2012 Six Nations review
For a third time in eight seasons, Wales marched to the Six Nations title and Grand Slam last year.
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By common consent it was not a vintage championship, but Wales built impressively on their World Cup semi-final appearance in New Zealand the previous autumn to secure a second tournament clean sweep of coach Warren Gatland's reign.
Wales faced a tough opener against Ireland in Dublin, which came less than four months after the countries were World Cup quarter-final opponents and meant Declan Kidney's team were thirsting for revenge.
A gripping contest ultimately went Wales' way 23-21, but it took a last-gasp Leigh Halfpenny penalty to thwart Ireland after wing George North's 75th-minute try gave the visitors a lifeline from 21-15 adrift following lock Bradley Davies' sin-binning.
England, under the direction of caretaker coach Stuart Lancaster following Martin Johnson's post-World Cup exit and captained by Chris Robshaw, pipped Scotland 13-6 in a poor game at Murrayfield, while France predictably swept past Italy 30-12.
Charlie Hodgson scored his second charge-down try of the tournament to avoid an England slip-up at a snowy Stadio Olimpico in Rome, but a 19-15 away success was rough justice on Italy after they outscored their visitors on touchdowns.
Ryan Jones took over the Wales captaincy from an injured Sam Warburton for Scotland's Millennium Stadium visit, and his team delivered by securing a 27-13 verdict. Halfpenny was star of the show with a 22-point haul that included two tries.
There was huge frustration for France and Ireland in Paris, though, where English referee Dave Pearson postponed the game 10 minutes before kick-off with parts of the Stade de France pitch frozen. The game was played three weeks later and ended in a 17-17 draw.
Ireland took out their frustration following a blank weekend in Paris by crushing Italy 42-10, helped by a Tommy Bowe try double and 17 points from fly-half Jonathan Sexton as the Azzurri unravelled dismally following a battling display against England.
Twickenham was next on Wales' agenda. Victory there in 2008 - Gatland's first game as coach - kick-started a Grand Slam campaign and they delivered again in another pivotal encounter, prevailing through substitute Scott Williams' breakaway score and Halfpenny's late try-saving tackle on England wing David Strettle.
France laboured to a 23-17 triumph against Scotland at Murrayfield, where Les Bleus fought back from 17-13 adrift. It meant the French remained unbeaten, but Scotland were still without a win.
Wales were now on the home run towards potential title glory, with their final two games seeing them face Italy and France at home.
Italy were dismissed 24-3, with Cardiff Blues backs Alex Cuthbert and Jamie Roberts scoring
tries, but the penultimate weekend belonged to England after Lancaster's men toppled France 24-22 in Paris, where Leicester flanker Tom Croft's brilliant individual try sealed a stunning success.
Scotland were left one defeat away from the wooden spoon after four-try Ireland brushed them aside 32-14 at the Aviva Stadium.
As in 2008, Wales were left needing victory over France to enjoy Grand Slam glory, and they prevailed after an inevitably nervous affair. Cuthbert scored the game's solitary try, while there was another mighty performance from flanker Dan Lydiate that helped him clinch player of the tournament honours.
England, who would have had a mathematical chance of the title had Wales lost, nailed down the runners-up spot as Owen Farrell kicked 20 points in a 30-9 victory against Ireland that also featured a penalty try and touchdown for scrum-half Ben Youngs.
But there was nothing to cheer about for Scotland, beaten 13-6 by Italy in a wooden spoon decider at the Stadio Olimpico that meant they suffered a fifth successive defeat and propped up the Six Nations table.