatic French appear in a bit of disarray with banned players and indifferent form. Fancy Italians to sneak this one, though just as likely France will romp it. Enigmatic as I say!”
- Martin Cooper: France win by 5
“Could be tight but there are a few French players with a point to prove after being left out for first few matches.”
IRELAND v WALES
- Tony Stanger: Ireland win by 12
“A tight one but home advantage will swing it in Ireland’s favour.”
- Tom English: Ireland win by 5
“A really hard one to call, but home advantage might well count here.”
- Craig Gossman: Ireland win by 8
“Home advantage counts for Ireland but made tougher with a few key players missing.”
- Simon Taylor: Ireland win by 8
“Ireland look kind of implacable right now.”
- Phil Smith: Ireland win by 8
“Home advantage could make all the difference here. As despite the heavy win against Italy I do not think Ireland have hit the heights they are hoping for, yet. However, the Welsh defence is proving stubborn, and it was only really intelligent kicking by England that unlocked it.”
- Rory Baldwin: Ireland win by 6
“A Wales win would be better for the tournament but Ireland should be very strong at home..”
- Viki Mendelssohn: Ireland win by 16.
“Ireland are the form team, cohesive and playing some really smart rugby. I think they will be too good.”
- Peter Wright: Wales win by 8
“I’ve been back and forward on this one all week. Now, having seen the Ireland team, I’m going to go for Wales, who have a few big players coming back.”
- Stuart Bathgate: Ireland win by 7
“It won’t be pretty but it will be engrossing, with home advantage winning out.”
- David Barnes: Wales win by 3
“A righteous sense of indignations drives the men and red to a historic victory.”
- Dougie Vipond: Ireland win by 3
“It’s always a pretty tight affair between these two. This is Gatland’s 100th test in charge of Wales and he welcomes Halfpenny, Williams and Biggar back into the team. Although Ireland have a few key players out through injury, home advantage will be enough to get them over the line…just.”
- Angus Vipond: Ireland by 10
“This one could be tight but I think that Ireland will pull away in the last 20 minutes.”
- Barry Thomson: Ireland win by 4
“Close but again home advantage to count. Wales will benefit from experience of backs returning but Ireland are a bit more dogged, as shown in Paris.”
- Andrew Slorance: Ireland win by 12
“Never an easy one to predict but I suspect Wales put a lot of their mental energy into England match and the comedown might hit them hard.”
- Martin Cooper: Ireland win by 5
“The hosts seem to have great momentum behind them.”
SCOTLAND v ENGLAND
- Tony Stanger: England win by 10
“Realism wins out over optimism with a good showing by Scotland not quite enough.”
- Tom English: England win by 8
“Scotland should put it up to them at Murrayfield but Eddie Jones has turned England into a winning machine.”
- Craig Gossman: England win by 8
“Heart says Scotland but, sadly, think England will edge it.”
- Simon Taylor: England win by 12
“Sorry for taking the Dave Barnes route, but we just seem to have temporarily misplaced our mojo. Hope they find it and I’m proved wrong .”
- Phil Smith: England win by 16
“Tough one here as I have to keep the head and the heart in perspective. I feel if we can take a lead of 6-10 points into the 30th minute we will win, but will England’s superb defence allow this. They now have an incredibly strong back five in the pack and midfield, which I am not sure we can cope with, hence, I fear England will edge the early exchanges and ultimately win. Sorry Scotland.”
- Rory Baldwin: Scotland win by 3
- Viki Mendelssohn: England win by 10
“I am doing the reverse psychology so that I hope I will be pleasantly surprised!”
- Peter Wright: England win by 12
“They just have no weaknesses – and they can win it lots of different ways..”
- Stuart Bathgate: England win by 12
“England’s greater all-round strength will eventually tell in a tight match.”
- David Barnes: England win by 18
“I just can’t see it happening.”
- Dougie Vipond: Scotland win by 5
“Will Carling said this week that you should never underestimate a Scotland side. I don’t think Eddie Jones will. Let’s hope Finn Russell get’s his mojo back and unlocks that brutal English defence, otherwise he could be in for a fairly torrid afternoon. Gregor’s boys took a hammering at ‘HQ’ last year and really need to put on a show.”
- Angus Vipond: England win by 17
“England will simply outplay Scotland and tire them out.”
- Barry Thomson: Scotland win by 5
“Scotland by 5!! Nae other reason than blind Scottish optimism and pride! Nuff said!”
- Andrew Slorance: England win by 14
“Toonie’s right that we need to put in the performance of our lives to beat the old foe. Fear that Russell is distracted by other issues, and if he misfires then I’m afraid Scotland do as well.”
