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RBS 6 Nations trophyWho was your standout player of the 2016 RBS 6 Nations? Read the profiles below for a reminder of the achievements of our nominees.

 

Gareth Davies:

The Wales scrumhalf took the opportunity that Rhys Webb’s injury presented and impressed throughout the Championship.

He scored a stunning try in their victory over Scotland in Round 2, was RBS 6 Nations Man of the Match in Round 3 against France and claimed the final score of Wales’ Championship when he came off the bench against Italy on Super Saturday.

 

Guilhem Guirado:

Guy Novès’ France side might have finished with 3 defeats but their captain Guirado led by example throughout.

The hooker was superb, crossing for tries against Wales and Scotland, driving his pack forwards and demonstrating brilliant tackle and breakdown work in every match.

 

Stuart Hogg:

The Scotland fullback’s scorching try in the final Round against Ireland will live long in the memory but Hogg’s influence throughout the Championship was apparent.

He made 2 tries as Vern Cotter’s side ended their winless run in downing Italy, scored 1 and he scored 1 and made 1 in their historic win over France – while also adding a penalty from his own half. All that before his fantastic solo score in Dublin on Super Saturday.

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RBS 6 NationsIreland have made 2 changes, with fit-again Jared Payne starting at centre and Simon Zebo deputising for injured full-back Rob Kearney.

Stuart McCloskey, who made his Test debut against England a fortnight ago, drops out of the squad altogether.

Hooker Rory Best will captain the side on his 50th championship appearance.

Flyhalf Edoardo Padovani makes his 1st start as 1 of 4 changes for Italy, along with Guglielmo Palazzani, David Giazzon and George Biagi.

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RBS 6 NationsAll roads led to Rome, where Scotland changed their RBS 6 Nations fortunes with a hard fought win over Italy (36 / 20).

Two 1st half, and one 2nd half, try interspersed with a succession of Greig Laidlaw penalties gave Scotland their biggest RBS 6 Nations score since the championship expanded in 2000.

The Scotland captain was awarded man of match for his kicking off the tee and calm leadership that saw the away side maintain structure and clarity of thought despite 2 2nd half Yellow Cards – for Finn Russell and WP Nel – and sustained Italian attacks.

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RBS 6 NationsHead Coach Vern Cotter has refined his Scotland squad ahead of this Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations match against Italy in Rome, with the return of 6 players to Glasgow Warriors.

Props Gordon Reid and Zander Fagerson, loose forwards Rob Harley and Josh Strauss and halfbacks Grayson Hart and Duncan Weir, all returned to club training today, ahead of tomorrow night’s (Thursday) Guinness PRO12 game against Dragons in Newport.

Cotter will select and announce a final 23-man team to travel to Rome tomorrow morning (Thursday).

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SIX NationsThe Under 20 SIX Nations, not as glamorous as the SIX Nations for the senior teams, is intensely contested.

Last year England were the unbeaten winners followed, in order, by France, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Italy.

Like their senior team, England’s Under 20 captain is a hooker – Jack Walker, whose brother Chris captained the 2012 side which retained the championship.

Coach John Callard said: “The 1st game of any Championship is always tough, especially playing away in Scotland, but the players are excited about getting started.

“We’ re looking for them to use this competition to continue developing their all-round game.  For example, we want functionally fit forwards who, as well as having a strong set piece, are ball handlers and good decision makers right across the field.

“You can always come back to a tighter game but we want players to see this as an opportunity to express themselves and enjoy playing for their country.”

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Women's 6 Nations 2016

Women’s 6 Nations Team Captains

It will be a campaign brimming with sub-plots. New talent will emerge, reputations will need to be restored and everyone will need to put on a show as the 15-a-side game fights for attention in an Olympic year.

With the gaps between teams ever decreasing, this year’s Women’s 6 Nations is expected to be the most open we have seen.

Defending champions Ireland will fight to retain their title, although France and England will severely test their grit.

Last season the Red Roses faltered, with the world champions finishing 4th, and the combination of retirements and a number of their players focusing on the Sevens for Rio 2016 means they will have much to prove.

