The 2020 Guinness Six Nations Championship will resume on Saturday – 230 days after it was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
And with four games remaining it promises to be a thrilling title race across the next two weekends with England, France and Ireland all holding major title hopes, while outsiders Scotland could prosper if others fall.
Here, the PA news agency looks at how things might pan out with Ireland hosting Italy on Saturday, followed by Wales entertaining Scotland, England visiting Italy and Ireland travelling to France the following weekend.
Eddie Jones’ men are in the box seat despite starting their Six Nations campaign in February by losing to France in Paris and seeing Grand Slam dreams disappear. They currently lead the table on points difference from Les Bleus – with 13 points – and their final game on Saturday week is away against regular tournament no-hopers Italy, where a five-point maximum seems guaranteed. That would enhance England’s points difference – the first tie-breaker if teams finish level – and pile pressure on France in the competition’s final game at home to Ireland when they would potentially require a substantial victory. A first title since 2017 is in sight.
The maths are relatively simple in fourth-placed Ireland’s case. Currently on nine points, they will be crowned champions if they claim a maximum five points – winning and scoring four tries or more – in defeating Italy and then France. Ireland should encounter few problems in achieving the first part of that mission, but only three wins from 10 trips to Paris in the Six Nations suggests the second half will prove considerably more difficult. The France versus Ireland clash, realistically, looks like a battle for the runners-up spot.