Ireland kept their Grand Slam campaign on track against a Welsh side that threatened throughout in a match that could’ve gone either way. They’re now in a position where a bonus point victory and anything other than that for England would see them wrap up the title this weekend before they head to Twickenham for the final round.
The Scots stunned England at Murrayfield, as and inspired Finn Russell and Huw Jones’ double helped secure their first win over the old enemy since 2008. Gregor Townsend has rewarded the players’ performance last weekend with only the injured Tommy Seymour being replaced by Edinburgh’s Blair Kinghorn in the starting XV, with no room for returning stars Richie Gray and John Hardie in the 23-man matchday squad.
Joe Schmidt’s men are now the team to beat in northern hemisphere rugby, having won all their last 10 games. They’re also boosted by the return of Lions duo Iain Henderson and Tadhg Furlong, while the exciting Gary Ringrose is back for the injured Chris Farrell, making him the fourth player to accommodate the outside-centre spot this tournament.
Ireland are 1.33 favourites and the handicap mark is set at 10 points which looks a fair estimation of the game and while we don’t envisage anything other than an Irish success, we think the best value lies in the Half Time/Full Time market. Since the arrival of their Kiwi coach, Ireland have won 11 of 12 unbeaten Six Nations matches at the Aviva Stadium, leading at half-time in each of these, but only two have been by more than a 10-point margin when Italy are excluded. This is an especially strong bet when you consider that Scotland away from Murrayfield have only won two of their last 42 trips in the Six Nations, excluding Rome, and none since 2012.
For a more fruitful price though we’re looking towards a tryscorer market. When hosting the Scots, Ireland have scored an average just shy of four tries per game in the Six Nations, and with their possession dominant style of play they’ve developed under Schmidt – where they make more passes around the breakdown than any other side – we fancy one of the big men up front to cross first. South African born CJ Stander is the most prolific of their pack and he was the joint-top tryscorer in last year’s tournament, while under Schmidt the men in green have been first to score in 83% of their 12 home games in the competition.