But it is not only England who must adjust and discover new talent, because most nations have withdrawn their Sevens players to focus on this summer’s Olympics.

Amid such uncertainty, who will prevail?

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Sergio Parisse, Sam Warburton, Rory Best, Dylan Hartley, Greg Laidlaw and Guilhem Guirado (from left to right)

Sergio Parisse, Sam Warburton, Rory Best, Dylan Hartley, Greg Laidlaw and Guilhem Guirado (from left to right) at yesterday’s RBS 6 Nations 2016 launch

The 2016 RBS 6 Nations launched in style on Wednesday morning at the Hurlingham Club and the 6 captains present an intriguing mix of the old and the new.

There are 3 brand new skippers for this year’s Championship, which gets underway in 10 days’ time on Saturday 6 February when France welcome Italy to the Stade de France – and they are all hookers.

Rory Best takes the armband for 2-time defending champions Ireland after Paul O’Connell’s retirement, Eddie Jones’ England have Dylan Hartley at the helm and France under Guy Noves will be led by Guilhem Guirado.

Those 3 were joined by Scotland’s Greig Laidlaw, Wales’ Sam Warburton and Italy’s Sergio Parisse on Wednesday – 3 captains that have led their country with great distinction for many years.

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ScotlandHead Coach Vern Cotter  named uncapped props Zander Fagerson and Rory Sutherland in a 35-man Scotland squad for the 2016 RBS 6 Nations.

Glasgow Warriors’ tighthead prop Fagerson turned 20 yesterday (Tuesday 19 January) meaning he could become the 4th youngest prop in Scottish history, and the youngest to represent Scotland for more than half a century (since Bill Black debuted against France at Murrayfield 1948).

Fellow propping prospect Sutherland (23) plies his trade at the opposite end of the M8 and earns selection through his increasingly impressive showings for Edinburgh since signing from Gala last season.

The young pair are among 4 changes to Scotland’s front row options originally named for Rugby World Cup 2015, with 29-times capped Exeter Chiefs tighthead, Moray Low, and 6-times capped Glasgow Warriors hooker, Pat MacArthur, earning selection for the 1st time since the summer of 2014.

Scotland Head Coach Vern Cotter, said: “We’ve selected a mixture of experience with some exciting young players coming through, some of whom have experienced the Rugby World Cup and are eager to move forward, take the RBS 6 Nations head on and show that we can develop our game and be competitive.”

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ItalyRomaniaItaly (22) 32 / 22 (3) Romania (Final Score)

The Italian Azzurri and Romania did battle in the 2015 Rugby World Cup at

Sandy Park, Exeter, England at 15:30 SA Time (15:30 Italy Time, 16:30 EEST, 14:30 BST, 13:30 GMT).

This was the live match discussion Article.

The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & CSN on TV in SA.

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Martin Castrogiovanni

Martin Castrogiovanni

Italy prop Martin Castrogiovanni has had to drop out of his last Rugby World Cup after doctors discovered a tumor in his back, the Italian team manager revealed on Monday.

The 33-year-old Argentina-born star – fondly known as ‘Castro’ – will see a specialist about whether he requires surgery.

“Martin has pain on a sciatic nerve and after a check doctors found a tumor pressing on his 5th vertebra that is causing inflammation and pain,” team manager Luigi Troiani said.

“We are sure it is benign and tomorrow he will fly to Milan to see a specialist. The likelihood is he will require surgery.”

Castrogiovanni has been 1 of the leading props in the world over the past decade, playing for Toulon in France and Leicester in England.

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Sergio Parisse

Sergio Parisse

Following injury Italian captain Sergio Parisse has returned to the Azzurri squad, ahead of their Rugby World Cup encounter with Ireland.

Parisse had a very welcome arrival at Italy’s hotel on Tuesday, when – after a wait of over 2 weeks – the team’s illustrious long-time captain finally joined up with Jacques Brunel’s squad.

While Italy played France and Canada, the 32-year-old No 8 was back home in Paris recuperating and then training under the auspices of his club side, Stade Francais, following surgery earlier in September.

