Here are the three duels that we think could decide the outcome of this weekend’s Six Nations games:
These two number eights made an outstanding start to their 2016 Six Nations campaigns on the opening weekend.
Talismanic Italy captain Sergio Parisse played like a man possessed last weekend as the Azzurri were narrowly edged out by France in Paris while England back-rower Billy Vunipola put in a performance of the highest standard against Scotland.
Parisse will win his 116th cap against England on Saturday and has been the Azzurri’s most dangerous player for a decade. His explosive power, line-out nous, acceleration and skill-set make him the complete forward.
Nevertheless, England head coach Eddie Jones believes the Saracens forward has the potential to become the best No 8 in world rugby, but the 23-year-old admits he has still much ground to make up. What is not in doubt is Vunipola’s devastating power.
Two enormous hitters, who will come out on top?!…
In a game that has so much fantastic talent on display, the role of the scrum-halves will be critical to ensuring that the different skills of both sides attacking talent is fully utilized.
Before the Rugby World Cup, Gareth Davies had only made four appearances for Wales since his debut in June 2014, all off the bench, producing a total of just over 100 minutes of test rugby. At the end of the RWC 2015 pool stage, the playmaker not only had his first ever test start, but he went on to be the only member of Wales’ squad who had played every minute of every match. Add to that four tries in four appearances, including Wales’ crucial score in the comeback 28-25 win over England at Twickenham, which made him one of the top scoring scrum-half’s at international level in 2015,
However, Greig Laidlaw was another player who shined during the RWC as he almost captained Scotland to the semi-final. The Scot was then named alongside the New Zealand fly-half Dan Carter and Australian loose forward David Pocock on the six-man shortlist for the World Rugby Player of the Year.
Both players will be key to their teams, but who will come out on top?!…
It’s the battle of Captains as two of the world’s finest lineout throwers clash in Paris on Saturday.
France has a new captain in the form of Toulon hooker Guilhem Guirado following Thierry Dusautoir’s retirement. He was part of the French side the came runners-up to the All Blacks in the 2011 Rugby World Cup but has taken his performances to a new level since he joined Toulon in 2014. The 29-year-old is now regarded as one of the best hookers in the Northern Hemisphere.
Nevertheless, he faces another excellent number 2 in Ireland skipper Rory Best, who is also captain of Ulster. The 33-year-old was the man selected by Joe Schmidt to follow in the footsteps of the legendary Paul O’Connell, who retired due to injury earlier this week. His leadership qualities and ability are unquestionable, but with Ireland’s current injury problems it will be up to the hooker to ensure everybody in the starting XV understands their role.
Who will win the battle of the hookers/captains?!…