Six nations wrap: Ireland set up Six Nations title decider after win over France

International
AAP
by AAP

The penultimate weekend of Six Nations is underway and there have already been some huge results.

Here's a wrap of all the week four action.

IRELAND vs FRANCE

Defending Six Nation champions Ireland kept alive their hopes of retaining their title with a clinical 26-14 win over France at Lansdowne Road on Sunday.

The hosts gave a far more assured performance than in their previous three matches and had the game sealed by half-time leading 19-0 after scoring three tries through captain Rory Best, Johnny Sexton and Jack Conan.

Keith Earls secured the bonus point with a fourth try in the second-half to give both coach Joe Schmidt and Best a victory in what was their final Six Nations home match.

The hosts had lost just once at home under Schmidt in the Six Nations -- to England this year. They were not destabilised by the late withdrawal of Rob Kearney and only resilient French defence prevented a slaughter.

Best's try -- his 10th for his country in 116 Tests -- came in the opening five minutes. After the French conceded a penalty, Sexton kicked into touch and from the line-out Best powered past French scrum-half Antonie Dupont.

In a rare foray outside their half in the first period, France crossed the line but Damian Penaud was judged to have knocked as he gathered a cross-field kick before passing to Thomas Ramos. Captain Guilhem Guirado gave a rueful Gallic shrug as referee Ben O'Keeffe ruled out the try.

The Irish missed a golden opportunity after sustained pressure as Cian Healy went to touch down but instead knocked it on.

The battered and bruised French lost two of their starting pack inside the opening 20 minutes but the Irish failed to hammer home their advantage as the visitors defended resolutely.

Dupont drove Sexton back into touch to snuff out one chance but the Ireland fly half was not to be denied. On the half hour mark he took a wonderful pass by Garry Ringrose to touch down. His first Ireland try since 2015  brought up his century of points against the French. Sexton, who had been criticised for his grumpiness, let his frustration out with a roar.

Sexton converted to make it 14-0. Then his sublime up and under was brilliantly taken by Ringrose -- leaping above Ramos -- only for the tenacious Dupont to bring him down short of the line.

The French were reeling and another piercing attack by the hosts ended with Conan going over -- from a fine pass by Conor Murray -- for 19-0.

The Irish stamped out a brief renaissance just short of the hour mark. CJ Stander's lovely pass found Munster team-mate Earls coming in off his wing to run in unopposed for his 30th Test try but first against the French.

With the crucial bonus point in the bag, Schmidt removed Sexton and Murray saving them for the Wales clash which will decide the Six Nations on Saturday.

The French showed some spirit to score two late tries one by veteran wing Yoann Huget ensuring they were not held scoreless by the Irish or the first time since December 1928.

RESULT

Ireland 26

Tries: Best, Sexton, Conan, Earls

Cons: Sexton 3

France 14

Tries: Huget, Chat

Cons: Serin 2

SCOTLAND vs WALES

Wales are four from four after a win over Scotland. Photo: Getty ImagesWales moved one step closer to a Six Nations grand slam and extended a national record winning streak to 13 matches, beating Scotland 18-11 thanks to tries from Josh Adams and Jonathan Davies.

The win on Saturday means Wales sit on top of the table with 16 points, but face a tough test to clinch the tournament when they host Ireland in Cardiff on March 16.

After dominating the first half Wales had to survive a stirring second-half comeback as the hosts brought a previously subdued Murrayfield crowd to their feet with a score from Darcy Graham.

The electric winger skipped over after Byron McGuigan sliced through a gap created by a slick inside ball from the returning fly half Finn Russell.

But Scotland spurned several opportunities to kick for goal in pursuit of a second try that never came, leaving Wales to breathe a sigh of relief at narrowly closing out a game they had earlier threatened to steamroll.

The visiting side led 15-6 at half-time, with the scoreline not reflecting their overall dominance as an injury-disrupted Scotland struggled to cope with Wales' mix of crushing phase-based attack play and sharp finishing.

Scotland were hit by a string of first-half injuries that added to an already lengthy pre-game roster of absent players, with the back-three duo of Tommy Seymour and Blair Kinghorn going off early.

Wales fullback Liam Williams also left in the second half, right arm slung in his shirt.

Wales are on track to win a first grand slam since 2012 after they turned over the tournament's early frontrunners England on February 23 with a 21-13 win in Cardiff.

Scotland meanwhile face the prospect of ending a disappointing campaign with a solitary win unless they can inflict a shock defeat against England in their final fixture.

RESULT

Scotland 11

Tries: Graham

Pens: Russell 2

Wales 18

Tries: Adams, Davies

Cons: Anscombe

Pens: Anscombe 2

ENGLAND vs ITALY

England ran in eight tries as they outclassed and overpowered Italy 57-14 at Twickenham to stay in the hunt for the Six Nations title.

Eddie Jones' side were in total control throughout on Saturday as tries by Jamie George, Jonny May, Manu Tuilagi and Brad Shields had the bonus point in the bag and a 31-7 lead by halftime, with Tommaso Allan grabbing the visitors' lone score.

Tuilagi, whose last international try came against Italy five years ago, added his second after the break, with lock George Kruis, replacement scrum-half Dan Robson and Shields also crossing.

Jones felt there are still improvements to be made despite the comprehensive win.

"It was a good response after Wales," the Australian told ITV Sport.

"We left a bit out there, there's a bit of disappointment with certain aspects but we are looking forward to Scotland.

"We used the whole 23 today, we could have used the finishers better against Wales, and that was my fault, but they all made a contribution today."

After their 18-11 win over Scotland, Wales top the standings with 16 points, but no bonus points. England have 15 and a massive points difference advantage over the Welsh and Ireland, who are third on nine points ahead of their home game against France on Sunday.

If Wales win their last game at home to Ireland they will complete the Grand Slam but a defeat would mean an England victory over Scotland in the final game of "Super Saturday" at Twickenham, where the Scots have not won for 36 years, would be enough to lift the title unless Ireland rack up two huge bonus-point wins.

Italy host France next week already assured of finishing last for the fourth season in a row after Saturday's 21st successive defeat in the competition and their 25th in 25 meetings with England.

RESULT

England 57

Tries: Shields 2, George, May, Tuilagi, Kruis, Robson

Cons: Farrell 4, Ford 3

Pens: Farrell

Italy 14

Tries: Allan, Morisi

Cons: Allan