Wales may be top now, but if Ireland beat them, England can win the lot in the final game of the tournament. Will Ireland do the favour for the old enemy?
Let’s forget about the opening game on Saturday. Neither Italy nor France are at the races this year. This game won’t even determine the last place in the group; Italy already have that honour thanks to the drubbing England gave them last weekend.
Moving onto the big game, at least for Irish fans. If Wales beat Ireland they win the title and Grand Slam. The new bonus point system is there to ensure that a country that beats every other team is guaranteed to win, even if another team matches them on points (i.e. England are only a point behind but could have been level if they had secured a losing bonus point). The Slam gives two extra points, so Wales would finish on a minimum and unassailable 22 points.
What if the game results in a draw with no bonus points? Wales will be on 18 and have to wait to see if Scotland can beat or hold England to a draw to secure them the title.
A draw in which Wales get a try scoring bonus point is a little more interesting. At 19 points, England would have to beat Scotland scoring four tries to ensure that they are not the losers of a tie-break; Wales win if they finish equal in points, the Taffes win on the basis of their head to head result.
The result we are all hoping for, of course, is an Irish win. We would leap-frog Wales into first place, but it might not be for long. 18 or 19 points will not be enough to retain the title without a little help from the Scottish.
Can the Scots go to Twickenham and steal a result? History would not appear to favour such an event. Although the Scots beat England in last year’s tournament, that was their first win in eleven attempts. The last time that they defeated their old enemy down south was 1983 (source wikipedia).
Ireland recovered from an awful start to the tournament, and seem to be heading on an upward curve. They played clever rugby against France, dominating most of the possession and territory. France barely had a chance to express themselves. If we finish on a high, it set things up for England, who have been the best team this year.
Is it valid to say that given their loss to Wales? I think so. That game was an anomaly, they demolished all other comers and are likely to do the same to Scotland this weekend. Wales played some edge-of-the-seat stuff to win and the gamble paid off, however, I feel that if you played that fixture ten times, the men in white would win nine of them.
Just like Ireland’s Grand Slam last year, where we nearly threw it away in the first game, then struggled again in the second, Wales had a few lucky escapes. The interception against France is the key one. England has simply been better this year and for longer, it’s just a bit of bad luck that they may not end up on top.
Let’s hope Ireland can throw a spanner in the Welsh works, and that Scotland can overcome the odds. At least it will keep things interesting until the last ball is kicked, thrown or placed over the try line.