After a week off, the Six Nations reaches boiling point as the players return for Round 4 recharged. With the Championship and the Grand Slam still to play for, we are set for a fascinating weekend of rugby.
Wales have a perfect record against Scotland winning all 10 of the matches with the New Zealander in charge.
That said, Gatland would be foolish to underestimate a Scotland side who have made positive steps under Townsend. They will be fully aware of the dominant head to head and will be desperate to end the losing streak in front of their fans at Murrayfield.
Scotland has had to deal with a mini injury crisis with notable absentees including Stuart Hogg. It is no surprise that Townsend has selected a side with established club partnerships as he looks to provide balance to the team.
Wales only have one change from the victory at England with Adam Beard recalled to the side to replace the injured Cory Hill.
Both sides play with intent and it should make for a to and fro contest. The pressure is on Wales as they seek the Grand Slam; Scotland can spoil the party just as they did against England last year.
I expect Scotland to cover the handicap and I believe they are worth a small punt to win by 1-5 points.
England will look to bounce back from their disappointing performance in Cardiff where they were largely outplayed by their hosts.
Their Six Nations destiny is now out of their hands; they rely on Wales losing one of their last two matches and taking care of their own matches.
For Italy it is the same old story, they are definitely improving but are still a side in transition. They show glimpses of what they are capable of but fail to sustain that level for 80 mins. The competitiveness of the Six Nations is so high that Italy continues to be punished. It looks a daunting task for them visiting Twickenham to face an English side needing a win.
Joe Cokanasiga has been drafted into the starting XV for the injured Jack Nowell. There is real hype around Cokanasiga and what he can bring to a rugby pitch.
“He’s massive, he’s very quick, he’s got brilliant skills and he’s brilliant in the air,” Farrell said of the 6’3″ 18-stone 21 year old.
After a lackluster start to their Six Nations campaign, there is growing panic among Irish fans with the successful autumn series beating New Zealand seeming a distant memory.
In my view, there is no need to panic. Joe Schmidt has the backing of the players and has proven he can get the best out of them – it is only a matter of time before they find their rhythm.
I suggested that France would turn a corner against Scotland, they have found a first choice half back partnership that they can build a team around. They beat Scotland convincingly and head into Sunday’s game with a renewed sense of belief.
In what is a must-win game for Ireland, I expect them to come out of the blocks fast and put early pressure on France. I don’t see France rolling over but eventually, Ireland’s quality tell. A comfortable win for the Irish.