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Six Nations talking points

Published 23/02/2016

Eddie Jones faces his toughest task yet as England head coach
Eddie Jones faces his toughest task yet as England head coach

The third round of the 2016 RBS 6 Nations throws up a trio of intriguing matches that will be pivotal to the outcome of the Championship at both ends of the table.

Here Press Association Sport examines five talking points ahead of the weekend.

WILL THE RED ROSE BLOOM?

It is hard to fault England after away victories over Scotland and Italy launched the Eddie Jones era in solid, if unspectacular fashion. Tougher tests await, however, starting with Saturday's visit of Ireland to Twickenham. The reigning champions may be in the midst of an injury crisis, but they are a still a live threat to the optimism surrounding the new regime.

ENGLAND'S ATTACKING SHAPE

England boast the best defence after keeping their try-line intact during the first two rounds, a feat that has not been managed by any of their rivals, but they have been less successful in attack. There have been bright moments, including the build up to Jack Nowell's try in Edinburgh and George Ford crossing at the Stadio Olimpico, but the old failings of a lack in fluency and imagination remain as apparent as ever. Jones knows it's the element of England's game that will take longest to shape and plans to have his backline standing flatter.

IRELAND IN LAST CHANCE SALOON

Irish hopes of winning an unprecedented third consecutive Six Nations crown are remote following a draw with Wales and defeat to France, but they know a loss at Twickenham would consign them to the bleakest of title defences. They have been beset by injury and Joe Schmidt's aerial tactics are now being questioned, presenting England as a crucial fixture for coach and players.

PIVOTAL FRIDAY NIGHT

A critical showdown looms at the Millennium Stadium on Friday night when Wales and France collide in a fixture that will have a heavy bearing on the title race. Wales remain in the hunt despite their draw with Ireland while France are the only team other than England still capable of winning the Grand Slam. Les Bleus have been dire at times, yet win in Cardiff and they would have sight of snatching Ireland's crown.

BATTLE AT THE BOTTOM

Scotland's Six Nations began amid such high hopes after they emerged as Europe's most successful team at the World Cup, but it has proved to be another false dawn and once more they find themselves battling Italy to escape the wooden spoon. The rivals meet in Rome on Saturday with the losers likely to finish bottom of the table.

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