Matt Dawson’s three things to look out for in the Six Nations final round

As the Six Nations enters its final round this weekend, Rugby World Cup winner Matt Dawson has picked out some of the noteworthy battles still to be played out.

Dawson won 77 caps for England, nine of which came as captain. He also toured with the British and Irish Lions three times.

Ahead of its culmination, we asked him to highlight three key narratives to keep an eye on in this weekend’s action.

Wales’ remarkable turnaround

“What a difference. Jonathan Davies, George North coming in the midfield, Rees-Zammit lighting it up, Liam Williams coming back, Ken Owen smashing it apart, getting their back row back on track.” The 48-year-old explained.

“There may be four or five big names come back into that side and you think ‘yeah actually, you know why Wales have won three Grand Slams recently’. And also the fact they got to the semi-finals of the World Cup, and arguably had a better performance against South Africa than England did in the final.

“Everybody was very quick to drop Wales, but for them to be in that position right now, I can’t see who’s going to stop them. I know France are decent, they’re playing some fantastic rugby, but this adds the pressure element that comes to the final knockings of Six Nations rugby.

“Wales have got it. France have got the flair, they’ve definitely got the talent, but have they got that ability to play under immense pressure? I think that may be where Wales nick it at the weekend.”

The French here to stay

While Dawson was leaning towards a Wales win, he was full of praise for this French side.

“They are going to be around for a while. I can see a generation of French teams causing problems every single year.” He said.

“A brilliant time for them to be hosting the World Cup. They’ve got strength in depth, they’ve got youth, they’ve got experience, they’ve got great balance, a lovely coaching setup, they play a really nice style, they’re very physical and yet they have the flair around it.

“And we’ve missed them. In world rugby we really have missed France being the talent they were in the 80s and 90s, so it really is good to have them back.”

A shot at the Lions tour

“I guess there’s a sub-plot of the Lions tour with all the players and seeing how that affects them in the last round. All the players will be thinking about the Lions, don’t let them kid you by thinking ‘oh yeah I’m just focused on playing for my country.'” Dawson suggested.

“That’s why you’re seeing some really top drawer performances from individuals as well. The Scots particularly, have really got the bit between their teeth – amazing win against England, but look at those individual performances.

“All of these players from every nation, those big-time players, particularly those who have played in Lions tours before, their eyes are wide open with excitement because they know these are special times and they know it’s going to be an incredibly good Lions setup.”

Watch this weekend’s Six Nations action, including Scotland vs Italy and Wales vs France from 1.45pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer on 20 March