by JAMES LING
This weekend’s Six Nations Championship fixtures will go a long way to determine who will clinch the famous trophy and who will be handed the dreaded wooden spoon.
Wales return to Twickenham for the first time since their stunning 28-25 victory over England back in september’s Rugby World Cup, and Warren Gatland’s men will hope a repeat will put them in pole position to clinch the title they last won in 2013.
As for England, they know a win will put them on course for their first Grand Slam since 2003.
Italy, Scotland and surprisingly this year, back to back champions Ireland, all find themselves all trying to avoid the wooden spoon at the other end of the table.
So what do Wales and England have to do to clinch the title?
For Wales it’s simple. If Gatland’s men beat the Red Rose, then Wales will have one hand on the trophy.
With Italy heading to the Principality Stadium on the final weekend, Wales will be confident of lifting the title on home soil.
And Wales coach Gatland believes this game is the decider of the six nations.
“There’s a lot of confidence in the team and we’re treating Saturday as a final,” he said.
“It’s going to be one heck of a game, and to be honest whoever wins on Saturday will probably go on to win the Six Nations.”
Defeat on the other hand, will leave Wales’ hopes dashed, due to the draw with winless Ireland on the opening day. Without victory, Wales will not be able to overhaul England’s points total.
Interestingly as opposed to the outspoken Wales coach, England boss Eddie Jones has taken a vow of silence, and has refused to comment on the build up to the game. This has effectively taken the pressure off the English camp, and in effect allowed them to prepare for the game without the media spotlight.
But despite the perceived pressure being off, a win for Eddie Jones’ new look England, who boast a 100% record this year, will leave them heading to the Stade De France looking to win the Grand Slam, and finally putting the disappointment of the World Cup behind them.
On the other hand, an unlikely draw at Twickenham would set up a repeat of last year’s Super Saturday, that’s assuming France beat Scotland on Sunday.
But what about the French?
They will certainly have one eye on Twickenham this weekend, with their game against Scotland taking place 24 hours later.
They still remain outsider’s for the title, despite their unimpressive performances this year. They managed to notch up wins against Ireland and Italy, but their weaknesses were exposed after their shocking display against Wales in the last round.
France haven’t won the tournament since 2010, and will need England to either win or draw of they are to enhance their chances.
A Welsh defeat and a French win in Edinburgh would then set up a grand stand finish on the final weekend between France and England. But Les Bleus would need to claw back a 54- point difference to Jones’ Red Roses, which judging by the French’s inconsistent performances this year, would be unlikely.
No matter how this weekend plays out, one thing is for sure. We are set for more magnificent rugby.