26 February 2014

Ireland in the driving seat

There are a couple of certainties around this year’s 6 Nations Championship. There will be no grand slam winner and the tournament will be won on points difference. Technically there are still four teams: Ireland, England, Wales and France in with the chance of being crowned champions.

But despite losing to England in the best game of the tournament to date, Ireland are in the driving seat when it comes to winning the 6 Nations Championship of 2014.

Ireland’s points difference of +42 is a very healthy return from their two wins against Scotland and Wales. Next up they entertain Italy in Dublin and will surely target, not just a victory, but will expect to wrack up an even healthier points difference heading to Paris for the final round of the Championship.

Of course they have to win in Paris to have any chance of winning the Championship. But given France’s dismal performance against Wales, Ireland will start as favourites at the Stade de France.

England will still feel they have an opportunity to win the tournament. They host Wales in Twickenham before heading to Rome for Round 6. It is unlikely England will lose at home to Wales, especially after the disappointment of losing the Grand Slam and Championship in Cardiff last year.

Revenge for that painful setback will be upmost in their minds. But it is unlikely they will win with a big enough points difference to significantly close the gap on Ireland, who by the way play Italy in Dublin the same weekend. England will likely arrive in Rome with three wins but an insurmountable points difference compared to Ireland.

Of course should Ireland lose to France then England would likely win the Championship on points difference from France. That is of course if France can beat Scotland in Edinburgh in Round 5.

To that end France may beat Scotland and face Ireland in Paris on the final day looking for their 4th win of the tournament. But their current points difference is just +1 and even with a win in Edinburgh is unlikely to improve enough to challenge England who are on +21 with Wales and Italy to come.

Wales will feel their victory over France has them back on track for the Championship. But they have a trip to Twickenham followed by a home game against Scotland on the final day. But their points difference currently stands at just +6 and even with a victory over England it is unlikely they will make up the 36 points separating them from Ireland.

Their only chance is to beat England and Scotland by considerable margins and hope France sneak a tight win against Ireland.

Scotland after two defeats and Italy after three defeats are dead in the water and Scotland’s victory over Italy has more than likely saved them the embarrassment of holding the “Wooden Spoon” for the second time in three years.

So it will almost certainly come down to the final game of the tournament to decide this year’s winner. With four teams having already lost a game there will be no Grand Slam and at the end of the day points difference will determine the Championship.

When you crunch the numbers and the remaining fixture list Ireland have to be the favourites. Of course given the nature of the 6 Nations, four teams still believe they are still in the hunt. But should Ireland not become 2014 champions they will feel they left a great opportunity slip through their fingers.