First XV – Six Nations Preview – By Andy Todd

Last weekend saw the opening fixtures of this year’s Six Nations. With 16 tries scored and expansive rugby played throughout, this weekend’s games have a lot to live up to.

By far the best match up of this weekend’s fixtures is at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, where Ireland play host to England.

Having both won last weekend, England will be looking to gain revenge over their Celtic counterparts after the Irish dashed their grand slam dreams in the final fixture of the 2011 Six Nations Championship.

Ireland beat Wales 30-22, leaving the Welsh with no victories in their last eight games. While England convincingly beat Scotland 38-18 leaving themselves top of the table.

But by far the biggest shock of last weekend came in Italy, where the Azzuri beat France 23-18, picking up only their second ever victory against the French.

The Italians travel to Murrayfield to face Scotland this weekend, while the French host Wales with both sides looking to get some points on the board.

With summer’s Lions tour is on the horizon, the first weekend of the Championship saw a number of players putting themselves a step closer to the plane.

Favourite to wear the number 10 jersey, Jonny Sexton, confirmed that belief for many with another solid display of game control. However, main rival for Sexton’s position, Owen Farrell displayed his talent with an impeccable kicking performance, as well as some brilliant play with ball in hand.

On what was a disappointing weekend for the Scots, one of the few positives can be taken from the performance of debutant winger Sean Maitland, who’s try will have the Lions’ coach Warren Gatland licking his lips at his ever expanding options.

Another winger who was extremely impressive was Irish youngster Simon Zebo. As well as scoring a try, his inspired all round performance will have Lions fans all over the UK and Ireland on the edge of their seats for this summer.

Many pundits and former professionals tipped Welsh outside centre Jonathon Davies to have nailed down the 13 jersey for the Lions, but where would talk of the Lions be without a mention of the seemingly ever improving Brian O’Driscoll. In what could be his last season in professional Rugby Union, no one deserves a last hurrah more than the former Irish captain.

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