World Rugby

Guinness Six Nations Round 5 Preview: Irish Seek Back-To-Back Titles

Guinness Six Nations Round 5 Preview: Irish Seek Back-To-Back Titles

In Round 5 of the 2024 Guinness Six Nations, Ireland hosts Scotland in search of back-to-back titles, Wales hosts Italy and France hosts England.

Mar 16, 2024 by Philip Bendon
Guinness Six Nations Round 5 Preview: Irish Seek Back-To-Back Titles

Ushering out just as the European spring begins to peer around the corner, the 2024 Guinness Six Nations once again produced its usual thrills and spills.

Sweeping all before them through the opening three rounds, a historic back-to-back Irish Grand Slam bid came up a cropper at Twickenham in Round 4.

This result, combined with Italy’s heroic downing of Scotland a few hours earlier and France’s 20-minute blitz in Cardiff, set the stage for an all-time Super Saturday in Round 5.

Wales Vs. Italy

This is the wooden spoon decider, but with a twist, unlike so many that have gone before it! 

In 2024, the bottom-place shootout sees Italy enter the fray with a win and a draw already under its belt. 

Downing Scotland in impressive fashion in Round 4 to build on their dramatic draw with France in Round 3, the Azzurri travel to the Welsh capital brimming with confidence. 

Wales, on the other hand, enters the contest with a handful of promising progressions under but ultimately nothing tangible to show for its efforts. 

Losing their opening two rounds by the finest of margins, Warren Gatland’s men ended the subsequent two rounds with more questions than answers following two humbling defeats. 

In George North’s 121st, and final, appearance for the men in red, Gatland’s side will need to find an emotional performance that has eluded it. 

On paper, Italy holds all the cards, even without daring fullback Ange Capuozzo, who misses out after surgery for a dislocated finger. While the Toulouse fullback often is the final link in the Italian attack, the Azzurri are far from a one-man band. 

Coming of age in 2024 under new head coach Gonzalo Quesada, Italy has added a pragmatic edge to its singing-and-dancing approach. 

Topping the tackle charts, the gladiatorial captain, Michele Lamaro, and his backrow teammates will have their hands full with what is the heartbeat of this Welsh back row. 

Head and shoulders, Wales' best player this Championship, openside Tommy Reffell, is the key to Wales slowing down this Italian attack. 

Over doubling the next best in the turnovers category, the Leicester Tiger has been a menace to the opposition ball this year. As such, the Italian back row will be tasked with taking him out of the game. Failure to do so will result in the hard Welsh rush defense having a field day in picking off the Italian attackers. Italy by 3.

Ireland Vs. Scotland

Coming up just short in the big one is a statement all too familiar for Irish Rugby fans. 

The world’s most consistent outfit will be ruing the missed opportunity to become the first back-to-back Grand Slam champions. However, this one-point loss should not detract from what would be a brilliant return with a second successive Championship, should they do business at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday afternoon. 

To achieve this, Ireland will need to not only front up physically, but also incorporate more variety into its kicking game. 

Against England, Ireland did not execute a single cross-field, grubber, or chip kick; instead, the Irish opted to go for territory or utilize the box kick. This ultimately proved to be their undoing, with England’s tries being created by deep counterattacks. 

Shore up this area, and cut down on their out-of-character ill-discipline, and they will set themselves up for success. 

Scotland, on the other hand, will need to bring a full 80-minute performance, unlike any other team that has delivered this championship to knock over the reigning champions. 

Letting slip a lead against Italy in Round 3, Scotland proved there is no plan B when its wide attacking game is stunted. 

When on song and at the races emotionally, Scotland has the capability to hurt any team in international rugby. Unfortunately for Townsend’s men, they have been unable to physically match Ireland over the past decade, and this could well be their undoing again in what will be a wet and windy day in Dublin. Ireland by 12.

France Vs. England

It closes out the weekend, and indeed, the championship is ‘Le Crunch,’ as a buoyant England travels to Lyon to tackle a resurgent France. 

Both sides endured a torrid start to this year’s Championship, before rebounding in Round 4, and each will have a point to prove. 

For England, it will be out to prove that it's not just a one-hit wonder capable of pulling off an upset once every blue moon, but more a side that is building on a newly laid foundation. 

France, which for the opening 60 minutes, was being pushed to the maximum by a young Welsh side, will know that to beat England, its power game will need to be on point. 

Maximizing their returns last week were the new look halfback combination of Nolan Le Gerrac and Thomas Ramos, who brought more direction and tempo to the French game. Again, this pairing will need to direct their team around the park, given the the disjointed nature of their play a week ago. 

As touched upon above, England has the capability to match the French power if it hits the right emotional pitch. Unfortunately, for English fans, this is not a point they can, or should, rely on. Instead, there needs to be more of framework for them to fall back on. 

In this department, the likes of Ben Earl, Maro Itoje and George Martin will need to slow down the French ball carriers. 

One underrated area to track will be the line-out, where England denied Ireland consistent ball, and this will go a long way to denying the French mauling opportunities. 

In general, this game is tough to predict, but it is unfathomable that France will end this Championship without winning a single home match. France by 5.

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