Six Nations 2014: Complete Power Rankings Following Matchday 3
A weekend that could have decided one trophy and send us a strong signal as to the destination of the other ended up doing neither.
England’s win over Ireland and Wales’ triumph over France have blown the Six Nations wide open.
With four sides locked on four points each and only England in with a shout of the Triple Crown, there is all to play for with two rounds left.
The old championship is serving up a classic in 2014, so let’s see how the power rankings are playing out.
It now looks highly likely that Italy will draw a blank in the win column of the 2014 championship.
They surrendered a 10-point lead to a rejuvenated Scotland and will be kicking themselves for the turnover that lead to Alex Dunbar’s first try.
Despite what is set to be their worst performance in the championship since 2009, there are positives for Italy.
The young duo of Tommy Allan and Michele Campagnaro look like backs with genuine potential to be world class, while their scrum has been as impressive as ever.
As preposterous as it was when some observers demanded the ousting of Scotland from the tournament of their troubles, so it goes for the ever-improving Italians.
The relief washing over the Scottish players and supporters in Rome was almost tangible.
For those glorious moments after Duncan Weir’s outstanding drop goal it was as though the woes weighing so heavy over Scottish rugby just drifted away like balloons cut loose from their strings.
But the reality is the joy at this win is a signpost of just how far Scotland have sunk since the Six Nations began.
This result was treated with a glee similar to that which greeted the Azzuri’s unexpected victory on their debut in the competition in 2000 when they beat the Scots.
Les Bleus were finally exposed for the poor side they have been in this championship.
They got out of jail against England and had just a couple of moments of brilliance to thank for a win over Italy.
Under the roof in Cardiff on Friday night, they could no longer paper over the cracks in their game. Their forwards looked ponderous, their backs clueless.
The frustrating thing about France is that they could turn up to Murrayfield next week and put on a five-star display.
The outpouring of praise for Wales on Friday night was largely deserved, primarily because it was huge turnaround in performance after the shambolic showing they put on in Dublin.
But amidst the garlands being tossed Sam Warburton’s way, it was slightly forgotten that France had been truly, spectacularly bad.
That’s not to take away from a display that saw Warburton almost back to his brilliant best at the breakdown and a powerful performance from the Welsh front five. It has set up their visit to Twickenham beautifully.
The feeling after England’s win over Ireland was that this was a seminal moment for this young side. The Telegraph's Mick Cleary described the result as the moment "Team England came of age," and it's hard to disagree.
They recovered from 10-3 down to beat a well-organised, talented Irish side and then had the guts, energy and concentration to keep them out as they pounded away in search of an opening.
It could have been a more comfortable win had Jonny May not lost control of the ball in the act of scoring early on, but these young players are gaining priceless experience by coming through such battles as these.
They are back in the hunt for the title with another massive test up next.
The champions arrive at Twickenham on Saturday.
Despite losing a titanic arm wrestle with England, Ireland remain in the box seat thanks to their superior points difference.
Add to that the fact they have Italy at home next, and they have a huge opportunity to make sure their points difference is unassailable heading into the last weekend.
Apart from losing a little composure as they chased the game at Twickenham, Ireland didn’t do an awful lot wrong in South West London.
Their scrum was on top, their maul when they used it was a powerful attacking weapon and when they moved the ball wide they were able to stretch England’s rearguard.
Unfortunately for Ireland, the Red Rose scramble defence was irrepressible.
Their destiny remains theirs to shape in this year's Six Nations.