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Six Nations: England have to solve breakdown woes against Ireland, Wales need another fast start against France

Sport360's Dan Owen looks at where this weekend's Six Nations fixtures will be won and lost

Dan Owen 2018/03/16

This year’s edition of the Six Nations concludes this weekend, with England’s home clash against Grand Slam-chasing Ireland the match where most of the attention will be.

Here, we break down each of the three fixtures.

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ENGLAND V IRELAND – THE BREAKDOWN

This must be getting boring from an English perspective but once again the main focus is going to be what happens on the floor.

In defeats to Scotland and France, England have been abject at the breakdown – both with and without possession of the ball.

They were turned over nine times by the French and they just can’t happen against Ireland.

In contrast, Ireland have been masterful in keeping this area of the game clean especially when in possession, allowing quick ball and a licence to release their backs.

It’s another new-look back row for England with Chris Robshaw, Sam Simmonds and James Haskell lining up and they have to make sure they are on site before their Irish counterparts securing quick, clean ball for Richard Wigglesworth and doing all they can to disrupt Conor Murray and his charges.

England pictured on Friday preparing at Twickenham.

WALES V FRANCE – THE FIRST 20 MINUTES

Not renowned as fast starters, Wales have flown out of the blocks in the two Six Nations games they have won this campaign.

They firmly went for the jugular against Scotland and ran out comfortable winners, last week in Cardiff, Italy were able to get a foothold in the game for a time but the damage had been done.

With a new-found attacking intent expect Wales to try and get France on the back-foot early on and try and play on mental insecurities in the French camp.

Yes, they may have picked up a win against England last time out, but had been less than average before that and if they find themselves on the end of some adversity and waves of red pressure are likely to crumple.

On the other hand, if they can keep it close early on, use their strike runners properly and build phases they could still make things difficult for Warren Gatland’s men.

Wales romped to victory over Italy last time out.

ITALY V SCOTLAND – THE UNFORCED ERRORS COLUMN

In part, both sides have been the architects of their own downfall this campaign through some very basic errors.

This was evident last time out when Scotland spurned three guilt-edged chances against Ireland through some pretty sloppy passing in the back-line. It was the same story in Cardiff with mistakes aplenty from intercept passes, to the ball just not going to hand.

Italy have once again come under pressure from those who question their worth in the tournament and at times have not helped themselves with an inability to keep the ball in hand.

There were glimpses of improvement in Cardiff, but it’s a dim light at the end of a very long tunnel.

The side that can string phases together, and not make the glaring defensive errors we have seen previously will come out on top in this one.

Italy will be hoping to end campaign on a high.

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