The 2020 Guinness Six Nations Championship will reach its climax on Saturday – 237 days after it was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
With three games remaining on so-called ‘Super Saturday’, it promises to be a thrilling title race between Ireland, England and France.
Here, the PA news agency looks at how things might pan out, with Wales entertaining Scotland, England visiting Italy and Ireland travelling to France.
Ireland have control of the title’s destiny. If they beat France in Paris on Saturday night with a bonus point, Andy Farrell’s team will be crowned champions. Victory without a four-try bonus might still be enough, even if – as expected – England claim five points against Italy in Rome. Tied teams are separated by points difference, and Ireland are currently 23 points better off than England in that department. Ireland will also know exactly what they have to do, as the Stade de France encounter is Saturday’s final game.
Eddie Jones’ men need to see off Italy at the Stadio Olimpico in emphatic fashion, but that is a likely scenario, given that England have beaten the Azzurri in all 26 previous meetings and scored more than 1,000 points. Realistically, England could require something like a 40-point winning margin or more, yet that is something they have managed on six previous occasions in the championship’s 20-year history. All England can do is complete their part of the job done in pursuit of a first Six Nations title since 2017, then wait while France and Ireland get to grips with each other in Paris.
France have been revitalised under new head coach Fabien Galthie, beating England and then Wales in Cardiff as they claimed three wins from their first four starts of this season’s Six Nations tournament. Losing to Scotland last time out, though, dented their title chances. They warmed up for Ireland by easily seeing off Wales in a friendly last weekend, but they will effectively need a comprehensive bonus point win to gatecrash England’s party, should Les Bleus topple Ireland for only a second time in the countries’ last seven championship meetings.
Scotland’s distant title hopes disappeared with Ireland’s bonus point victory over Italy three days ago, but they will travel to Llanelli for an appointment with Wales in confident mood. They go into the match having easily seen off Georgia in a friendly last week, and will be bolstered by the return of Exeter Chiefs’ trophy double-winning stars Stuart Hogg, Jonny Gray and Sam Skinner. Scotland have not claimed an away win against Wales for 18 years, but they have every chance this weekend.
Wales, Grand Slam champions last year in head coach Warren Gatland’s final season at the helm, suffered a fourth successive defeat when they went down 38-21 to friendly opponents France three days ago. It is their worst results sequence since 2016, and while they cannot challenge for the Six Nations title, a win is essential on Saturday to halt losing momentum under head coach Wayne Pivac. Wales are certainly good enough to cut loose against any opponent, but the pressure is on.
Italy are resigned to finishing bottom of the Six Nations for a 15th time, and they continue to make little headway against their Six Nations rivals. They have conceded 144 points and 20 tries in this season’s tournament, and face a Herculean task in preventing a landslide defeat when England arrive in Rome this weekend. With every sizeable Italy loss, so the Six Nations promotion and relegation debate screams louder at them.