By Patrick Barlow
Photo Credit: Senedd Cymru
After four rounds of nail-biting rugby, the Six Nations comes to a close this weekend and we are only slightly closer to finding a winner.
With a triple-header of games set for Saturday, old rivalries will be reignited, and Grand Slams will be settled at the end of the 2022 tournament.
Ahead of the final round of fixtures, we take a look at all the games coming up and predict how they might play out.
France vs England: Grand Slam to be decided in “Le Crunch”:
France have undoubtedly been the stand-out performers of this year’s competition and have swept aside all of their opponents with an ease unseen in quite a long while.
Arguably the most exciting international side in the world at the moment, the final pieces of the puzzle seem to finally be coming together for Les Bleus, and this tournament might be the end to a 12-year silverware drought.
The last time France won the Six Nations coincides with the last time the side won the Grand Slam, in 2010, so to break that duct would also end a decade of tournament heartache.
Standing in their way are an England team who, whilst in third place in the tournament, have looked off the ball throughout their matches.
Despite whitewashing Italy and edging out Wales, neither win has been convincing, and nor have the disappointing losses against Ireland and Scotland.
Nonetheless, there have been glimpses of promise in the team. Prop Ellis Genge has looked exceptional in the scrum, and Marcus Smith has shone in the absence of talismanic captain Owen Farrell.
The two old rivals will meet in “Le Crunch” in the final game of the competition, and it is a game which fans have been looking forward to since before the first round kicked off.
Whilst the match is not the Six Nations decider many hoped it would be, the Grand Slam is still on the line, and hopefully both teams will not disappoint.
Our Prediction: France to clinch the Grand Slam and outclass Eddie Jones’ England
Wales vs Italy: Battle for the Bottom opens Super Saturday
Welsh fans have had to endure a torrid tournament as a result of a range of injury troubles.
After the beginning of the first game against Ireland, a lack of strength in depth seemed very apparent, and losses against France and England have further compounded the worry.
Fans can rejoice now, however, as steadfast captain Alun Wyn Jones makes another miraculous return from injury and into the starting XV.
With Wayne Pivac having already named his side, Jones and Fly Half Dan Biggar are both making milestone appearances, starting for their 150th and 100th caps respectively.
Italy, on the other hand, have already clinched this year’s wooden spoon, and have continued a long losing streak dating back more than seven years.
However, as calls to replace the Azzurri with another team such as South Africa or Georgia grow, there is perhaps reason for hope coming out of this year.
Italy’s game against Scotland showed a lot of promise. Dogged in attack and sturdier in defence, rugby seems to be slowly getting better.
The side are well placed to improve in the coming years, with coach Kieran Crowley well acquainted with Italian rugby and a range of young talent coming through the ranks.
However, it seems that this year it is business as usual.
Our Prediction: Wales to edge out improving Italy.
Ireland vs Scotland: Irish Looking to Ruin French Party
While France are the favourites to clinch the title this year, it is important to remember that there is another horse in this race.
Ireland have been the best of the rest this year, having swept past England last week and dominating Wales in the first week to put them in a commanding position going into the final week.
Andy Farrell’s side can still clinch the Triple Crown this weekend, an improvement from third place in 2021 and a great achievement for a team still building a base of young talent.
Mack Hansen has shone this season, and with a mixture of youth and experience with Jonny Sexton signed on until the end of the Rugby World Cup, there is a feeling of more to come from this team.
Scotland showed a lot of promise in the first week against England, but it has very much been downhill since then.
Similar to previous years, it has been a case of a lot of talent unable to get the results they need.
Stuart Hogg’s dropped ball against France is perhaps a perfect metaphor for the state of Scottish Rugby at the moment: so close but yet so far.
Similar to Wales, there have been a lot of injuries to key players, particularly in the back row.
With Hamish Watson, Jamie Ritchie and Matt Fagerson all unavailable at different points, there is perhaps a feeling of “What if?” for this tournament as much there is of “What next?”.
Our Prediction: Ireland to secure the Triple Crown but miss out on the Six Nations title.