A month ago the calculators were out to see what England, Ireland and France had to do to decide the Six Nations title – with England’s points difference – and that’s a situation similar this weekend.
The difference is that this week will decide the order of arrival before the next head-to-head final round between the teams finishing at the corresponding position in both groups.
As always, while there are several potential outcomes, some are decidedly more likely than others.
England lead Group A with nine points after their victories over Wales and Georgia, with Ireland and Wales both out of four. Another win, draw or loss with a bonus point against Wales at Llanelli on Saturday will leave Eddie Jones’ side at the top of the list.
For Wales to finish above them, they would have to cancel their current 56-point deficit and scoring deficit, which would require a minimum margin of victory of 29, assuming the win includes four tries.
Their biggest win over their older rivals in matches of nearly 140 years is 27 points behind their famous 30-3 title champion Cardiff Grand in 2013.
However, if England lose by a narrower margin and fail to collect a bonus point, it opens the door for Ireland.
By the time they host Georgia on Sunday, the Irish will know how things go. They are currently trailing England by 39 points on the points difference – a number which will be smaller if England lose – meaning a big bonus points win over a Georgian side that have yet to score a point could take them in mind.
Things look a lot clearer in Group B, in part thanks to Fiji having to give up all of their games with a score of 28-0 due to Covid-19 infections.
This means Scotland have already completed their pool games and have 11 points. France, 22-15 winners at Murrayfield on Sunday, are second of nine and will lead the group with another victory over Italy in Paris on Saturday.
Team Update | 35 players have been called up to the camp to prepare for this Saturday’s game against Wales.
– Angleterre Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 23, 2020
If this match was a draw or if the Italians had a thwarted victory, Scotland would finish in the lead and second place would depend on bonus points or the point difference between France and Italy.
What is already certain, however, is the venue for the final matches, where England, Ireland and Wales will be at home, and Georgia will be at Murrayfield, where, if it is likely that they finish at the bottom of their group, they hope that Fiji can assemble a team to play them.
The most likely outcome of all of this is that England will face France on Sunday 6 December to decide the inaugural – and perhaps only – fall Nations Cup champions.
Ireland, who will likely finish second, will face the second team in Group B, presumably Scotland, leaving Wales to host Italy in the battle for third-ranked teams – all of these games on December 5.