Rugby Gods to shine on ODrisicoll

Scott Hamilton has years of rugby experience in Super 12, for the All Blacks and at Leicester Tigers

So here we are, the final round of the Six Nations, and fittingly it finishes with what will be the deciding fixture, France hosting Ireland.

The chances are the England team will be watching that fixture in their team hotel having a few beers and cheering on the French with all their might.

If they defeat Italy, in what should be a routine victory, an Irish loss in France will see them win the title.

So Super Saturday begins with England travelling to Rome to face a wounded Azzurri team after they were demolished by the Brian O'Driscoll-inspired Irish side.

If England do the business at Stadio Olimpico it will cap off what has been a very successful campaign for them. They are the best defensive side in the competition and barring a couple of unfortunate bounces in Paris could have already wrapped up the title.

Stuart Lancaster must be chuffed with how his charges have performed this year, especially with the introduction of so many youngsters.

For me the key to England's success has been players in key positions playing at the top of their game. If your 8, 9 and 10 are playing well, your chances of victory increase dramatically.

Billy Vunipola, Danny Care, and Owen Farrell have all played exceptionally well and Gloucester's Ben Morgan did an admirable job replacing Vunipola last week against Wales.

Couple that with Dylan Hartley and Mike Brown being in the form of their lives, England's core positions are well represented. And not forgetting inspirational captain Chris Robshaw who has led superbly from the front.

Italy will hope to finish on a good note and, while you will see a different team from the one that was outclassed at the Aviva, they will not have enough weapons to trouble this incredibly efficient England side. England by 20-25.

In the only game in which the result won't affect the competition winner, Wales host Scotland in a battle of the under-performing Celtic nations.

Even though this is effectively a dead rubber, there is a lot at stake for both sides. Wales will be desperate to respond after another toothless performance and as questions start to be asked, Warren Gatland will be keen to finish on a positive note.

However, even if they do win, lots of improvement will need to take place if Wales are wanting to make the knock-out stages of the World Cup next year, let alone challenge for international rugby supremacy.

Whilst Scotland have shown signs of life recently, we are only talking about
a faint heartbeat. Even though they got close against France, the out of sorts French are not a team that you would take a yard stick against.

Positive murmurings are starting to come out of the Scottish camp and on Saturday, we will see where they are at.

Unfortunately for Scotland, I see Wales responding emphatically at home this week and firmly putting the Scots back in their place. Wales by 20-25.

In the tournament decider, the bookies only have one point separating the teams with Ireland the slight favourites. I can't help but feel that if any other team was playing as poorly as France, that they would be bigger underdogs.

But everyone knows that they can turn on a performance when you least expect it. And at home in front of their ardent fans, perhaps this is the time for the real France to stand up.

Being a Kiwi, we have been stung by many "average" French teams in the past so I would know never to write them off. But I feel this Irish side is playing on a totally different level at the moment and, along with England, they are comfortably the best two teams in the Six Nations.

Jonathan Sexton continues to ooze class, their set piece is solid and should have the edge over France and their work at the breakdown is top drawer.

Joe Schmidt has them playing with confidence and a smile on their faces and of course it is the last Six Nations game for Brian O'Driscoll.

Is there any way the rugby gods will let him ride off into the sunset without a final medal around his neck? I don't think so.

Ireland will win this quite easily in my opinion and those beers the English lads will be having in their team room will be consolation ones rather than victorious. Ireland by 10.


 

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