Six Nations: How England could finish fifth

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Ireland might have been confirmed as champions but there is still plenty up for grabs on the final day of the Six Nations.

Four teams will begin Super Saturday with a shot at finishing as runners-up this year, while there are world ranking points and pride up for grabs as well.

With that in mind, ESPN examines what exactly is at stake for all six teams on the final day of the 2018 championship.


Best-case: Second. Back-to-back defeats to Scotland and France have plunged England into something of a mini crisis, as fans scratch their heads and search for reasons why things have gone so wrong. But there is a possible silver lining on the horizon. Eddie Jones' side could deny Ireland a Grand Slam at Twickenham on Saturday, and exact a sizeable amount of revenge in the process. Joe Schmidt's side halted England's own quest for a clean sweep on the final day in Dublin 12 months ago. Victory would also lift England above Ireland in the world rankings, and could be enough to secure a second-place finish in the championship.

Worst-case: Fifth. England have not lost three or more games in a row since they followed up their 2014 summer tour of New Zealand with back-to-back autumn internationals against the All Blacks and South Africa. However, a third successive defeat is a very real possibility as Ireland arrive in London. With Scotland playing Italy in Rome, and Wales taking on France in Cardiff, England could end the weekend fifth should results go against them. For that to happen, Scotland would need to beat Italy before Wales either beat France by less than seven points or lose to Les Bleus, all while England lose to Ireland without a bonus point. It would be their worst finish since 1987.


Best-case: Second. In the grand scheme of things, quite a lot. France travel to Cardiff with a chance to win three successive Six Nations matches in a single championship for the first time since they won the Grand Slam in 2010. It has been eight years of frustration for Les Bleus since then, but victory at the Principality Stadium could also be enough for a second-placed finish, depending on the result at Twickenham, and it would also also allow them to put distance between themselves and Argentina in the world rankings while closing the gap on their hosts above them in seventh. Not bad for a team that began with back-to-back defeats.

Worst-case: Fifth. France last won in Cardiff in that Grand Slam year, and if they suffer a fourth successive loss in the Welsh capital then a fifth-placed finish is almost certain. Defeat would also cause a slide back down the world rankings.


Best-case: Grand Slam. The equation could not be simpler for Ireland, win at Twickenham and the Grand Slam is theirs. You would have to be in your late seventies, at least, to remember both of Ireland's two previous clean sweeps -- in 1948 and 2009. Staying ahead of England in the world rankings would be a happy by-product for Irish supporters.

Worst-case: Champions. Win or lose Ireland will lift the Six Nations trophy at Twickenham, so it is difficult to call any outcome worst-case. But a defeat would see Joe Schmidt's side slip beneath England in the rankings again.


Best-case: Wooden Spoon with a win. No matter what happens in Rome on Saturday lunchtime, Italy are guaranteed a 13th wooden spoon this year. The team is evolving under Conor O'Shea but results are yet to follow -- the Azzurri have not tasted victory under their Irish coach -- and they will be keen to snap a 16-game losing streak in the competition. Lying 14th in the world ahead of the weekend's action, a win would also help in their bid to climb up towards the world's top 10. History is possibly on their side, Italy's last Six Nations win was against Scotland in Rome in 2015.

Worst-case: Wooden Spoon. Defeat by more than seven points would confirm a point-less finish for the third successive championship.


Best-case: Third. Victory could propel Scotland -- fifth ahead of the final round -- into third. Should Wales draw at home to France and England lose to Ireland at Twickenham then there would be an outside chance that Gregor Townsend's men could sneak second, however, that would require a 65-point win in Rome as Scotland's current points difference is currently -29, compared to Wales' +35. A big win could also push Scotland back into the world's top five. They are currently 0.01 points below South Africa following their defeat in Dublin last weekend.

Worst-case: Fifth. Defeat to Italy would not only see Scotland rooted to fifth, it could see them slip further down the rankings. Wales are currently 0.73 points below them in seventh, and a win over France by more than 15 points could propel them towards the top five.


Best-case: Second. Wales host France looking to end the championship on a high, and knowing that a bonus-point victory would secure second place. Starting the final round one point ahead of England and with a points difference 16 better off, Warren Gatland will know that any kind of win at the Principality Stadium should be good enough. It would also help them move up the rankings. Seventh-placed Wales are currently 0.73 points below Scotland in sixth and 0.74 behind South Africa in fifth. Having won four of the previous five meetings between the sides in Cardiff, Welsh fans will be confident.

Worst-case: Fifth. Although second place is within Wales' grasp, it could all still go horribly wrong for Gatland and his team. A first defeat to France in Cardiff since 2010 would not only open the door for the French to leapfrog them but also Scotland and England, should both teams win earlier in the day. It means Wales could well finish fifth.