On Monday he was finally given the all clear to join up with the Azzurri, and less than 24 hours later he jumped on Eurostar to whizz to London.

However, there was less good news for Leonardo Ghiraldini, the man who has led the team in Parisse’s absence, but who limped off midway through the 2nd half of Italy’s 23 / 18 win over Canada at Elland Road in Leeds last Saturday.

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Rugby World Cup 2015There seems to have been so many injuries already in this tournament which is barely halfway through the group stages. One feels sorry for the players who have had their World Cup short and wish them all a speedy recovery, it just shows what an attritional game Rugby Union is.

We could theorize all day on the possible reasons for all of these injuries: too many games, players bulking up, laws not being sufficient or those that are there not sufficiently enforced, players possibly carrying injuries into the tournament. The harsh reality for those who have been ruled out is that the game involves high speed collisions of big men and they have been reduced to being spectators for the rest of the tournament as well as having to undergo a period of rehabilitation, for some this involves surgery.

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ItalyCanadaItaly (13) 23 / 18 (10) Canada (Final Score)

Italy and Canada did battle in the 2015 Rugby World Cup at

Elland Road, Leeds, England at 15:30 SA Time (15:30 Italy Time, 14:30 BST, 13:30 GMT, 07:30 Canada Time).

This was the live match discussion Article.

The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & CSN on TV in SA.

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FranceItalyThere will be a Six Nations re-match as France and Italy do battle at Twickenham in the fifth match of the 2015 Rugby World Cup on Saturday night. The teams are in Pool D, alongside Ireland, Canada and Romania, and the match kicks off at 20:00 UK Time (21:00 SA Time).

Italy, who have made four changes since their last test, will set a new World Cup record for the most experienced front row as their starting trio boast a total of 227 test caps. The current record was set in 2011 when a front row with 215 caps between them took the field for the Springboks against Namibia.

Martin Castogiavanni will become Italy’s most capped player as he makes his 114th appearance for his country. He will reach this landmark as Sergio Parisse misses out due to injury. Leonarodo Ghiraldini will captain Italy for the 10th time in the absence of Parisse.

France’s coach Phillipe Saint-Andre has named a team that contains two South African born players – starting Fullback Scott Spedding and Loose forward Bernard le Roux who is on the bench. Rory Kockott misses out on selection for this match altogether. France will be captained by Thierry Dussatoir.

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Rugby World Cup 2015A popular topic of debate heading into the Rugby World Cup is that of eligibility, particularly that resulting from the residency method. We take a look at the foreign-born players in each squad, where they were born and how they are eligible.

An interesting fact – only Argentina can claim that all 31 players in their squad are native to their country. The other 19 teams all have players born abroad, including significant numbers in some of rugby’s most powerful nations.

All told, Rugby World Cup 2015 will have a grand total of 33 countries involved in the tournament. Players born in various African countries –  Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and Zimbabwe join the participating Namibia and South Africa. Zimbabwe has players representing 4 countries, more than any other non-competitor.

Spain is another country not present at the Rugby World Cup who have players representing multiple countries while other countries include Belgium, Israel, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, and the Netherlands are also all represented.

Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa lead the way in terms of players representing others at the Rugby World Cup.

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Sergio Parisse

Sergio Parisse

Italy captain Sergio Parisse has declared himself unfit for the opening Rugby World Cup clash against France at Twickenham next week.

The 31-year-old Argentine-born No 8, capped 112 times by Italy and their star player, has not fully recovered after undergoing surgery to drain a hematoma last Monday.

He picked up the injury, a swelling of clotted blood, in a muscle in his left leg in Italy’s World Cup warm-up defeat to Wales in Cardiff last weekend.

The Italian federation initially said Parisse would not meet up with the Italy team in Rome on Saturday, but would instead link up “at a later date” in England.

Italy coach Jacques Brunel played down Parisse’s absence, but admitted the experienced Stade Francais player, considered 1 of the world’s best in his position, would be missed.

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Sergio Parisse

Sergio Parisse

Italy captain Sergio Parisse is in a race against time to be fit for the Rugby World Cup after undergoing surgery to drain a hematoma.

