Round 4 of the 2014 Six Nations tournament is nearly upon us, with the first two fixtures going down Saturday March 8.
Italy will travel to Dublin to take on Ireland before Scotland host the French squad in what should be two highly entertaining games.
Read on for updated standings and a full breakdown of both games.
All statistics used are courtesy of the Six Nations official website.
|Six Nations League Table: Week 4 Fixtures|
|RBS 6 Nations|
Ireland vs. Italy
Head-to-head counter: In 22 ties, Ireland has beaten Italy 18 times.
Ireland currently lead the table with two wins in three games and are coming off their first loss in the 2014 tournament, at the hands of old rivals England. The team will be looking to get back on track with a win over the Italians, the last winless team remaining in competition.
Tommaso Allan has been Italy's most consistent performer in 2014, with one try, two conversions and four penalties so far, and his team-mates will once again be looking at the youngster to make an impact. The former Scottish youth international had a phenomenal game against Scotland last time around, but his 13 first-half points weren't enough to give Italy the win.
For Ireland, Rob Kearney was the team's battering ram against England, with the full-back gaining an impressive 235 metres. As reported by the BBC, however, Tommy Bowe will not be facing the Italians as he recovers from an apparent groin injury.
Ireland will be going into this tie as the overwhelming favourites and with a bout against the French squad on the horizon the team cannot afford to drop any points against the winless Italians.
Scotland vs. France
Head-to-head counter: In 86 games, France has come out on top 49 times with three draws between the teams.
France are currently in fourth place, tied on points with Ireland, Wales and England but with the worst point differential of that group of teams. Scotland, meanwhile, are two points back and looking for their second win of the tournament.
The Scots finally tasted victory against Italy thanks to a last-second drop goal from Duncan Weir. The goal was expertly taken and as former rugby star Andy Nicol put it, it was a big kick from the fly-half, and one that was much needed:
France started this tournament in fine form, recording wins against England and Italy, but things came to a sudden halt as Les Bleus suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Wales. As former England star Jeremy Guscott, now with the BBC, wrote in his analysis two weeks ago, their performance against Italy and the loss to Wales may have revealed a lack of creativity for Scotland to exploit:
The French national side used to have a DNA; a definite, exciting way of playing.
But this has been coached out of them over the last decade. I've no idea why. Whatever the reason, watching France at the moment is like watching clowns at the circus.
I sat in the Stade de France during the 30-10 win against Italy two weeks ago and I was gobsmacked at France's tactics. It was a case of 'let the forwards stick it up their jumpers and try to bully and smash their way through.' It was lacklustre and unimaginative in every single way.
Most of their tries have been from turnovers. They've hardly created anything themselves—at least, very little they've been able to turn into points. They made six or seven line-breaks against Wales, which should be enough to score a couple of tries. But they couldn't even manage that.
France's apparent lack of creativity may open the door for Scotland to pull off an upset and upstage Les Bleus.
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