Rugby | Six Nations
The Breakdown: A statistical look at round three of the Six Nations
As the leading sides in Europe do battle in the Six Nations, we preview the third round of matches.
It is crunch time in the Six Nations this weekend, with a crucial Calcutta Cup clash in Edinburgh taking place and Ireland looking to end their Wales rut.
England are aiming to win a third straight championship and second Grand Slam in the space of three years, and are protecting a proud recent record against Scotland at Murrayfield.
Ireland have designs on a clean sweep of victories themselves and welcome a Wales side to Dublin who have proved troublesome in recent history.
France's build-up to their fixture against Italy has been blighted by off-field problems, but Jacques Brunel will see the visit of the Azzurri as a great opportunity to end a barren run.
With the help of Opta, we take a look at the best stats ahead of the third round of matches.
France vs Italy
France are enduring one of their poorest runs in 50 years, with their eight-game winless run their worst since 1968-69 when they went 11 matches without a win.
Mathieu Bastareaud returns from suspension for the alleged use of a homophobic slur, and will add much-needed muscle in Les Bleus' midfield for what will be his first Six Nations match since 2015.
Les Bleus sont prêts à défier l'Italie à l' @orangevelodrome ! Découvrez les joueurs choisis par Jacques Brunel et son staff pour ce 3e match du tournoi des @SixNationsRugby ! #FRAITA #soutiensleXV pic.twitter.com/BvFADiojHB— FF Rugby (@FFRugby) February 21, 2018
History does not favour Italy, who have beaten France just twice in 18 Six Nations contest – lifting the Giuseppe Garibaldi trophy in 2011 and 2013.
Opposing coach Jacques Brunel is a familiar face for the Azzurri, having previously coach Italy and led them to win over his home country five years ago.
Ireland vs Wales
Ireland will have to arrest a poor run of form against Wales to keep their Grand Slam hopes alive, with Joe Schmidt's men having failed to win in the last three contests between the teams – their worst sequence since an eight-game streak between 1971 and 1979.
Home comforts should provide some relief, though, with no side leaving Dublin with a win since England's 12-6 win in 2013 – Ireland since winning 10 and drawing two at the Aviva Stadium.
TEAM NEWS Wales welcome back @lionsofficial trio Dan Biggar, Leigh Halfpenny and Liam Williams for #IREvWAL . Croeso nol i Lewod Halfpenny, Williams a Biggar i wynebu Iwerddon dydd Sadwrn. pic.twitter.com/MDgRyrrmGM— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) February 20, 2018
No European tier-one player has more tries than Keith Earl's eight since the start of 2017, while Rory Best will earn his 109th cap and overtake the legendary Paul O'Connell as Ireland's most-capped forward.
Warren Gatland will take charge of Wales for the 100th time (excluding games he has been absent or with the British and Lions), and has 50 wins to his name so far.
Ireland will be pleased to see George North among the replacements, the Wales winger scored twice against the men in green last year and is fourth on the Six Nations' top try scorers list – just one shy of Ben Cohen's tally of 16.
Scotland vs England
The hosts know that only a win against their old rivals will realistically keep their Championship hopes alive, but Scotland have not beaten England in the Six Nations since 2008 – losing eight and drawing one since.
Indeed, Scotland have lost their past three at Murrayfield against England and have failed to score a try in their past six home championship matches against them, but their run of five straight home wins in the tournament is as many as they had managed in the past 23.
Chris Robshaw has proved a good luck omen for Eddie Jones, with the former captain winning 19 straight games in an England shirt – only Lawrence Dallaglio's streak of 28 can better than run.
Owen Farrell and Jonny May have been typically influential for England, with the duo making more clean breaks than anyone else in this year's Six Nations and providing two try assists apiece.
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