Six Nations: Wales, Ireland and England in title contention on final weekend

International
by RUGBY.com.au staff

The 2019 Six Nations winner will be crowned on Sunday morning with all three final round matches being played on the same day.

Wales is in the box seat to take the title, facing off against Ireland, on a 13-0 run heading into the final game but both Ireland and England still have a chance to stealing the win on the last weekend.

All the teams and times below, but before that, take a look at all the possibilities for the final round.

PERMUTATIONS

If Wales beat Ireland...

Wales wins the title, regardless of other results.

This occurs even if  Wales and England both end up on 20 points after round five as the Welsh would three bonus points for a grand slam.

If Wales and Ireland draw...

And England loses to Scotland, Wales would win the title but no grand slam.

And England beats Scotland, England would win the title.

If Wales loses to Ireland...

And England beat Scotland, England would win the title.

And England lose to Scotland, Ireland would win the title.

SCHEDULE

Italy vs France, Stadio Olimpico, Saturday March 16, 1:30pm local, 11:30pm AEDT

Wales vs Ireland, Principality Stadium, Saturday March 16, 2:45pm local, Sunday 1:45am AEDT

England vs Scotland, Twickenham, Saturday March 16, 5pm local, Sunday 4am AEDT

WALES vs IRELAND

Tadhg Beirne is a chance of an Ireland debut in June. Photo: Getty ImagesTadhg Beirne makes his first Six Nations start for Ireland in the clash with Grand Slam-chasing Wales on Saturday, which will see him face several of his former Scarlets team-mates.

The 27-year-old second-row forward -- who made his Test debut in the 2-1 series win over Australia last year -- was slated to start earlier in the tournament after superb form for Munster but suffered a knee injury in January.

Beirne, who replaces the injured Iain Henderson in the engine room, played for Welsh region Scarlets for two seasons before returning to Ireland to earn a place in the Test side.

He is one of three changes made by Schmidt to the starting line-up that eased to a 26-14 victory over France last Sunday.

Veteran flanker Sean O'Brien returns to the team -- for his injured Leinster team-mate Josh van der Flier -- after being omitted for the France game.

Schmidt said O'Brien had something to prove after a poor performance in the unimpressive win over Italy which led to him being left out against the French.

"To say that was not his best performance, I know he'd agree with that," Schmidt said.

"He's very, very motivated to get back to that blockbusting best that has seen him as one of the players who has been incredibly influential in games that he's played."

O'Brien's fellow veteran full-back Rob Kearney has recovered from a calf injury, which ruled him out on the morning of the France game, to return and his dependability under the high ball will be crucial.

Jordan Larmour, who gave an impressive performance after standing in for Kearney against France, is on the replacements bench which also sees the return to the squad of scrum-half Kieran Marmion.

Warren Gatland on Thursday named an unchanged Wales team for his final Six Nations game in charge, full-back Liam Williams having overcome a right shoulder 'stinger' injury.

It will be Gatland's 50th Six Nations match with Wales, with the Kiwi coach slated to step down from his post following this year's Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Wales head into Saturday's match at Cardiff's Principality Stadium as the only unbeaten team in the Six Nations tournament with four victories from four played, part of a 13-match unbeaten streak.

Victory over Ireland would ensure a record third Six Nations clean sweep of Gatland's reign following Grand Slams in 2008 and 2012, and a first Six Nations title since 2013.

The Irish, however, can still win the title should they beat the Welsh and Scotland be victorious over England in Saturday's final game.   

TEAMS

Wales

Rob Evans, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty, Gareth Davies, Gareth Anscombe, Josh Adams, Hadleigh Parkes, Jonathan Davies, George North, Liam Williams. Reserves: Elliot Dee, Nicky Smith, Dillon Lewis, Jake Ball, Aaron Wainwright, Aled Davies, Dan Biggar, Owen Watkin

Ireland

Cian Healy, Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan, Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien, CJ Stander, Conor Murray, Johnny Sexton, Jacob Stockdale, Bundee Aki, Garry Ringrose, Keith Earls, Rob Kearney. Reserves: Niall Scannell, David Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Quinn Roux, Jack Conan, Kieran Marmion, Jack Carty, Andrew Conway

ENGLAND vs SCOTLAND

Joe Cokanasiga celebrates a try on debut. Photo: Getty ImagesJoe Cokanasiga has been dropped by England coach Eddie Jones for Saturday's Six Nations finale against Scotland at Twickenham.

The powerhouse wing produced a man-of-the-match display in England's 57-14 thrashing of Italy as he rampaged around Twickenham last weekend, with former England coach Clive Woodward comparing the Fiji-born flyer to New Zealand great Jonah Lomu.

But Cokanasiga was not even named on the bench for the Calcutta Cup clash against Scotland with fellow wing Jack Nowell, the man he came in for last weekend, returning after a shoulder 'stinger' injury in one of four changes made by Jones to his starting XV. 

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend recalled back-row Hamish Watson for Saturday's Calcutta Cup clash away to England as he made six changes to his starting side.

