As we approach the final weekend of this year’s Six Nations, it’s time to look back at what we’ve seen so far. As the dust settles following the end of Round 4, the fate of each team is revealed and we can make our judgements as to who’s exceeded expectations and who’s fallen short of the mark.
Saturday and Sunday saw another host of scintillating matchups. Ireland finished the weekend as Six Nations champions following another superb performance against Scotland at the Aviva; the score finishing 28-8. Ireland now go in the final week knowing the Championship is secured with a game to spare. An impressive third title in five years under Joe Schmidt will have the Irish filled with confidence ahead of their Grand Slam tie against England. You can expect England however to do their very best to ruin the party at Twickenham and give their fans something to shout about.
Ireland are now unbeaten at the Aviva for five years with their shot at a Grand Slam being the third since the 1948 and 2009 sides.
It was over a month ago when Ireland nearly fell at the first hurdle but managed to scrape a last-gasp win thanks to a Johnny Sexton drop goal in Paris.
“We will look back… when we lift the trophy next week, and say it was a huge moment in our success” said Sexton.
England, meanwhile, travelled to the Stade de France keen to avoid two consecutive defeats for the first time under their coach Eddie Jones. Knowing that only a bonus-points win would prevent the Irish from claiming their first title since 2015, the pressure was on the Lions from the beginning. The scores were level at 9-9 but a high tackle saw Anthony Watson yellow carded and a penalty try awarded for France. Despite a late try from Jonny May, England simply could not turn the deficit around and France held out for only their second win in a year. A shocking lack of intensity summed up what’s been a below par tournament for England. They will hope to show their worth in Round 5, even if the only offering is pride.
Wales, who host France on Saturday, are looking to finish the championship on a high and get that second place secured. The Dragons have suffered only one defeat in their past five meetings with Les Bleus; the latter full of confidence after toppling England in Paris. A bonus-point victory will guarantee them the runners up spot behind champions Ireland.
Wales were, temporarily, able climb to second place after their Round 4 beating of Italy at the Principality Stadium. Italy dominated possession during the first half but were unable to put real pressure on Wales at any stage. The Azzurri have lost all four of their games so far, with their upcoming match at Scotland being the first at home since their opening fixture defeat to England. Unfortunately for Italian fans, the fate of the wooden spoon has already been confirmed but they’ll still be eager to get points on the board before the tournament’s end.
For Scotland, they’re Round 4 fixture against Ireland was, at points, hard to watch. They created an unimaginable amount of opportunities but wasted them time and time again. They may have learnt how to entertain and battle their opponents but are yet to reach the point where they can also come away with a victory away from home. Ireland simply were too physical and too energetic and virtually unstoppable in their backyard. Whilst Ireland head to Twickenham ins search of a Grand Slam, Scotland head to Rome still in the hunt for third. What makes Scotland so poor on the road and such a clinical force at home? Could it be a lack of belief, naivety? The journey to keeping solid away from Murrayfield seems to be a long one and Scotland have a way to travel, but hope remains.
Make sure to watch the exciting final round of the Six Nations this weekend at Last Orders venue.