Six Nations Tips: Wales to keep Grand Slam hopes alive with Italy win

Triple Crown winners Wales
Wales clinched the Triple Crown after defeating England

Unexpected title contenders Wales face Italy in Rome while Scotland host Ireland and Simon Mail previews both of the round four clashes...

"George North has a superb record against Italy having scored ten tries in his last seven matches against them. This includes four tries in two appearances in Rome."

Italy v Wales
Saturday, 14:15
Live on ITV

Triple Crown winners Wales in title hunt

Wales were given little chance of winning the title at the start of this year's Six Nations but Wayne Pivac's side have been the surprise package, after putting themselves in with a great chance of landing the championship. Wins in their first three matches have wrapped up the Triple Crown and seen them assume favouritism for the title with a straight forward trip to Italy their next game.

France have also won their first two matches but are playing catch up and could have an uphill task against Wales in the fifth round, if they are beaten by England. It has been an impressive turnaround for Wales after a forgettable first year in charge for Pivac. Wales may have enjoyed good fortune during their victories but the side deserve credit for their clinical finishing.

Wales benefited from having an extra man during their wins over Ireland and Scotland.

There were also some critical decisions which went against England in Cardiff but Wales took full advantage and secured a bonus point in their 40-24 win.

It was their highest points tally against fallen champions England and underlines Wales have to be taken seriously.

Pivac has recalled scrum-half Gareth Davies and lock Cory Hill for this weekend's game in Rome. Davies replaces the injured Kieran Hardy while Hill is promoted after scoring in the win over England. Wales will field the most experienced team in their history with a combined total of 979 caps. Josh Adams and Louis Rees-Zammit continue on the wing and should have plenty of scoring opportunities.

No end in sight to Italy's losing run

Italy have lost their last 30 Six Nations matches and look no closer to ending this miserable record. Franco Smith's side were beaten 48-10 at home to Ireland in their last match and it just highlighted the gulf between the rest of the teams in the competition. Italy conceded six tries in this defeat and it could be another long afternoon for them.

Wales have won their last 15 matches against Italy and it is impossible to make a case for the hosts upsetting the unbeaten visitors. The handicap mark is 25 points and certainly looks well within their sights for Wales if they continue to finish clinically. Wales won 38-18 in the Autumn Nations Cup but were much more dominant in the Six Nations last season as they thrashed Italy 42-0.

There should be plenty of scoring opportunities for Wales this weekend with Italy already conceding 19 tries in three matches. George North has a superb record against Italy having scored ten tries in his last seven matches against them. This includes four tries in two appearances in Rome. North looks worth backing to continue this run in a convincing win to keep Wales' Grand Slam hopes intact.

ireland italy.jpg

Scotland v Ireland
Sunday, 15:00
Live on BBC One

Scotland bid to react after extended break

Scotland started their Six Nations campaign with a stunning win over champions England at Twickenham but their progress has stalled since then. Zander Fagerson's sending off proved costly as they were beaten 25-24 at Murrayfield. Scotland were then left frustrated, after their match in France was postponed due to their opponents' Covid-19 outbreak, which means they will have had a month since their last game.

Gregor Townsend makes four changes to Scotland's team with flanker Jamie Ritchie returning from injury. Sean Maitland, Sam Johnson and prop WP Nel all come into the team for the game. It will be prop Nel's first start since the 2019 World Cup. Blade Thomson, Darcy Graham, James Lang and the suspended Fargerson drop out this weekend.

Ireland looking for back-to-back away wins

Ireland were under pressure after losing their opening two matches in the competition. But Andy Farrell's side responded with a dominant win in Italy. Will Connors scored twice as Ireland crossed the line six times in an impressive showing. It will be a step up this weekend but Ireland at least come in off a polished performance.

Jamison Gibson-Park holds on to the starting spot at scrum-half with Conor Murray having to settle for a place on the bench. Ireland have made three changes to the side with Keith Earls replacing Jordan Larmour on the wing. Cian Healy and Rob Herring both come in to the front row in place of Dave Kilcoyne and Ronan Kelleher.

Recent history certainly favours the visitors with Ireland winning the last five contests against Scotland.

Ireland have only lost one of the last ten clashes between the teams and will head to Murrayfield with plenty of confidence. The betting suggests it will be very close with Ireland shading favouritism. But this looks a big opportunity for Scotland to continue their progress and world class backs Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell can help steer the hosts to a win by no more than 12 points.

Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

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