Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Ireland out to make their point after memories of last-gasp agony

DUBLIN, IRELAND - MARCH 08:  Cian Healy of Ireland is congratulated by team mates after scoring a try during the RBS Six Nations match between Ireland and Italy at Aviva Stadium on March 8, 2014 in Dublin, Ireland.  (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - MARCH 08: Cian Healy of Ireland is congratulated by team mates after scoring a try during the RBS Six Nations match between Ireland and Italy at Aviva Stadium on March 8, 2014 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)

Going into the final day of the RBS 6 Nations, Ireland, England and France all have six points courtesy of wins in three of their four matches to date.

The fixtures which matter on Saturday are Italy v England (12.30pm) followed by France v Ireland (5pm) and it looks like it's going to come down to points differential.

As things stand, it's Ireland +81, England +32 and France +3.

It is not a new situation, of course. Indeed, of the 14 past Six Nations races, there have been four occasions when the title has been decided on points difference.

I don't mean to be a prophet of doom here, but three of those involved Ireland and each time we missed out.

Back in 2001 – the campaign disrupted by foot and mouth – it was October before Ireland and England met in Dublin.

Having crushed Wales (44-15), Italy (80-23), Scotland (43-3) and France (43-19) in February-April, the English arrived with a massive +155 points differential and their sights fixed on a Grand Slam.

Ireland – whose record was played four, won three – had a points difference of +34, meaning they had to win by 61 points in order to take the title.

They won 20-14, so while they denied England a clean sweep, that day's losers were champions nevertheless by virtue of their +149 to Ireland's +40 points difference.

Five years later, it was France who shaded the verdict at Ireland's expense on the final day.

After round four they had six points apiece. But with France beating Wales 21-16, Ireland had to win by 34 points at Twickenham. Again, too big a task; despite taking the Triple Crown by winning 28-24 to finish with +34, they were well short of France's +63.

The following season saw France (+42), Ireland (+38) and England (+13) go into the final round each having three wins.

Ireland were first up in Rome, where they hammered Italy 51-24. The Irish finished +65.

Two hours later, with the France-Scotland game in Paris into overtime and the hosts leading 39-19, Elvis Vermeulen scored, making Les Bleus' differential a title-clinching +69.

The Welsh won 26-19 against England.

Looking for an omen? This time, Ireland lead on PD and play in Saturday's final match.

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