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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Six Nations Drama Unveiled: Ireland’s Title Bid, England’s Challenge, & Wales’ Wooden Spoon Fight

The 2024 men’s Six Nations culminates in a riveting climax on ‘Super Saturday’, with four teams vying for the prestigious title.

Ireland stands at the forefront, poised to uphold their reign by either avoiding defeat or accruing two bonus points against Scotland in the 16:45 GMT encounter in Dublin.

England, trailing Ireland by four points at the outset of the weekend, rely on Andy Farrell’s team faltering, thereafter securing a bonus-point victory in France during the final match at 20:00 GMT.

Scotland and France remain contenders for the title; however, Ireland’s significantly superior points differential renders their prospects of seizing the championship highly improbable.

Conversely, Wales languish at the foot of the table, confronting Italy in a decisive showdown for the undesirable Wooden Spoon, bestowed upon the team that finishes last.

The day commences in Cardiff, followed by Ireland’s clash with Scotland in Dublin, culminating in France facing off against England in the tournament’s ultimate showdown in Lyon.

BBC Sports

Ireland to hit back after Grand Slam bid ends?

Ireland were a last-gasp Marcus Smith drop-goal away from a shot at history and a first back-to-back Grand Slam in the Six Nations era.

Their one-point defeat by England came after comfortable wins against France, Italy and Wales, which have paved the way to another title.

Ireland have beaten Scotland in their past nine meetings and have won their past 18 home games against all-comers.

Former Ireland wing Luke Fitzgerald expects his countrymen to “do the job” at the Aviva Stadium.

“The mood was difficult this week and the squad did take a little bit of flak, but I expect Ireland to bounce back.” Fitzgerald told BBC Rugby Union Daily.

Scotland have displayed glimpses of brilliance in wins over Wales and England but have shown too many inconsistencies.

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However, they could still leave Ireland with silverware – if the Six Nations title proves beyond them, victory would secure their first Triple Crown in the Six Nations era.

“Ireland will be wary of this Scotland team as they had a difficult weekend in Rome,” added Fitzgerald. “Scotland have danger littered throughout that backline and it only takes a moment.”

England prepared to seize the opportunity

England will know what is required before they take to the field against France as they look to avenge last year’s record home defeat.

Ireland may already be celebrating the title by then but if the defending champions do finish their match without a single point, England can lift the trophy for the first time since 2020.

Steve Borthwick’s men were thumped 53-10 by Les Bleus at Twickenham last year – a result current England captain Jamie George called one of the “darkest days” of his career.

George and his comrades have pored over the footage as they look to claim a first away win over France since they last clinched a Grand Slam in 2016.

France have been far from their fluent best without half-back generals Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack and are yet to win at home in this Six Nations.

Fabien Galthie’s side beat Wales last weekend, but World Cup-winning scrum-half Matt Dawson says “England will be ready to take on the world” after overcoming Ireland.

“For England, France was and is still an enormous fixture,” Dawson told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“Wales showed on many occasions last weekend some frailties in the way France are defending. I would expect England to really throw some fizz at them.

“There is a bigger question for France to answer. Their fans have been right behind them for a significant period of time and France need to deliver.”

France can also make a late title push if Ireland finish empty-handed and they can better Scotland’s margin of victory and secure a bonus point.

Wales in danger of lowest finish in 21 years

Warren Gatland’s youthful Wales side have battled with valour in this Six Nations, albeit to no avail.

There has been some promise in attack and only Ireland and Scotland have scored more tries in this championship, but their defence has been exposed and they have conceded the most tries.

Versatile back and Wales legend George North is the latest senior player to call time on his international career and the 31-year-old will want to end on a high against the Azzurri.

Former Wales flanker Josh Navidi says 121-cap North has been an “amazing advocate” for Welsh rugby.

“Everyone will be busting to get a win and sign off the amazing Wales career George has had,” Navidi told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“He has had 16 years in the red jersey and I thought he’d have a few more in those legs, but international rugby does take a toll on the body.”

Wales have not finished with the Wooden Spoon since 2003 but Italy won on their last visit to Cardiff two years ago and arrive in the Welsh capital having drawn with France and beaten Scotland in their past two games.

Italy will be without dangerous full-back Ange Capuozzo but their set-piece could prove a challenge for the Welsh pack, which was overpowered by France’s physical replacements in their last game.

Italy will finish above Wales if they avoid defeat, while the hosts can move off the bottom if they win with a bonus point and overturn their inferior points difference over the Azzurri, or win by enough points to overcome Italy’s points difference with the visitors ending their campaign empty-handed.

Statistics

  • Ireland are looking to win their seventh Six Nations – and clinch back-to-back titles for the first time since 2015
  • England are bidding for an eighth Six Nations title – and first since 2020
  • France have won the Six Nations six times – most recently in 2022
  • Scotland have never won the Six Nations – their last title came in the final Five Nations tournament in 1999
  • Italy have finished last in the previous eight Six Nations
  • Six-time Six Nations winners Wales last finished bottom in 2003
Lillian Hocker
Lillian Hocker
Lillian Hocker is a seasoned technology journalist and analyst, specializing in the intersection of innovation, entrepreneurship, and digital culture. With over a decade of experience, Lillian has contributed insightful articles to leading tech publications. Her work dives deep into emerging technologies, startup ecosystems, and the impact of digital transformation on industries worldwide. Prior to her career in journalism, she worked as a software engineer at a Silicon Valley startup, giving her firsthand experience of the tech industry's rapid evolution.

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