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Six Nations 2014 – A Telling Weekend In Store

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Home stretch and all to play for, it’s how every Six Nations’ penultimate weekend should be. Can the Scots keep the ball rolling and take the French out of contention? Will the mighty Welsh, back in form after a very slow start, derail the chariot and do the Emerald Isle a favour? Are Italy really that down and out? Let’s find out.

Deary me Scotland. It’s been a worse than normal season for the Scots, starting with a muddling November and all they have to their name in the Six Nations is a fairly hollow but much needed win over Italy. I’m a normal year, France arriving to Scotland with the team in this state would spell a slaughter. But of course this is no normal year, with France in a state of disarray above and beyond the mediocre status they have treaded the last few years.

We have Picamoles left out over indiscipline. Fofana and Nyanga gone through injury. No sign of a game plan. Yes it all looks very 2011 for France. The question is whether or not they can regroup themselves like they did in the World Cup when we last saw them near these lows. Saint Andre hasn’t helped the circus with seven changes either. One of the biggest problems with France the last three or four years has been the lack of connection and synergy within the team, particularly with centre and half back pairings changing near weekly. Scotland would have to think they have an opportunity for a scalp here, and it all looks very possible given the momentum they would have, and the lack of it with France after Wales demolished them. It’s a bold step perhaps, but it has to be called as it is.
Scotland win

Before the potential bore fest above comes the game that the nation’s eyes will be upon, as it is of course the last time the great Brian O’Driscoll will stand on the Lansdowne soul wearing green. The players are seemingly ignoring it, but it’s hard to turn a blind eye to completely. With Italy’s talisman, Parisse absent through injury and Ireland’s playing with the emotional drive of the nation behind him, the cards are stacked for a slaughter.

That said, it was only 12 months ago Italy did the unthinkable and finally got the better of Ireland in this tournament. Different team, yes of course. And much more momentum on their side. But the old adage remains, you cannot take Italy lightly. Peter O’Mahony will do well to sit this one out as he is, given that Italy have always brought physicality if nothing else and he could do with a break. The common belief is that Italy have taken massive steps backwards from their extremely successful Six Nations last time out, and for Ireland the key will be the old fashioned method of waiting for Italy to tire and going for the jugular. For the first time in years this will be the likely approach and outcome, a sad situation for a regressing Italy but essential for Ireland to keep on top of their championship hopes.
Ireland win

Finally comes arguably the most mouth watering clash of the weekend on Sunday, when either Wales or England will knock the other out of contention for silverware. Both teams have had highs and lows so far, the current French form retrospectively showing England to be sub par in their opener and the Irish demolition of there game plan stinging Wales into the hammering they bestowed upon France.

I’m terms of quality, both these sides alongside Ireland have certainly shown the most of the six, though both have now shown targetable flaws. For England, there’s are certainly I’m the scrum, with Cole proving a bigger loss than even the squad would have thought as Ireland steam rolled them in this department, with two different front rows. They are also still showing vague suggestions of their lack of mental strength that has lost them the Grand Slam twice in the last four years.

Wales biggest flaw is a little more surprising and concerning frankly. They’ve show up poorly against Italy and Ireland, gaining some redemption against France. But the key issue is that against Ireland they showed their hand in that once the game plan didn’t work, they were up the creek without the paddle. It was uncharacteristic of Wales of late, but still it happened. Maybe it was a blip, maybe Wales are back. But they will need to have proper homework done as England won’t sit down.
Wales win

Image courtesy of BBC.co.uk

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