It’s been an incredible Six Nations Championship so far and there is still one more round of action to go with so much still up for grabs and to be played for.
Ireland head into ‘Super Saturday’ chasing the title and a historic Grand Slam but France still have a shot at retaining the trophy if they beat Wales and England can cause an upset against the number one ranked team in the world. Speaking of Wales, they are not clear of the Wooden Spoon just yet and could find themselves fighting to avoid it if Italy can record their first win of this year’s tournament against Scotland at Murrayfield. Here are our predictions for the fifth and final round of the 2023 Six Nations Championship:
Scotland vs Italy
All the hope and optimism surrounding Scotland after the first two rounds was crushed last weekend when Ireland came to Edinburgh and put them to the sword. Gregor Townsend’s side could have been going into this weekend with a real shot at the title but instead find themselves with little to play for other than perhaps the chance to finish second. Not only that but they picked up some big injury problems with star backs Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg dropping out of the squad while doubts over Richie Gray’s fitness could leave them short at second row with Grant Gilchrist still suspended.
As for Italy, there have been plenty of positives to take from this year’s tournament but the defeat to Wales in Rome last weekend was a sore one as it was probably their best shot at getting a win. However, they have managed to go toe-to-toe with the other nations for large parts of every game they have been involved in and could smell blood in the water against a depleted and, perhaps, demoralised Scotland.
Our prediction: Scotland to win by 15 points or less. We’re still going for a Scotland win in this one. The players and coaching staff won’t want to let all the good work they have done this tournament implode with a home defeat on the final weekend. They also need to keep their heads up and keep working hard with the Rugby World Cup and a rematch with Ireland to come later this year.
France vs Wales
This is a very, very worrying position for Wales to be in. France effectively have nothing to lose and everything to gain by going out all guns blazing and trying to rack up as big a score as possible. With the firepower that France have that is a lot of guns and Wales’ performances in this tournament so far do not suggest they are in a good position to stand up to a show of force from the reigning champions.
Last weekend’s win in Rome did show that Wales are still a cut above Italy but not enough to demonstrate they could go to Paris and somehow come away with the win. France, on the other hand, reminded everyone exactly what they are capable of at Twickenham and this one feels like the score could go the same way.
Our prediction: France by 20 points or more. We expect the French to put on an exhibition in Paris to give their supporters real confidence going into their home World Cup later this year. They know of course that Ireland will be heavy favourites to beat England and don’t have the fate of the title in their own hands but they will certainly look to do everything they can. For Wales, the best they could probably hope for is to keep this game as competitive as possible for as long as possible.
Ireland vs England
The day after St Patrick’s Day in Dublin and England are in town with the hosts able to secure only the fourth Grand Slam title in their history - the script writes itself. Scotland had earned a lot of plaudits in this tournament but Ireland were noticeably better than them in every conceivable area of the game last weekend and that says more about just how good they are than anything about the Scots.
England looked to be improving under Steve Borthwick but suffered humiliation at home to France last weekend and, right now, there’s nothing to suggest they are in any position to go to the Aviva and put in the kind of performance that would be necessary to topple the number one ranked side in the world. Anything could happen but surely it will be Ireland, not France, who are truly celebrating at the end of this year’s tournament.
Our prediction: Ireland by 20 points or more. We’re going with the Irish to see out this tournament in style with a commanding victory over England. Andy Farrell’s side have been nothing short of excellent from start to finish and will be more than worthy Grand Slam winners. It bodes well for their chances at the Rugby World Cup later this year.