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Six Nations ready to thrill in final stages

This RBS Six Nations Championship is really bubbling now as we enter the second break of the competition.

With England, France, Ireland, and Wales all heading into the final two rounds with identical win/loss records it looks as though we are likely to see one of the most dramatic climaxes to the tournament for a long time.

It seems fair to assume that France and Ireland will turn two wins and one defeat into three victories and one defeat each, given that the opponents in the next round are Scotland and Italy respectively, setting up an almighty, and potentially tournament deciding, showdown in Paris on the final weekend – where it all began for Brian O’Driscoll.

How sad it was to see the most fitting finale of all for the great man, a Grand Slam, be spoiled on Saturday as his Irish side fell to England. What a game to lose though, Stuart Lancaster said it was his best England victory, some might say the defeat of the All Blacks in 2012 was but it was hard to argue with the sentiment. This was an almighty Test match, a pleasure to be at and even more of one to cover.

England’s loss to France was a fast paced and difficult Test match, but this was something else. This was played with an almost absurd level of intensity, with an ebb and flow that all of the best Six Nations games have.

England were hard nosed, determined, and prepared for this one and fought it out right to the death against Ireland. Mike Brown rightly won man of the match but Joe Launchbury’s warrior spirit was the drive behind England, and his late tap tackle on Dave Kearney could be the catalyst for further joys in two weeks time.

Ireland played their part though, and in no small measure. They were magnificent to the last, their only real error being Jonny Sexton’s botched kick off, and unfortunately for them, and for O’Driscoll’s fairytale ending, that was the moment that changed the course of the Test match – with Danny Care scoring from the phase following the scrum back for that error.

Can France beat Ireland and do so with enough points to secure the title in three weeks time? Well, maybe. They will have to perform a whole lot better than they did against Wales on Friday evening, and they must be wary of a Scotland side who will be buoyed by that last second victory over Italy, and fully aware that the French will not like the surface or the conditions that await them at Murrayfield.

In fact, all of a sudden Scotland could hold the key to the Championship. They face France and then Wales, meaning that if other results also tally up, they could essentially hand the title to Ireland on the final weekend. Though that seems the least likely way for the title to be decided.

Four will surely become at least three in two weeks time though as England and Wales meet England at Twickenham. It has all the ingredients to be a classic, the loser will be almost certainly out of the running for the title, the winner will be in a very strong position to win it as they both face arguably the weakest sides on the final weekend, Scotland and Italy respectively.

Throw into the mix the fact that England are going to be desperately searching for revenge after that embarrassing defeat last year, while Wales are looking to continue to avenge that heavy loss to Ireland, and you have one of the very best Six Nations matches ready to take place.

It is all set to be a fantastic final two rounds of the championship, Ireland are in the driving seat at the moment, owing to their points difference and the fact that you would back them to add to that healthily against Italy. However if England beat Wales and then have a strong victory over Italy on the final weekend then they could heap real pressure on.

At the start of the tournament I made my predictions for every round (see below), thus far I have been correct in each game but this is where things get very interesting. I had backed Wales to win the tournament on points difference but the nature of their defeat to Ireland makes that far less likely now, and for me Ireland are now the favourites to win it, such is the points tally. However England will push them very close, but first they must see off the Welsh challenge, against my early predictions.

RBS Six Nations Table

Pos

Team

P

W

D

L

F

A

Points

1

Ireland

3

2

0

1

64

22

4

2

England

3

2

0

1

57

36

4

3

Wales

3

2

0

1

53

47

4

4

France

3

2

0

1

62

61

4

5

Scotland

3

1

0

2

27

68

2

6

Italy

3

0

0

3

45

74

0

Previous Predictions:

Week 1

Wales v Italy

France v England

Ireland v Scotland

Week 2

Ireland v Wales

Scotland v England

France v Italy

Week 3

Wales v France

Italy v Scotland

England v Ireland

Week 4

Ireland v Italy

Scotland v France

England v Wales

Week 5

Italy v England

Wales v Scotland

France v Ireland

What are you predictions for the RBS Six Nations – who do you think will win? Let us know via the comment box below or via @FifteenRugbyXV

By Angus Savage

@AngusSavageXV

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