Six Nations 2021: The Breakdown – Wales on for clean sweep as England's Farrell nears milestone

By Sports Desk March 19, 2021

Wales need a victory against France in Paris to reclaim the Six Nations crown, and complete a Grand Slam in the process.

Wayne Pivac's team have enjoyed a sensational turnaround in fortunes this year and last week's 48-7 thrashing of lowly Italy made it four wins from four.

With France subsequently losing to England at Twickenham, Wales will wrap up the title with a win on Saturday, while even a losing bonus point could be enough, though that may still leave the door open for Les Bleus to snatch glory should they win their postponed fixture against Scotland.

England are well out of the race, but their captain Owen Farrell is eyeing up a points landmark when the 2020 champions take on Ireland in Dublin.

Scotland, meanwhile, round off what will ultimately go down as a frustrating campaign against Italy.

We use Opta data to preview the round-five, Super Saturday encounters.

 

SCOTLAND V ITALY

FORM

Scotland have won their last five Six Nations games against Italy – the previous 10 clashes between the sides had seen them share five wins each.

Italy have lost 52 of 54 away games in the Six Nations, with their only two victories on the road coming in Scotland in 2007 and 2015.

That victory at Murrayfield in 2015 was Italy's last in the competition. Their losing streak now stands at 31 games, and they will pick up the wooden spoon for the 16th time in Six Nations history.

ONES TO WATCH

Scotland have the best tackle success rate (92 per cent) of any side in this year's competition. Hamish Watson leads the way in that regard, completing all 44 of his attempted tackles – he has made 133 consecutive tackles in the tournament without missing one, the second-longest such run in Six Nations history, behind Lionel Nallet's 154 for France.

Italy's Sebastian Negri has made 127 post-contact metres in the 2021 Six Nations, the most of any forward in the championship.

IRELAND V ENGLAND

FORM

England have won their last two meetings with Ireland in the Six Nations and could win three in a row against them for only the second time, after doing so between 2012 and 2014.

Ireland lost to France in their last home game, only once before have they suffered defeat in back-to-back home games in the Six Nations – in 2010 versus Scotland at Croke Park and 2011 versus France at the Aviva Stadium.

Jones' England have won their last four Tests against Ireland, preventing them from scoring any first-half points in their last two meetings and scoring an average of 4.3 tries per game in that run.

ONES TO WATCH

CJ Stander announced his retirement this week, with the 31-year-old set to hang up his boots at the end of the season. This will be his final appearance for Ireland, having won his 50th cap in the 27-24 win over Scotland in round four.

Owen Farrell, son of Ireland coach Andy, is the top scorer in the Six Nations this year (44) and is just six points away from 500 in the championship. Only Ronan O'Gara (557) has reached that milestone exclusively in the Six Nations (since 2000).

FRANCE V WALES

FORM

Wales are bidding to win a sixth Six Nations title (since 2000), only England (seven) have won the championship more often. If they win this match it would be their fifth
Grand Slam – no other side has more than three.

Recent history is on Wales' side heading to the Stade de France. They have won three of their last four away games against Les Bleus in the Six Nations (L1), triumphing in their last trip to Paris (24-19 in 2019) despite trailing by 16 points at half-time – the biggest comeback for a team in the competition. 

Indeed, pre-tournament favourites France have won only two of their last nine Six Nations games against Wales (L7) after winning nine of the previous 12 (L3).

ONES TO WATCH

Antoine Dupont already has four try assists in this Six Nations, only five players have ever recorded more in an edition of the championship, with Frederic Michalak
(seven in 2006) the only Frenchman to do so.

Louis Rees-Zammit is the joint top try scorer in the 2021 Six Nations (four, level with England's Anthony Watson). Shane Williams (six in 2008) is the only Welsh player to score more than four in an edition of the tournament.

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    The Red Roses ran in 14 tries in an 88-10 victory over Ireland that places them on the brink of claiming a sixth consecutive Guinness Women’s Six Nations title when they face France on Saturday.

    A thrilling attacking performance before a 48,778 crowd was born out of the belief that in order to play in front of a full house of Twickenham at next year’s home World Cup, they must play appealing rugby.

    And helping them achieve that aim is Ashton, a former England men’s head coach regarded as a visionary in the game whose expertise has been enlisted by Red Roses boss John Mitchell.

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    “I do think it is about asking those questions and having Brian Ashton available throughout the week…I absolutely adore the man.

    “The way he phrases things almost makes you re-think the philosophy of rugby. I think in the English brand the philosophy is ‘let’s kick to the corner, let’s take the territory’. But is that the philosophy of all rugby? Can we expand that?

    “At the end of the day, professional rugby is a business in its own way. We need to be proving to the whole of England that we can play an exciting brand of rugby.”

    While England march on by overwhelming the opposition in front of them, Ireland’s blowout highlights the gulf in class in the women’s game and affects the credibility of the Six Nations.

    The Red Roses have accumulated 228 points after four rounds and France are the only European team capable of taking the wind out of their sails when the rivals clash in Bordeaux.

    “I 100 per cent think teams will catch up and as much as we may be on top now, it is on us to try and work to keep that place and demand more from ourselves,” Dow said.

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    “The girls presented a performance that went up a gear. We asked that of them during the week and they certainly delivered it,” the Kiwi said.

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    A cheeky dummy kick launched one gliding charge out of defence and Ireland were having to scramble furiously to contain a player who has the ambition of becoming the best in the world.

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