The stage is set for a thrilling finale to 2023 Six Nations Championship on Saturday, with Ireland and France in with a chance of winning the tournament and England, Italy, Scotland and Wales all seeking to finish on a high. Read on for a preview of the upcoming matches.
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Scotland vs Italy - Saturday, 12:30pm
The first match of the weekend sees Scotland face Italy. Currently sitting in third place, Scotland have many positives to take from the tournament having notched impressive wins over England and Wales. There were silver linings, too, in their defeats; they came back from 19-0 down to run France close in Paris and last week went toe-to-toe with Ireland, the world's No.1 side. A bonus point win over the Italians would cement their place in third, but they'll have to do it without star players Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg, who picked up injuries in that bruising encounter with the Irish.
Meanwhile, Italy have certainly made progress this year; despite four defeats, there have been plenty of highlights — most notably giving France an almighty scare in Rome in round one.
Sadly, the Azzurri will be missing the cutting edge of injured star man Ange Capuozzo, without whom they struggled against Wales last week. It looks like a tough ask for them to end their losing streak against Scotland, which currently stands at 11 matches.
France vs Wales - 2:45pm, Saturday
To keep their title hopes alive, France needs a bonus-point win and must outscore Wales by more than 20 points to put pressure on Ireland. And given their outstanding Antoine Dupont-inspired 53-10 annihilation of England at Twickenham last week, you certainly wouldn’t rule it out. A victory without a four-try bonus point would still give them a chance at the title, but only if Ireland lose without earning bonus points.
Wales, on the other hand, could finish as high as third with a massive victory over France (and if other results go in their favour). Given their form this championship — which you could attribute, in part to off-field events — that looks highly unlikely. But Warren Gatland’s men will be desperate to avoid the wooden spoon, which they’ll be awarded if they lose to France and Italy manage to beat Scotland.
Ireland vs England - 5pm, Saturday
The final match of the tournament is a blockbuster encounter between Ireland and England. A victory would secure the Grand Slam for the Irish, who've been on a different level from most of their rivals over the past 12 months. They boast one of the breakthrough stars of the tournament in winger Mack Hansen, who's scored six tries in 13 caps and earned back-to-back man-of-the-match awards in his last two games. England will certainly have a job containing him, especially with their confidence on the floor after last week's mauling at the hands of the French.
After that record-breaking home defeat, head coach Steve Borthwick will be hoping that the only way is up, and it's worth noting that their opponents will be without a number of injured key players, including inspirational centre Garry Ringrose, who was stretchered off with a serious head injury at Murrayfield.
England, currently on 10 points, could still finish second in the table if they secure maximum points, France lose without a bonus point, and they surpass both France and Scotland in terms of points difference.
But that's a very tall order as the Dublin crowd will be buzzing on St Patrick's weekend. Adding a first Grand Slam since 2018 to Irish dominance at the Cheltenham Festival will ensure the Guinness continues to flow.Check out our latest rugby packages and join us for some VIP rugby hospitality in a World Cup year.