The charismatic No 8 returned to the National side last weekend in a warm-up match against Wales in Cardiff but sustained a knock to his left leg in the 19 / 23 defeat.

The surgery took place in Paris where the 31-year-old Argentine-born flank had a swelling of clotted blood drained.

Further details on his expected absence would be revealed following tests “in the coming days”.

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Sergio Parisse

Sergio Parisse

Italian general Sergio Parisse has returned to lead his troops into battle against Wales at Cardiff on Saturday.

Parisse, who was sidelined with flu for the past 3 matches, is back at the helm of the Azzurri and at the base of the scrum in the No 8 jersey.

Parisse is 1 of 7 changes to coach Jacques Brunel’s starting line-up with Edoardo Gori back from suspension to provide some experience at scrumhalf.

Other changes are Andrea Masi, Leonardo Sarto and Gonzalo Garcia who are all added to the backline.

Up front, Michele Rizzo starts at loosehead prop, while Quintin Geldenhuys comes in for Marco Fuser at lock.

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ScotlandThe Scotland team and the 2 Scottish PRO12 teams, Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors, were in action this weekend playing warm-up matches.

Scotland faced Italy for the 2nd weekend in a row in the 3rd of their 4 Rugby World Cup warm-up matches. The game was played at Murrayfield in front of what was said to be a record crowd for a summer Test match. The team that ran out must have been close to Vern Cotter’s 1st choice 15 and they did not disappoint running in 6 tries and only conceding 1 in a very impressive performance.

WP Nel put in a solid performance which saw Italy’s scrum in trouble from the word go. The pressure Nel put on Italy’s loosehead prop earned Scotland a few penalties with the loosehead resorting to scrumming in on various occasions.

The next game of the day also took place in Edinburgh where the hosts took on Ulster in a preseason warm-up match, 1 week ahead of the start of the PRO12 for 2015 / 2016. The game was played at Heriot FC’s ground Goldenacre due to the Test match which was played earlier in the day at Murrayfield.

Head coach Alan Solomons would have been pleased to see his team get their 2nd win in their 2nd preseason friendly match against what was a fairly strong starting Ulster line-up.

The final game of the day, which was billed as the ‘Battle of New Scotland’, saw Canada host Glasgow Warriors in Halifax Nova Scotia.

Josh Strauss played the whole game for the Warriors ahead of possible inclusion in the Scotland World Cup squad. Former Glasgow Warriors winger DTH vd Merwe scored a try for Canada late in the game to ensure victory for them. The game was played in quite high temperatures and there were a few water breaks during the game.

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WP Nel

WP Nel

WP Nel is due to start a test match for Scotland for the 1st time when they face Italy at BT Murrayfield on Saturday. The burly tighthead prop from Loeriesfontein qualifies to play for Scotland on residency grounds, having played for Edinburgh for the last 3 years. Nel who earned his 1st Scotland cap against Italy in Turin last weekend when he came on as a substitute in the 47th minunte is 1 of 14 changes that has been made to the starting team.

Sean Lamont is the only player who retains his place in the starting line-up from last week with several players in the match day squad making their 1st appearance in this series of warm-up matches.

Head coach Vern Cotter announced his team today and the starting line-up appears to be close to what could be considered his 1st choice 15. The halfbacks and fullback look to be Cotter’s favoured choices while there may still be 1 or 2 changes on the wings and 1 at centre. Up front we are likely to be seeing the 1st choice tight 5 in action while there will possibly still be a change or 2 to the loose forward trio.

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Valerio Bernabo

Valerio Bernabo

Italy veteran Marco Bortolami was sidelined, while Valerio Bernabo was a surprise inclusion in Italy’s 31-man squad for the World Cup.

Lock Bortolami, has amassed 112 caps for the Azzurri and captained them 40 times.

He was 1 of several players cut from an initial 40-man training squad by coach Jacques Brunel.

“It was very difficult to communicate the decision, especially when you’ve put in as much work as the lads have over the past 9 weeks,” said Brunel.

