The 2023 Guinness Six Nations so far…

The Guinness Six Nations makes its return this weekend with a final stretch and six tantalising encounters.

The Guinness Six Nations makes its return this weekend with a final stretch and six tantalising encounters.

While Ireland currently have a five-point buffer as the only team still in the running for the Grand Slam, there are still four teams who can dream of lifting the title.

So as we prepare for a bumper Round 4 with three huge clashes coming up, it is time to look at how we got to this point.

Away days on the opening weekend

The Championship got off to a flying start as Ireland headed to Cardiff seeking a first win on Welsh soil in the Guinness Six Nations in a decade.

The game also marked the return of Warren Gatland in charge of Wales, but the party was spoiled as Andy Farrell’s men enjoyed the perfect start.

Caelan Doris and James Ryan crossed inside the first ten minutes before James Lowe’s intercept try made it 24-3 midway through the first half.

While Wales had plenty of the ball, they could only manage to get over the line once, through Liam Williams, with Josh van der Flier’s late try sealing the bonus point in a 34-10 victory.

Attentions then turned to Twickenham where Scotland were seeking back-to-back Calcutta Cup wins in London for the first time in more than a century.

Up against a new-look England under Steve Borthwick, Scotland were clinical, Duhan van der Merwe scoring a stunning individual try as well as finishing off a brilliant team score to wrap up a 29-23 win.

Huw Jones and Ben White also crossed as Scotland earned maximum points, Max Malins getting his first two Test tries on his return for England, who at least claimed a losing bonus point.

On the Sunday, Grand Slam champions France headed to Rome looking to extend a 13-game winning streak.

That looked safe when they crossed three times in the first half-hour, including a debut try for winger Ethan Dumortier.

However, Ange Capuozzo’s try and the boot of Tommaso Allan allowed Italy to turn a 19-6 deficit into a 24-22 lead with quarter of an hour remaining.

Matthieu Jalibert ensured that France would come away with five points though, as they battled to a 29-24 success.

Ireland claim battle of world’s best

For the first time in Guinness Six Nations history, the world’s top two sides according to the world rankings, faced off. It came in Dublin as Ireland played host to France, and the two teams lived up to the billing.

Ireland came away with a 32-19 win and five points to none for their visitors, but that only scratches the surface of a stunning game. Hugo Keenan crossed early for Ireland with an old Joe Schmidt move, but France hit back with a sensational long-range counter-attack, started and finished by Damian Penaud.

James Lowe and Andrew Porter gave Ireland a 22-16 half-time lead, and the result was finally decided nine minutes from time when Garry Ringrose got over for Ireland’s fourth try.

Later that day, Scotland made a statement with a record 35-7 win over Wales, Finn Russell producing a hat-trick of assists at BT Murrayfield.

While the game was very tight for 40 minutes, Scotland were able to pull clear after the break, with Kyle Steyn crossing twice, and Blair Kinghorn and Matt Fagerson adding gloss to the scoreline and giving Scotland fans reason to dream.

Borthwick then earned his first win in charge of England on the Sunday, as they used their rolling maul to overwhelm Italy 31-14.

England ran in five tries in all, with four of them stemming from mauls, including the first for the returning Jack Willis, in the fixture where he suffered a serious knee injury two years ago.

Italy scored a couple of fine second-half tries of their own, but paid the price for a slow start as they trailed 19-0 at the break and never threatened a comeback.

France win thriller in Paris

Round 3 began in Rome where Ireland were made to work very hard before eventually getting the better of Italy 34-20.

As was the case against France, the game was in the balance until the final ten minutes, Mack Hansen getting over for the second of two tries to settle it once and for all.

Prior to that, Italy had caused Ireland lots of problems with the return of Paolo Garbisi, and Pierre Bruno’s intercept score on the stroke of half-time ensured it was a nervy second 40 minutes for Ireland fans.

Intercepts were a theme of the weekend, with Louis Rees-Zammit also grabbing one in his return for Wales against England.

His try put the home side 10-8 up right after half-time, Anthony Watson having finished a fine set move for England in the first half.

But England hit straight back through Kyle Sinckler and the impressive Ollie Lawrence sealed a 20-10 victory six minutes from time.

The game of the weekend came on Sunday in Paris, as Scotland overcame a 19-0 deficit to give France a real scare.

In a match where Grant Gilchrist and Mohamed Haouas were both sent off in the first 12 minutes, France raced out of the blocks through tries from Romain Ntamack, Dumortier and Thomas Ramos – with yet another intercept.

Scotland hit back through Huw Jones, either side of half-time, and the comeback was really on when they got it back to 25-21 with Russell’s try on 67 minutes.

From there though, France controlled matters and eventually got their all-important fourth try in the final play through Gaël Fickou.

That ended Scotland’s Grand Slam hopes, but they will welcome Ireland this weekend hoping to clinch a first Triple Crown since 1990.

France, meanwhile, head to England in a Crunch that will leave just one team still in with a shot of the title, while in Rome Italy and Wales face off in a battle of the two winless teams so far that will have a lot riding on it.