Ireland v Italy in Rome (6 Nations)
Ireland and Italy are both experiencing lean seasons on the points table but both have had their moments. Ireland won against Wales earlier in the season whilst Italy defeated France in their first game and then pushed England at Twickenham before going down. This could be a close game however Italy has failed to string two good performances together
Prediction: Ireland too strong at home, to win by 15 points
Scotland v France in Paris (6 Nations)
France are in danger of being handed the wooden spoon in this competition. Pre tournament favourites have plunged to the bottom of the table. They will be desperate to defeat Scotland at home. The booing from the Parisian crowd will be deafening if they lose.
Scotland will hold middle of the table no matter what happens. Their performances have been up and down. Very much another ho-hum season for them. A win away would put them in 3rd place.
Prediction: France to pick themselves up and win by 9 points
Portugal v Spain in Madrid (WCQ Europe R5; ENC 1A)
The margin of Spain’s loss to Georgia last weekend was unexpected but has highlighted the unsettled nature of Spanish rugby at present. They haven’t settled on a combination that can win test matches with the selection revolving door in full swing. Unless things improve they could be relegated in 2014.
Portugal will find Spain especially tough at home. There is a lot of pride in Spanish rugby and Portugal may well feel the sting from this local Iberian contest. The Portuguese would have been very disappointed with their loss to Russia last weekend and they will be desperately seeking a win.
Prediction: Portugal to just get there and win by 3 points
Belgium v Russia in Sochi (WCQ Europe R5; ENC 1A)
Both teams have struggled in this competition. Russia’s chances of securing the third place in the 2012-14 ENC 1A competition and a chance to qualify for the 2015 Rugby World Cup improved with their win over Portugal last weekend.
Belgium has found the step-up to this level of intense test rugby tough. Their resilience and recovery rate from playing teams with a heavier pack is beginning to take its toll. Travelling to Russia won’t help. This season has been an eye-opener for the Belgians. They could be a different team next season.
Prediction: Russia by 3 points
Czech Republic v Moldova in Chisinau (WCQ Europe R4; ENC 1B)
The Czech Republic is well off the pace in this competition. They have lost all matches so far and unless they can lift performances they are set for relegation in 2014.
Moldova has more games in hand and they have also lost to the competition leader so the story is not so gloomy. They will need to improve on their first match drubbing at the hands of Germany
Prediction: Moldova by 6 points