6 NATIONS FINALE!

*IRELAND GOIND FOR 1ST WIN IN PARIS SINCE 2000
 
*O’DRISCOLL PLAYING 141st AND LAST INTERNATIONAL
 
*FRANCE HAVE CHANCE TO WIN TROPHY IF THEY BEAT IRELAND
 
*ENGLAND NEED TO BEAT ITALY BY 50 POINTS TO WIN TROPHY
 
* WALES NEED TO THUMP SCOTLAND HEAVILY TO HAVE ANY CHANCE OF WINNING TROPHY
 
Well, it looks like we’re in for a cracking day of rugby as the final series of 6 Nations’ matches takes place this Saturday, March 15th! Firstly, England will have to beware the Ides of March as they travel to Rome to face Italy at 1.30.
 
Then, at 2.45, Scotland travel to the Millennium Stadium to face last year’s 6 Nations champions, Wales. Finally, it’s the big event as France host Ireland at 5 o’clock (all times GMT). 4 teams still have a chance to win the Championship Title but the result all rests with the Ireland/France game.
 
ITALY V ENGLAND
 
England have retained the same starting 15 that beat Wales last weekend. The only change to their squad is bringing Manu Tuilagi onto the bench for Saracens full-back, Alex Goode. Tuilagi hasn’t played for England since last March, but his last test appearance was in the 3rd Test of the Lions vs Australia Series last summer, when he was picked on the bench ahead of Brian O’Driscoll
 
Italy’s inspirational captain, Sergio Parisse returns to captain the side (he was left out of Italy’s test against Ireland last weekend) but they will be without their great prop, Martin Castrogioavanni for the match. Italy will be in for a very tough time against an in-form England.
 
Italy have had a poor 6 tournament, having lost all 4 games so far this year, including heavy losses to France and Ireland. Still, their form hasn’t been all bad, with some very good performances against Wales and Scotland (who they almost beat). They showed some good work against France and Ireland as well.
 
England, in contrast, have been in very good form so far this season, losing only their first match of the tournament so far, a very close loss to France. Otherwise, they have looked dominant against Wales and Ireland and especially Scotland, who they beat 20-0.
 
Italy have a terrible record against England, having never beaten them in 19 attempts. The last 2 games between the sides were very close, though, with England only winning by 7 and 4 points . This year, England would have to win by nearly 50 points if they were to have any chance of claiming the 6 Nations trophy.
 
I think England will win the game quite comfortably but I don’t see them achieving a high score, probably by no more than 20 points. Italy had a great showing in last year’s 6 Nations (they beat France and Ireland) but they haven’t been able to carry that form into this year’s tournament.
 
WALES V SCOTLAND
 
Wales have made 6 changes to the side that lost against England last week. Full-back Leigh Halfpenny was injured  in that game and is replaced by Liam Williams. Rhys Priestland didn’t play well in last week’s game and is replaced by Dan Biggar at out-half. BIggar will also handle the kicking duties.
 
Mike Phillips comes in at scrum-half for Rhys Webb. The rest of the back-line is the same. Luke Charteris, Ken Owens and Rhodri Jones are the new faces in the pack. Prop, Gethin Jenkins makes his 105th test appearance, a new record for Wales.
 
Scotland have made only 1 change to the team that came so close to beating France last week. Dougie Fife makes his debut on the wing. He’ll have a tough time against the giant George North. Wales go into the game as favourites. Scotland have won only 3 of the last 13 games played between the sides.
 
This contest always provides some great rugby. Wales it has to be said have been a bit disappointing this season, after their great form in the last 2 years. That may have been part of it, though, the expectation and pressure of winning a 3rd 6 Nations title (which nobody ever has).
 
Wales had a tough time against Italy, were completely out-classed by Ireland, before thumping France and then been over-run by England. Scotland have a poorer record, been thumped by both Ireland and England, before narrowly beating Italy and almost beating France.
 
There isn’t that much chance of Wales winning the 6 Nations this year. There are too many factors working against them (they’d have to score big against Scotland, while hoping that Italy beat England and France and Ireland draw).  A win would salvage some respect for either team, though Scotland need it more.
 
FRANCE V IRELAND
 
This is the crunch game of Saturday. Ireland travel to France, hoping to achieve their 1st win against the French since 2000! It’s fitting that Brian O’Driscoll played such a big part in that match (he scored 3 tries, announcing himself on the world stage) as he will make his last ever international appearance there on Saturday.
 
Ireland are also going for their 1st 6 Nations trophy since 2009, which is also the last time they beat France anywhere! It’s a difficult game to call as the last 2 games between the sides both ended in draws!
 
Ireland have made 1 change to the side that beat Italy last week, Peter O’Mahony returns at blind-side flanker. Brian O’Driscoll makes his 141st (and last) test appearance (he has 8 appearances for the British and Irish Lions which are included in his caps total).
 
France have made 4 changes to the side that just narrowly beat Scotland last week. It’s quite a new-look team with Louis Picamoles picked on the flank instead of his customary no.8 position (French coach Saint-Andre said that the 2 players will alternate throughout the match).
 
Castres out-half, Remi Tales starts, with Gael Fickou coming into the centre. Racing Metro hooker Szarzewski has recovered from injury and comes into the side. Saint-Andre has also only picked 2 back subs on the replacement bench (the rest are all forwards) which is rare.
 
This should be a great game with it all to play for. Ireland have been in very good form for most of the season, their 1 blight been outclassed by England. France, on the other hand, have been lacklustre and quite disappointing. I feel whatever the result, Phillipe Saint-Andre will not be retained as coach into the next World Cup in 2015.
 
France, though, can never be underestimated. They are just the team to conjure up a brilliant performance out of nowhere and they’ll be especially keen to do well in front of an unforgiving home crowd.
 
There’s some added intrigue for Jonny Sexton as this will be the 1st time he faces his Racing Metro team-mates since joining the club last summer. If Ireland will they will win the 6 Nations trophy outright (England don’t score 50+ points against Italy. If France win, it will then become a matter of points difference with England and Wales (provided those teams win their games).
 
It’s gonna be a great day of rugby!
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