England and Ireland will know victory in Round 3 of their Six Nations schedule could prove pivotal to how the competition plays out. The tournament's two strongest sides are yet to suffer defeat and promise to produce a memorable conclusion to the next set of ties.
Wales head to a France side who need an immediate recovery after losing to the Irish, while the tournament's two whipping boys Scotland and Italy get down to business in the early kick-off.
Here's all you need to know about the upcoming fixtures, followed by a look at the potential storylines:
|Latest Six Nations Title Odds|
|2015 Six Nations Round 3 Schedule, Predictions|
|Saturday, Feb. 28||2:30 p.m. GMT/9:30 a.m. ET||Scotland||vs.||Italy||Scotland by 23|
|Saturday, Feb. 28||5 p.m. GMT/12 p.m. ET||France||vs.||Wales||Wales by 3|
|Sunday, Mar. 1||3 p.m. GMT/10 a.m. ET||Ireland||vs.||England||England by 5|
Predicted Week 3 Storylines
Wales to Compound France's Misery
France upped the ante during the second half of their defeat against Ireland, but they were wasteful in attack. Questionable decisions were made across the pitch, perhaps led by Pascal Pape's over-the-top knee on Jamie Heaslip, which drew a spell in the sin bin.
Pape will miss the rest of the tournament as a result, reported by RTE rugby:
Granted, Philippe Saint-Andre's side scored the only try of the match, but this feat failed to overshadow a side who have rarely looked like challenging for the title. Sloppy miscues litter their offensive spells, limiting their ability to get over the line.
If Wales assert themselves early, they have an excellent chance of gaining their second victory of the tournament. Much of Wales' smart work in the win over Scotland came from Liam Williams on the wing, who scored a try and set Rhys Webb free after replacing the concussed George North in the startling lineup.
Wales conceded late against the Scots, so late the referee decided there was no time to restart the match. It's pivotal Warren Gatland's side don't succumb to such sloppiness against the French who, as already mentioned, proved they're most dangerous in the closing stages.
Incidentally, be sure to catch the best of Round 2's action below:
England to Underline Title Credentials
It's safe to say England's all-round quality has Ireland worried. Irish defensive specialist Les Kiss recently suggested the measure of his side's task has become apparent during their preparation. Kiss' comments were reported by the Press Association (h/t The Guardian):
Our preparation starts with the analysis and that’s been pretty scary with what they can do. If you look at that scary relationship in midfield with George Ford, and he has a relationship already with (Anthony) Watson and (Jonathan) Joseph, those types of combinations seem to be coming through for them nicely.
I think also their back row has been brilliant, James Haskell and Billy Vunipola are big threats and Chris Robshaw is excellent. The momentum that they give them is critical and they can take the ball deep and still make yards.
These two sides are yet to experience defeat in the tournament. Irish hopes are likely to rest on the tireless Johnny Sexton—who kicked five penalties in the win over France—but he will play for Racing Metro on Saturday.
While this may produce an opportunity for others to impress in Irish training, any hint of fatigue or injury from Sexton's point of view will significantly decrease their chances of victory.
This match will likely go down to the wire. England utilised Danny Cipriani extremely well when he came on late against Italy, and he is a player who highlights the side's strength in depth. His try added to Kiss' fears that, once England get moving, they're immensely difficult to stop:
Nothing can be decided at the Aviva Stadium, of course, but victory for either will represent a huge step toward the ultimate prize. With players such as Jonathan Joseph and George Ford hitting decent form, a gutsy England performance should see them nick the plaudits.
Round 3 promises to be the most telling set of fixtures yet and should provide a huge indication as to whether Stuart Lancaster's side can make good on their tags as current favourites.
We could bid adieu to France and indeed see Wales add a little more hope to their inconsistency in what should be an extremely dramatic round of fixtures.