Coming into the last weekend of the 6 Nations (Super Saturday as they call it), the Champions are known, the wooden spoon accolade is known, but the remaining four places could go to any of the other four teams. All the teams having won two and lost two matches and being separated by just one point.
The two main talking points for the upcoming weekend is how will the drubbing at Twickenham effect Scotland, and how Wales and Ireland react after their clash in Cardiff on Friday. While the defeat at Twickenham was not expected the margin and style was not. Scotland I feel, suffered from stage fright. From the first whistle they seemed nervous, and it was no more acutely shown than by the tackle by Frazer Brown in the 3rd minute. I thought that the ref got the call correct, though if it was only a penalty awarded, I would have understood. This highlights one of my slight concerns about the TMO. When they slow incidents down, it can distort what happens. Fair enough for how a person lands but a picture by picture display can show intent when there was none. It is easier to see that at full speed as you can look at the movements from a contact perspective. But I digress. From the yellow card, Scotland got beaten through the same section of the pitch frequently and weren’t able to address this, and their luck with injuries carried on. Not that these would have had an effect on the result, but possibly the score line, which would have placed them in a better position for finishing in the top two for the first time since they won the last ever Five Nations in 1999. I think the victory was a masterstroke from Eddie Jones, as he had obviously noted a flaw in the Scotland defence, and repeated exposed it throughout the game. Though the main positive is that they scored three tries of their own.
Scotland now have a deficit in points of 70 (Ireland), 43 (Wales), 40 (France), which will be hard to overcome, especially as both Ireland and France are one point above, so a bonus point win over Italy would only draw them level with them if they also won. With Italy having lost by an average of 30 points, it is unlikely that Scotland would get second place, and potentially not even third if Ireland prevent England’s grand slam repeat and France defeat Wales.
So how will Ireland respond! At the start, I expected Ireland to derail England at the last hurdle, having lost to Scotland in the first game. But the defeat to Wales, was a shock to the system and not even picking up a bonus point will have been an even bigger jolt. This could go either way, and it will be very hard to call. Will Ireland come out of the traps and batter England into submission or will England take all the confidence from their record breaking win against Scotland and carry on from where they left off. That I think is the biggest conundrum of the weekend. But I think that the loss of Connor Murray and the injury concerns of Jonny Sexton, will swing the balance in England’s favour.
So I see Scotland beating Italy and gaining a bonus point, England to beat Ireland and France to beat Wales to secure second place as I can’t see Scotland gaining the 40+ victory to pip the French.
So England, France, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Italy.