France v England in Paris (6 Nations)
Ireland v Scotland in Dublin (6 Nations)
Wales v Italy in Cardiff (6 Nations)
Germany v Spain in Heidelberg (WCQ Europe R5; ENC 1)
Georgia v Russia in Trabzon (WCQ Europe R5; ENC 1)
Portugal v Romania in Lisbon (WCQ Europe R5; ENC 1)
Briefly (I'll be committed elsewhere Friday-Saturday and may not be able to provide full previews-teams, data etc)
Only England stands in the way of the French marching to a Grand Slam. The Grand Slam is where one team defeats all other teams in this competition. France will win the competition even if England wins in Paris. It's just a question of the Grand Slam. England can only be described as plodders compared to the French, especially in the try scoring table. For France the winning of the championship title wont be the same unless they win the Grand Slam. For England only a convincing win will win over the England media and fans who have just about had enough of England's solid but pedestrian performances. What's happened to that English flare?
Ireland will want to finish a disappointing season with a win, and a good win. Scotland could do with an upset win to lift them off the bottom of the table. At the moment they have a firm grip on the Wooden Spoon.
Italy has nothing to lose in Cardiff. The Welsh are down after their big loss to Ireland last weekend. This will be Italy's chance to win two games in a row in a 6 Nations Championship, something they haven't done before. I feel sorry for Wales. This is the team, France apart, who has displayed real flare and initiative, even for only half of each match. They haven't been able to put that ability into points. Sadly results count not how the game is played. Goes well against my personal rugby ethos. It's better to lose with flare rather than just lose. Sadly our rugby is all about winning now, at all costs.
The big clash in the European Nations Cup is that between Georgia and Russia. Played at a neutral venue (Turkey) this game will be the one both have been waiting for. Both teams share top spot on the points table. Both teams have faulted recently. Russia was pinned down to a 21-21 draw with Romania a few weeks ago and then the Romanians upset an off-beat Georgian side last weekend. Georgia's 8 point win against Russia this time last year gives them a slight advantage. This means Russia must win by 9 or more points to take the table lead. As far as the 2011 Rugby World Cup finals are concerned the result matters not. Both teams have qualified. This is to decide the 2009-10 winner of the Cup. And of course pride.
Further down the ladder Germany is fighting for survival, a fight I fear they're most likely to lose. The scenarios has been outlined by FIRA-AER forum member 'Occams Stubble' at http://www.fira-aer-rugby.com/forum2007/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=3382
'So the relegation situation is:
Germany loses, draws, or wins by 10 or fewer points - Germany relegated
Germany wins by 11, Spain scores more tries - Germany relegated
Germany wins by 11, equal tries, Romania fails to defeat Spain by at least 259* - Germany relegated
Germany wins by 11, scores more tries, Romania fails to defeat Spain - Germany relegated
Germany wins by 12 or more, Romania fails to defeat Spain - Germany relegated
Germany wins by 11, scores more tries, Romania defeats Spain - Spain relegated
Germany wins by 12, Romania defeats Spain - Spain relegated'
Spain performed well enough up 'till the game against Portugal. Spain won by 11 against Germany last year in Madrid and may well find the going tough against a German side that looks stronger than the one that faced Russia.
Romania now looks like the team that could gain the vital third place in this competition. Third place will give the Romanians a back-door chance of qualifying for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. This is the first time the Romanians have had to fight for a place in the finals.
Portugal holds a one point aggregate advantage over the Romanians but recently the Romanians have come home with a charge. Firstly a 21-21 draw with Russia made us sit up and then last week they defeated Georgia 22-10. The Romanians also have a game in hand, against Spain, which one would expect them to win. Suddenly Portugal's chances of making the finals look slim.
So my pre match predictions are..
France by 14 v England and gains the Grand Slam.
Ireland by 14 v Scotland, and hands the Wooden Spoon to the Scots.
Wales by 28 v Italy, finally winning with all that flare.
Georgia by 3 v Russia to take the ENC title.
Romania by 12 v Portugal, moving into third place.
Spain by 22 v Germany, sending the Germans into ENC 2A for 2010-12.
If you want to join an excellent tipping competition, try www.fira-aer-rugby.com/forum2007