Six Nations 2014: Latest Team News and Round 4 Predictions

Rob Blanchette@@_Rob_BFeatured ColumnistMarch 5, 2014

The Six Nations Championship continues this weekend as Round 4 takes place.

The tournament, so far, has been one of the greatest in recent memory and has already provided the fans with some classic contests 

Four teams sit at the top of the table, as Ireland, England, Wales and France are level on the same points.

This round sees Ireland play bottom team Italy, Scotland welcoming France and one of the most eagerly awaited fixtures in the calendar as Twickenham plays host to England v Wales.

Here are the full fixture details, current standings in the championship and the latest available team news: 

Six Nations Rugby Championship Fixtures Round 4
FixtureDateTime (GMT)TV Info
Ireland vs. ItalyMarch 82:30 p.m.BBC One
Scotland vs. FranceMarch 85 p.m.BBC One
England vs. WalesMarch 93 p.m.BBC One
BBC Sport
Six Nations Rugby Championship Table
BBC Sport


Ireland v Italy

Ireland will be looking for a huge win as the vulnerable Italians pay a visit to them.

With the points situation tying four nations together at the top, the points difference could come into play as to who is crowned this year's champions.

The game is an opportunity for Ireland to put points on the board before the fifth and final match.

Ireland are still reeling after their slim defeat to England at Twickenham in Round 3.

Irish legend Brian O'Driscoll has called for his countrymen to improve following their disappointing loss.

Tadhg Peavoy of RTE Sport has quoted the veteran as saying: 

When you look back on it and pull it apart, I think we have a lot to improve on. Definitely our defence, and our one-on-one tackling, needs to be more accurate. Our tackle completion needs to be over 90%. When it slips below that it gets hard to win Test matches.

You have to think about the processes and about being clinical in finishing our opportunities. And if that means that the Italian team we face has a brilliant day, then that means getting across the line. We’ve got too much respect for them. And in last year’s result they won the game and deserved the win.

They are capable of beating anyone in the championship, and England are the only team they haven’t beaten in the Six Nations. So, we’re absolutely aware that they’re a team very much on the up. We’ll have our work cut out to contain them and beat them.

RTE Sport also report that Ulster man Paddy Jackson may potentially start in place of Johnny Sexton this weekend, with the full blessing of O'Driscoll, who thinks the player is more than capable of playing at the highest level.

Prediction: Ireland win, 30-7


Scotland v France

After their amazing last-gasp winner over Italy in Round 3, Scotland will feel mentally prepared for the visit of title contenders France. 

The Telegraph have tweeted about the most notable team news from this match, which is the return of Scottish captain Kelly Brown to the fold:

Thirty-one-year-old Brown had been dropped by head coach Scott Johnson after the first game of the championship, the defeat against Ireland, as reported by BBC Sport.

BBC Sport also reports that Geoff Cross starts at tight-head and Dave Denton comes into the back row. Ryan Wilson, who has had tonsillitis, will drop to the bench, while Chris Fusaro and Moray Low drop out of the squad following the dramatic win over Italy. Johnny Beattie moves across the back row to make way for Denton, but the back line is unchanged from the fantastic victory in Rome.

France will be without their two first-choice hookers after Dimitri Szarzewski picked up an ankle injury. The team were already without Benjamin Kayser, who was ruled out for six weeks last month with a knee problem. Guilhem Guirado has replaced Szarzewski, per BBC Sport.

Prediction: France win, 20-10


England v Wales 

The most electric game of the weekend takes place at Twickenham as joint front-runners England and Wales clash.

Whichever team loses will almost certainly be knocked out of the running to become this year's champions.

The Telegraph have confirmed that Manu Tuilagi and Marland Yarde have been recalled to the English squad before this weekend's match.

Both players have been injured throughout this championship and have been unable to participate.

BBC Sport also confirmed their return on Twitter: 

Despite their inclusion it looks unlikely that either will take part in the match.

The Telegraph quotes England head coach Stuart Lancaster as saying:

They'd have to go some in the next couple of days, it's fair to say. It's a big ask for Manu to come back having had such a long period out. He hasn't had any time with us in camp whatsoever, so Tuesday will be the first training session he's done since the Wales game last year.

Wales centre Jonathan Davies has proved his fitness for the match, according to Scarlets backs coach Mark Jones, per BBC Sport. It reports that the British Lions player came through his club's last match and is ready for action. It is also hoped that lock Alun Wyn Jones will return to training soon.

Prediction: Wales win, 13-10