Six Nations 2014: Dates, Kick-off Times, Team Standings and Predictions

Rob Blanchette@@_Rob_BFeatured ColumnistMarch 8, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 22:  (l to r) Paul O'Connell of Ireland, Sergio Parisse of Italy, Sam Warburton of Wales, Chris Robshaw of England, Kelly Brown of Scotland and Pascal Papé of France 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 chequered flag is in sight for this year's Six Nations Championship race, with four supercharged cars still battling for overall victory as we enter the final two laps.

The tournament has been one of the best in recent memory with Ireland, England, Wales and France all laying claim to being the Northern Hemisphere's best team.

All four nations are currently tied at the top on four points, with two games to play.

This weekend we see the Welsh travel to England, Scotland hosting France and Ireland welcoming Italy.

Here is a list of this weekend's matches with kick-off times and the current standings in the Six Nations table:

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

England vs. Wales

CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 16:  Wing Chris Ashton of England is tackled by Jamie Roberts of Wales during the RBS Six Nations match between Wales and England at Millennium Stadium on March 16, 2013 in Cardiff, Wales.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Undoubtedly the biggest game of the weekend happens at Twickenham, as England host current holders Wales.

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The English have surprised many this year with their blend of youth and hunger under head coach Stuart Lancaster.

Wales appeared to have seen their title chances evaporate after a lacklustre opening match against Scotland and the defeat to Ireland. 

However, they have recovered well and put France to the sword in impressive manner during the previous round. A win at Twickenham would see them take one step toward being champions for the third consecutive year. 

The Guardian's rugby union correspondent Robert Kitson recently gave his opinion on whether England or Wales will win this year's championship: 

England captain Chris Robshaw recently reflected on last season's crushing 30-3 defeat in Cardiff, per BBC Sport. He said:

Last year doesn't have too big an influence. Look at what is up for grabs for us on Sunday - a Triple Crown. That's massive.I don't think there's any point in replaying last year's game. What it shows is what not to do. It was disappointing and they are a side that have beaten us and we haven't beaten them.

People remember what happened and they probably always will because you remember those types of occasion. We switched off a little bit, chased the game too early and eventually it played into their hands. By that stage the game was gone and it was a long way back, but we're now a lot better at dealing with those situations.

Despite England's resilience this year, it is the Welsh who have now started to build momentum and improve their form. Their confidence will be sky high after the destruction of a good French team in the previous round, and they will feel they can edge this match. 

With the ever-reliable boot of the world-class Leigh Halfpenny, Wales will capture victory—but only just.

Prediction: Wales win, 13-10

Ireland vs. Italy

Paolo Giovannini/Associated Press

Ireland have been superb in this year's Six Nations and will feel hard done by not to have maximum points from their three matches.

In Round 3, they were edged out by England at Twickenham after battling into a lead. The visit of an average Italian side is perfect for the Green Machine as they look for a comprehensive points victory.

Points difference will clearly be a huge factor in final table, and the Irish know this is their one big shot to improve in this area. 

The Italians do not have the power to deal with Ireland's pack, and their flair will not cause the home team any problems either.

Ireland are stronger in every department: Currently the Irish line-out is the best in the tournament so far, conceding just three times on their own throw, per BBC Sport. That kind of consistency will damage Italy's game.

As reported by BBC Sport, the game is Irish legend Brian O'Driscoll's final home match. Only four players have ever scored more tries against Italy than O'Driscoll, who has six to his name. He will be looking to ensure that his swansong has the perfect ending.

It should be a very comfortable day for O'Driscoll, Ireland and their fans on Saturday, leaving them with a huge opportunity to be crowned champions for 2014.

Prediction: Ireland win, 30-7

Scotland vs. France

Thibault Camus/Associated Press

France have managed to stay in contention during this year's Six Nations despite some differing form over their three matches.

They managed a last-gasp win against England in Paris, a comfortable victory over Italy but were then slaughtered by a rampant Welsh team.

Scotland themselves have been indifferent and look like they will only narrowly avoid the wooden spoon this season. 

As reported by BBC SportFrance have won 14 of the past 15 meetings with Scotland (losing one) since the turn of the century. It is a record that shows the French might have the mental edge on Saturday.

However, les Bleus are without a win in seven Tests away from home, drawing one and losing six, and have scored just five tries in those games.

Their last away victory was 49-10 against Argentina in June 2012.

Scotland have shown some dogged intent during the championship, but the quality of the French will cause them difficulty. The flair and movement of the French will be too much for a Scottish side that does not have the depth of quality it has had in previous incarnations.

France have made the most offloads in this year's tournament, with a total of 52. This quick movement will see the Scots scrambling for possession. 

As with the Irish versus the Italians, France know they have to get points on the board to give them an increased chance of ending the campaign as winners. Points difference is the key.

Scotland will be no pushovers and will be boosted by the return of 31-year-old skipper Kelly Brown, per BBC Sport. Despite this, the desire to claim silverware should be enough to see French form improve and take maximum points. 

If the score stays tight during the game, it could be a very interesting final 15 minutes. But the French should prevail and notch up their third win of the Six Nations.

Prediction: France win, 20-10