The Penultimate Round
The 6 Nations is drawing to a close. There is only one round left before Super Saturday on the 19th of March. Round 3 has set up a championship defining showdown this weekend between England and Wales.
Before we take a look at the games this weekend, check out our infographic for more information on where things stand as we head into the penultimate round.
While the winner of the England v Wales game is likely to be the winner of the tournament, France also still have a shot at the title if various results go their way. Meanwhile, Scotland, Ireland and Italy will duke it out to avoid the bottom of the table.
Ireland v Italy (Saturday 12 March 1.30pm)
The first game of Round 4 has real significance for the Irish despite now being unable to win the Championship.
They have not lost five Test games in a row since 2012 and 3rd place is still an achievable and more respectable position for the 2015 Champions. Irelands record against Italy is impressive, they’ve only lost once at home to the azzuri but there is no room for complacency.
Italy are still looking for the first win of the tournament, they have had positives to take away from the first 3 rounds however. They ran France extremely close in the opening round, contained England for 40 minutes and remained within a converted try of Scotland until the final 15 minutes.
The last time they beat Ireland was in 2013 in Rome but they were within 7 points last year. Could it be another close fixture?
Ireland Starting XV: Simon Zebo; Andrew Trimble, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Keith Earls; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Jack McGrath, Rory Best (capt), Mike Ross; Donnacha Ryan, Devin Toner; CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier, Jamie Heaslip.
Italy Starting XV: David Odiete; Leonardo Sarto, Michele Campagnaro, Gonzalo Garcia, Mattia Bellini; Edoardo Padovani, Guglielmo Palazzani; Andrea Lovotti, Davide Giazzon, Lorenzo Cittadini; George Biagi, Marco Fuser; Francesco Minton, Alessandro Zanni, Sergio Parisse (capt).
England v Wales (12 March 2016 4pm)
England v Wales was already one of the most anticipated matches of the 2016 6 Nations given the competing team’s recent history and now that it looks to be the title decider that anticipation has reached a fever pitch.
If Wales win, they only have Italy to overcome to claim the title. If England win, they will get the Triple Crown and only France will lie between them and their first Grand Slam since 2003. The stakes are high.
Their most recent match-up was of course in the group stages of the Rugby World Cup. Wales’s historic win in September will give this match an unprecedented level of intensity. Both teams will no doubt take inspiration from that day albeit for different reasons.
England fans have rejoiced at the news that Manu Tuilagi has been retained for the squad to face Wales and there couldn’t be a more crucial game for the wrecking ball to make his return. Wales also have reason to celebrate, with their previously No1 scrum half, Rhys Webb, back in the game day squad after a long period out through injury.
We think this might be the toughest game to call yet, let us know your predictions @rugby_store.
England Starting XV: Mike Brown; Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Owen Farrell, Jack Nowell; George Ford, Ben Youngs; Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley (capt), Dan Cole; Maro Itoje, George Kruis; Chris Robshaw, James Haskell, Billy Vunipola.
Wales Starting XV: Liam Williams; Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, George North; Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Rob Evans, Scott Baldwin, Samson Lee, Bradley Davies, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton (capt), Taulupe Faletau.
Scotland v France (13 March 2016 3pm)
The ‘Auld Alliance’ go head to head on Sunday. Scotland head back for their last home game full of confidence after getting their first win in the 2016 Championship against Italy in Round 3. France lost some steam in their campaign against Wales in the last Round but their record against Scotland favours the visitors.
Scotland have not beaten France since 2006, making them the only team in the 6 Nations they have not beaten in the last decade. The home team are in the ascendency however and Vern Cotter’s men will be confident they can end that statistic
France are the only other team other than England and Wales who can still win the Championship. They will be hoping to get a large point difference in Edinburgh to make things as easy as possible if they have to beat England in the Final round to be crowned Champions. Sunday could be a try-fest.
Scotland Starting XV: TBA
France Starting XV: TBA