“So to tell several players they were not coming to the World Cup was particularly difficult.”

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ScotlandOn a humid Turin evening Scotland continued their 2015 Rugby World Cup build up with a hard-fought win against an experienced Italy side. Final Score: Italy 12 / 16 Scotland.

Tested in greasy conditions the Scots shut out Italy on the try–count, and capitalised on a rare open passage of play to score the decisive points.

Replacement scrumhalf Henry Pyrgos and centre Peter Horne helped open up a tight Italian defence in the final quarter of the match after Scotland had gone behind for the 1st time in the match 12 / 9.

After a sequence of repelled Scottish attacks an offload in the tackle from wing Sean Lamont to full-back Greig Tonks stretched the Italian defence.

Tonks passed outside to centre Matt Scott who made good yards, drawing the defence, before passing back inside for Pyrgos to finish with just five minutes of the match remaining.

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Quintin Geldenhuys

Quintin Geldenhuys

Italy coach Jacques Brunel named Quintin Geldenhuys as captain in a much changed side, with respect to the last Six Nations campaign.

Italy will host Scotland in a Rugby World Cup warm-up game in Turin on Saturday.

With habitual captain Sergio Parisse sidelined with flu-like symptoms, 2nd row forward Geldenhuys has been handed the captain’s armband with Fiji-born Samuel Vunisa stepping into Parisse’s No 8 position.

Brunel has caused a minor surprise in the centres.

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SpringboksSA Schools coach Hein Kriek and his SA Schools A counterpart Lance Sendin on Monday made wholesale changes to their starting line-ups for the 2nd Round of the Under 18 International Series at Outeniqua Park in George on Tuesday.

The SA Schools team will take on France at 17:00 SA Time and the SA Schools A team will go up against England at 13:00 SA Time.

In the other clash Wales will take on Italy at 15:00 SA Time.

Kriek made 7 changes to his team, which sees 2014 Coca-Cola Craven Week player of the year Curwin Bosch move from flyhalf to fullback, while flyhalf Damian Willemse will join forces with scrumhalf Embrose Papier in a new halfback combination.

The other changes in the backline were on the left wing where Wandisile Similane replaces Manie Libbok and centre Heino Bezuidenhout is selected alongside Stedman Gans, who scored 2 tries in their opening fixture against Wales.

Up-front Kriek retained the flanker combination of Cobus Wiese and captain Ersnt van Rhyn, while Hacjivah Dayimani has been selected at No 8. In the engine room lock Ruben van Heerden will start alongside Ruben de Villiers.

Ashwyn Adams, meanwhile, will start at loosehead prop in a strong front row with tighthead prop Carlu Sadie and hooker Johan Grobbelaar.

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Stedman Gans - SA Scools

Stedman Gans – SA Scools

The SA Schools and SA Schools A teams on Friday started the Under 18 International Series on a high note at the City Park Stadium in Crawford, Cape Town, as they registered encouraging victories against Wales and Italy respectively to make their presence felt early on.

The SA Schools team delivered a solid performance on attack and defence against Wales for a 42 / 11 victory, while the SA Schools A side overcame a closely-fought 1st half against Italy for 29 / 14 win.

In the other clash England defeated France 15 / 7.

The teams will battle it out in the 2nd Round in George on Tuesday before returning to the City Park Stadium on Saturday 15 August for the closing Round of the Series.

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Rugby World Cup 2023France, Ireland, Italy and South Africa have been confirmed as the 4 nations who will bid for the right to stage the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

The quartet all submitted formal expressions of interest before last month’s deadline.

A decision on which country will stage the 2023 Rugby World Cup will be made in May 2017 after a tender deadline in June next year.

South Africa staged the World Cup in 1995, when the Springboks won the tournament on home soil, while France played host to the 2007 edition.

However, neither Ireland nor Italy, 2 of Europe’s elite Six Nations along with France, have been the main hosts of a World Cup.

“The candidate hosts now have a year to benefit from detailed knowledge-sharing and preparation, including digesting the detailed tender requirements and observing World Cup 2015 hosting, before the confirmation to tender deadline of June 2016,” said World Cup tournament director Alan Gilpin in a statement.

