Six Nations Table 2014: Analysing Each Team's Standing Ahead of Penultimate Week

Jason PettigroveContributor IMarch 3, 2014

Ireland should retain their position at the top of the RBS Six Nations table after the nest round of matches.
Ireland should retain their position at the top of the RBS Six Nations table after the nest round of matches.Warren Little/Getty Images

The penultimate week of the Six Nations again serves up some mouth-watering rugby fare, not least at Twickenham where England take on a Welsh XV behind them only on points difference.

Both sit level with Ireland on four match points, but the Irish remain top of the RBS table by virtue of their superior points difference.

Interestingly, Wales are not interested in racking up a big score on Sunday.

Gethin Jenkins told BBC Sport:

This week is all about the win.

You can't go into a game thinking about points difference. 

Even last year when we beat England at the Millennium Stadium the points difference wasn't on our mind, it was just winning the game and obviously that happened.

With the Irish hosting Italy on Saturday, it's debatable that any big Welsh score will make much of a dent in the table in any event. 

Scotland have home advantage against France, and a win will see them draw level on match points with their visitors.

RBS Six Nations 2014 - Current Standings



Brian O'Driscoll plays his final home international against Italy.
Brian O'Driscoll plays his final home international against Italy.Stu Forster/Getty Images

Italy make their way to Dublin looking to avoid a heavy defeat, but it's unlikely Paul O'Connell and his troops will show Jacques Brunel's men any mercy.

A decent points difference cushion of 21 already gives the Irish some breathing space before a ball has been kicked in anger.

Irish coach Josef Schmidt may therefore take the opportunity to make a few positional and personnel changes, and Munster's Simon Zebo has already been drafted into the squad, according to a report in the Irish Times.

Brian O'Driscoll lines up for his final home international, and you can be assured that the whole of Irish Rugby will want him to go out on a high. O'Driscoll himself isn't interested in sentiment, however, per ESPN:

"I'm excited about it being a last home game, for sure, in that it will be one to remember. But at the same time and more importantly it's an opportunity to put ourselves in an opportunity to win the Six Nations."



Stuart Lancaster has his England side well drilled.
Stuart Lancaster has his England side well drilled.David Rogers/Getty Images

England's monumental performance against Ireland at Twickenham a fortnight ago was one of their best for years.

After a stuttering start, Danny Care's breakaway try proved the difference, and there was much to admire about Stuart Lancaster's expansive brand of rugby.

Ireland did expose the gaps in the English defence on a number of occasions, and that will be of concern to Lancaster and his on-field general Chris Robshaw. However, the home side still sit pretty in second spot.

Wales know a win in this one can put them within touching distance of Ireland with one to play, so they will not sit back.

The strong Welsh scrum and drive will be a real test of England's credentials, but if it can be contained, then England have the players and pace to trouble the visitors.



Wales have the potential to trouble England at Twickenham after demolishing France last time out.
Wales have the potential to trouble England at Twickenham after demolishing France last time out.Michael Steele/Getty Images

Warren Gatland was a happy man after seeing his Welsh side demolish a lacklustre French side last time out.

Leigh Halfpenny was as reliable as ever, and his five first-half penalties took the game away from the visitors.

That result revived Wales' fading hopes of a Six Nations hat-trick, and Gatland will surely have his troops sweating blood for the cause at the home of rugby.

Sam Warburton and Gethin Jenkins have been superb of late, and a man-of-the-match performance from the latter against France was deserved recognition of what he has brought to the Six Nations party.

Halfpenny's excellence with the boot represents another major threat to an England victory, and chess games all over the pitch are likely to make for a tantalising game of rugby.



France haven't won away since their last visit to Murrayfield.
France haven't won away since their last visit to Murrayfield.David Rogers/Getty Images

The French are the fourth of four teams currently on four points, but with a points difference of just one, they won't trouble the top of the table, even if they are victorious at Murrayfield.

It's been two years since the French last won an away match, coincidentally against Scotland, but a woeful performance against Wales in their last game has badly knocked confidence.

Manager Philippe Saint-Andre has a job on his hands to lift his players, and their preparations have been disrupted by an injury to hooker Dimitri Szarzewski, according to Sky Sports.



Duncan Weir's last-gasp drop goal gave Scotland victory over Italy.
Duncan Weir's last-gasp drop goal gave Scotland victory over Italy.Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

ESPN described Scotland's performance in Italy as "Jekyll and Hyde."

It needed a last-gasp drop goal from Duncan Weir for the Scots to seal victory, and in truth, it was tough on the Italians.

It's been a poor campaign for Scott Johnson's men, and the arrival of new manager Vern Cotter in June can't come soon enough.

Scotland's saving grace is that their next game is against a French side equally low on confidence.

If such elementary mistakes can be cut from their general play, then Johnson can still oversee a positive ending to this campaign.



Defeat against Scotland was a cruel blow.
Defeat against Scotland was a cruel blow.Andrew Medichini/Associated Press

Much of Italy's hopes of an unlikely victory in Dublin rest on the shoulders of young fly-half Tomasso Allan.

At just 20, Allan has already shown his pedigree in this championship—a try, conversion and two penalties almost taking his side to victory over Scotland. 

Defeat left the Italians rooted to the foot of the Six Nations table, but they are still not cast adrift.

It's a tall order, but Scotland can still be caught. That must be the focus of Jacques Brunel's team in their final two game of this year's championship.