The results from Round 3 of the Six Nations 2014 Championship have guaranteed that this will be the most exciting race for the prize in many years.
Friday saw the reigning champions from Wales find their mojo as they dismantled a France team in Cardiff, winning 27-6 in a dominant and impressive manner, per BBC Sport
On Saturday, the battle for the Wooden Spoon was taken to a new level, as a Scottish team incredibly short on points stole the victory, coming from behind against Italy, ending the match victorious 21-20 in Rome.
And the weekend was rounded off with a war of attrition from England and Ireland in a classic match for the ages. An inspirational English team eventually conquered this year's front-runners by a score of 13-10.
So what will happen in Round 4? Who will take the advantage and place themselves on the front row of the grid in the race for the title? Here's how tight it is at the top:
The table makes for spectacular drama with four nations currently only divided by scoring difference. Ireland still lead from England, Wales and France, with all four countries on four points.
There are some glaring statistics that jump out from the current table.
France have already conceded a huge 61 points in their three games, only seven points less than the Scots.
Scotland are higher than their Italian counterparts despite scoring less than half of the points of their last-placed rivals.
And Wales have clawed their way back into the race after their magnificent victory against the French and will feel that their destiny is back in their own hands ahead of the penultimate round of fixtures:
|Fixture||Date||Time (GMT)||TV Info|
|Ireland vs. Italy||March 8||2:30 p.m.||BBC One|
|Scotland vs. France||March 8||5 p.m.||BBC One|
|England vs. Wales||March 9||3 p.m.||BBC One|
Ireland vs. Italy
The Irish team will be disappointed at letting England come from behind to take victory from them at Twickenham. Throughout the tournament, they have shown their strength and character at all times and will be looking to maintain their spot at the summit with a comprehensive victory over Italy in Dublin.
The Italians themselves will feel aggrieved at being at the bottom of the table after Scotland's effort to overcome them in Rome, losing the match by a solitary point. They will be looking toward Tommaso Allan to provide the points and invention again, as he did against the Scots in the Stadio Olimpico. Clearly, he is now the most important player in their ranks, per Alasdair Reid's article on the player in The Telegraph, and he will give the Irish something to think about.
But only a victory for Ireland can be expected here, and a likely huge defeat for Italy. The Irish are a cut above this year, and it took a gigantic performance from England to edge past them.
They look powerful enough in the pack, and imaginative enough out wide, to destroy the Italians in their own backyard. The Azzurri simply will not be able to stop their opponents as they bulldoze their way through the centre.
Scotland vs. France
The Scots will take a huge amount of comfort from their last-minute victory over Italy on Sunday, after a disappointing opening two matches this year.
However, the French will be smarting after their humiliation at the hands of Wales, where they were outclassed for long periods of the game and looked anything but title challengers.
This match depends on which France team turns up.
They showed, in their opening match against England in Paris, that they can dig deep when being attacked and force the result to go in their favour. But the flair and will of the Welsh was far too much for them, leading to questions over their pedigree.
France have reported bad news for their squad. The Telegraph confirms Wesley Fofana will miss the rest of the championship:
Clermont have announced France centre Wesley Fofana will be out for 3-4 weeks with a broken rib. Which means he is out of the Six Nations.— Telegraph Sport (@TelegraphSport) February 24, 2014
Scotland will be cautious in this match and will try to restrict the passing game of the French. It suits Scotland if this becomes a war.
However, France will want to position themselves well for the final stages of the competition and should cruise past their dogged hosts, despite a clear weakness at half-back.
It should be an easy day for France with a comprehensive away victory on their scorecard.
England vs. Wales
After England and Ireland delivered one of the great Six Nations matches in recent memory, this Twickenham encounter threatens another classic as the English play hosts to Wales.
Welsh hearts will be beating strongly after their most recent victory. Their resolve had been questioned after a lackluster couple of displays in their opening matches, but this was well and truly rectified on Friday evening.
England have a youthful team, still prone to making the odd error here and there, such as the clear overlap they had in the second half against Ireland. But they will feel that if they can contend with the power delivered by a machine such as Ireland, they can face up to the Welsh and beat them on home turf.
The front-row battle will be fascinating. Wales' pack really came to the party against France, but they will have it tougher against England's uncompromising scrum.
This will be a match where flair could be vital. Margins will be tight, just as they were against Ireland, so a moment of magic might be the decisive factor.
England surprised many with how they managed to control Ireland in the second half and claim their victory from a losing position. Wales will have taken note of this.
Once again, the boots of Leigh Halfpenny and Owen Farrell will be tested as Wales attempt to leapfrog England in the standings.
This will be a close match with just a penalty or two in it. Tries are almost assured, but only if points are put on the board early, opening up the match.
Wales' experience in these situations should see them edge this, but England will run them ever so close.
Here is the predicted table after Round 4 of matches:
Rob Blanchette / BBC Sport
The Irish are still the favourites to win this championship. Their power and easier run of fixtures dictates that they are the team to beat. However, the Welsh will want to retain their crown and will challenge them all the way. It will be a battle until the final minutes of the final match.