Whomever wins the biggest match of the weekend is likely in line for the title, unless England falters completely against Scotland.

If they are able to secure a victory over Ireland, Wales will win the 2019 Six Nations. Obviously, that’s easier said than done. As a refresher, the winner of a match gets four points, a draw yields two points and a bonus point is awarded to any team that scores 4 tries (you also get a bonus point if you lose by 7 points or less). Right now there’s just a single point separating the top-three teams: Wales (16), England (15) and Ireland (14).

The throwaway game of the weekend is France over Italy, which has the bottom-two teams in the pool dusting it up for 80 useless minutes. To their credit, France is in decent shape to win (as the odds suggest) compared to Italy, who suffered a 57-14 throttling at the hands of the English. Bet France if you can make enough money off their -340 odds to feel good about yourself. If not, feel free to stay away.

Six Nations Schedule – Saturday, March 16th

8:30 am – Italy (+300) vs. France (-340)
10:45 am – Wales (-125) vs. Ireland (+115)
1:00pm – England (-1380) vs. Scotland (+800)

Simply put, a spoiler by Ireland is well within reach. The combination of Conor Murray and standoff Jonny Sexton is arguably the best link pairing in the competition and their ability to control an offense and also consistently threaten the interior of a defense is a spectacle to watch. They rank second in tries scored at the Six Nations this year with 13 total, four more than the 9 Wales has produced.

All well and good, but you should probably ask England how easy it is to penetrate the Welsh defense. England leads the competition with 19 total tries, and Wales held them to just a single try and two penalty conversions. It’s been a mighty tour for the Dragons, who have allowed just six total tries during the entirety of the Six Nations. Add to that the fair mix of discipline they’ve shown throughout and it’s easy to understand why everyone’s floating the term “destiny” around with this team. It certainly feels like this is their moment.

There are times when Ireland shows up and stomp around like they’re the best team in the world, but consistency has been a difficult theme for them to maintain. Should the best Ireland team show up, they can absolutely steal the show. The Irish backline is star studded, and the showdown between Garry Ringrose and Jonathan Davies at the outside center spot is sure to be an absolute derby. The edge goes to Ringrose for me, but that’s a totally personal call.

Where I am concerned about Wales is in the details. Scotland is nowhere close to their level, and butchered their final attacking phase of the game, but kept the match within reach the whole time. There’s no comparison to Ireland and Scotland, and the pressure is mounting for the Welsh. Admittedly, siding with Ireland is a contrarian play, but I’m not totally ready to hand Wales the championship just yet. They were gettable against Scotland – SCOTLAND! – and Ireland is infinitely more talented.

Treat the odds in this Ireland-Wales matchup as if they were just favoring the home team by a slim margin. There is a ton of momentum behind Wales, and they are both a sentimental pick as well as a logical one. The momentum behind them is undeniable, and Warren Gatland has morphed this program in to a legitimate world beater. It’s been awe inspiring. However, for me, Ireland at +115 is a steal from a value perspective. They are just as good as their counterparts, and if the pressure of the moment imposes itself on the home team, mistakes will come. Sexton will take advantage of every single penalty he’s given within his immense kicking range.

Ireland has overcome a stiff draw by opening against England and dusted the rest of the competition. That’s given them plenty of opportunity to fine tune their strategy, and they are perfectly poised to challenge Wales. I hate writing this, but Wales is positioned in a tough spot as a home team with so much on the line. I didn’t gain much confidence from watching them struggle last weekend. There’s no way you can lock Ireland in, but to me they’re a stronger value play in this matchup so I’m backing them to win.

It’s familiar, underdog territory for Ireland who were in this exact spot when they crushed England last year at Twickenham. They have to hope they can do enough to stave off the English on the table. It will be a fascinating day of rugby to watch if Ireland plays spoiler. A win, ironically, opens up the window for England to steal the Six Nations, but as a great man once said, “We play to win the game.” Ireland will take care of business.

Six Nations Free Pick – Ireland +115


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