Nick Mallett and the Accenture Analysis Team make their top picks for round three

RBS 6 Nations

England and France are still on for the Grand Slam, but Wales will still remain confident of getting past both and winning the title.

Meanwhile, Italy and Scotland, after having both lost their first two games, will now have their best chance to secure a first win when they meet each other this weekend.

Wales v France
This should be a fascinating clash between two nations who still have real hopes of winning the Championship, but my gut feeling is Wales will ultimately just have too much for the French in Cardiff.

Yes, France have won their first two games, but if they continue to play fast and loose with so many lateral offloads then they will simply give Wales a lot of turnover chances, which they can turn into tries.

Just watch on Friday night as the Welsh feed off French mistakes. The Welsh back row in particular will put the French under pressure to force errors.

Wales' back row are one of the best defensively as a unit and the data from Accenture, the Official Technology Partner of the RBS 6 Nations, shows this. Compared to France's back row the likes of Warburton, Tipuric, Lydiate and Faletau have made more tackles (77 v 53), more jackals (8 v 6) and hit more rucks (224 v 115).

France lacking a game plan

The problem is France still don't have a proper structure, they are playing off-the-cuff, and so they don't actually know who is taking the ball in to contact, which makes it hard to retain possession.

Overall the game will be won and lost with the set pieces, and especially with how France deal with Wales at the lineout, because they have had the most success there of any nation so far in the Championship.

Wales have been just as impressive with their scrums, but they might just meet their match in France.

When Guy Novès brought on Rabah Slimani and Eddy Ben Arous against Ireland in the last round of games, French power prevailed, so Wales and the impressive Samson Lee will need to deal with them.

Italy v Scotland
It is time for Scotland to stop talking a good game, and start actually playing one, and finally show us what they can do.

I don't want to hear any more about how close they came to beating Australia at the World Cup. Enough! They lost that game, and if I recall scored two of their three tries through Australian mistakes.

All I hear from the Scots is how well they are playing, and how much they are improving, but guess what…they keep losing.

Their loss to Wales in round two was their ninth consecutive defeat in the RBS 6 Nations, and the four-point margin of that defeat actually flattered them because the Welsh were always in control.

Positive signs for Scotland

There are, however, some glimmers of hope for the Scots, primarily that their improved scrum led by the intensity of WP Nel should now be able to negate Italy's tendency to milk penalties from every scrum, which helped them beat Scotland at Murrayfield last year.

I would also suggest Scotland have to have more of a crack and go on the offensive with their backs. There really needs to be more open field running from them. It is essential they get Duncan Taylor involved more because he looks an outstanding prospect.

Looking at Scotland's wretched form, Italy will be confident they can beat them for a second consecutive year. Trust me, this is a game Italy always believe they can win.

But Italy will have to quickly learn from the mistakes they made in their heavy defeat to England.

The Italians really need to accept they have to be more pragmatic, and play with less abandon, and yes, be less positive. They will only ever win these games if they play more territory-based rugby.

Italian gameplan is counter-productive

I was horrified to see Italy trying to play on the counter-attack so far back in their own half against England, and this is when they gave the ball, and ultimately the entire game, away.

They must stay in touch with the opposition for the full 80 minutes. Accenture's data clearly shows that over the last five Championships Italy have the worst drop-off in score differential of any nation. On average they find themselves five points behind at half-time but sixteen points behind at the final whistle.

Italy need to show more discipline, and should only look to go on the attack in Scotland's half.

This might be boring, but it really does offer them a path to victory.

England v Ireland
After winning their first two games, confidence is naturally coursing through England, but to be honest the jury remains out for me.

England won comfortably against Italy, but the final scoreline didn't reflect the game and for the first 50 minutes they were quite poor.

The openside flanker position is still not sorted and I remain unconvinced by Owen Farrell at inside centre where his running is ineffectual and he does not get across the advantage line enough.

England fed off Italy's mistakes, but because Ireland play close to the breakdown they will naturally concede a lot less turnovers than Italy, which means Eddie Jones has to be more creative now.

But all attacking rugby is always based on a strong defence and England have been brilliant in this respect, and after two games have yet to concede a single try. An interesting finding by the Accenture Analysis Team this week was that England have been very effective in keeping the opposition out of their own 22, while making an impressive 35% of their tackles in the opposition's half, which shows how strong they have been defensively.

Injured Ireland could struggle

Ireland still appear to be struggling with the loss of such giants as Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell, and the injury to the pugnacious Sean O'Brien is further damaging blow to them.

England will be fully aware that the Irish scrum can now disintegrate quickly when teams really get stuck into them.

If Ireland are to have any hope of beating the English, they too will have to exhibit more creativity, for while they are clearly a well organised side, they are also painfully risk averse.

Just look at their lateral attacks. They always go sideways, instead of forward, and so find it difficult to gain any real momentum.

I make England big favourites to win this game; they will simply have too much power and strength in depth for the Irish.

Nick Mallett is part of the Accenture Analysis Team during the RBS 6 Nations, providing fans with insight and analysis to #Seebeyond standard match data. Follow @AccentureRugby, visit or download the Official RBS 6 Nations app.

More News