The Six Nations kicked off with an earthquake in Cardiff, a murmur in Rome, and a whimper in Paris, but the focus now turns to the three fly-halves who could take the tournament by the lapels when battle recommences over the weekend.
Each are set to play a part, one way or another, in bringing home our 5/1-plus Six Nations treble.
England (-28.5) to beat Italy @ 9/10
Bath playmaker George Ford looks born to wear the Red Rose number ten jersey he wrested from Owen Farrell’s grasp during the autumn, posting a man-of-the-match display in the 21-16 win over Wales in Cardiff.
England battered lumps out of Warren Gatland’s men, so Italy’s bulldozing defensive game won’t hold much sway in the south London cauldron.
They won 52-11 in Rome last year. This mark is well within Stuart Lancaster’s side’s reach.
Ireland to be winning at half time and full time against France @ evens
World-class returning trio Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip and Johnny Sexton, who will confidently lay claim to the title of top international fly half when New Zealand’s Dan Carter retires after the World Cup, are tipped to propel an already-excellent Irish side to an easy win over France in Dublin.
Les Bleus didn’t manage to score a try at Stade De France in their nervy 15-8 victory over Scotland, which strongly suggests they’re not ready for a trip to the champions.
Joe Schmidt’s charges have started big games like a house on fire at home since the Kiwi took over in 2013, racing into a 19-0 lead against the record-seeking All-Blacks (who eventually won 24-22) in autumn of that year, and going 17-0 up in their 26-23 victory over Australia 10 weeks ago.
Schmidt’s side also went 13-0 up against Wales in last year’s tournament. Expect them to dominate Philippe Saint Andre’s enigmatic outfit from the off.
Scotland v Wales: Over 0.5 yellow cards shown @ 3/5
Gatland’s men have a massive point to prove and anything but a resounding win at Murrayfield will keep question marks hanging over Welsh rugby indefinitely, but Scotland were brilliant at times in Paris, so Vern Cotter’s side will be no pushovers on their own patch.
Forwards Jonny and Richie Gray, plus veteran prop Euan Murray, were immense in the pack, while half backs Craig Laidlaw and Six Nations debutant Finn Russell, who came within inches of setting up a try for himself, controlled the game for long periods.
It’s a tight call with the hosts at 7/5 and the visiting Dragons at 8/13, but after all three first-round games saw yellow cards, a player being sent to the sin bin looks certain at 3/5.
Both of these sides had players sin-binned last weekend, Johnnie Beattie for Scotland and Alex Cuthbert for Wales.