Next Saturday see’s the start of the 2013 Six Nations Championships, the tournament provides some of the most traditional and intense rivalries in rugby and it promises to be a cracker. England enter the tournament as slight favourites, but the outright markets reflect just how difficult this year’s tournament is to call. So here is a team by team guide, along with some best bets for the tournament.
Head Coach – Stuart Lancaster
Tournament Odds – 2/1 (Ladbrokes)
England head into the 2013 Six Nations on a massive high after beating the World Champions New Zealand in the final game of the autumn internationals in December. That victory has lifted the expectation of the nation and the bookies also reacted by making England favourites for the title, and they are as sort as 15/8 with Bet365.
The goal-kicking of Owen Farrell is key to England’s hopes, the young fly-half has already showed incredible maturity at test level and he is 11/10 favourite with Betfair to be the tournament’s top point scorer. While winger Chris Ashton is favourite for the top try scorer crown at a best price of 9/1 with Paddy Power.
With three home games, there is no doubt that England have a very realistic chance of claiming the title, but the week two matchup away to Ireland will be a crucial clash, and will give us a good indication of what we can expect from Lancaster’s side.
Predicted finish – Champions
Head Coach – Phillipe Saint-Andre
Tournament Odds – 9/4 (BetFred)
Like England, France enter this year’s Six Nations full of confidence after a superb series of results in November with three victories against Australia, Argentina and Samoa. These results did not go unnoticed by the bookies who made Les Bleus early favourites, but England’s performances have pushed them to joint/2nd favourite with most firms.
Morgan Parra has been in outstanding form for Clermont this season, and the scrum-half’s wonderful goal-kicking has already won many games for both club and country and he is priced at 37/19 with Betfair. Wesley Fofana burst onto the scene last year and scored some crucial tries, and looks a good bet for top try scorer at 10/1 with Bet365.
As always though the nagging doubt about the French is their ability to win on the road. They face England, Ireland and Italy away from the Stade de France, but there is no doubt they have the talent to win the competition.
Predicted finish – Runners up
Head Coach – Declan Kidney
Tournament Odds – 9/2 (William Hill)
Inconsistent is probably the word that best sums up Ireland’s effort in the 2012 Six Nations, some good performances (away in France) and some bad performances (away to England). But coming into this tournament it feels as though there is a quiet optimism around the team, and the 9/2 price is good value.
Declan Kidney is without his best winger Tommy Bowe, but the man who has filled his shoes Craig Gilroy certainly knows where the try line is. The Ulster flyer scored on his debut against Argentina and is a good price at 22/1 with Paddy Power to finish top scorer.
Ireland travel to Wales in the first round, but with Wales struggling for form a win isn’t completely out of the question. From there anything could happen with England and France visiting the Aviva Stadium, Ireland may just be dark horses.
Predicted Finish – 3rd
Head Coach – Rob Howley (interim)
Tournament Odds – 9/2 (Paddy Power)
The 2012 Grand Slam winners have endured a miserable time since lifting the title 12 months ago, and have failed to win their last seven test matches. This run of defeats has left many asking what has happened to the side that swept all before them last season, and their position as co-third favourites at 9/2 reflects the dip in form.
Injuries have definitely hampered this Welsh side, but some key players (particularly in the backs) seem to be returning just at the right time. Jonathan Davies is one of the most exciting centres in the northern hemisphere and is a massively priced at 40/1 with SkyBet to be the top try scorer, which is definitely worth a punt.
Rob Howley’s men are low on confidence going into this tournament, and face tricky trips to France, Scotland and Italy. They have the talent, and while the title may be beyond them a Triple Crown at 10/3 with Ladbrokes could be a good bet.
Predicted Finish – 4th
Coach – Jacques Brunel
Tournament Odds – 500/1 (Stan James)
Italy have been making steady progress since Jacques Brunel took the reins from Nick Mallet last season. During the autumn series they beat Tonga, before losing to New Zealand and Australia. But the defeat at the hands of the Wallabies was only by a three point margin, and they could cause an upset or two this year.
While the Azzuri are usually involved in the fight for the wooden spoon with Scotland, the odds on price 2/7 with SkyBet to finish bottom of the pile is well worth opposing. With Ireland, Wales and France travelling to Rome it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Italy turning over one of the big guns, as they did with France two years ago.
Predicted Finish – 5th
Coach – Scott Johnson
Tournament Odds – 33/1
Scotland are a team in turmoil, after a horrendous autumn series which culminated in a loss to Tonga and the Andy Robinson stepping down from his role as head coach. Scott Johnson has stepped to try and rebuild this side’s confidence, and 33/1 to win the tournament is a short price.
Scotland do possess a pair of fine wingers in Tim Visser and Sean Maitland, and the pair could provide a spark for this side. Visser has been one of the best finishers in the Rabo Pro12 for the past three years and is 20/1 with Boylesports to finish as top try scorer. While Maitland qualifies for Scotland through his family, having been born in New Zealand, he is 40/1 with SportingBet to be top scorer.
Scotland appear to be really up against it this year, with difficult trips to England and France. But with Ireland, Wales and Italy visiting Murrayfield, Johnson will be hoping the home crowd can help roar his side to a couple of victories.
Tournament Best Bets
No Grand Slam – 4/6 Ladbrokes
Scotland to finish bottom – 10/3 Bet Victor
Lowest Scoring Game (Scotland v Italy) – 6/1 Paddy Power
Owen Farrell Top Point Scorer – 11/10 Betfair
Wesley Fofana Top Try Scorer – 10/1 Bet365
Craig Gilroy Top Try Scorer – 22/1 (e/w) Paddy Power