Six Nations Week 5 – Football & Racing News – Star Sports

It’s the final day of the Six Nations, with the Championship technically still up for grabs and the Triple Crown on the line. See the permutations below for the title and the wooden spoon.

 Ireland will retain the title if they win or draw against Scotland in Dublin.
 If Ireland lose but secure a bonus point – for scoring four tries or finishing within seven points of Scotland – they will most likely clinch the title given their vastly superior points difference.
 An Ireland defeat without a bonus point should still be enough if England win without a bonus point.
 England will be crowned champions if they win with a bonus point and Ireland fail to collect a point.
 Scotland need to win with a bonus point, deny Ireland a point and overturn Ireland’s huge points difference advantage to have any chance. They then need France to beat England without a bonus point or with a bonus-point win by a smaller margin.
 If Italy win or draw in Cardiff, then Wales finish bottom.
 If Italy secure a losing bonus point, Wales need to win with four tries and overturn Italy’s superior points difference.
 If Italy lose without the extra point, Wales need to win by enough points to overcome Italy’s points difference.

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Wales v Italy (2.15pm, Principality Stadium)

The day begins with two sides attempting to avoid the Wooden Spoon, one of whom might well be happier than the other. Italy have already secured a victory and a draw (even if it was a heartbreaker) from this campaign whilst Wales are aiming to avoid a winless campaign for the first time in 21 years, and the pair could produce an entertaining battle.

Wales will be disappointed with their results so far – especially given how well they finished against Scotland once they’d found their best lineup, the fact they had a two man advantage against England in the first two weeks, and the fact they led by a point inside the closing quarter against France – but they’ve not lacked for attacking enterprise in those contests.

Wales have lost a lot of experience, but we’ve seen plenty of promise from Sam Costelow, Rio Dyer, and Cameron Winnett whilst Tomos Williams has provided plenty of spark from scrumhalf. Apart from being smothered by Ireland, Wales have scored 26, 14, and 24 points and the total points scored for their games so far have been 53, 30, 38, and 69.

Regardless of the result Italy have plenty to look forward to under new coach Gonzalo Quesada. Led by centres Tommaso Menoncello and Juan Ignacio Brex they’ve impressed with their attacking rugby, and newly qualified Louis Lynagh took a fine try on his test debut against Scotland. Paolo Garbisi bounced back in style from his missed kick against France and partnered superbly well with Martin Page-Relo (a surprise early replacement against Stephen Varney) last week, and the Azzuri backline – even without Ange Caupozzo – has plenty of pace and power in equal measure, whilst Ross Vintcent, Michele Lamaro and Sebastian Negri give them real carrying power.

Bar a heavy defeat to Ireland at the Aviva, and a draw against France when the hosts failed to make the most of territorial dominance, Italy’s games have been reasonably open with points counts of 51, 36, 26, and 60, and it would be no surprise if this was another high scoring affair. Over 49.5 points makes appeal at 20/21 with starsports.bet and Italy may be overpriced as well.

Teams:

Wales: Cameron Winnett; Josh Adams, George North, Nick Tompkins, Rio Dyer; Sam Costelow, Tomos Williams; Gareth Thomas, Elliot Dee, Dillon Lewis, Dafydd Jenkins, Adam Beard, Alex Mann, Tommy Reffell, Aaron Wainwright
Replacements: Evan Lloyd, Kemsley Mathias, Harri O’Connor, Will Rowlands, Mackenzie Martin, Kieran Hardy, Ioan Lloyd, Mason Grady

Italy: Lorenzo Pani; Louis Lynagh, Ignacio Brex, Tommaso Menoncello, Monty Ioane; Paolo Garbisi, Stephen Varney; Danilo Fischetti, Giacomo Nicotera, Simone Ferrari, Niccolo Cannone, Federico Ruzza, Sebastian Negri, Michele Lamaro, Lorenzo Cannone
Replacements: Gianmarco Lucchesi, Mirco Spagnolo, Giosue Zilocchi, Andrea Zambonin, Ross Vintcent, Manuel Zuliani, Martin Page-Relo, Leonardo Marin

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Ireland v Scotland (4.45pm, Aviva Stadium)

Ireland and Scotland suffered surprise defeats in Round 4, and both of them are now on a revenge mission with a great deal at stake. Ireland can seal the Championship with a win, whilst a Scotland surprise would mean a Triple Crown, which would present a spectacular bounce back from their defeat to Italy.

Ireland are strong favourites to bounce back at home, which is understandable given their extraordinary record. They’ve won their last 18 home matches against all comers and until going to Twickenham, had looked unbeatable during this Championship after three hugely dominant wins.

That wasn’t the case against England, who matched their physicality, rattled their set piece, kicked superbly, and gave Ireland nothing to work with in their half of the field, but the Irish lost little in defeat on a performance basis – England won with the last play of the game – and generally during the championship they’ve been superb.

Scotland have put together really impressive displays during this championship (think of their first half display against Wales, and their defeat of England), but once again, regardless of the result, they’ll rue what could have been. A bad camera angle and a refusal to take points cost them victory against France at Murrayfield and they will regret not seeing out victory in Italy, having been 22-10 ahead at one point.

