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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 March 2006, 15:54 GMT
Six Nations permutations
By James Standley

The final round of matches in the 2006 Six Nations Championship takes place on Saturday, with four teams still in with a mathematical chance of the title.

SATURDAY'S MATCHES
Italy v Scotland
Kick-off 1330 GMT
Wales v France
Kick-off 1530 GMT
England v Ireland
Kick-off 1730 GMT

France are favourites to lift the crown, with Ireland ready to pounce on any French slip-up in Cardiff if they can beat England at Twickenham.

France, who top the table on points difference, take on Wales in Cardiff while Ireland face England at Twickenham.

England are also in with an outside chance of finishing as champions, as are Scotland, who round off their campaign against Italy in Rome.

But both must rely on other results going their way.

Wales, champions last year, are definitely out of the running but could finish bottom of the table if they lose to France and Italy beat Scotland.

Here's how the maths break down for each of the sides:

FRANCE

France have not hit the heights everyone expected them to but Bernard Laporte's side are still favourites to win the championship for the 15th time going into the final round of games.

Like Ireland, they have three wins and a defeat to their name, but their points difference of plus 58 is far better than Eddie O'Sullivan's team (+30).

If France beat Wales in the second of Saturday's games, Ireland would have to defeat England by at least 30 points to stand a chance of taking the title.

If the French lose, all Ireland would have to do is win at Twickenham, although a defeat for France would also open the door for England and Scotland.

IRELAND

Despite their erratic displays, Ireland can claim their first title since 1985, although even a third successive win over England may not be enough.

Their points difference is worse than France's, which means, if the French beat Wales, they need to defeat England by at least 30 points.

But if France fail to beat Wales, victory over the English, even by one point, would be enough to give the Irish the title.

Ireland will at least claim their second Triple Crown in three years if they beat England, having already defeated Wales and Scotland.

But if Eddie O'Sullivan's side lose to England by at least seven points, they will slip to third place in the table.

ENGLAND

England must beat Ireland by at least seven points to stand a chance of topping the table.

But Andy Robinson's side also need Wales to defeat France by a massive margin in Cardiff if they are to claim their first championship since 2003.

The world champions have not only lost one more game than the French, their points difference is also far worse: +18 to France's +58.

If England lose and both Scotland and Wales win, Robinson's team will slip to a lowly fifth in the table.

SCOTLAND

Scotland's revival has been a mixed bag, with fine wins at home to France and England balanced by losses on the road to Wales and Ireland.

The Scots could finish as low as fifth if they lose to Italy - as they did in 2000 and 2004 - and Wales beat France in Cardiff.

Remarkably, they could also finish as champions, just a year after finishing fifth with just one win.

But not only would Frank Hadden's side need both France and Ireland to lose, they would also have to put around 60 points past the Italians in Rome.

WALES

If Wales lose to France and Italy upset Scotland, the Dragons will become only the third team in history to finish bottom of the table after winning a Grand Slam the previous season.

Scotland, in 1985, and France, in 1999, are the only two teams so far to have experienced such a slump in fortunes.

The Welsh, now coached by Scott Johnson following the dramatic departure of Mike Ruddock, have won one more game than Italy but their points difference is exactly the same as the Azzurri at minus 50.

Wales could finish in third place if they beat the French at the Millennium Stadium and both Scotland and England lose.

ITALY

Italy may be down the bottom of the Six Nations table again, but they go into the final game against Scotland on the back of an encouraging performance against Wales.

The Azzurri drew 18-18 in Cardiff last weekend to claim their first-ever away point.

Italy have already finished with the Wooden Spoon four times since entering the tournament in 2000.

But if they beat Scotland, who have not won away in the tournament since 2002, and Wales lose at home to France, they will leapfrog the Welsh into fifth, equalling their achievements of 2003 and 2004.



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