6.00 am next Saturday
This should, of course, be the semi, but there we are. The lame ducks of England and France contest the other quarter and Wales and Ireland must fancy themselves getting to the final against either of them. Then again rugby, not unlike football, as it happens, to be honest and other cliches, is a funny old game, and both England and France are perfectly capable of beating anyone if the rhythm is right. Still, Ireland and Wales have been the exciting Northern hem teams, and I am bound to say that it is a very long time since it was so exciting supporting Wales. Even the two recent Slams (2005, 2008) weren't quite like this. (Having said that, I don't think I have ever been so mind-bogglingly, lung-emptyingly astonished as at that Wales -Scotland match last year). The idea that we don't have to play Hook or Shane Williams in order to put out a first team is invigorating. I believe the dark arts of the experienced Irish, the dominance of O'Connell at the line-out and the genius of BOD make them favourites, and judging from the Irish newspapers, some Ireland fans think the thing is done. The Welsh, however, can't see a good thing coming until it has gone. I hope Wales win. If they do it will be because the Irish have finally run out of puff, if not of fight. My prediction: Wales winning in the last quarter.