As the disconsolate crowds streamed away from the Millennium Stadium on February 2nd, few would have predicted Wales would be gunning for the Six Nations title seven weeks later. Yet that's exactly the prize on offer for Rob Howley and his men beneath a closed Millennium Stadium roof today.
Since that disheartening defeat to Ireland, many things have gone right: Wales have rediscovered their defensive solidity, conceding not a single try in three games; key players, like influential open side Sam Warburton, have returned to form; and the dangerous momentum demonstrated during the Grand Slam seasons of '05 and '08 has resurfaced. Few would write off a resurgent Welsh team in front of a fervent home crowd today.
England, for their part, have shown much to admire during the Six Nations. Attacking flair against Scotland, resilience in Dublin against the Irish, and an ability to overcome the dangerous French at Twickenham. And let's not forget that wonderful win over the All Blacks last December, a result the Welsh would dearly love to replicate. The only sign of wheels squeaking nervously on the English chariot came last week against Italy; home fans will hope the uncertainty of that performance will linger on; others will point to an English pscyhe that seems much more resilient under coach Stuart Lancaster.
In a game which could well be decided on fine margins, the mathematics at least are straightforward enough: if Wales win by 8 points, they win the title. If they win by 7, and maintain their advantage in tries scored (Wales are currently two ahead of England) they win the title. An outcome which would have been unexpected indeed on that disappointing day last February.