Discipline has blighted their championship – they suffered two yellow cards against Wales and a stream of penalties cost them against Italy again – but they have also played incredibly exciting rugby, with Finn Russell excelling himself at fly-half in particular and Duhan van Der Merwe causing chaos on the wing, although the injury that broke up the ‘Huwipulotu’ partnership did appear to have an effect against Italy, despite Cameron Redpath’s threat with ball in hand.

Ireland – who have named an unchanged starting line-up from last week’s defeat to England – will be desperate to win the collision and set piece battle against the Scots, who will have taken notice of how effecti England looked at times in attack last week after matching them in contact.

However, their control and disciplinary issues, especially in the second half, spell huge trouble if repeated again and any platform they are able to build will be under threat if they are smothered in the same way Wales and Italy were when visiting here.

Ireland have dominated recent meetings – they won 36-14 at the Rugby World Cup, 22-7 at Murrayfield last year and 26-5 at the Aviva in 2022 – but they didn’t cover a 20 point handicap in any of those wins and if Scotland can find a couple of gaps they can keep within that margin again.

Teams:

Ireland: Hugo Keenan; Calvin Nash, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, James Lowe; Jack Crowley, Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong, Joe McCarthy, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris
Replacements: Rónan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Harry Byrne, Garry Ringrose

Scotland: Blair Kinghorn; Kyle Steyn, Huw Jones, Stafford McDowall, Duhan van der Merwe; Finn Russell, Ben White; Pierre Schoeman, George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Grant Gilchrist, Scott Cummings, Andy Christie, Rory Darge, Jack Dempsey
Replacements: Ewan Ashman, Rory Sutherland, Elliot Millar-Mills, Sam Skinner, Matt Fagerson, George Horne, Cameron Redpath, Kyle Rowe

France v England (8.00pm, Groupama Stadium)

After a stuttering campaign, England came to life against Ireland last week and head to France with the hope that they might be playing for the Championship, even if the expectation is that Ireland will seal the title against Scotland earlier. There’ll be plenty on the line in this edition of Le Crunch, however, with hosts France bidding to build on their win in Wales last week and save their Championship.

Steve Borthwick’s England had been hotly touted off the back of their third-place finish at the World Cup, going down narrowly to South Africa, but they had underwhelmed with scrappy wins against Italy (away, won 27-24) and Wales (at home, won 16-14) before a comprehensive defeat at Murrayfield when their defensive system was exposed by Finn Russell and Duhan van der Merwe, having gone 10-0 up early.

However, against Ireland we saw England at their best since the World Cup – they hit the Irish with incredible physicality, managed to stop their lead carriers, defend the breakdown tenaciously and target the Irish line – and their victory was fully deserved despite how close the result was.

Outstanding performances from Ben Earl, Maro Itoje, Ollie Chessum, Jamie George, Alex Mitchell, Tommy Freeman, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso and Marcus Smith when he came on swung that game in their direction, and if they can match that performance then they’ll be a huge threat to whatever team they play.

Until their bonus point victory against Wales last week, France had been terrible during this championship. Beaten easily by Ireland in the first week at home, they were incredibly lucky to beat Scotland thanks to a controversially disallowed try and then to beat Italy when Paolo Garbisi missed a late kick.

Under pressure after those dire showings, Fabien Galthie made eight changes with three debutants (full-back Leo Barre, centre Nicolas Depoortere and lock Emmanuel Meafou), whilst also selecting Nolan Le Garrec at scrum-half and choosing Tomos Ramos as fly-half.

The two sides were matched until France changed half their pack in response to a Welsh try and the rest is history as they say, with 25 unanswered points in the final quarter.

That was a much more promising performance – they looked more fluent and packed a carrying punch – but they should find this England side a lot harder to break down and these two sides will be more closely matched physically. France’s performances during the championship don’t warrant a price of 4/9 and 2/1 about England along with a 7.5 point handicap look too big.

Teams:

France: Leo Barre; Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou, Nicolas Depoortere, Louis Bielle-Biarrey; Thomas Ramos, Nolann Le Garrec; Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Uini Atonio, Thibaud Flament, Emmanuel Meafou, Francois Cros, Charles Ollivon, Gregory Alldritt
Replacements: Peato Mauvaka, Sebastien Taofifenua, Georges-Henri Colombe, Romain Taofifenua, Alexandre Roumat, Paul Boudehent, Maxime Lucu, Yoram Moefana

England: George Furbank; Tommy Freeman, Henry Slade, Ollie Lawrence, Elliot Daly; George Ford, Alex Mitchell; Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Dan Cole, Maro Itoje, George Martin, Ollie Chessum, Sam Underhill, Ben Earl
Replacements: Theo Dan, Joe Marler, Will Stuart, Ethan Roots, Alex Dombrandt, Danny Care, Marcus Smith, Manu Tuilagi

WILLIAM KEDJANYI

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Author: Eugene Morris