The Scots will hope to finish the Six Nations by retaining the Calcutta Cup with just their second win of the Championship following last week's 18-11 loss to leaders Wales at Murrayfield -- a match where Watson impressed off the bench.

Townsend had also recalled Watson's fellow back-row forward Sam Skinner as well as full-back Sean Maitland, who plays his club rugby for English champions Saracens.

Wing Byron McGuigan, centre Sam Johnson and lock Ben Toolis have been also brought in to face title-chasing England.

The injured trio of Tommy Seymour, Blair Kinghorn and Jamie Ritchie have dropped out, as has Peter Horne, with Josh Strauss and Jonny Gray moved to the bench.

TEAMS

England

Ben Moon, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Joe Launchbury, George Kruis, Mark Wilson, Tom Curry, Billy Vunipola, Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell, Jonny May, Manu Tuilagi, Henry Slade, Jack Nowell, Elliot Daly. Reserves: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Dan Cole, Brad Shields, Nathan Hughes, Ben Spencer, George Ford, Ben Te'o

Scotland

Allan Dell, Stuart McInally, Willem Nel, Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, Sam Skinner, Hamish Watson, Magnus Bradbury, Ali Price, Finn Russell, Byron McGuigan, Sam Johnson, Nick Grigg, Darcy Graham, Sean Maitland. Reserves: Fraser Brown, Gordon Reid, Simon Berghan, Jonny Gray, Josh Strauss, Greig Laidlaw, Adam Hastings, Chris Harris

ITALY vs FRANCE

Italy coach Conor O'Shea announced five changes Thursday and brings in centre Marco Zanon for his first cap with the side to face France in their final Six Nations tie.

Zanon, 21, who plays for Treviso, comes in for Michele Campagnaro, who will miss Saturday's Rome match following injury in the 57-14 hammering by England last week.

He joins a team that have lost all four games in the championship so far and are hoping a weakened French side will offer them a better chance of scoring a rare Six Nations win at home.

Four changes upfront see Toulouse hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini coming in for Luca Bigi, who drops to the bench, while prop Tiziano Pasquali is selected ahead of Simone Ferrari.

David Sisi starts at lock and will earn a fifth cap while English-born Gloucester flanker Jake Polledri is preferred to Sebastian Negri, who drops to the bench.

France have made six changes for their final match of a disappointing Six Nations against Italy but coach Jacques Brunel reasserted his faith Thursday in captain Guilhem Guirado to lead the team into the World Cup.

Jacques Brunel has backed his controversial captain Guilhem Guirado. Photo: AFPBrunel backed the controversial Guirado, despite reports in sports daily L'Equipe on Wednesday that the coach had wanted to strip the hooker of the captaincy after the 44-8 humiliation against England last month.

"I would like to speak about Guilhem Guirado and my relationship with him - we have known each other for 12 years, we respect and admire each other and we are fairly open in discussing everything," said Brunel.

He said the discussion after the England match had been wider than just the captaincy, insisting it had been about the team's playing style and performance.

"Guilhem's position as captain is secure and he will be there until the end of the World Cup," which runs from September 20 to November 2 in Japan, he said.

The six changes for the Italy game come after last week's 26-14 loss to Ireland in a Six Nations that brought just one win, against Scotland.

Two changes for the last game have been enforced by injury, with back rower Wenceslas Lauret and prop Jefferson Poirot, both injured against Ireland, making way for Gregory Alldritt, 21, and Etienne Falgoux, 26, respectively, who are in the starting lineup for the first time.

The other changes give added experience in the backline with the recall of Maxime Medard, 32, capped 55 times, at fullback and 31-year-old Wesley Fofana at centre. They take over from Thomas Ramos and Gael Fickou.

In the pack, Paul Willemse replaces Sebastien Vahaamahina in the  second row while Yacouba Camara returns to the back row in place of Arthur Iturria.  

Italy

Andrea Lovotti, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Tiziano Pasquali, David Sisi, Federico Ruzza, Abraham Steyn, Jake Polledri, Sergio Parisse, Tito Tebaldi, Tommaso Allan, Angelo Esposito, Luca Morisi, Marco Zanon, Edoardo Padovant, Jayden Hayward. Reserves: Luca Bigi, Cherif Traore, Simone Ferrari, Alessandro Zanni, Sebastian Negri, Guglielmo Palazzani, Ian McKinley, Luca Sperandio

France

Etienne Falgoux, Guilhem Guirado, Demba Bamba, Felix Lambey, Paul Willemse, Gregory Alldritt, Yacouba Camara, Louis Picamoles, Antoine Dupont, Romain Ntamack, Yoann Huget, Wesley Fofana, Mathieu Bastareaud, Damien Penaud, Maxime Medard. Reserves: Camille Chat, Dany Priso, Dorian Aldegheri, Paul Gabrillagues, Arthur Iturria, Baptiste Serin, Camille Lopez, Thomas Ramos