Draw profits in Scotland
David Gee previews this weekend's action in the Six Nations and he's backing the draw in Scotland v Ireland.
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It's easy to put yourself in the position of the man down the pub and once-a-year rugby follower when it comes to 'Le Crunch' this year. England have won both their games quite convincingly whilst France have looked shambolic in their two performances so far. Surely Stuart Lancaster's men have this sewn up don't they? Quite often, the easiest answer is the correct one and we shouldn't go looking for many more clues elsewhere. But nothing's ever straight-forward where the French are concerned. Cast your mind back to the last World Cup. After defeat by Tonga, the French press were ridiculing Marc Lievremont and his men and it certainly looked like Les Bleus were heading home. Which is just how the French XV like it. All of a sudden, they made the final and very nearly beat the All Blacks on their own turf. How very Gallic. All of the above is a long-winded way of telling you never to write off the French. And I don't believe for one minute that you would - especially as Philippe Saint-Andre has shrugged his shoulders and made seven changes to the side that disgraced themselves in Paris a fortnight ago. The biggest gripe for many Frenchmen was the inclusion of the frustrating Freddy Michalak at fly-half. Well, he's gone and so has his scrum-half which sees the more reliable pairing of Morgan Parra and Francois Trinh-Duc come in to steer the ship. Lancaster has made a couple of changes himself and has decided a bit of British beef should be served up to the French. Courtney Lawes comes back into the pack whilst Manu Tuilagi (I realise he's not strictly British) partners Brad Barritt in the centres. When looking at this game, my initial thought was that England would put in another efficient performance and win but probably by not a great deal. France will go some way to restoring their reputation but come away with their third win on the trot which will put real pressure on Saint-Andre. The layers look to have this game about right giving France eight points but even if I thought they'd made a rick, this isn't the sort of match I'd be having the mortgage on as I've got a sneaking suspicion that France could pull something out of the bag.
Verdict: England by six.
Was Scotland's victory against Italy the dawn of a new era for the men north of the border? I certainly can't remember a Scottish performance with more flair and grit for many a moon but were they handed it on a plate by the feckless Italians? Either way, they looked good and this has to set alarm bells ringing in the Irish camp who have plenty of problems of their own heading into Sunday's clash at Murrayfield. The Irish doctor must hate it when Six Nations time comes around as he seems to be busier than any other physician in the world in February and March and this year has been no exception. Ireland have had to make several changes again to their starting XV, the majority of whom are missing either through injury or suspension. Johnny Sexton is the latest to fall to an ailment and his place at fly-half is taken by Ulster stand-off Paddy Jackson, who is selected in preference to Ronan O'Gara who will surely be ripe for another cameo in the second-half. Keith Earls comes onto the left wing in place of the injured Simon Zebo whilst Luke Marshall wins his first cap at centre in place of Gordon d'Arcy. Scotland coach Scott Johnson has only made one change to his starting XV with Edinburgh prop Geoff Cross returning to the front row in place of Euan Murray. The small crumb of comfort for the Irish is that Brian O'Driscoll is fit and his presence in midfield could make all the difference. This looks set to be very close indeed but unfortunately the layers agree. This could all come down to the respective boots of the kickers and a draw is not beyond the realms of possibility. Given that this could go all the way down to the wire, a small play on the draw is advised at 22/1 as both packs look evenly matched and if Scotland can negate the threat of O'Driscoll in midfield, then they will have more than a fighting chance.