Rugby union comment: This weekend sees the third round of the Six Nations with three more international fixtures to look forward to. The first up is at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome where Italy welcome Wales, hoping to build on their last home match when they shocked France.
That win was one of the most enjoyable matches of this tournament and featured an Italian side full of confidence in their physical approach, as well as starting to develop an offload game which made them much more unpredictable.
They were unable to produce this game in Murrayfield against Scotland during their second fixture and will trust that their home crowd will motivate them to secure proper possession before attempting to play with more vigour and width.
Wales have not lost in Rome under Warren Gatland and their recent assured victory at Stade de France will have given them the necessary confidence to play their natural game and keep the ball in hand.
This was always “the Welsh way” in Rome, endeavouring to win enough possession to be able to run wide at an Italian side who were not as gifted in the three-quarter line.
Wales are unlikely to play any differently on this occasion and have selected the same starting 15 that played against France.
Italy may yet be without their talismanic captain and number eight Sergio Parisse, who was sent off in club rugby for Stade Francais last Saturday and whose appeal is yet to be heard.
The later Saturday game sees France coming to Twickenham to face a confident and well-drilled England side who sit atop the Championship with two wins from two.
After such disappointing performances of their national team, French selectors of the past would have made substantial changes and brought in players never heard of by British rugby supporters.
The modern way is that the coach must have confidence in the squad that he originally picked, so there will be few changes to the French team ahead of this match.
What is needed from France is a change of desire. They have looked tired and drained, possibly because some players have been overused at club level.
Perhaps facing England will bring the best out of them, but we are yet to witness the kind of form that saw them hammer Australia in the autumn.
Conversely England look efficient, organised and sufficiently confident to overcome a French side who seem to be below their best.
Nevertheless one can never write off a French 15 and there is no doubt that this will be another titanic struggle between two passionate teams.
Sunday’s match at Murrayfield sees the Scots welcome Ireland to Edinburgh. The Irish looked unbeatable in their first-half performance in Cardiff, but were controlled effectively by England in Dublin, so much so that the threat of Brian O’Driscoll was easily dispensed with by an organised defence.
Ireland need to up their game considerably this weekend against a Scottish side who are far more comfortable playing at home.
Scotland, to their credit, will aim to release their enterprising backs, such as full-back Stuart Hogg and wing Sean Maitland. This looks as if it could be the most open game of the weekend.
Several Six Nations contenders will be looking towards British and Irish Lions selection, and Hogg and lock Richie Gray should enhance their relative positions this weekend.
This round, though, is ever more difficult to predict with all six sides genuinely expecting to win their fixtures.
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