DUBLIN - Ireland demolished Italy while France edged Scotland by two points yesterday to leave the Six Nations title still up for grabs before the two sides meet next weekend in Paris.
Two tries by Jonny Sexton helped Ireland to a comprehensive 46-7 victory at the Aviva stadium in Dublin to maintain their challenge for a first Six Nations crown since 2009.
Ireland's other tries came from Andrew Trimble, Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Fergus McFadden and Jack McGrath.
A first-half breakaway try by Leonardo Sarto, converted by Lucian Orquera, was all Italy had to show for their efforts.
France sit level with Ireland on six points at the top of the championship table after a late Marc Doussain penalty secured a 19-17 victory over Scotland.
Defending champions Wales and England both have four points and remain in contention ahead of their clash on Sunday at Twickenham.
Brian O'Driscoll, who set a world record of 140 Test appearances in his final home game for Ireland, was instrumental in three of their tries and was given a standing ovation when he was finally replaced by McFadden on the hour mark.
"I feel humbled by the reaction today. I have loved my time playing in this jersey, it has to come to an end at some stage and I am happy to go out with a big win," said O'Driscoll, who was named man of the match.
Ireland's points difference is such that a victory against France in their final game should secure the championship.