This weekend's Six Nations action: a preview
March 17, 2017
This weekend sees the Six Nations reach its climax with one last round of fixtures before the tournament bids us farewell for another year. England sit on top of the Six Nations table and having won their last 17 games in a row, are only one more away from matching the All Blacks’ record run of consecutive victories. But they’ll face a stern test against an Ireland side well fired up to prevent England completing consecutive Grand Slams.
Besides that, we’ve got Scotland vs Italy and France vs Wales to look forward to. So what can we expect from the final round of this year’s Six Nations fixtures?
Scotland vs Italy – Murrayfield, Saturday 12.30pm
After receiving a 61-21 hammering at the hands of England last weekend, Scotland will look to salvage at least some pride when they play Italy on Saturday. The Italians themselves desperately need to spare their blushes as they currently sit rock bottom of the Six Nations table without a single point to their name. As Scotland have won their last three Six Nations home games, Italy face an uphill struggle here.
Scotland have made just the one change from the XV that started against England – Ross Ford returns to the side as Fraser Brown pays the price for being sin-binned early on at Twickenham. Italy coach Conor O’Shea, meanwhile, makes four changes to his line-up: George Biagi, Ornel Gega, Tommaso Benvenuti and Maxime Mbanda will all start.
France vs Wales – Stade de France, 2.45pm
Wales head to the Stade de France looking to secure their third successive away win against France – if they pull it off, it’ll be the first time they’ve done so for half a century. France, meanwhile, currently sit third in the table, level on points with second-placed Ireland and just a single point ahead of Wales. Warren Gatland has named an unchanged Wales side for the third game in a row, while Sebastien Vahaamahina returns for France. He replaces Julien le Devedec at second row.
A win for France could be enough to see them snatch second place, which would be the first time in six years they’ve managed to finish in the top two of the Six Nations. Wales, for their part, will be looking to end an otherwise disappointing tournament with something of a flourish.
Ireland vs England – Aviva Stadium, 5pm
Once those two games are out of the way, it’s time for Saturday’s main event – the clash between Ireland and England in Dublin. England are 18 games unbeaten and could set a new record if they manage to avoid defeat against Joe Schmidt’s Ireland side tomorrow. Naturally, Ireland will be desperate to prevent England setting new records on their patch, so the scene is set for what should be a pulsating and hard-fought encounter at the Aviva.
England and Ireland have made two changes apiece for this game. Eddie Hearn has brought in Billy Vunipola at number eight and Anthony Watson on the wing, while Iain Henderson and Jared Payne replace Devin Toner and Rob Kearney respectively for Ireland. It’s worth noting as well that Ireland haven’t lost at home in their last 10 Six Nations game – but their last defeat came in 2013 against none other than England.