Ireland are the favourites to reign supreme but it’s all to play for in the final round of the Six Nations on Saturday, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
The action starts in Edinburgh, where Scotland and Italy will seek to end their campaigns on a high. The spotlight then shifts to Paris, where second-placed France, who trail Ireland by four points, will be hunting a full house against Wales to put pressure on the log leaders.
Ireland wrap up the Championship in Dublin, where a win – or draw – against wounded England would see them secure their first Six Nations title and Grand Slam since 2018.
Scotland v Italy
Saturday, 18 March – 14:30
After getting off to their best-ever start to a Six Nations with victories over England and Wales, Scotland bent the knee to the two highest-ranked sides in the world. Italy, meanwhile, gave France and Ireland a scare but remain winless at the foot of the table.
There are plenty of positives for Scotland, much more than their 50% win record suggests, but they have to end off with a good performance to cement the growth they’ve made in the campaign. Italy, based on their 29-17 loss to Wales last weekend, have run their race and will be unable to contain the dangerous Scots.
France v Wales
Saturday, 18 March – 16:45
How do you follow up the perfect performance? One phase at a time. That’s what Fabien Galthie will likely tell his troops following their record 53-10 humiliation of England at Twickenham last weekend that kept their title hopes alive.
Wales will be up for the clash mentally after breaking their duck with a morale-boosting 12-point away win over Italy but they don’t have the firepower to stand up against France, certainly not for 80 minutes, even with rain showers likely.
Patience will be paramount for Les Bleus to not force things in their haste to claim a full house and they’ll do just that to sneak one point ahead of Ireland at the top of the table for the time being.
Ireland v England
Saturday, 18 March – 19:00
The gap between the sides are clear but injuries, pressure, and pride will make for a compelling, title-deciding conclusion to the Championship at the Aviva Stadium.
Ireland suffered five injuries in their 22-7 victory over Scotland last weekend and at the time of writing, it was unclear how many of those players would be cleared for the final frontier.
With four wins on the trot, the Irish are in the pound seats but there will be pressure if France win convincingly as expected. The character they showed to weather the injury storm and the Scots suggests they have the mettle to avoid tripping up.
To that end, they’ll stick to their high-octane, high-intensity style as opposed to playing not to lose, which will be too much for England to handle.
The English are better than last weekend’s horror show and that embarrassment will fuel them to up their game, so Irish eyes will be smiling but I don’t foresee a massacre