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WOMEN’S: Round three was thrilling, round four will be fateful

WOMEN’S: Round three was thrilling, round four will be fateful

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France inflicted a first-ever defeat at Twickenham on England, Ireland secured the Triple Crown and Scotland scored their first points of the Women’s RBS 6 Nations last time out, but round four could go a long way to deciding this year’s champions.

France inflicted a first-ever defeat at Twickenham on England, Ireland secured the Triple Crown and Scotland scored their first points of the Women’s RBS 6 Nations last time out, but round four could go a long way to deciding this year’s champions.

In what is set to be the contest of the weekend, table toppers Ireland welcome second-placed France to Ashbourne RFC as they look to take a step further to securing a maiden RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam.

Philip Doyle’s side boast a 100 percent winning record so far and after the 30-3 victory over Scotland, secured their qualification for the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup.

Alison Miller continued her fine try-scoring form, backing up her hat-trick against England with two more at Lasswade as her side recovered from an early deficit to record another convincing win.

But they now must face the biggest hurdle left standing in between them and Grand Slam glory, squaring up to a France side high on confidence after beating seven-time defending RBS 6 Nations champions England on their own patch.

Elodie Guiglion, Lucille Godiveau, Safi N’Diaye, Christelle Chobet and Caroline Ladagnous all crossed the whitewash as France ran in five tries during the 30-20 victory – their first on English soil since 2005.

That defeat was England’s second consecutive loss this campaign and all but ended their chance of retaining their RBS 6 Nations title, but there is still a lot to play for when they face Italy in Esher.

Captain Sarah Hunter admitted the competition was the fiercest she had ever been a part of after the France defeat but the No.8 doesn’t believe her sides have dropped their standards.

They will be looking to restore some pride however against the Italians who themselves have enjoyed a far better tournament than last year – already securing two wins compared to the single victory in 2011/12.

They were also particularly unlucky not to add to their victories over France and Scotland against Wales where Laura Prosser’s accurate kicking proved the difference in a tight 16-15 home defeat.

Where the defeat in Benevento was a disappointment for the Italians, it kept alive Wales’ hopes of qualifying for the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup with their first victory of the tournament.

Tries from front row duo Catrin Edwards and Lowri Harries, as well as two penalties from Prosser, sealed a hard-earned away victory and they will be confident of a repeat against a winless Scotland side.

Scotland head coach Karen Findlay may have labelled her side’s first-half display against Ireland as one of the best she has ever seen but in not building on it after half-time, she is now challenging her players to improve their defensive solidity.

And in welcoming Wales, their closest rivals in this season’s RBS 6 Nations table, Findlay will be hoping the influence of the home crowd at Scotstoun will bring with it a first victory.