Six Nations Rugby Championship Preview

Ireland are justifiable favourites but Scotland can be best of the rest

David Hollywood looks forward to one of the most anticipated Six Nations tournaments in years

The first weekend of February marks the opening gambit for one of the world’s best attended and most watched sporting tournaments.

Ireland head into this year’s Six Nations tournament as defending Grand Slam champions, and odds-on (4/5) favourites to retain their title. A rare occurrence in itself.

Further intrigue is added by the fact that three of the world’s top four teams are from the Northern Hemisphere and the Six Nations. Ireland, England, and Wales will all harbour championship aspirations.

However it’s the revival of Scottish rugby at both international and club level that presents betting value this year.

See Bar One Racing’s Six Nations betting here

Ireland

So much has been said about Ireland’s remarkable run of form and success under Joe Schmidt, the headlines to consider and carry into this year’s tournament are clear; Joe Schmidt’s side have won 18 of their last 19 internationals, beating every tier one side including the All Blacks along the way.

Their 100 per cent home record in the last 12 tests puts the prospects of England and France, who both visit the Aviva this year at peril. Last year’s top try scorer, and this year’s joint-top Champions Cup top scorer Jacob Stockdale is the significant market leader at 4/1 to cross the whitewash more than anyone else.

England

England are second in the betting for this year’s title (3/1). Away trips to Cardiff and Dublin will likely result in at least one slip up. After losing half their games in the last calendar year, and with four out of five of their clubs failing to make the knockout stages in the Heineken Champions Cup, Eddie Jones is under pressure.

England will always be a side to be respected. This owes to their resources and playing pool as well as their ability to produce one-off world class showings. See their performance in a narrow defeat to New Zealand and their win over South Africa at Twickenham in November. However England may well find more than one banana skin this year and find themselves outside the top two once again.

Wales

Wales will relish welcoming Ireland and England to the Millennium Stadium. An opening Friday-night trip to Paris will be the acid test of their campaign. Win that, and Warren Gatland and co will be set for a title tilt.

Breakthrough wins over Australia and South Africa in the Autumn, and being at home for a potential title decider with Ireland in the last week make their price of 5/1 of interest to say the least.

There’s also a fairly enticing top try-scorer price of 12/1 about Wales’ winger George North for this year’s renewal.

Scotland

Scotland represent the best value for me here.

12/1 about a title win relates to previous failings in the Six Nations, an Autumn defeat to Wales further confirming their ‘work in progress’ reputation. All that being considered, the Glasgow Warriors have now been joined by Edinburgh in being strong contributors to the national squad. Allied to that, head coach Gregor Townsend has had his hands at the helm for long enough to call this side his own.

Scotland’s win over England last year may well be seen as a watershed moment if they emerge with honours this year. They are my betting W/O Ireland pick this year at 11/2.

France

France are France. A cliché justifying engima of brilliance and brutal dis-organisation. Recent defeats to Fiji and South Africa highlight their penchant for low-lights.

As ever, they will represent the perfect foil to wreck the grand slam aspirations of another side. Avoiding a fifth place finish would be a success judging on the quality of the so-called home nations this year. They’re 14/1 this year.

Italy

Italy (1000/1) have one fate. The wooden spoon. Great systemic strides have been made since Conor O’Shea’s arrival in 2016. While the domestic rugby scene is much improved, witness Treviso and Zebre in the Pro14 league, Italy have lost every Six Nations match under O’Shea’s management. 10 in total.

That will likely be 15 come tournament’s end.

Betting for Round 1 of the Six Nations here

Verdict

Ireland Six Nations Championship Winners at 4/5

Scotland Six Nations – W/O Ireland Winners at 11/2

Top Try Scorer – Jacob Stockdale at 4/1 or George North at 12/1

 

 

 

 

 

 



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*Odds were correct at time of publishing the article