The Six Nations is heading for a 'Super Saturday' showdown this weekend (Sunday NZT). With three points separating Wales, England and Ireland, all still hold claims to clinch the title. Liam Napier runs the rule over what promises to be a fascinating finale.


Scenario: Beat Ireland in Cardiff to claim the title

Far from daunting, and yet the Red Dragon marches on. Thirteen wins in a row, and another grand slam within reach. The more Warren Gatland reiterates that Wales have forgotten how to lose, the more it rings true.

In this tournament Wales have made a habit of delivering one poor half. On opening weekend in Paris it was the first; in Edinburgh last week the second. Yet each time Wales have responded to different pressure situations. Each time they have simply found a way, even when not at their best.


There was nothing champagne about the match or eventual 18-11 victory against Scotland. Much of the second half Wales spent without the ball. This Shaun Edwards inspired defensive resilience has, however, come to be their strength.

Wales have been more grinding than glorious but should they go on to claim the crown it will matter not how they do it but that they get there.

History remembers titles, few circumstances.

Heading home, to the Principality Stadium, Wales hold the keys to this championship.

There many will believe Wales only need draw on the second half comeback which stunned England but Ireland promises to be a different beast.

The depth Wales now fosters stretches back to their 40-7 mid-week hammering at the hands of the Chiefs in Hamilton some three years ago. Since then, Gatland has afforded fringe prospects as many chances as possible. That experience is now paying off.

This week expect Gatland to play on emotion. This is his last Six Nations match – with the England job up for grabs post World Cup he couldn't resist suggesting the caveat "for Wales" – but Gatland is sure to press this emotive button with his loyal players.

Cardiff has not been a happy hunting ground for Ireland. Joe Schmidt has only tasted defeat there; in 2015 (23-16) and 2017 (22-9).

Anyone who has experience Cardiff on match day knows just what an atmosphere awaits. No fans are more passionate than the Welsh. The noise this week will be on another level.


Tiger Tiger and chip alley could be carnage.


Scenario: Defeat Scotland at Twickenham, and hope Ireland upsets Wales

"That's ridiculous. That tells you why when you watch the television you should have the commentary down. Lomu almost won a World Cup for New Zealand and changed the way the game is played. Let's get serious about it. We're not engaging in that sort of rubbish conversation."

You'll struggle to find a more savage burn than this from Eddie Jones on Sir Clive Woodward.

Woodward wasn't alone in drawing illustrious comparisons between Joe Cokanasiga and the one and only Jonah Lomu.

On this occasion, Jones was bang on. Cokanasiga, the 21-year-old Bath wing, lit up Twickenham with his aerial brilliance, one handed carrying and offloading exploits.

In the immediate aftermath, though, the context of Italy's woeful defence and Cokanasiga's own defensive issues were lost.

Right now, after four tests, there is no way Cokanasiga is ready to start a World Cup knockout match. He would be picked apart.

From a World Cup perspective, the form of Manu Tuilagi from centre was much more concerning.

With 19 tries in their last four matches, England are certainly building strike power.

Their meltdown in Cardiff leaves them needing Ireland to do them a favour – the order of matches means England's could be a damp squib.

Regardless, a dominant victory over the depleted Scots would confirm England are, indeed, on course to be major threat.

There is no doubt they have looked most threatening in this tournament.


Scenario: Beat Wales, and hope Scotland stuns England at Twickenham

You don't get more dominant than 89 per cent territory, 77 per cent possession and forcing the opposition to make 125 tackles in one half.

With those stats, Ireland should really have built a larger lead than 19-0 at half time.

It wasn't quite back to their very best but for 60 minutes Ireland's confidence returned against France in Dublin.

Their fourth try severed another reminder of how dangerous Joe Schmidt's set moves are, too.

For the second time in the match, Ireland stationed wing Keith Earls at the front of the lineout. From the ensuing maul, CJ Stander broke away to draw all French defenders with him. His inside ball then sent Earls through a huge gap and over untouched from 30m out.

Add another one to Schmidt's set play list.

Ahead 26-0, Schmidt pulled his key starters – Sexton, Murray, the entire front-row – which allowed France to sneak two late tries.

If Ireland replicate their first half performance they are at least an even chance of bursting the Welsh bubble on Saint Patrick's Day weekend, though their one day less recovery could count against them in a tussle destined to make every last second count.

Side note: Irish prop Cian Healy almost embarrassed French halfback Antoine Dupont by diving through the ruck only to knock on instead of grounding the ball on the line. Whether Healy was onside is very debatable but his swift thinking should be a wake up to all about the amount of time halfbacks take over box kicks while often leaving the ball in open play.

Honourable mentions:


Awful set piece, poor defensive decisions and no clue on attack, even when going forward. The final 26-14 scoreline doesn't appear so bad but don't let France's two late tries in Dublin fool you – they were terrible again.

It's more and more evident a change of coach is needed. From Antoine Dupont to Romain Ntamack, Thomas Ramos, Gaël Fickou and ginger-haired lock Félix Lambey, France have such talented individuals, and no idea how to play together.

Their final pushover try seemed a sympathy vote, with no evidence the ball was grounded.

At this rate, a loss to Italy in Rome would not be a major shock.

Side note: New Zealand referee Ben O'Keefe had a quality match in Dublin. He communicated well with players and assistants, and used technology at the right times. Yet he has come under fire for not speaking French. It is a fair question in one sense, but do we then expect all referees to be fluent in Spanish and Italian as well?


Must start Hamish Watson this week. The Edinburgh flanker produced the most eye-catching 22 minutes of the weekend when he came off the bench and pushed defenders off with ease; his two storming breaks threatening to spark an unlikely comeback.

The absence of Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour and Blair Kinghorn don't enhance Scotland's chances of securing their first win at Twickenham since 1983.

Finishing the tournament with one victory - over Italy - would be deflating preparation for Gregor Townsend's aspirational men.


For all their limitations, at least the Azzurri played with attacking endeavour. Benetton first-five Tommaso Allan's show and go try is a nod to Italy's potential. In a rare sign of genuine progress, Allan's Kieran Crowley-led club sit second in the Pro14 conference B behind defending champions Leinster.

Clearly, though, much work remains after Italy's 21st straight Six Nations loss, particularly on defence.

Super Saturday:

Italy v France 1.30am (Sunday, NZT)
Wales v Ireland 3.45am (Sunday, NZT)
England v Scotland 6am (Sunday, NZT)