Stats Preview: Guinness Six Nations Round Three

There will be plenty on the line in the Guinness Six Nations this weekend when Rugby’s Greatest Championship returns with three more absorbing encounters.

There will be plenty on the line in the Guinness Six Nations this weekend when Rugby’s Greatest Championship returns with three more absorbing encounters.

France and Scotland will kick off Round Three on Saturday as both sides attempt to bounce back from the defeats they suffered last time out to England and Ireland, respectively.

Wales then welcome England to Principality Stadium in Cardiff as the two remaining unbeaten teams in this year’s Championship go head-to-head in what could be a Grand Slam-decider.

Reigning champions Ireland will conclude the weekend’s action in Rome, where Conor O’Shea’s Italy will be looking to open their Championship account with their first win.

It’s all set to be another fascinating round and before the drama all plays out, here’s a look at the key statistics that could go some way to deciding who comes out on top.

Jacques Brunel’s side have not enjoyed the best of starts to their 2019 campaign, surrendering a first-half lead in their defeat against Wales before losing to England at Twickenham.

They will hope to get their Championship back on track when they welcome Scotland to the Stade de France on Saturday – with history on their side.

France have played Scotland 19 times in the Championship between 2000 and 2018 and have only lost three times, although one of those defeats came at BT Murrayfield last year.

And while results have not gone their way so far in 2019, France have enjoyed their fair share of possession (57 percent) and territory (48 percent) in their opening two games.

They are ranked bottom for attack and defence, though, while the visitors are third in both categories having scored six tries in the Championship this year – one every 26.7 minutes.

Scotland have also been solid at the set-piece, with a perfect record in the scrum compared to France’s 92 per cent win percentage, as well as winning 19 of their 23 lineouts (83 percent).

Another area Les Bleus will need to be wary in Paris is at the breakdown, where Scotland have conjured up seven steals from two games and a breakdown retention of 97 per cent.

Jamie Ritchie has been key to Scotland’s success, with three steals, although he may possibly meet his match in Wenceslas Lauret, who has two breakdown steals to his name in his one appearance so far.

England will be feeling confident about their chances going into the clash between the two remaining unbeaten teams, having won 13 of their last 19 Championship meetings.

The Red Rose have also had a good recent record against Wales, with their last Championship defeat against Warren Gatland’s men coming back in 2013 in Cardiff when they lost 30-3.

Intriguingly, neither side has particularly dominated possession so far this year, with Wales enjoying 48 percent of possession compared to England’s 44 percent from their two victories.

But the game will see the side with the best attack and defence in this year’s Championship in England come up against the second best in both categories in Wales.

Eddie Jones’ men have scored ten tries already in this campaign, one every 16 minutes, but they have only conceded three tries down the other end – one every 53.3 minutes.

Wales, in comparison, have scored five tries and conceded four but the two sides have an identical number of successful carries over the gainline (75 percent).

One area where England could look to take advantage is the set-piece, where Wales have only won 65 per cent of their own lineouts compared to England, who have an 82 percent success rate.

The breakdown battle is also set to be pure box office, with England possessing a 99 percent breakdown retention compared to Wales’ 98 percent, with five steals apiece.

The Azzurri will be hoping for a repeat of their 22-15 success against Ireland back in the 2013 Championship when the two sides meet again at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.

That victory was Italy’s sole triumph over the defending champions in their last 19 Championship meetings, with Ireland winning all five of their most recent Guinness Six Nations games.

Ireland have had plenty of possession during their 2019 campaign so far, with 57 percent of the ball, but they have struggled to gain territory with just 38 percent in comparison.

Joe Schmidt’s side are ranked fourth in attack and defence, scoring five tries and conceding five in their first two games, while Italy are fifth in both categories after defeats to Scotland and Wales.

If Italy want to come out on top in Rome they will need to watch out for Ireland’s dangermen, including last year’s Player of the Championship Jacob Stockdale.

The winger, who scored against Scotland last time out, has carried the ball more metres than any other Irish player (201m) and made the most tackle breaks (four).

That will be made more difficult by the loss of Sergio Parisse, with the Italian talisman their top ball carrier (26) and third on the list of metres run with the ball (116m).

Italy will also need to sharpen up their set-piece, with 67 percent of their own scrums won compared to Ireland’s perfect record – although both have a 96 percent lineout success.