Six Nations: England & Ireland to both make World Cup semis

By Jeremy GuscottRugby union analyst, BBC Sport
Six Nations Catch-Up: The best action from the final week

The final round of games in the Six Nations was a festival of rugby and a truly amazing day.

The players all played with a total lack of inhibition, like we used to when we were kids, and Saturday's jaw-dropping action was a perfect way for the northern hemisphere teams to sign off before the World Cup in six months' time.

Ireland - all set for World Cup final four

It is not a huge surprise Ireland retained their Six Nations title because they have a great record since Joe Schmidt took charge in 2013.

They have lost only four out of 18 games and I think they'll be ranked third or fourth going into the World Cup.

The New Zealander has got them playing in such an efficient, stable, mature and intelligent way, and in my opinion they didn't do anything vastly different in their 40-10 win over Scotland.

Six Nations 2015: Ireland parade trophy at Murrayfield

They might have kicked a little less than normal but if you think about the Wales game, they had three goes at getting across the line then and the only difference is that Wales' defence was better than Scotland's.

They are very methodical and happy to play in that style and I think they'll take that into the World Cup because it is a style that suits them.

They might be called boring and predictable - but they are winners and will be saying "long may it continue".

They will expect to win Pool D ahead of France and Italy and that will open up a clear route to the semi-finals.

Under Schmidt, they have got new belief that this is where they should be, winning titles and contending in major tournaments, and they have the experience to deliver when it matters.

They have a spine of experience in hooker Rory Best, lock Paul O'Connell, number eight Jamie Heaslip, fly-half Johnny Sexton, full-back Rob Kearney and winger Tommy Bowe running through the team.

They are good quality players, who can help guide the likes of 21-year-old Robbie Henshaw and will keep calm and composed under pressure.

They will be disappointed to have lost against Wales but they came back and did the job against Scotland, and they will expect to do the job in the World Cup too.

The only concern is if they lose Sexton - his replacement Ian Madigan is a totally different sort of player and they would not have long to fully integrate him into the team.

England - should reach semis on home turf

England may have lost out on the title in agonising fashion as they just failed to overhaul Ireland's points difference despite a 55-35 win over France but I think they are well set going into the World Cup.

They have lost very few games at Twickenham to teams ranked below them so they should feel confident they can take on and beat anyone at the World Cup. (I'm not worried about Uruguay whom England venture north to face at Manchester City's Etihad Stadium).

Six Nations 2015: England anguish despite 55-35 win against France

The only team they haven't beaten at Twickenham under Stuart Lancaster is South Africa, and if England keep their unbeaten home record going for another seven games they will win the World Cup.

There are several differences between England and Six Nations champions Ireland, notably in their levels of experience and also Ireland's total belief in their style of play.

Ireland essentially played the same style all through the tournament, even against Scotland, while England, who don't have that totally unshakeable belief, took risks right from the off against France.

To me, that said England were not confident they would score the tries they needed if they played the way they had been - kicking, playing territory, going hard in the scrums - and instead they were forced to play a running game from the opening minute.

They can certainly take positives out of the tournament though.

Crucially, they won their home games and although they will be disappointed to have come second again - for the fourth year in a row - it was a tough competition.

England try scoring graphic

They have great strength in depth in the forwards and I would love to see the half-backs take their current form into the World Cup.

Ben Youngs was man of the match on Saturday, while George Ford was commanding at fly-half.

He is a running fly-half but he shows great composure for a 22-year-old and he presents more options than Owen Farrell does.

England still have room for improvement but they are in good shape and I expect them to make it through to the World Cup semi-finals.

Wales - on the up and eyeing knockout stages

Wales may have finished third but they proved to themselves and the rest how potent they can be.

I've never said Wales aren't a good team - I believe they're a bit like Ireland - but I think they have been at odds with themselves because they had become a bit too predictable with their straight-running, power-based style.

Archive: Six Nations 2015 - Dominant Wales thrash Italy in Rome

With Rhys Webb and now Liam Williams coming into the side, they've mixed up their game a little and are better for it - although they had to do it against Italy if they were to stand any chance of winning the title.

With Jamie Roberts carrying the ball hard over the gain-line and the likes of George North, Jonathan Davies and Leigh Halfpenny then getting involved, they have always had firepower, and the addition of Williams has given them something a little different as well.

If their front five - and that area can be a bit of a concern, especially in the front row where it looks like they have lost the injured Samson Lee for the World Cup - can give them a decent platform, then they have a back row as competitive as any in the world.

I'd go so far as to say Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton and Taulupe Faletau are arguably the best back row in the world - although there is a lot of competition.

Another big plus is the good form of their half-backs, Webb and Dan Biggar. Scrum-half Webb has to beware of second-season syndrome and we'll see how good he is next year when people know all about him, but he looks quality in the making.

Their important players have all been to a World Cup semi-final and I fancy them to get out of Pool A, which includes Australia as well as England.

Scotland - at 80% but should make last eight

If Saturday's three matches were wow, wow, wow, Scotland were woe, woe, woe.

As spectators, we don't really see the psyche of a team. I've not been in the Scotland camp so I don't know what their vibe is like but something doesn't add up because when I look at their team sheet they're a decent side.

Six Nations 2015: Ireland beat Scotland to win championship

They could have won their first three games - perhaps should have won their first three games - but because they're not a winning team they struggle to get the job done.

They don't know how to at Test level it seems, despite having plenty of players from current Pro12 leaders Glasgow.

Part of being a successful side is knowing that your team-mates have got your back - or your inside shoulder to make the tackle - and you can't go out thinking you're going to lose.

It takes a tough mentality to get out of a losing mind-set and they haven't found the solution yet.

They've got the nuts and bolts but they are performing well below par given their players.

When you look at them as units, they've got a good front row, decent second rows, a good back row and so on.

One position there appears to be some debate about is scrum-half. Greig Laidlaw has his critics, who think he does not offer enough threat with ball in hand - they want to see a scrum-half who makes more breaks.

Metres made graphic

But Laidlaw does for me what a nine does: he does his basics well, gets to rucks, gets the ball away, and he also has a high percentage when it comes to goal kicking.

He is also the captain, and if Scotland are looking long term for a new captain then they should look to someone like Jonny Gray.

Centre Alex Dunbar had a good tournament along with Mark Bennett and I rate Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg, so it's not like they don't have decent backs.

On paper they have a good side but just cannot produce the performances to win games because mentally they cannot get themselves over the finishing line.

Samoa could beat them in their Pool B match at the World Cup but I expect them to finish second and reach the knock-out stages because I'd like to think newish coach Vern Cotter will have got the best out of them by then.

In my view they're currently at about 80% of what they can be.

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