The Official Online RBS 6 Nations Store is open. The store has everything you need to get behind your team during the RBS 6 Nations, plus the store is now fully stocked with a much wider range of rugby merchandise.
Scotland and France, courtesy of their 8-8 opening round draw, are on point back while Italy, still searching for their first win since their 14-13 defeat of Scotland in 2008, are on course for back-to-back wooden spoons.
Ireland would appear favourites to wrestle the crown from defending champions France with two home games remaining against Wales and Scotland.
This Friday’s clash against Wales at Dubarry Park especially could hold the key to the Championship’s destiny with the visitors then facing a straight forward home match against Italy in the final game.
It will also pit two of the most exciting back-three prospects against each other as Leinster starlet Andrew Conway faces Ospreys winger Kristian Phillips, who ran in a hat-trick in the victory over France.
Conway – fresh from starting on the wing in Leinster’s 29-20 defeat of the Cardiff Blues – grabbed two tries as a full-back in the defeat of England, while Phillips ran in three scores in the shock 43-8 demolition of France.
Wales coach Phil Davies makes just two changes from that match with scrum-half Gareth Davies and prop Dan Watchurst coming into the team and is expecting a monumental clash with both teams riding on the crest of a wave.
He said: “Following the pleasing performance against France last time out, the key challenge for us now is to back up the growing expectation from ourselves and others and show the endurance, technical ability and mental toughness to do it again.
"This game against Ireland will be the biggest challenge so far for us. We lost narrowly to them at Parc y Scarlets last season and then beat them to gain fifth position at the IRB Junior World Championship in Japan last June.
“Both teams are going into this match on the back of impressive wins with Ireland beating England at Gloucester and our win over France so it should be an exciting match.
“Ireland are a quality side who put their bodies on the line for 80 minutes which is what we've been doing but we need to do it again.”
Meanwhile, Scotland – always strong on home soil – take on England still smarting from their defeat to Ireland.
Mapletoft is able to call on the services of Harlequins fly-half Rory Clegg and Leicester lock Calum Green who both starred in their club’s Premiership victories at the weekend.
Plenty of the remainder of the squad also have top-flight experience and Mapletoft is hoping to see a response from his team at the weekend.
He said: “It's good to have guys returning from Premiership clubs and they come back to us having played well.
“We haven't played particularly well in the backs and we need to incorporate some better decision making and more accuracy into what we're doing.
“The forwards have given us a platform and the expectation is there that on a good night we can really rattle the scoreboard, but making changes because of injuries and unavailability has made it difficult to put combinations together.”
France also have the opportunity to restore some pride with a home match against Italy following their mauling by Wales.
The French, coached by legendary back Philippe Sella, are set to make several changes for the clash in Grenoble with the Azzurri preparing to feel the full force of the defending champions’ backlash.