After four rounds and some pulsating rugby coupled with the dour we now have a three way tie for the championship going into the final weekend. On top of that, if a mass sequence of miracles occur we could even see France sneak into contention, though Wales aren’t likely to fall to Italy. Break out the calculators guys, we’re going number crunching.
England sit atop the table with 37 points in their favour versus Ireland’s 33. In simple terms that means Ireland must beat Scotland by five points more than England beat France. For example, if England V France ends 21 – 12 in favour of the Rose (likely the biggest possible margin that will come out of that game) then Ireland would be looking for 26 – 12 versus the Scots or more. When you see those hypothetical scorelines written down it doesn’t look all that impossible given that France have a win behind them and England showed weakness against Scotland and Ireland.
We’re forgetting Wales though, who are now back in contention after their epic display against Ireland. The Welsh are on 12 points which doesn’t sit them too far behind the leaders, but worst for them is going to be the fact that they play first on Saturday. Any team has a risk associated with them when they are chasing points, though the last team to successfully do so in the Six Nations was indeed Wales in 2013 against England. That said, Wales can hammer Italy 34 nil and still lose out to Ireland based on the suggested scorelines above as Ireland will of course be adding to their points difference too.
Whatever about all of these possible outcomes though we need to rewind to the probables. Ireland will take the field on Saturday and know what they have to do; wrack up the points. In previous years, notably under Eddie O’Sullivan, we would have held more confidence in this situation, but under Schmidt it brings a little more trepidation with it. Look, the knives aren’t coming out for Joe after just one loss but it can’t be ignored that Ireland have not been scoring tries and more importantly, have been winning games by the smallest margins. Is it possible to change the game plan sufficiently in seven days to get them across the line at least three times, given that is likely what will be required. We can only wait and see.
Whatever happens this weekend, we do need to keep in mind that Ireland will still, most likely, finish second at worst. They will have been the most consistent team in the tournament, they will have only been knocked out of the race by the best in Wales while we were all too busy looking at England and above all else, they will still have a great squad and backroom team ahead of the World Cup. The months between then and this weekend will be long and those thoughts will be hard to focus on but Ireland stand better than they have in such a long time and that needs to be remembered.
Saturday’s maths lesson:
Wales to win by 21 or less than Ireland do
Ireland to win by a large margin and hope that it is five points more than England manage against France.
Or just Wales and England to lose if they could oblige…
Image courtesy of praag.org