Six Nations permutations: How England can still win title on Super Saturday

The final round of Six Nations fixtures is upon us and the title is still in play on Super Saturday.

England’s shock last-gasp 23-22 victory over Ireland at Twickenham last weekend secured by Marcus Smith’s dramatic drop goal both wrecked the visitors’ hopes of becoming the first team in the Six Nations era to win back-to-back Grand Slams and also meant they did not retain their trophy with a match to spare.

While Ireland’s historic double Slam bid is now over, they still head into the final day as enormous favourites to win the title in successive years for the first time since 2014/15.

Andy Farrell’s men sit top of the standings heading into Saturday with 16 points, four clear of nearest challengers England.

The ace in the pack for Ireland is their massive points difference, which is far and away the best in the competition at +80. England’s, by contrast, is -3, with Scotland and France each on +4.

Ireland are big favourites to bounce back and retain the Six Nations title in Dublin (Getty Images)
Ireland are big favourites to bounce back and retain the Six Nations title in Dublin (Getty Images)

The situation means that Ireland prepare to host the Scots at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium, which has been a fortress in recent times, knowing that a win or a draw to conclude their campaign would definitely see them retain their title.

But Ireland could even lose to Scotland at home for the first time since 2010 and still lift the trophy. A losing bonus point for being defeated by seven points or fewer coupled with another bonus point for scoring at least four tries would still see them build an unassailable lead at the summit regardless of events elsewhere.

A defeat with one bonus point would open the door theoretically for England, who travel to play France in Lyon in the evening kick-off on Super Saturday, if Steve Borthwick’s side were able to then win with a try-scoring bonus point for a maximum five-point haul.

The problem then for England would be needing to somehow engineer the sort of points swing that would see them overhaul Ireland’s huge points difference. In reality England would likely need to thrash France and hope that Scotland do the same to Ireland while denying them any bonus points.

England would snatch the title in dramatic fashion if Ireland lost to Scotland with no bonus points and they beat France with a bonus point at the Groupama Stadium.

Scotland and France, sitting third and fourth respectively on 11 points each and the same points difference, can also still technically claim glory on Super Saturday, but it is very unlikely indeed.

Scotland would need to beat Ireland with a bonus point while denying their opponents any bonus points and also ensure an enormous swing in terms of points difference.

Ireland are heavy favourites to win (Action Images via Reuters)
Ireland are heavy favourites to win (Action Images via Reuters)

Even if that were to happen, Gregor Townsend’s side would be left nervously awaiting events in Lyon, where they would still miss out on a first Six Nations title if England beat France with a bonus point or beat them without one and engineered an even bigger points swing. We are into the realms of the ridiculous now.

Scotland could also do all of the above and see England lose and still not win the title if France beat England with a bonus point and rack up an even bigger win to pip them on points difference.

There is no hope of a shock last-day title triumph for fifth-placed Italy or rock-bottom Wales, who instead open Super Saturday proceedings with a decider for the dreaded wooden spoon.

The Azzurri travel to Cardiff, where they won in dramatic fashion on their last visit in 2022 to end a seven-year, 36-game winless Six Nations run, hoping to avoid finishing bottom of the pile for the first time since 2015 having so nearly stunned France in Lille and then upset Scotland in Rome in round four.

They are currently four points ahead of Wales on 7, with the hosts looking to avoid the embarrassment of a first Six Nations whitewash since 2003.

An Italy win or draw would confirm Wales’ first wooden spoon for 21 years, with Warren Gatland’s young team needing to win and overhaul a points difference that stands at -48 to -37.

A win with a bonus point would see Wales avoid finishing last, but they cannot allow Italy to pick up a losing bonus point in the process.

Italy could yet finish as high as third if they beat Wales with a bonus point and Scotland and France are both beaten, while Scotland or France could yet sink as low as fifth.