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ItalyItaly’s World Cup preparations are back on track after players and the national federation (FIR) reached an agreement over bonuses.

A training camp scheduled to start on Monday 15 June had been called off as the row over World Cup bonuses and other issues escalated.

Both sides accused the other of cancelling the training camp, although Italy’s players refused to leave their base in the northern town of Villabassa, where they were due to remain in camp until 3 July.

“The agreement will be sealed quickly in order to swiftly reconvene the World Cup preparation camp,” the FIR said in a statement.

A meeting at the Calvisano base of FIR president Alfredo Gavazzi allowed the “basis for a collective agreement to participate at the World Cup while respecting the meritocratic principles proposed by the federation and the requests, not just those economic, put forward by the players,” the statement said.

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ItalyItaly’s World Cup preparations got off on the wrong foot on Monday, when players refused to take part in the 1st training session in a row over pay.

The Italian Rugby Federation said it had “taken note” of the players’ decision “to neither take part in training nor wear federation kit before a financial agreement is found over participation in training and the World Cup”.

40 Players had gathered at Niederdorf / Villabassa, close to the northern town of Bolzano, for the 14 June to 3 July training camp.

However, captain Sergio Parisse and veteran prop Martin Castrogiovanni were both absent after their Top 14 efforts with Stade Francais and Toulon respectively.

The Italian internationals want a match-by-match bonus for the 18 September to 31 October World Cup in England instead of a once-off payment linked to their performances, as desired by the federation.

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Mils Muliaina

Mils Muliaina

Italian Rugby club Zebre have signed New Zealand All Blacks Rugby World Cup winner Mils Muliaina for the 2015 / 2016 season from Irish province Connacht.

The 2015 / 2016 Rugby season will be the Italian Northwest franchise’s 4th season in the PRO12 League and the European Cups.

100-Cap All Black Muliaina joined Connacht from Super Rugby side the Chiefs in 2014 having retired from playing international rugby at the end of the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Zebre have announced that they will be led by a new coaching team that will be announced later in the year.

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SIX-NationsSomewhere, shaking his cauliflower ears in dismay, a grizzled old retired prop was probably secretly wishing someone would just stick the ball up his jumper and make a cautious 3 inches.

For everyone else watching this was surely the most thrilling day that 5 or 6 Nations rugby has seen: a fantasy finale, a chest-squeezer and knee-knocker, a day to fall back in love.

There are the stats: 221 points scored across the 3 matches, the most in a single weekend – 27 tries, run in from deep and wide and everywhere in between.

There was England’s record score against France, Ireland’s biggest away win, the most tries Wales have scored in 1 championship half.

Then there was the style. This was rugby we thought had died and been laid to rest, killed by detailed analysis and the professional urge to be sensible.

Sensible? This was glorious chaos, March madness to put a spring in every watcher’s step and an ulcer in the stomach of every defence coach.

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SIX NationsIt should be a 3-way fight between England, Ireland and Wales for the Six Nations title on Saturday, although France still have an outside chance.

The Top 3 are locked on 6 Points with 3 wins apiece, while England’s points difference of +37 puts them 1st, ahead of Ireland’s +33 and Wales’ +12.

France are 4th with 4 Points and a points difference of +22.

Philippe Saint-Andre’s side could still steal the title if Wales and Ireland lose and Les Bleus then beat England by a margin of 8 points or more, but it looks a remote possibility.

If teams are level on points, and match-points difference, then England are likely to win the Championship on tries scored, having crossed 11 times to Ireland’s 4 and Wales’ 5. In the highly unlikely event this was also level come Saturday night, the trophy would be shared.

Wales are in action 1st away to Italy in Rome (14:30 SA Time, 12:30 GMT), before Ireland take on Scotland at Murrayfield (16:30 SA Time, 14:30 GMT), ahead of England’s home match against France at Twickenham (19:00 SA Time, 17:00 GMT).

With the Six Nations wide open, we assess the 4 teams’ chances.

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