Ireland and England both kept their perfect records while Scotland finally ended their winless drought during round three of the Women’s Six Nations, but who will come out on top in round four?
The English and Irish are tied on 14 points apiece in first and second. France are third on six, Wales fourth and Scotland fifth on five with Italy still without any points.
This weekend sees a mourning Wales side in crisis looking to dent Ireland’s hopes of a fourth win. England aiming to step closer to the title against a rejoiced Scotland team and Italy seeking their first points at France’s expense.
After a week break, the 2017 Womens Six Nations Championship is to resume and here are the matches to come in round four…
Wales v Ireland
After a promising opening to the campaign, Wales have endured a torrid few weeks: hammered 63-0 at home by England, humbled 15-14 in Scotland and rocked by the death of Elli Norkett.
Indeed it has been a difficult time for Welsh women’s rugby lately and the national team, with their title hopes all but gone after consecutive defeats, are looking to restore some pride.
“What Elli would want is for us to pull together to focus,” said Wales head coach Rowland Phillips.
“We’ll be playing with 16 because she (Elli) will always be with us on the pitch in some way,” said grieving Wales lock Siwan Lillicrap.
The Welsh will need to draw on the spirit of their late colleague’s determination if they are to halt Ireland’s progress towards a potential title decider with England.
Ireland earned a hard-fought win against France 13-10 thanks to a Leah Lyons’ try and eight kicked points from Nora Stapleton to make it three wins from three.
Wales defeated the Irish in a pre-tournament friendly and hope they can pay their respects to Norkett by reproducing a similar result and strong showing to honour her memory.
Wales: 15 Dyddgu Hywel, 14 Elen Evans, 13 Kerin Lake, 12 Rebecca de Filippo, 11 Adi Taviner, 10 Robyn Wilkins, 9 Keira Bevan, 8 Shona Powell-Hughes, 7 Rachel Taylor, 6 Sioned Harries, 5 Mel Clay, 4 Rebecca Rowe, 3 Amy Evans, 2 Carys Phillips(c), 1 Caryl Thomas
Replacements: 16 Lowri Harries, 17 Cerys Hale, 18 Gwenllian Pyrs, 19 Siwan Lillicrap, 20 Alisha Butchers, 21 Rhiannon Parker, 22 Elinor Snowsill, 23 Gemma Rowland
Ireland: 15 Kim Flood, 14 Hannah Tyrrell, 13 Jenny Murphy, 12 Sene Naoupu, 11 Alison Miller, 10 Nora Stapleton, 9 Mary Healy, 8 Paula Fitzpatrick(c), 7 Claire Molloy, 6 Ciara Griffin, 5 Marie-Louise Reilly, 4 Sophie Spence, 3 Ailis Egan, 2 Leah Lyons, 1 Lindsay Peat
Replacements: 16 Ciara O Connor, 17 Ilse Van Staden, 18 Ruth O’Reilly, 19 Ciara Cooney, 20 Nichola Fryday, 21 Larissa Muldoon, 22 Nikki Caughey, 23 Mairead Coyne
Prediction: Ireland by 5
Date: Saturday, March 11
Venue: Cardiff Arms Park
Kick-Off: 11:30 GMT
Referee: Claire Hodnett (England)
Assistant Referees: Joy Neville (Ireland), Simon Rees (Wales)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)
England v Scotland
England took another step closer to a first Championship since 2012 with a 29-15 bonus point win over a gutsy Italy in round three.
Hooker Vicky Fleetwood became the first English forward to bag a hat-trick of tries in the tournament’s history to go with further scores from wings Amy Wilson-Hardy and Kay Wilson.
“There is still a lot to work on and things we need to put right,” said the three-try front rower on England’s win.
Fleetwood added: “We won’t be taking Scotland lightly. They’re threatening in all areas of the pitch, so we’ll need to look at them closely.”
Scotland meanwhile secured their first Championship win since 2010 – a run of 36 matches – as they fought back from 14 points down to pip Wales by a point.
