Here's what Ireland need to happen to retain their Six Nations title 4 months ago

Here's what Ireland need to happen to retain their Six Nations title

This is going to take some doing.

On Saturday evening, as fans digested Wales' 21-13 win over England, Ireland's title chances in the Guinness Six Nations were looking good again.

Ireland then went out at Stadio Olimpico and got a bonus point win over Italy. Job done, but not in great style and it only gets harder from here.

After three rounds of the championship, here is how the table looks:

Wales - on 13 points - are best placed after starting with away wins over France and Italy then powering through England in Cardiff. Win their next two games against Scotland (away) and Ireland (home) and they'll win a first Grand Slam in seven years.

It would be a fitting way for Warren Gatland to step away from the Wales job and would leave the team on 14 consecutive wins heading to the World Cup and the warm-up games that proceed it. Their top points total possible is 22.

England headed back home with their tyres deflated. Their kicking game-plan had work a treat against Ireland and France but the Welsh were ready and waiting for it. They failed to get a losing bonus but they got try-scoring bonus points in their opening round victories.

Eddie Jones' men are on 10 points but they have Italy next and then finish off by playing Scotland, the bottom two sides. England would back themselves to win those games with bonus points and don't be surprised to hear Jones openly speaking about this. The maximum they can finish on is 20 points.

Ireland are on 9 points so the maximum they could finish with is 19 points. The odds of that happening, however, are slim.

Ireland face France at home next. They have beaten Les Bleus five of the last six times but they have been close enough encounters. Only the 24-9 win over France at the 2015 World Cup could be counted as resounding.

To get five points from this fixture, Ireland need to win and score at least four tries in the process. Looking back through the nations' 97 Test match encounters, this has only happened three times and the last time it occurred was in 1913 when Ireland ran in six during their 24-0 win at the Mardyke.

The only other times have been in 1911 (also at the Mardyke) and the nations' first ever Test encounter in 1909. Even high-scoring Irish wins in the past two decades - 30-21 (in 2009) and 27-25 (in 2000) - have only featured three Irish tries.

So, to get the extra point on March 10, Ireland would need to do what they have not done in 106 years.

Joe Schmidt

Should they do that, Wales are up next at the Principality Stadium. They last won in Cardiff during the 2013 Six Nations, when they scored three tries within the first 48 minutes but were left hanging on with stout defence in the final minutes.

Joe Schmidt has twice led Ireland to Cardiff to take on Gatland's Wales and lost on both occasions. Offer it to them right now and Ireland would snatch a one-point win from you. Any sort of a win over there would be a fine result.

Say Ireland win both games and get tryscoring bonus points, the maximum they could finish on is 19 points.

Ireland will be hoping to up their performance levels over the next two games but, to retain their title, they first need to beat France, then do Wales over and then hope Italy or, most likely, Scotland can frustrate England.

A mighty undertaking.