Gatland’s boys to continue Grand Slam march

Wales are looking to do something special in Warren Gatland’s final year as their head coach and a Grand Slam would not only be the perfect Six Nations send off for the head coach, but a fantastic way to build towards the World Cup in Japan.

Saturday sees the Welsh make the trip north of the border, to take on a wounded animal in the form of Gregor Townsend’s Scotland.

Wales eyeing Murrayfield revenge

Two years ago, Wales went to Edinburgh with a star-studded side brimming with players who would go on to make the British & Irish Lions squad for the 2017 tour of New Zealand.

However, caretaker head coach Rob Howley saw his side well beaten 29-13 at Murrayfield that day and it’s a result that still irks members of the Wales’ camp, especially defence coach Shaun Edwards.

That day everything clicked for the Scots. Finn Russell was his mercurial best at fly-half, Stuart Hogg was causing havoc in the backfield and flanker Hamish Watson was doing a real demolition job at the breakdown.

A second-half performance that delighted Scots will be one that Wales will be looking to atone for this weekend, so expect the visitors to come out all guns blazing at Murrayfield.

Wales head into the game on the back of a thrilling victory over England, having flattered to deceive in their previous two wins over France and Italy.

That win in Cardiff against Eddie Jones’ side showed Wales have really arrived, but now they can’t afford to look too far ahead as there is still a long way to go, with this trip to Scotland before welcoming reigning Six Nations champions Ireland to the Principality Stadium.

Gatland was happy to announce his squad early this week, with Wales looking to the same 15 that beat England, with the exception of lock Adam Beard coming in for the injured Cory Hill.

Naming his side early would have eliminated one uncertainty for some of the Welsh players, who will have had a difficult week to say the least after the speculation of a potential merger between the Scarlets and Ospreys.

The timing of the on-again off-again merger could not have been worse for a Wales side looking to achieve a Grand Slam and this weekend will be a real test of the mental strength and focus, especially for the players involved with those two club sides.

As for Scotland, injuries have been well documented through this competition but there does seem to be some light at the end of the tunnel.

Watson is set to return, while prop WP Nel will add more power in the front-row, which could be key for a side that were outmuscled in Paris two weeks ago.

The return of Russell at fly-half can’t be underestimated and he will look to cause the Welsh defence all sorts of problems with clever kicks and playing right on the gain line.

Expect more of fight from Scotland this weekend, but Wales are on a roll at the moment and they look like they should be able to continue their unbeaten run on Saturday, with the visitors at 1.74 with -3.5 FT handicap to get the job done.

Azzurri to suffer Red Rose backlash

Having looked comfortable at half-time in Cardiff, England will have been putting together the pieces of the puzzle as to what went wrong against Wales.

Ill-discipline and tactical errors helped the Welsh gain an advantage in the latter stages and substitute Dan Biggar helped Wales get over the line.

England will be happy to be back on home soil to welcome Italy to Twickenham on Saturday, with the Azzurri eager to build on what went right against Ireland last time out.

With tries against Scotland, a resilient performance against Wales and sometimes brilliant play against the Irish; Italy have shown this year why they are deserving of a place in the Six Nations.

The Azzurri might still be chasing the pack ahead, but they are starting to put in some strong performances in Rome.

However, on their travels they can come unstuck and England will be looking to wrap up the bonus point comfortably, with the Red Rose still 1.58 to go on and win the Six Nations this season.