Four teams are still statistically in the running to lift the brand new Six Nations Championship trophy this weekend. Ireland, England and Wales are equal on points having each won three and lost one out of their four fixtures, and they have all avoided one another on the final day. This means that unless more than one of these teams lose on Saturday, the Championship will be decided on points difference. France are technically still in the running but it would take a lot of elements to go their way for them to win their first tournament since 2010.
We have taken a look at what each team needs to do to secure the Championship, as well as featuring some of your predictions of which nation will win and why.
After getting their campaign off to a losing start at home back on February 6th, Wales have consistently built momentum throughout the tournament. The England loss was followed by a narrow win over strugglers Scotland and then an improved performance against France. Getting two wins on the board clearly provided a crucial confidence boost for Warren Gatland’s men as they edged out grand-slam chasers Ireland in last week’s thriller at the Millennium Stadium.
The first of Saturday’s games will see Wales play Italy at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico. Wales currently have the worst points difference of the four sides chasing the trophy, so anything other than a dominant victory will see them out of contention. With Italy having conceded 121 points in the tournament so far, a big win is not out of the question.
The minimum that could seal a third Welsh Championship in four years is victory by 22 points, but even if they manage this, they will have a nervy wait as the other fixtures are played to find out if they have done enough to lift the trophy. If they do manage the overall victory, however, it looks like they will have to wait a while for the silverware, as the only two versions of the new trophy are reportedly being sent to Saturday’s other two fixtures.
Daniel Roberts: Wales because France will beat England to confirm their reputation as the most bizarrely inconsistent team in the world, Scotland are improving and will only lose to Ireland by a few points, and Wales only does things the difficult way. *Takes rose-tinted glasses off*.
Dan Heard: Wales because if you weigh everything up, we have only lost one half of a game- gainst England! The Ireland game was one of the best displays by a Welsh side I have seen for a long time, partiularly the defensive performance in the second half. Italy will be an interesting game at that, but no, Wales to win!
Matt Hale: Wales will definitely do the Italian Job on Saturday. Who needs Michael Caine? We’ve got someone Biggar than that! They’ll tangle the Italians in their Webb and drive them North to victory. Halfpenny for Ireland and England’s thoughts when Wales lift the trophy!
Until their loss to Wales last week, everything was going Ireland’s way in this year’s tournament. They started with a confidence-boosting 26-3 crushing of Italy, which they made look very easy, following up with an assured 18-11 win over France, the victory sealed by Johnny Sexton’s boot after conceding their only try of the campaign. Their most complete performance came when they hosted a much-fancied England in the third week, winning 19-9 on that occasion.
The most competitive and most entertaining encounter of this year’s tournament last Saturday left Ireland’s grand slam hopes in tatters, but they must refocus and take some positives from that game as they still have every chance of defending the title they won last in 2014.
Ireland arguably have the easiest game this weekend as they take on strugglers Scotland, who are still without a win, despite being competitive in all of their games. Though there is the chance Scotland could finally get over the winning line in front of their home crowd to avoid the wooden spoon, they have proven themselves to be short of focus and ruthlessness in every game so far and it is doubtful they will be able to penetrate the tight Irish defensive unit.
In terms of hard statistics, the most likely turn of events will mean that Ireland need to win by five more points than England to seal consecutive Six Nations Championship victories.
Greg McChesney: Ireland because if Paul O’Connell doesn’t put the feat of God into you, nothing will.
Meryon Roderick: It has to be Ireland. France are a much stronger side than Scotland or Italy so they should be able to put up a decent fight. As much as I’d like Wales to win, they’ll probably have to batter Italy by about 45 points to win the trophy.
Harry Elliott: Ireland will win. It’ll come down to points difference almost certainly. Wales are too far behind, and England showed versus Scotland that they are not clinical enough. The boot of Sexton will win it for the Greens.
Liam Corcoran: Ireland because England won’t score enough unless teams just let Jonathan Joseph through again; they showed against the Scots they’re not clinical enough. Wales won’t put 40+ points on Italy sadly and Scotland are too indisciplined. There’s only so many times you can come close and come away with nothing, players are surely fed up.
Stuart Lancaster’s side are currently top of the table with a superior points difference of +37, mainly by virtue of the six tries they scored in a 47-17 hammering of Italy in the second week. This followed the tournament’s opening fixture in which they upset Wales in Cardiff.
Since then, England have not looked particularly convincing. Their gameplan came unstuck against the Irish defence, handing them a 19-9 loss. At Twickenham last week, they gave bottom-placed Scotland plenty of chances and England’s 12-point winning margin was not wholly deserved.
On Saturday, England host France in the Championship’s final game, kicking off at 5pm. They will have the undoubted advantage of taking to the field knowing exactly what they need to do to lift the trophy, and this task could be as simple as avoiding a heavy defeat. Many likely permutations of events would leave England as the overall victors, making them statistical favourites.
Michael Cantillon: England because Wales have left themselves too much to do points difference-wise heading to Rome. England are at home to a very inconsistent French side with nothing to play for and Ireland travel to an angry Scotland who will be very motivated to avoid the wooden spoon in front of their own crowd.
Caitlin Thomas: England because they have home advantage and are playing last fixture of the day, so both team and fans will know how many points they have to put on France to lift the trophy. Don’t expect beautiful rugby but a great atmosphere and a rousing chorus of sweet chariot should “carry them home”.
James Lloyd: England are the lucky ones of playing last and will know what is needed to win. England’s game plan will no doubt change if they dare to see the results from the previous games. I think they have the creativity and nerve to win, though.
Jim Harris: England will win, because we created sport. And we have Jonathan Joseph.
Anne Porter: England – because me being a quarter Scottish isn’t enough for them to get a win, and I’m just not Welsh enough yet to want Wales to win.
The world’s most inconsistent team have again staked their claim to that title in the last few weeks, with the glimpses of cohesion they showed in their losses to Ireland and Wales ultimately not enough to get the all-important points on the board. Against Scotland in the first week, the Scots’ stream of errors and Camille Lopez’s penalty success handed them a relatively cheap win but a far better display en route to their 29-0 win in Rome last week, with a particular defensive improvement, will have given them confidence.
With only four points to the other teams’ six apiece going into the final round, France need both Scotland and Italy to register unlikely wins before they take on England in a must-win game. Even if all of these elements fell into place, France would need to win by more than 15 points to overturn England’s superior points difference. This means that all England would need to do to win the trophy in this circumstance is avoid a 15-point defeat on home ground.
Jamie Smith: France will win. You may laugh but remember what they said about the Jamaican bobsleigh team… (Ed: Do you mean the ones who came 30th at the 1988 Olympics…?)
Jason Roberts: France will win. Consider this. Bastareaud is like, 50 stone, and he’s still faster than like, every creature in all the known worlds and universes. He couldn’t have been created by normal human procreation, and therefore it is reasonable to assume that he was in fact, created by God. Ergo, God is French. Do you really wanna bet against a really fast fat guy, as well as a divine creator? Thought not.