Simon Mail previews the second weekend of the 6 Nations where title favourites England are likely to have few problems against Italy at Twickenham...
"England thrashed Italy 52-11 last season and this is one of 11 victories by a margin of at least 30 points."
England v Italy
Saturday February 14, 14:30
Live on BBC One
England established themselves as favourites for the competition after an exceptional opening win at Wales last weekend. Stuart Lancaster's side went into the match as underdogs with a series of injuries supposedly weakening them. But a mature performance from their young team resulted in England turning a half-time deficit into a dominant 21-16 victory in Cardiff.
It was a hugely impressive victory for the World Cup hosts as their young players such as George Ford and Jonathan Joseph stole the show with their composure on the big stage. Having finished second in the 6 Nations for the last three years, this opening victory has given England a great chance of winning the title for the first time since 2011. It is no surprise Lancaster has selected an unchanged side after such a promising start.
It looks like it will be a long campaign for Italy with the favourites for the Wooden Spoon losing 26-3 at home to Ireland. The Italians have lost 11 of their last 12 games since the beginning of last year with a home victory over Samoa the only result in their favour.
All 20 Tests between the sides have been won by England and the hosts are an unbackable price to win this weekend. England thrashed Italy 52-11 last season and this is one of 11 victories by a margin of at least 30 points.
This is one of the handicap marks for the Twickenham clash and there is every chance England will cover this again. Full-back Mike Brown scored twice in the win over Italy last year and the Harlequins back looks a decent price to cross the line this weekend.
Back England -28.5 to beat Italy at 1.9420/21
Back Mike Brown to score anytime at 2.526/4
Ireland v France
Saturday February 14, 17:00
Live on BBC One
Ireland started the defence of their title with a routine 26-3 in Italy. Joe Schmidt's side never reached top gear and were certainly rusty but still did more than enough to get off to a winning start. The Irish managed this without having influential fly-half Jonny Sexton while flanker Sean O'Brien was forced out at the last minute with a hamstring injury.
This victory made it eight successive wins for Ireland as the 6 Nations champions continued the momentum they have built up in the last 12 months. Schmidt's side are now up to third in the world rankings and their recent wins over Australia and South Africa have demonstrated Ireland should be taken seriously as potential World Cup contenders. The team are also boosted this weekend by the return of Sexton, O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip.
France, who are in Ireland's pool at this year's World Cup, started this competition with a win over Scotland but it was far from convincing. The French failed to score a try during their 15-8 victory over the Scots as fly-half Camille Lopez scored all the points from penalties. Les Bleus still look a work in progress as they seek to integrate young talent into their team.
Ireland are unbeaten in the last three meetings between the sides with Schmidt's side claiming a dramatic 22-20 win in the finale to clinch the title last year. There is every chance this will be a tight affair with seven points the widest margin in the last six games.
Ireland's last six wins over France have been decided by nine points or less so another narrow home win looks on the cards. The Irish have also scored at least 22 points in each of their last eight matches so take them to keep this trend going this weekend.
Back Ireland to win by under 12.5 points at 2.56/4
Back over 21.5 Ireland points in the Sportsbook at 1.834/5
Scotland v Wales
Sunday February 15, 15:00
Live on BBC One
Scotland took plenty of encouragement from their promising display against France despite opening with a 15-8 defeat. Vern Cotter's side were only trailing 9-8 at half time and played with real ambition as they scored the only try through Dougie Fife. Although both teams from this weekend's match come in off the back of defeats, there is no question which side will be more upbeat.
Wales were the big disappointment of the opening weekend as they meekly surrendered an eight point half time lead against England. Warren Gatland's side failed to score a single single point in a dismal second half performance. It was alarming to see the gulf in quality between the two teams after the break which will have seriously concerned Welsh fans.
Gatland has only made two changes to the team beaten by England. Winger George North is left out after picking up two blows to the head in the opener. The Northampton star was unhappy to be left out and his absence is a blow although it offers the chance for Liam Williams to come in to the side. Prop Samson Lee also misses out through concussion.
Scotland look well placed to compete for victory at Murrayfield this weekend but they will have to end a dire recent record against their opponents. Wales have won the last seven games against Scotland including last year's 51-3 mauling at the Millennium Stadium.
But Cotter has instilled great belief in his team, which is being demonstrated on the pitch, so this has to be a big chance for them to avenge these losses. Scotland look overpriced to win against a Wales team under pressure and it looks worth backing them to edge a tight contest and also with a small handicap advantage.
Back Scotland +3.5 to beat Wales at 2.021/1
Back Scotland to win by under 12.5 points at 3.412/5
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