Les Bleus face the Red Dragon
- France v Wales
- Friday 1st February, 20:00
- Stade de France
Round One begins in earnest with France hosting Wales at the Stade de France on Friday 1st February. The championship’s curtain-raiser is an intriguing match-up, given the enigmatic French are a muddled blend between talented personnel and inconsistent togetherness. Les Bleus, a seemingly annual conundrum, have always possessed the natural flair to be world beaters, but struggle at times to express themselves out on the field of play.
Led by talismanic hooker Guilhem Guirado, the hosts have only won one of their last six Tests – an unconvincing 28-13 victory over Argentina – and they’re 7/4 to get off the mark against Wales by 1-12 points. With France’s last Six Nations title coming nine years ago, you feel a serious title challenge could yet again be out of their reach, reflected by their 16/1 odds to win the title.
Wales, by comparison, go into the Six Nations under the guidance of Warren Gatland for the final time after 12 years at the helm. The long-serving New Zealander has delivered a trio of Six Nations titles since 2007, and the men in red will be desperate to secure a fourth and final title for their departing head coach. Priced at 12/1 to do just that and secure their second Grand Slam in eight years, Wales are 5/6 to score the game’s first try in Paris.
Despite being shorn of the services of Taulupe Faletau, the visitors are in fine form having won their past six Tests in a row. Away wins in the Six Nations can be something of a rarity, especially in the cauldron of the State de France, but Wales may just do enough to get their tournament off to a winning start. They have two home games this year – against England and Ireland – and are 10/1 to score nine or more tries across those 160 minutes in Cardiff.
|Score 9+ Tries||
Townsend’s Scotland host the Azzurri
- Scotland v Italy
- Saturday 2nd February, 14:15
- BT Murrayfield
A clash between Scotland and Italy was once seen as a perennial fixture to decide the destination of the dreaded Wooden Spoon but, such has been the Scottish resurgence in recent seasons, the powers that be at BT Murrayfield have their sights set on much bigger prizes these days. Once limited by their sheer inability to cross the whitewash, Scotland have found an attacking, creative flair under Gregor Townsend and are arguably one of the most threatening teams with ball in hand in world rugby.
Winger Sean Maitland is 11/4 to be his country’s top try scorer this campaign and, although they are unable to call on the likes of John Barclay, Hamish Watson and Richie Gray for this home clash, they should hit the ground running against Italy. A winning margin of 16-20 points in Edinburgh, at 11/2 odds, looks achievable.
Underwhelming Italy have propped up the rear in the Six Nations 13 times since the expansion of the Five Nations at the turn of the millennium. Talk of a resurgence in Italian rugby had stalled for a few years, representative of their 225/1 odds to finish 3rd this year. However, the performances of Zebre and Treviso in the Top 14 do provide their long-suffering supporters with some realistic hope going into this campaign, and they’re 6/1 in the Half Time betting stakes against Scotland.
The visitors are 9/2 to reach 10 points first at BT Murrayfield, and Conor O’Shea’s men will be yearning to open their campaign with a victory, something they haven’t achieved since 2003. The noticeable absences of influential pair Matteo Minozzi and Jake Polledri make their assignment considerably harder, however, although a losing bonus point may be within reach.
|First Team to 10 Points||
Ireland-England showdown at the Aviva
- Ireland v England
- Saturday 2nd February, 16:45
- Aviva Stadium
2019 was a record-breaking year for Irish rugby. Joe Schmidt’s side swept all before them, following an historic Grand Slam with a series victory in Australia and a first ever triumph over the All Blacks in Ireland. Add in Leinster lifting the Pro 14 and Champions Cup double, and Ireland, Schmidt and Johnny Sexton being named Team, Coach and Player of the Year at the World Rugby awards, you can understand why the men in green are 5/2 to secure a second Grand Slam in the space of twelve months.
After scoring seven tries in last year’s Six Nations, flying winger Jacob Stockdale will be one player to keep an eye on, and the Ulsterman is 4/1 favourite be the championship’s top try-scorer for the second year running. You can also get a double bet of 7/2 for Ireland to claim the Grand Slam and Jonny Sexton to be the tournament’s top points scorer, a feasible outcome for those across the Irish Sea.
The wheels well and truly fell off Eddie Jones’ England chariot in 2018 following a dismal Six Nations campaign which saw them succumb to three defeats on the bounce against Scotland, France and Ireland. That was then compounded by a series defeat in South Africa but, after three wins from four in the autumn, there are signs the Red Rose are on the road to redemption. The Half Time/Full Time England/England odds in Dublin are 15/4, and they will travel to the Aviva to face the Irish juggernaut as clear underdogs.
Their cause hasn’t been helped by injuries to a number of key personnel, including Dylan Hartley, Chris Robshaw and Sam Underhill, but given the strength in depth available in English rugby, they should have the resources available to cope. Jonny May is 8/1 to be the game’s first try-scorer in Round One, but it could be a disappointing start for England who may fall short of avenging last season’s 24-15 reverse at Twickenham.