Sport | Six Nations – Triple crown in sight for England
One of the most exciting Six Nations for many years enters its fourth and penultimate round this week, with Ireland hosting Italy at the Aviva Stadium as they attempt to rekindle their championship hopes, Scotland hosting France at Murrayfield as they push for back to back wins and England facing Wales as they look to end their hopes of a third consecutive title.
Ireland v Italy
Despite losing in this fixture last year, Ireland have won 14 of the last 15 competitive matches between these two sides and are strong favourites to come away with a win this year as well. Ireland will be very disappointed after suffering a narrow loss against England in the last round, but have more than enough to provide a convincing win to maintain their position at the top of the table.
Italy currently sit bottom of the table, having not won a game so far, and with their next two fixtures being Ireland away and then England at home, they look set to stay there and receive the disappointment of the wooden spoon. With so much less to play for than Ireland there is a strong chance Italy will offer little opposition as the Irish aim to significantly increase their points difference.
Scotland v France
Scotland managed to snatch a win away at Italy in the last round and will be looking to emulate their performance in front of a home crowd, but up against a French side looking at the possibility of the title it will be a very big ask.
France have come away victorious from all of the last seven fixtures between these two sides and will be looking to make it eight on Saturday as they push their way into the title race. Although looking very vulnerable at times, they come up against a side that has struggled to put points on the board and will need to have a significantly bad day at the office to concede this game.
England v Wales
England v Wales has become one of the most highly anticipated fixtures in world rugby of recent years, with pride and silverware often at stake when the two sides meet. Having beaten Scotland and Ireland already, England have the potential to claim the Triple Crown, whilst putting themselves in a strong position to win the title, with a victory over Wales on Sunday.
They will have a boost as Tuilagi and Yarde return from injuries and re-join the English squad, although reports suggest it is unlikely that either will make the 23 man squad for the game. A victory for Lancaster’s young team would bode very well for the Rugby World Cup set to be hosted by England next year.
Wales have won the last two times these sides have met so will go into the fixture with significant confidence as they play an extremely youthful England side. Welsh prop Adam Jones has said that Twickenham holds no fear for this welsh side, which will surely serve to rile up the English squad.
With England desperate to prevent a third consecutive Six Nations win for Wales, this should prove to be a brilliant game of rugby, yet the experience within the Welsh squad may see them prevail.
Images courtesy of The Telegraph, Sportsworld and The Guardian