IRELAND’S trip to face England in the Six Nations this weekend is the most fascinating northern hemisphere match-up there has been in a long, long time.
Much of the reason for that is South African official Mark Lawrence, who takes over the whistle for Saturday having officiated in Super 14 matches this season.
Mark, as he is used to in Super 14, will penalise any player who does not run away or who slows the game down and I believe this will create a very expansive game.
With this rule being implemented correctly, the Super 14 has been amazing this year, although I must admit the 72-65 scoreline between the Chiefs and the Lions last week was probably a bit excessive.
Ireland have been renowned for their attacking play over the last few years, while England also have some wonderful runners in a very talented back line. It promises to be an intriguing game.
Similarly, Wales versus France in Cardiff tonight also promises to be fascinating, although I expect the French to continue their charge.
The Welsh were not particularly good against England and very lucky to beat the Scots a fortnight ago, and they would need to turn around their form dramatically to stop Marc Lievremont’s men.
Scotland, meanwhile, showed some encouraging signs in their narrow defeat by the Welsh and, but for those two yellow cards in the last few minutes, they would have won in Cardiff. This week, they make the trip to Rome to face Italy, and although this is traditionally a tricky fixture for them, I feel they will be too strong for the Italians.
On the domestic front, my Saracens side host the Premiership’s most in-form side, Bath, on Sunday. At present we are struggling to put some consistent results together, but although we expect a tough game from Bath, we’re confident we can put things right.
•Brendan Venter is head coach of Saracens. For tickets call the Sarries’ box office on 0844 847 2482.