PREVIEW: Six Nations Week 5 (16 March)

imageRUGBY UNION – The final matchday of the 2013 Six Nations Championship will take place on Saturday 16 March. Action kicks off in Rome, where Italy host Ireland. Then it is off to Cardiff for the championship decider between Wales and England and to close matters out Scotland travel to France on Saturday night. Key facts and figures below.

Italy – Ireland (Saturday 16 March 2013, 15:30 CET)
> Italy have picked up the wooden spoon in nine of their previous 13 Six Nations campaigns, since joining the competition in 2000.
> A victory will make certain that Italy avoid the wooden spoon, but anything less will put their fate of finishing in last place once again in the hands of France, who take on Scotland in Paris later in the day.
> In their previous 13 Six Nations seasons, Italy have managed two victories once – in 2007.
> Ireland have won all of their 13 previous Six Nations encounters with Italy. It is the only of their five opponents in the competition that Ireland have a spotless track record against.
> In 21 Test matches against Ireland, Italy have established three victories and 18 defeats. Their last victory over Ireland dates back to 20 December 1997, when the Azzurri triumphed 37-22 in Bologna.
> Ireland have never finished lower than fourth in the Six Nations. Their 2008 campaign was their worst, when they finished in fourth place. They responded by winning the Grand Slam the next season.
> Ireland have failed to win their last three 6N matches, losing to England and Scotland and drawing with France after beating 2012 Grand Slam winners Wales in their 2013 opener.
> The winless streak of three is Ireland’s longest in the Six Nations era. It is their longest in the Five/Six Nations since March 1999 and February 2000, when they lost three in a row. The last time they failed to win four or more successive was between February 1997 and February 1999, when they suffered seven consecutive defeats.
> In 13 previous Six Nations campaigns, Ireland have never failed to win at least two matches or failed to score at least 93 points and at least nine tries. Ireland need to win whilst putting up at least 36 points and at least four tries to maintain the three trends.
> There has been ample speculation whether this will be the last match featuring Brian O’Driscoll in an Ireland shirt. In any case, he is the all-time Five/Six Nations record holder in matches started (59) and tries scored (26).
> Last weekend, Andrea Lo Cicero overtook Alessandro Troncon to gain sole possession of the Italian national team’s career appearance record. Lo Cicero has now represented his country on 102 occasions.
> The record for fewest tries by all teams in a Six Nations campaign is 46 – established last season. The present total stands at 31 for the 2013 season, meaning that there would have to be at least 15 on the final matchday to avoid an outright all-time low.

Wales – England (Saturday 16 March 2013, 18:00 CET)
> England need to defeat Wales to win their second Grand Slam in the Six Nations era, following their Grand Slam winning campaign in 2003.
> Including the Five Nations/Home Nations, England have won the Grand Slam on 12 occasions, more than any other nation. Wales are next on 11, followed by France on nine. Scotland have registered three and Ireland two. Italy have yet to win the Grand Slam.
> Wales are the only team other than England that can still win the 2013 Six Nations Championship. If Wales win by eight points or more, the title is theirs. If Wales win by seven, the total number of tries in the tournament will be the tiebreaker. Currently, Wales have seven tries against England’s five. An England win, draw or defeat by less than seven points will see England win their first Six Nations crown since 2011.
> Wales have not won the Five/Six Nations in back-to-back years in 34 years (1978-1979).
> England have scored five tries in the 2013 Six Nations. The team that won the previous 13 editions always scored at least 10 tries, the record low of 10 for a winner having been established last season by Wales.
> England have won their last six matches in this competition, their second longest winning streak in the competition, behind a nine-match onslaught from 2002 to 2004. The last team to defeat England in the 6N are Wales, beating them 19-12 at Twickenham in 2012, en route to the Grand Slam.
> In 11 of the previous 13 Six Nations seasons, at least one team was left with a shot at the Grand Slam after four rounds of play. In 2003 there were two, in 2006 and 2007 there were none.
> Of the 12 campaigns presented with a shot at the Grand Slam in the 6N era, eight succeeded by winning their final match. All four failures involved England. They lost their final match in 2000, 2001 and 2011 and won their season finale in 2003, beating Ireland, the other team left in contention for the Grand Slam.
> Ireland’s 2003 campaign is the only one in the 6N era that had a shot at the Grand Slam after four matchdays and ended up not winning the championship at all.
> The balance between Wales and England in the Six Nations is eight wins by England and five by Wales. England won the first five meetings, but Wales responded by winning five of the next eight.
> The six matches at the Millennium Stadium between these sides have been evenly split. England won the last one (26-19 in 2011), ending a three-match winning streak by Wales in 6N encounters between these two in Cardiff.
> For the 10th time in 14 Six Nations seasons, Wales will be at home on the final matchday of the 6N season.
> Owen Farrell comes back to replace Toby Flood at fly-half. Last week, against Italy, Flood equalled Farrell’s team record for most penalty goals in a Six Nations match (six).
> Under Stuart Lancaster, England have collected eight wins and one defeat in the Six Nations. Their only defeat with him in charge came against Wales last season.
> England are the only side to put up points inside four minutes in 2013 Six Nations matches. England have done that in all four of their 2013 Six Nations matches so far.
> Leigh Halfpenny is the leading points scorer in the 2013 Six Nations Championship. His 62 points lead Scotland’s Greig Laidlaw by 10. Last year, Halfpenny led the field on 66 points.

France – Scotland (Saturday 16 March 2013, 21:00 CET)
> France are ranked last in the table. They have never picked up the Wooden Spoon in the Six Nations era. The Wooden Spoon has gone to Italy (nine times), Scotland (three times) and Wales (once).
> France’s worst finish in the Six Nations era is fifth place in 2001.
> In 13 previous Six Nations seasons, France have always won at least two of their five matches. That target has gone out of reach, now that they have failed to win any of their first four.
> The last Five/Six Nations season in which France failed to win a single match was 1969, when they registered one draw and three defeats.
> France have put up 50 points in their first four matches of the 2013 Six Nations Championship. In each of their previous 13 campaigns, they always recorded at least 100 points.
> France’s four tries are also their lowest total in a 6N campaign. They posted a single season low last season, when they crossed over eight times.
> France have failed to win any of their last seven Six Nations matches, their longest in the Five/Six Nations since 1924-1927, when they lost 14 in a row.
> France have won 12 of their 13 Six Nations encounters with Scotland, the exception being a 20-16 defeat at Murrayfield on 5 February 2006.
> Scotland have not defeated France in a Test match in France since 10 April 1999, when Scotland won 36-22.
> France’s last victory in a Six Nations match came against Scotland – 23-17 on 26 February 2012.
> France have the best track record on the fifth and final matchday, recording 10 wins and three defeats in closing out their previous 13 Six Nations seasons.
> France have been in the lead for only 44 minutes of their 2013 Six Nations campaign – the equivalent of only 11 minutes per match. Each of the other teams have been in the lead longer.  Table leaders England have led for 261 out of a possible 320 minutes.