Six Nations Table 2014: Examining Current Standings Heading into Week 3

Rob Blanchette@@_Rob_BFeatured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2014

England's Courtney Lawes, center, wins the line out against Ireland during their Six Nations rugby match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland, Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
Peter Morrison/Associated Press

The third round of matches of the Six Nations Championship take place this weekend, with three intriguing ties.

The Friday evening kick-off features the stuttering Wales side taking on a French team that has a 100 percent record so far.

The Saturday fixtures see a lunchtime battle for the Wooden Spoon, as Scotland travel to face Italy, and then one of the match-defining games of the series, as the indomitable Irish take on England at Twickenham Stadium. 

Here are the full fixture details and current standings in the championship:

Six Nations Rugby Championship Fixtures Week 3
FixtureDateTime (GMT)TV Info
Wales v FranceFeb. 218 p.m.BBC One
Italy v ScotlandFeb. 221.30 p.m.BBC One
England v IrelandFeb. 224 p.m.BBC One
BBC Sport
Six Nations Rugby Championship Table
BBC Sport

Wales vs. France

CARDIFF, WALES - FEBRUARY 01:  Mike Phillips (L) Leigh Halfpenny (C) and George North (R) of Wales during the playing of the national anthem during the RBS Six Nations match between Wales and Italy at the Millenium Stadium on February 1, 2014 in Cardiff,
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Six Nations holders Wales will be hugely disappointed with their opening gambit in this year's championship after an unimpressive win against Scotland and deserved loss to pacesetters Ireland.

They will feel that this game against France has come at just the right time, allowing them to eat into the points tallies of teams ahead of them.

The French have also lacked a sharpness but have done enough in their matches to edge past England in Paris and claim their yearly regulation victory over Italy.

France lead the championship and will be looking to seal victory in Cardiff to give them a good chance of taking this year's title. 

Wales cannot lose this match, but its form suggests they will struggle. 

If France can keep the penalty count down and restrict the boot of full-back Leigh Halfpenny, it could squeeze the life out of Wales and retain its place at the top of the leaderboard, when it travels to Scotland for the fourth round of matches.

Italy vs. Scotland

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 08:  Greig Laidlaw of Scotland kicks the ball clear during the RBS Six Nations match between Scotland and England at Murrayfield Stadium on February 8, 2014 in Edinburgh, Scotland.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
David Rogers/Getty Images

This match has effectively become a play-off this season to see who will finish at the bottom of this year's championship race.

Italy host a dogged Scotland team that has lost its first two matches against Wales and England. The Italians will feel they can compete with this Scottish team even though they were recently soundly beaten by their mainland rivals France in Paris.

Neither team can have any serious aspirations of success this year, so the match represents both nations the best opportunity to taste some temporary glory in 2014. 

Italy's points difference means that should they win and the Welsh fall at the feet of the French, they could climb above last year's champions.

That would be an unexpected turn of events, but given the form of all the sides presently, there is a realistic chance this will happen. 

England vs. Ireland 

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 22:  Captains Chris Robshaw of England and Paul O'Connell of Ireland pose for a photo during the RBS Six Nations Launch at The Hurlingham Club on January 22, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

The tie of the round is at Twickenham, as a youthful and exuberant England team face off against the mighty Irish.

Ireland have surprised plenty already this year after bullying the Welsh into submission and dispatching the Scots with casual ease after a tricky start. 

England have shown their pedigree already in this championship. They were unlucky to lose to the French after a titanic comeback. They then travelled to Scotland and brought back the Calcutta Cup. 

England are genuine contenders for this year's title, but if the Irish can repeat their form, they will take the win. 

Their power might be too much for England, and they will try to physically dismantle their opponents.

Ireland got their tactics perfect against Wales, and they will need to do this once again in London. 

If they can continue their perfect winning run, they will be gunning to destroy France next and claim their seat as the favourite for the championship victory.