Six Nations: Ireland to keep Grand Slam hopes alive with Scotland win

Ireland boss Joe Schmidt
Ireland boss Joe Schmidt has guided them to wins in their first three Six Nations matches
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Simon Mail previews the penultimate weekend of the Six Nations and thinks title favourites Ireland can move a step closer to the Grand Slam with victory over Scotland...

"A better bet could be to back winger Jacob Stockdale to maintain his excellent form with a try for Ireland. Stockdale has starred, during his first Six Nations campaign, with four tries to lead the way as the top scorer in the competition."

Stockdale to star again in Irish win

Ireland v Scotland
Saturday, 14:15
Live on ITV

Ireland have put themselves in control of this year's championship with the team the only unbeaten side left in the competition. Joe Schmidt's side have not been at their fluent best but have managed to get the job done so far with three wins. The Irish had to work hard for their 37-27 home win over Wales in the last round but a bonus-point victory has given them a five-point lead over champions England.

Scotland have recovered strongly from their opening day horror show in Wales. Much was expected of Gregor Townsend's side in this competition and after battling past France, Scotland produced a superb performance to defeat England 25-13 at Murrayfield. The hosts' ability to win the ball at the breakdown and their pace in the backline was too much for the visitors as they gave themselves an outside chance of the title.

Ireland have had the upper hand recently with four wins in the last five games against Scotland. That said, the Scots enjoyed the most recent victory after beating them 27-22 at home last season. Ireland have won their last four home clashes against Scotland and it is no great surprise they are [1.29] favourites although this looks short enough against dangerous opponents. A home win is expected but speculating on the margin of victory is not easy.

A better bet could be to back winger Jacob Stockdale to maintain his excellent form with a try for Ireland. Stockdale has starred, during his first Six Nations campaign, with four tries to lead the way as the top scorer in the competition. The 21-year-old Ulster talent has scored eight tries in seven internationals for Ireland and is fancied to add to his tally against Scotland and help the hosts maintain their Grand Slam hopes.

Go North for profit in Wales-Italy clash

Wales v Italy
Sunday, 15:00
Live on BBC One

Wales have earned plenty of praise for the way they have approached this year's Six Nations but Warren Gatland's side find themselves out of title contention after successive defeats. A Scarlets-dominated team routed Scotland in their opener but Wales were narrowly beaten by England at Twickenham in a game of fine margins. Wales started and finished their game in Ireland strongly but came up short despite showing signs of an ambitious brand of attacking rugby.

It has been another year of disappointment for Italy with the side still looking no closer to ending their losing run. Italy have lost 15 successive Six Nations matches and look nailed-on to finish bottom of the table again. Conor O'Shea's side have been stronger in attack, with six tries in three games, but have struggled defensively conceding 136 points against England, Ireland and France.

Unsurprisingly, Wales have dominated their meetings against Italy with 11 successive victories. The Welsh have never lost at home to Italy but there has been a real mixture of margins of victory. Their last two wins have been by at least 26 points but Wales only managed to defeat Italy 23-19 in 2015 so their clashes have not always been completely one-sided affairs.

The handicap mark is set at 28 points but Wales have only managed to cover this twice in the last ten games against Italy. This suggests it is worth looking elsewhere for a bet. George North has scored six tries in his last four appearances against Italy but he has endured a tough season for Northampton. With a point to prove, after being criticised for not playing last weekend for his club, a motivated North can score for Wales in a comfortable win.

Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

Read Simon on France v England here

2017/18 Rugby P/L

Staked: 108pts
Returned: 88.4pts
P/L: -19.6pts

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