Preview: Women’s Six Nations Round Five

France are in pole position for the Women’s Six Nations heading into the final weekend but there’s still one hurdle for them to get over.

France are in pole position for the Women’s Six Nations heading into the final weekend but there’s still one hurdle for them to get over.

Les Bleues are three points clear of reigning champions England after their 18-17 victory in Grenoble last weekend and a win against Wales will seal the title for them.

England welcome Ireland to the Ricoh Arena in Coventry knowing that even a bonus point win on Friday night may not be enough for back-to-back Championships.

The Red Roses will kick-off at 5.30pm on Friday night with action getting underway at Colwyn Bay between Wales and France starting half an hour later at 6.00pm (GMT).

On Sunday, Scotland are at Stadio Plebiscito to face Italy with both sides looking to back up impressive away victories last weekend to leave the Championship on a high.

England v Ireland Friday March 16, 5.30PM Ricoh Arena

England head coach Simon Middleton has made four changes to the side that lost in France last weekend in front of a record crowd.

Kelly Smith, Lagi Tuima and Caity Maddison are brought into the wing, centre and scrum-half positions respectively knowing a win is a must.

Rowena Burnfield comes into the back row with Poppy Cleall shifting to the second row but they need Wales to do them a favour to claim the title.

Middleton said: “We have made changes across the starting 15, with new combinations in the forwards and the backs.”

Ireland meanwhile sit third and need at least a point to finish the Women’s Six Nations there as they’re five points ahead of Scotland, Wales and Italy.

Head coach Adam Griggs makes three changes to the side beaten by Scotland at home last weekend with Louis Galvin on the left wing and Hannah Tyrrell shifting to full-back.

Nicole Cronin starts at scrum-half while in the forwards Paula Fitzpatrick moves from No.8 to the second row, Ashleigh Baxter moves into blindside flanker with captain Ciara Griffin at No.8.

Wales v France Friday March 16, 6.00pm Parc Eirias, Colwyn Bay

France head to Wales on Friday night looking for a Grand Slam that would wrap up the Women’s Six Nations title and a glorious campaign for Les Bleues.

Annick Hayraud has made two changes to the side that beat England with Céline Ferer and Lise Arricastre coming into the starting line-up.

Ferer is at openside flanker, rather than her more regular second row, with Arricastre starting at loosehead prop and Caroline Thomas among the replacements.

Wales meanwhile start the final round level on five points with Italy and Scotland and have named an unchanged side to face Les Bleues.

Caryl Thomas will make her 50th Wales appearance.

Head coach Rowland Phillips said: “We know we’re playing against the best team in the competition. We’ve got to meet their physicality.

“If we can capitalise on some of the opportunities we’ll be looking to create, we can challenge one of the best teams in the women’s game in front of what will be a strong crowd in Colwyn Bay.”

Italy v Scotland Sunday March 18, 3pm (2pm GMT) Stadio Plebiscito

Scotland, fresh from their 15-12 win in Ireland, head to Italy for the final weekend of the Women’s Six Nations with an afternoon kick-off planned in Padua.

The two teams are both level on five points after one win each in the Championship to date with the winner likely to secure fourth spot in the Championship.

Scotland’s Lauren Harris is set for her first start of the Championship as head coach Shade Munro makes two changes to his starting XV for the match.

In the pack, Lindsey Smith, comes in to the front-row at loosehead prop with Siobhan McMillan moving to the bench alongside sister Louise.

Italy meanwhile have named an unchanged 23 after their dramatic 22-15 victory over Wales in round four.

Coach Andrea Di Giandomenico said: “It will be a match played out amongst the forwards, the heavy pitch and the make-up of the Scottish squad have shown us that.

“In any case, the team will have to adapt to the conditions which might not favour our more open game based on passing and speed.”