A top-of-the-table encounter between two unbeaten teams in front of a passionate sell-out crowd takes centre stage on a weekend when England could go a long way towards securing their third Women's Six Nations title in four years.
Castle Park has been a happy hunting ground for England's Red Roses with wins at the South Yorkshire venue in each of the last two years and a third, against nearest rivals Ireland, would put daylight between themselves and the rest with just two rounds to play after this weekend.
For Ireland, win, lose or draw on Sunday, the signs are encouraging as they continue to build towards the European qualification tournament later this year for Rugby World Cup 2021. In beating Scotland and Wales in the first two rounds, Adam Griggs' side have doubled their tally of wins from the 2019 Championship when they finished second-bottom.
France, meanwhile, know that they cannot afford to slip up against Wales in Cardiff if they are to keep their challenge alive following their round one loss to England.
From a rankings perspective, Italy's game against Scotland is the one with most on the line. If Scotland can overturn the formbook and end the Azzurre's seven-match unbeaten home record, a place in the world's top 10 could be theirs for the first time in history.
WOMEN'S SIX NATIONS
One girl and her dogs / No 1 in the prop chart? Whatever headline you choose (comments welcome), it's a story that captures the imagination and for sheepdog trainer Gwenllian Pyrs, becoming a regular in the Wales front row has been well worth the wait— Welsh Rugby Union (@WelshRugbyUnion) February 21, 2020
WALES (8) v FRANCE (4)
Played: 25 – France leads 21-4
Points for: Wales 117 / France 626
Average score: Wales 4-25 France
First meeting: 23 April, 1994 – France 27-0 Wales
Last meeting: 2 February, 2019 – France 52-3 Wales – GGL Stadium, Montpellier
Coach Geraint Lewis has made five changes from the Wales side that faced Ireland in Dublin. Megan Webb and Caitlin Lewis will make their first Women’s Six Nations appearances, starting at centre and winger respectively, while Kayleigh Powell returns to the starting line-up at full-back after having to withdraw from the Ireland fixture due to injury. In the forwards, there’s a first Six Nations start for second-row Georgia Evans, while Bethan Lewis returns to the back-row alongside Alisha Butchers and captain Siwan Lillicrap.
Back-row Coumba Diallo, hooker Agathe Sochat and outside-centre Coralie Bertrand will all make their first starts in this year's Championship as Les Bleues make four changes to the side that beat Italy 45-10 last time out. Bertrand was unavailable for the opening two rounds due to being with the France sevens team in New Zealand and Australia. The other change comes at the back of the pack with Gaëlle Hermet returning at number eight to captain the side in place of Romane Menager.
- Wales have won only one of their last 12 meetings with France, 10-8 in Neath in February 2016
- France's average winning margin in the last three fixtures is 33 points
- Wales have scored under 20 points in each of their last five fixtures
- Last year's 52-3 win in Montpellier was Les Bleues' biggest over Wales and the only time they have reached a half-century of points in 25 meetings
- Wales can only improve their position if they win by more than 15 points and Scotland beat Italy by the same margin
- France will remain fourth if they lose, but Wales will drop to ninth with defeat or if Ireland match their margin of victory
ENGLAND (2) v IRELAND (9)
Played: 28 – England leads 26-2
Points for: England 865 / Ireland 196
Average score: England 30-7 Ireland
First meeting: 17 March, 1996 – England 12-8 Ireland – Sunbury, England
Last meeting: 1 February, 2019 – England 51-7 Ireland – Energia Park, Dublin
Leanne Riley returns at scrum-half for England while full-back Sarah McKenna (main picture) and fly-half Katy Daley-Mclean are also back in the starting XV in a trio of changes for the meeting between the competition’s two unbeaten teams. Loughborough Lightning’s Detysha Harper comes into the match-day squad and is in line for her test debut after prop Hannah Botterman picked up a calf injury. Captain Sarah Hunter, meanwhile, wins her 122nd cap at number eight.
Ireland coach Adam Griggs has made two changes to the starting line-up that overcame Wales 31-12 in their last outing. Aoife Doyle starts on the wing in place of Beibhinn Parsons, who has two tries to her name in this season's Championship but has stepped back to focus on her upcoming school exams, while Katie Fitzhenry makes her first appearance in nearly two years at centre having returned from Ireland sevens duty in Sydney.
- The Red Roses are on a seven-match winning streak against Ireland dating back to 2015, including last year's 51-7 victory in Dublin
- Ireland have never won on English soil in 15 previous attempts
- Ireland's only two wins against the Red Roses came in the years they last won the title (2013 and 2015)
- England have won both their previous fixtures at Castle Park (41-26 v France in 2019 and 27-19 v Canada in 2018)
- England cannot improve their rating with victory due to the near 20-point difference between the teams before home weighting is factored in
- A draw for Ireland would be enough to lift them to eighth if Wales fail to beat France
- If Wales win then Ireland will still climb above them if they are victorious by the same margin
ITALY (5) v SCOTLAND (11) (Sunday)
Played: 20 – Italy leads 13-6 with one draw
Points for: Italy 414 / Scotland 247
Average score: Italy 20-12 Scotland
First meeting: 30 April, 1995 – Italy 12-10 Scotland
Last meeting: 1 February, 2019 – Italy 28-7 Scotland – Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow
Italy have named a vastly experienced side boasting 583 caps, with Maria Magatti's first test start at centre the headline-grabbing selection. Magatti, who is making her 33rd international appearance, shifts from the wing to midfield to accommodate the return of Aura Muzzo. In the pack, Lucia Cammarano plays at openside due to the absence of Giada Franco through injury, while Giordana Duca comes into the second row for Valentina Ruzza.
Scotland coach Philip Doyle has made two changes to the team that faced England a couple of weeks ago at Murrayfield. Centre Hannah Smith and winger Megan Gaffney are both fit again and return to the side in place of Lisa Thomson and Evie Tonkin respectively.
- It is over two decades since Scotland last won in Italy (43-15 in 1999)
- Italy are unbeaten at home in their last seven matches, including two draws
- Scotland have lost their last eight matches in the Women's Six Nations
- Only twice in the last nine years have Scotland avoided the wooden spoon
- With nearly 10 points between the teams before home weighting is factored in, Italy cannot improve their rating with victory
- Italy will drop below Australia if they draw – and also USA if Scotland win
- Italy could actually fall three places to ninth, but this would require them to lose by more than 15 points and Wales to win by the same margin
- Scotland must win by more than 15 points to overtake Spain and move into the top 10 for the first time
The World Rugby Women's Rankings update every Monday at 12:00 GMT