Scrum-half Sarah Law landed a crucial late penalty that won the Scots their first Six Nations game in seven years.
“We’ll be looking for another good solid performance,” said Law ahead of Saturday’s meeting with England.
“We knew our performances were getting better and that if we performed the way we knew we could, we would come away with a win.”
England: 15 Danielle Waterman, 14 Lydia Thompson, 13 Emily Scarratt, 12 Amber Reed, 11 Kay Wilson, 10 Emily Scott, 9 La Toya Mason, 8 Sarah Hunter(c), 7 Marlie Packer, 6 Alex Matthews, 5 Tamara Taylor, 4 Harriet Millar-Mills, 3 Justine Lucas, 2 Amy Cokayne, 1 Rochelle Clark
Replacements: 16 Vicky Fleetwood, 17 Vickii Cornborough, 18 Sarah Bern, 19 Poppy Cleall, 20 Izzy Noel-Smith, 21 Bianca Blackburn, 22 Rachael Burford, 23 Sarah McKenna
Scotland: 15 Chloe Rollie, 14 Megan Gaffney, 13 Lisa Thomson, 12 Lisa Martin(c), 11 Rhona Lloyd, 10 Helen Nelson, 9 Sarah Law, 8 Jemma Forsyth, 7 Louise McMillan, 6 Sarah Bonar, 5 Deborah McCormack, 4 Emma Wassell,3 Lindsey Smith, 2 Lana Skeldon, 1 Tracy Balmer
Replacements: 16 Lucy Park, 17 Heather Lockhart, 18 Katie Dougan, 19 Rachael Cook, 20 Lyndsay O’Donnell, 21 Jenny Maxwell, 22 Eilidh Sinclair, 23 Abi Evans
Prediction: England by 20
Date: Saturday, March 11
Venue: The Stoop, Twickenham
Kick-Off: 13:00 GMT
Referee: Sean Gallagher (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Sara Cox (England), Nikki O’Donnell
TMO: Stefano Pennè (Italy)
Italy v France
Although Italy are yet to register any points from their three matches so far, they will take heart from their resolute display against England a fortnight ago.
The Azzurre took a shock 5-0 lead and went on to score two further tries while the Red Roses were reduced to 13 players to outscore their hosts 10-5 after the restart.
Wing Sofia Stefan, captain scrum-half Sara Barattin and full-back Manuela Furlan grabbed Italy’s tries as they ended the game strongly.
“For the finish of the Championship we want to grow more,” said Italian head coach Andrea Di Giandomenico.
“We know it’s really hard in the past (against France), but for us it’s good this match because we can grow our performance.”
A narrow loss for holders France in Ireland last time out was their second tournament defeat and has consigned them to losing their crown this year.
A try from centre Caroline Ladagnous put Les Bleus 7-3 ahead after the restart, but poor handling and indiscipline cost them dear.
Their match with Italy will be the first time both sides contest the Anita Garibaldi Trophy to mark the 10-year anniversary since their male counterparts began competiting for the Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy.
France: 15 Shannon Izar, 14 Camille Grassineau, 13 Caroline Ladagnous, 12 Elodie Poublan, 11 Caroline Boujard, 10 Audrey Abadie, 9 Yanna Rivoalen, 8 Safi N’Diaye, 7 Romane Ménager, 6 Marjorie Mayans, 5 Audrey Forlani, 4 Céline Ferer, 3 Julie Duval, 2 Gaëlle Mignot(c), 1 Lise Arricastre
Replacements: 16 Caroline Thomas, 17 Rkia Aït Labib, 18 Lénaig Corson, 19 Gaëlle Hermet, 20 Jade Le Pesq, 21 Caroline Drouin, 22 Jessy Trémoulière, 23 Patricia Carricaburu
Prediction: France by 15
Date: Sunday, March 12
Venue: Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma
Kick-Off: 15:00pm (14:00pm GMT)
Referee: Helen O’Reilly (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Beatrice Benvenuti (Italy), Local
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)