- Martin Cooper: England win by 10
6N: Horne and Russell aim to emulate England’s Ford-Farrell combination
U20 6N preview: Ross Thompson on learning to swim in the deep end
Women’s 6N: ex-rower Bonar makes rapid progress with Scotland
THE CONTENDERS –
Tony Stanger is a former Scotland international and (before fellow Hawick man Stuart Hogg overtakes him!) is still Scotland’s joint top try scorer of all time. He now runs his own consultancy business helping leaders become outstanding coaches. Passionate about sport and the factors that impact performance, he has written a book for parents to help them better understand their role in helping their kids reach their sporting potential. Hoping to be above average in predicting rugby matches!
Tom English is chief sports writer for BBC Scotland and, as a journalist, has been getting his Five/Six Nations predictions laughably wrong for the last 22 years. He has written The Grudge, the story of the 1990 Grand Slam, and No Borders, an oral history of the Irish rugby team. He’s also co-written, with Peter Burns, When Lions Roared, the tale of the famous 1971 Lions tour of New Zealand.
Craig Gossman plays on the wing for current BT Premiership champions Ayr and is a member of the Scotland Club XV squad, scoring one of the team’s seven tries in their recent victory over the Scotland Under-20 team in a Six Nations warm-up squad. He is very polite about continually being called Kerr – his brother’s name – in The Offside Line’s weekly BT Premiership Leaderboards feature.
Simon Taylor played 66 times for Scotland toured with the British and Irish Lions in Australia in 2001 and in New Zealand in 2005, although injury prematurely curtailed both trips. He played three seasons in France with Stade Francais between 2007 and 2010, then three seasons in England with Bath between 2010 and 2013. After a stint coaching Watsonians he now coaches Edinburgh University.
Phil Smith has been head coach at Heriot’s since 2012 and was at the helm when they won the league and cup double in 2015 and the league again in 2016. He is also head of rugby at Glasgow Academy and has coached Scotland at various age-grade levels as well as the Club XV side.
Viki Mendelssohn is one of the founders in Scotland of women’s rugby. She works now in sports PR, events & sponsorship and runs Scotland’s largest Touch Rugby league.
Peter Wright played club rugby at prop forward for Lasswade, Boroughmuir and Melrose. He was capped 21 times by Scotland and toured New Zealand with the Lions in 1993. He has since coached a number of clubs in Scotland, including Glasgow Hawks to the league and cup double in 2005, had a stint with Scotland Under-20s and is currently calls the shots Boroughmuir in the BT Premiership. In his spare time, he does a bit of punditry for the BBC and is a cricket umpire during the summer.
Rory Baldwin is the editor and co-founder of the Scottish Rugby Blog and has little practical experience to draw on outside of a few bleak outings for Inverness Royal Academy’s rugby team in the mid-90s. The Scottish Rugby Blog offers a fans’ view of the game and celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2017, a year that saw them pass the 1,000,000 words published mark and launch a new podcast.
Stuart Bathgate was The Offside Line’s star signing during the summer. He has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000. He first played rugby in 1972, in the second row of the George Watson’s College 17th XV. He impressed his coach so much that he was soon making his debut for the 18ths.
David Barnes isn’t very good at taking a hint and founded The Offside Line in March 2016 when the mainstream press stopped giving him work. He has been a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.
Dougie Vipond is a failed schoolboy full-back, BBC Rugby presenter, and drummer with Deacon Blue
Angus Vipond, 17, is former Scotland Uner-16 stand-off and current member of Scotland Under-18 squad.
Barry Thomson is married with three kids. Brain of a fly half, body of pre-professional era prop.
Andrew Slorance is former Hawick YM 2nd XV utility player and Prem 2 level ref, who has always been told he can talk a good game even if he couldn’t play it or control it – bookies would say otherwise!
Martin Cooper is teacher from Newcastle though long suffering Scotland fan and avid follower of his home town rugby – ‘the mighty ‘Rose’.
THE RULES –
The aim of the game is to accumulate the least number of points over the course of this year’s NatWest 6 Nations championship.
Every match week the 10 contenders will have to select the winning team from each of the three games and predict the margin of victory. Players will be penalised 10 points for getting the wrong winner and then a point for each match point they are out by.
For example, if contender A selects Ireland to beat France by 10 points and contender B selects France to beat Ireland by 7 points and the final score is a 4-point win for Ireland then –
- Contender A ends up with 6 points as he/she was 6 points out in their prediction.
- Contender B ends up with 21 points out because they were 11 points out in their prediction [they had France at +7 but France ended up -4 = 11] and they have paid a 10-point penalty for picking the wrong match winner.
Clear as mud!
A running total of points accumulated by each contender will be published each week until a winner is unveiled after the final round of matches on 17th March.