For any newcomers to the game of rugby union, looking to see what all the furore is surrounding this year's forthcoming Rugby World Cup, make sure to tune into the concluding Six Nations matches this coming Saturday. To put it simply, you will not be left disappointed.
Wales' hard fought 23-16 win over Ireland last weekend was not only enough to upset any premature St. Patrick's day celebrations, but it ensures a tense finale to the Six Nations championship, that will only be decided once the final whistle has been blown in the last match of the competition.
Prior to kick-off, Ireland had remained the only unbeaten team left in the tournament, where a victory away at Cardiff would have all but been enough to win them the title. Yet, with this loss to their name, they now sit level with England and Wales on six points, opening up a three-way dogfight for the title.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect to this weekend's match-ups is that with the title hanging in the balance, each team will have to amass as many points as possible in their favour, as it is likely that the title will be decided on points difference. With so much left to play for, every game carries a high level of importance that will be a treat to all rugby fans and newcomers alike.
Marathon and a sprint
First-up in the back-to-back rugby marathon, Wales travel to Rome looking to overcome a 27 point deficit against tournament leaders England. With such a task at hand, Warren Gatland's men will need to register a quite remarkable scoreline that would be more apt in a cricket match.
Fortunately for them they come up against an Italian side who having conceded 11 tries thus far in the tournament, boast the worst defence out of this year's participants. Nevertheless, assuming that either of their title rivals manage to win this weekend, with such a points gap to bridge, it is unlikely they will then be able to go on and build enough of a points advantage over both England and Ireland for either side to be unable to eventually overhaul.
Straight after the final whistle is blown in Rome, the attention will turn straight to Murrayfield, where Ireland travel to take on Scotland. Sitting just four points behind England on points difference, Ireland are perhaps best placed to top the table once all the matches have drawn to a conclusion.
Along with Italy, Scotland must be considered the ideal opponents to come up against in such a scenario where a high level of scoring is required. The metronomic kicking ability of Ireland fly-half, Johnny Sexton, is sure to keep the points total ascending throughout the game, which will no doubt help to boost Irish hopes that their men can retain the Six Nations title for a second successive year.
England's match at home to France in the evening will bring the curtain down on this year's Six Nations. Only until the conclusion of this match, will the eventual destination of the tournament trophy be confirmed.
Although England head into the final match with a slight points advantage over their rivals, France represent the toughest possible opposition out of the three matches, who themselves are still in with a slight shout of being crowned champions.
Should the unthinkable happen, in which both Wales and Ireland lose, and France win against England, then it will be extended to a four-way battle for the title. However such an outcome is wholly unexpected and it can be stated with quite some certainty ,that such a set of circumstances will not occur.
Were it not for France's lack of attacking ability, then they may well find themselves higher up in contentions for the title, as their defence so far has been exemplary.
Along with the obvious advantage of playing at home, one further boost for England, is that by playing last they will know exactly what is required result-wise in order to win the Six Nations, and can thus plan their game accordingly depending on the requirements.
With anything far from finalised for this year's championship, expect to find yourself gripped to the marathon of rugby until the final minutes, it'll no doubt be a bumpy ride.