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'Wales will fancy their chances': Schmidt looks forward to 'a heck of a Saturday' to close 6 Nations

We can’t wait either, Joe.

IRELAND HEAD COACH Joe Schmidt says he is braced for ‘a heck of a Saturday’ as his charges form the central fixture of what promises to be a dramatic final day in the Six Nations.

England, Ireland and Wales all have a very credible chance to end the day with winners’ medals as all three go into the weekend level on points, separated only by points difference.

England currently top the table with a points difference of 37, four better off than Ireland and 25 ahead of Wales.

Despite the tall order facing Warren Gatland’s men, however, Schmidt believes the 2013 champions have what it takes to set a target for the rest to try and follow.

“The forecast in Rome is good. That allows Wales to have a good shot,” says Schmidt after predicting a tight tussle for Ireland in Edinburgh.

“I think Wales will fancy their chances. Inevitably in the last couple of Six Nations, Italy have tended to fade in the last two games. For us and England last year that became very much apparent; as opposed to Wales beating them by eight points at the start of the season and teams racking big wins up against them [later on].”

The scheduling of the three final fixtures one after another means that only England (or long-shots France) will know if they have done enough to win the title when the full-time whistle goes. For the teams that played out the match of the Championship last weekend, a balance must be struck between securing victory and throwing caution to the wind in search of scores.

“We’ll get a bit of a look at what the result is in that [Italy-Wales] game, but it can’t affect our preparation. It can’t affect what we’re planning to do because then it becomes a distraction. Last minute distractions are never good.”

That said, he would concede that he may well be forced in to last minute alterations if the Welsh really do a number on the Azzurri:

“I don’t think you can rule anything out. If they have a big win, whatever happens, we’ll try to determine what the best thing is for us. The one thing I would do is throw a word of caution around about trying to chase anything other than getting our noses in front of Scotland.

“They were unlucky against Wales to lose by three points, unlucky with a try that was disallowed. They got close to France in Paris with a six-point margin, they were beaten at the death by Italy and stayed really competitive with England for a long time – to be 13-10 up at Twickenham, I think any team would take that as a half-time result.


“Scotland are incredibly hard to score against because even on line breaks they tend to scramble very, very well and stay competitive. So I think with the job we’ve got in front of us it’s difficult to get any further ahead than trying to just play that game.”

It’s tight at the top. So it would be a fine time to call in a favour from an old buddy. Unfortunately for Schmidt, his ex-colleague at Clermont Auvergne Vern Cotter will be desperately attempting to avoid a pointless campaign and a fifth defeat in five.

“I owe a fair bit to VC. I learned a lot coaching with him. I know he knows me very well and I know he’s got a few things cooked up that will make life difficult for us and he’s got players that are very capable of doing that.

“It’s going to be a heck of a Saturday. There’s going to be interest in three games. That is going to be fantastic for the championship.

“For some people you could not have written a better script. Obviously, it’s not a script we wanted to engage in. We’ve got to make sure we write a positive end not for ourselves and make sure that’s good enough.”

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