Six Nations: BBC experts discuss who will win the title and other talking points

Wales will host defending champions Ireland for a chance at winning the Grand Slam
Guinness Six Nations
Dates: 1 February-16 March
Coverage: Watch live coverage on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, Connected TVs and online; listen to match commentaries, shows and podcasts on BBC Radio 5 Live, sports extra and BBC Sounds; follow text updates on the BBC Sport website and mobile app.

Wales are poised to claim the Grand Slam. Ireland and England remain in the title race. A World Cup on the horizon.

The stage is set for a spectacular finale to the 2019 Six Nations, with three teams still in the running for the title.

France and Italy kick off Super Saturday before Wales host defending champions Ireland for a shot at the Grand Slam - a match you can watch live on BBC One (from 14:00 GMT) - and England take on Scotland in the last game of the tournament.

So who will claim the trophy? And is there ever a dead-rubber in the Six Nations? BBC Radio 5 Live pundits reveal all...

Will the pressure get to Wales?

Former Wales international Jonathan Davies: Whether you go into a coffee shop or a pub, everybody is talking about the game. The anticipation is building and it's going to be a wild afternoon. Wales cannot underestimate Ireland because this will be the toughest game for them. Defensively, it will be interesting to see how Ireland will play. Wales haven't hit their straps in their attacking play but home advantage will help.

Former Ireland winger Shane Horgan: This Welsh team has a different mentality to the Irish team who don't have a history of winning multiple grand slams. They hang in during games. It's not a perfect Welsh side but they are very difficult to beat and that is demonstrated in their last ditch defence. Scotland looked to be over so many times last week, but they fight to the end. If you score a try against Wales you deserve it. I thought Wales would be the game Ireland would lose ahead of the tournament and it's only a six-day turnaround. There is still fragility in Ireland's renaissance.

Former England fly-half Paul Grayson: With the personnel Wales have got and the way they make changes, they are some team and they know how to manage games.

Can Ireland cause an upset?

Ireland fly-half and talisman Jonathan Sexton scored 11 points against France last week

Former England scrum-half Matt Dawson: Everyone has written Ireland off but there were moments against France where I thought that the same performance in Cardiff could apply a lot of pressure if the hosts haven't secured the Grand Slam with 15 minutes to go. There are some emotional stories too with it also being captain Rory Best and coach Joe Schmidt's last Six Nations game.

Horgan: There is definitely more confidence in the Irish camp and it has been a good recovery after a difficult start to this Six Nations. Are they confident enough to beat Wales? I'm not certain, but their performance against France was miles better than anything they have done in this championship. They were terrible against Italy and we were waiting for the reaction from the England defeat, but it finally came last week. Ireland have moved on and they have learned how England and Wales have developed their kicking game and they are now kicking from 13. Ireland have to keep the ball away from Liam Williams. Josh Adams has been the find of the tournament but Williams has mastered the backfield and the way he transforms from defence into attack is a real tool.

The Gatland effect

Davies: Warren Gatland's hunger for the win on Saturday will flow through the Welsh squad but all the focus will be on the game. Forget the bye byes and where people are going to go, it will be about nailing it together for the last time.

Dawson: He has to be right up there. I'm struggling to think of anyone in the northern hemisphere, certainly in the modern era, who compares. Having experienced Warren as a coach, there is no wonder. He is very good on and off the field and he takes time to understand his players, and that is why he has got the best out of them. It has been really key with the Lions. He is a bright rugby guy and I don't know whether it will be done in Wales again or not.

Horgan: Ahead of the tournament, Gatland said if they beat France they would win the Grand Slam. How many other coaches can say that? Is there anyone better at setting the team up for success? Yes, it's about the players on the day, but the mentality is instilled by the coach.

Grayson: His pedigree in terms of man-management is second to none so he is believable when he says Wales can win the Grand Slam once they had beaten France.

Warren Gatland relishing final Six Nations with Wales

Can Scotland win at Twickenham?

Grayson: I don't think Scotland have given their all in any game. There have been pockets in games where they haven't been present and when the cupboard is bare you expect to see more. I don't think they'll win at Twickenham but I want to see them on their knees without being able to give any more. It doesn't have to be technically brilliant but it has to be full of bravery.

Davies: Scotland have a lot of injury issues so if Wales don't win, it will certainly be England's title.

Horgan: I just don't see Scotland winning at Twickenham, I think it's a very good England side and I think they have been the best side in the tournament. Wales will deserve the title because of their dogged performances, but England have had the better performances and if they play to their potential, they will comfortably beat Scotland. Scotland should be delivering better than they are and it's been a bad championship for them.

Dawson: With the way England played against France and Italy, once they get a bit of momentum, England are so difficult to stop. Scotland have no Stuart Hogg, no Tommy Seymour; Finn Russell has just come back which is good but Huw Jones is out in the midfield. If most teams miss a third of their starting XV, they are going to struggle, but Hamish Watson coming back will make a difference.

How should England approach the Test match?

Grayson: The only side with absolute clarity who are in charge of their own destiny is Wales. But with a World Cup coming, if you're in a shirt and you want to keep it, you have to perform come what may.

Dawson: I've played games in the afternoon where you have watched others play earlier in the day and you have had to adapt. But I don't see how England can adapt dependent on Wales, they have to win the game. If Wales win, it should not affect the mentality one bit and England will be fired up, wanting to destroy Scotland.

Was Eddie Jones right to drop Joe Cokanasiga?

England head coach Eddie Jones has left winger Joe Cokanasiga out of his squad to play Scotland

Horgan: Jack Nowell has a lot of credit in the bank and he has performed well time and time again. Joe Cokanasiga performed well against Italy but Eddie Jones has stood by Nowell and that is a wider message than having his eye turned by the pretty girl, so to speak. I think Joe will be in before the World Cup but I think it's a smart selection for the here and now. Nowell is so important because of the number of rucks he hits, how he gets over the gain line every time he gets it and how he covers the backfield.

Grayson: Presumably, Cokanasiga, he was in the team because of Nowell's injury. I don't see the need to get into the narrative of the media, and Jones has picked his best team. At the moment, you would pick a fit Jack Nowell. Close to the breakdown he is a dangerous player because he has phenomenal power. I have no issue with the decision.

Dawson: Jones spoke about protecting him from the media, but we are talking about him because he is not playing, and there are just as many questions for him missing out than there would be if he was playing. I thought I was looking at a guy against Italy who I would want in the team to play Scotland.

Who will win the title?

Dawson: Super Saturday is my favourite international weekend of the year but I think Wales might well nick the Slam.

Horgan: It's too early to say whether Ireland have recovered from the early set-back against England. Wales.

Grayson: I didn't back my instincts and got it wrong in round one so I'm going to go with my gut. Ireland win in Cardiff so England win the title.

Davies: Home advantage will see Wales sneak it.

Wales will receive a three-point bonus if they beat Ireland to clinch the Grand Slam, thus ensuring they will be crowned Six Nations champions

Source: BBC Rugby Union News

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By adamreeves / Administrator, bbp_keymaster on Mar 15, 2019