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.
In the absence of a similar stalemate making this year’s a Slam-free tournament for only the third time in ten seasons, the victor will go charging into the final two rounds next month within sight of landing a title which will be worth more than £3m in prize money.
As Anglo-French duels go, this one promises to be up there with the best. Matching the heights of the 1991 epic between the countries is asking a lot.
Both teams went into the final round 20 years ago having swept all before them and England squeezed home 21-19.
One of them demands a permanent place amongst the most brilliant of all time – a try launched by Pierre Berbizier from his own in-goal area after Nottingham full back Simon Hodgkinson had missed a penalty.
Instead of touching the ball down and settling for a drop-out, Berbizier dared to dream by launching a 100-metre move wondrously stitched together by Didier Camberabero for Philippe Saint-Andre to finish off between the English posts.
England won despite being out-scored 3-1 on tries. France did precisely that to Ireland in Dublin on Sunday, placing a heavy dependence on the left-footed boots of their goalkicking scrum-halves, Morgan Parra and Dimitri Yachvili.
In the end, one missed tackle proved decisive – Aurelien Rougerie blasting past Gordon D’Arcy for who else but Maxime Medard to turn into his 19th try of the season.
France know they will have to be a whole lot better if they are to derail the Red Rose chariot which has not moved as sweetly since their last Grand Slam way back in 2003.
Les Bleus’ winning Championship streak is now up to eight but Marc Lievremont has ample reason to view Twickenham with some apprehension.
His first appearance there as head coach, in March 2009, coincided with the champions’ last Six Nations failure, on a scale which took some explaining.
England, then in the painful process of finding their feet under Martin Johnson, won 34-10, long before Chris Ashton had started taking the international scene by storm.
Whatever you think of his antics in the act of scoring, there is no arguing with the facts.
Nine tries in nine Tests adds up to a higher strike rate than other fairly useful English finishers, like Dan Luger (eight from his first nine), Ben Cohen, Josh Lewsey (both seven from their first nine) and Jason Robinson who had to make do with a mere six.
While England won top marks for artistic merit and Ireland-France provided the closest match of the weekend, Wales stopped the rot with a surprisingly emphatic win at Murrayfield over a decidedly sub-par Scotland.
James Hook wasted no time justifying his switch to fly-half with the break which put Shane Williams in for the first of two tries.
Two more from the Welsh wizard in Rome on Saturday week will equal Ian Smith’s championship record of 24 which has stood the test of time since the Scotland wing’s last match almost 80 years ago.
Wales know they must now win in Italy to prove that recent results were simply too bad to be true.
They may have lost too many for their liking, seven out of eight before last Saturday, but not their sense of humour.
On their coach journey to the stadium, the musical selection included the Queen-David Bowie Eighties No. 1 hit, Under Pressure.
“I couldn’t get that song out of my head,” Gatland said in praising his team for their character in responding to a real backs-to-the-wall scenario.
He also made it clear that he will be picking his ‘strongest’ team for Rome, unlike the last time when he rested a number of front-line players and almost came unstuck.
My Six Nations team of the weekend:
15 - Sean Lamont (Scotland)
14 - Chris Ashton (England)
13 - Aurelien Rougerie (France)
12 - Jamie Roberts (Wales)
11 - Mark Cueto (England)
10 - Toby Flood (England)
9 - Ben Youngs (England)
1 - Paul James (Wales)
2 - William Servat (France)
3 - Nicolas Mas (France)
4 - Paul O’Connell (Ireland)
5 - Julien Pierre (France)
6 - Thierry Dusautoir (France)
7 - Sam Warburton (Wales)
8 - Sergio Parisse (Italy)
Hooker – Dylan Hartley (England)
Prop – Dan Cole (England)
Lock – Simon Shaw (England)
Back row – Imanol Harinordoquy (France)
Scrum-half – Morgan Parra (France)
Fly-half/goalkicker – James Hook (Wales)
Wing/Full-back – Maxime Medard (France)