Six Nations permutations: How England can win more games than Ireland but finish second and a historic place awaits Italy

Jared Wright
England fly-half Marcus Smith, the Six Nations table and Italy pivot Paolo Garbisi.

England fly-half Marcus Smith, the Six Nations table and Italy pivot Paolo Garbisi.

The 2024 Six Nations comes to a thrilling conclusion on Super Saturday, with four teams mathematically in the running for the title.

The action gets underway with what is effectively the Wooden Spoon playoff as Wales and Italy clash in Cardiff before Ireland host Scotland as the action concludes in Lyon with Le Crunch as France and England lock horns.

There is still plenty to play for in the final round of action and we take you through the permutations as teams jostle for positions.

Before we get stuck into the permutations, let’s recap how the Six Nations table works and what are the deciding factors when the two teams are level.

Table, match points and bonus points:

The team that wins a Six Nations match shall be awarded four match points – five match points if they score four more or tries.

The losing side will be awarded no points unless they lose the match within a margin of seven points or less or score four tries – in the case that they score four tries and lose by seven points or less, they shall be awarded two match points.

In the case of a draw, each team will be awarded two match points with a further point added in the event that any of them scores four tries or more.

A team that wins all five of its matches (a Grand Slam) shall be awarded an additional three points after their final game.

Six Nations tiebreakers

If two teams are level on league points, the higher-ranked side will be decided as follows:

1. The teams will be placed according to the difference between the total points scored and the total points conceded – points difference.

2. If their points difference is the same, then they will be placed according to the number of tries (including penalty tries) scored in all matches.

3. If any that still does not separate the two teams, then they will be placed equally.

Six Nations table after five rounds

The 2024 Six Nations table ahead of the final weekend.

Wales

Warren Gatland’s charges head into the final weekend with a winless record and just three log points after their four matches.

Italy were victorious in their last visit to Cardiff, securing a nail-biting 21-22 win, their first Six Nations success in seven years after 36 straight defeats in the competition dating back to 2015.

If the Azzurri have the same success on Saturday, it will be only the second time that Wales have failed to win a single fixture in the Six Nations era – the first being back in 2003 under Steve Hansen.

Still, a straightforward win over Italy may not even be enough for Wales to avoid the Wooden Spoon in 2024.

Wales trail Italy by four points ahead of the fixture, meaning that they will need to deny the visitors a bonus point of any kind and win by a margin of eight points, at least, to avoid propping up the table. A bonus point win of more than seven points and without Italy scoring four tries will be enough for Gatland and his charges to claim a fifth-place finish.

Wales cannot finish higher than fifth.

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Italy

Italy congratulate Juan Ignacio Brex after try.

Italy have the opportunity to avoid a ninth successive Wooden Spoon finish in 2024 and may not even need to defeat Wales in Cardiff to do so.

A single bonus point could be enough, provided that they do not lose by 12 points or more. However, there is a situation where Italy claim their best-ever finish in the Six Nations with third place up for grabs, but they will need the other results to go their way.

If Gonzalo Quesada’s side secures a bonus-point win over Wales on Saturday, they will conclude their tournament with 12 match points, which will see them go level with second-placed England ahead of the final two games. They would need to win by more than 34 points to move past Steve Borthwick’s charges temporarily but would go ahead of third-placed Scotland and fourth-placed France with a bonus-point win.

If they secure five match points with a bonus point win over Wales, they will finish fourth, provided that one of Scotland or France loses on Saturday without a bonus point.

Italy’s best finish in the Six Nations is fourth place, doing so in 2007 and 2013 and they have a good opportunity to match that in 2024 but will need help from others to better it.

France

It’s been an underwhelming campaign for Les Bleus, but they still enter the final weekend of the tournament with a slim chance of winning the title.

All will depend on what happens in the fixture before Le Crunch, as Ireland have an opportunity to seal back-to-back titles when they tackle Scotland. Simply put, France need the Scots to do them a favour but not do it too well.

In the case that Gregor Townsend’s side defeat Ireland and deny them a single bonus point, then France will need to claim a bonus point victory over England and better Ireland’s point difference with a big win. The Irish head into the St. Paddy’s weekend with a +80 points difference, exactly 76 more points than both Scotland and France. So Les Bleus will need the Scots to cut that difference and then better Scotland’s tally and Ireland’s.

Second place overall is well on the cards for France, and a straightforward win of any kind would likely seal it for them if Ireland defeat Scotland; if the Scots win, then third place is also a likely finish in victory.

France could finish as low as fifth in defeat paired with an Italian win over Wales.

Scotland

Scotland’s story is much like France’s, as a big bonus point win could see them with the Championship for the first time since Italy were added.

However, it is a massive ask as they would need to claim a bonus point win over Ireland, denying Andy Farrell’s side a bonus point, and win by at least 39 points – or 38 if they score nine more tries than Ireland.

Therefore, a second or third-place finish is on the cards with a win depending on the result in Lyon with not much splitting second and fourth.

Like France, Scotland could finish as low as fifth if they fail to claim any bonus points from the clash against Ireland.

Scotland do have the opportunity to win a title, as a win of any kind would seal a Triple Crown after wins over Wales and England earlier in the Championship.

But oh, how different this all could have been without the close TMO call and the implosion against Italy.

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England

Marcus Smith after landing late drop-goal for England against Ireland.

Marcus Smith after landing late drop-goal for England against Ireland.

England may rue Marcus Smith’s decision to slot the match-winning drop goal against Ireland in the previous round as they enter the final day of action four match points adrift of Ireland in the top spot.

Had Borthwick’s side scored another try in the win, they would have been just three points shy of Ireland, who need just two match points to seal the title. The superior point difference that Ireland have is a significant factor for them, and if they do collect just one bonus point against Scotland, then England will need a bonus-point win paired with them to better Ireland’s points difference.

An Ireland loss without a bonus point paired with a bonus point England win over France seals a maiden title for Borthwick as the Red Rose boss.

A win of any kind paired with a Scottish defeat will see them finish second overall, a position they could still finish in if the Scots win, depending on the points difference.

Unfortunately for England, a win paired with an Irish defeat could see them finish the Championship with more wins than Farrell’s side but still finish in second place because of the bonus points the Irish have collected.

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Ireland

Ireland are in the driving seat heading into the final weekend of the tournament, as even a defeat by less than seven points will see them lift the title.

If they fall to say a 14-21 loss at the hands of Scotland, England would need to claim a bonus point win of 39 points or more over France to take the title off of the Irish.

A loss without a bonus point of any kind would leave England needing just a bonus point win over France to claim the title, so for Andy Farrell and co, the route to defending the Six Nations is simple: beat Scotland.

A win of any kind, even a draw, would be enough.

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