With the 2015 Rugby World Cup looming in September, Europe’s biggest international rugby competition takes on even greater importance as the Six Nations championship returns this weekend.
This year’s competition promises to be one of the most tightly contested Six Nations ever. Despite winning the Triple Crown, Stuart Lancaster’s England had to settle for second as Ireland crucially beat France on the final day of the championship. They edged England out by just ten points, after both teams finished with four wins.
This year, England start out as marginal 2/1 favourites according to the bookies, with the reigning champions close behind at 15/8 with Bet365 Sports. Elsewhere, Wales are widely available at 3/1; France are best priced at 13/2 with Betway Sports; Scotland are 33/1 outsiders; and Italy are placed at 500/1.
Although legendary captain Brian O’Driscoll has now retired, Ireland can justify their odds, having overcome the challenge of South Africa, Georgia and Australia in the Autumn Internationals. Fixtures-wise, Joe Schmidt’s men have the advantage of playing both England and France at the Aviva Stadium, while they will still expect to beat Scotland and Italy away from home.
England play three of their five matches at Twickenham, but face tough away trips to Wales and Ireland. Moreover, England’s mounting injury list for their opener at the Millennium Stadium has further reduced their chances, with fly-half Owen Farrell out of the whole tournament. England’s favourites tag may seem unjustified, and their short odds rather unappealing at this stage.
Despite a disappointing autumn, Wales will be much likelier contenders if they can beat England this weekend. Although Warren Gatland’s men must overcome Les Bleus in France, with matches against England and Ireland on home soil, the Red Dragons are a tempting 7/2 with Betway Sports to win the Triple Crown.
The mercurial French are rightly outsiders with tough away trips to Dublin, Rome and Twickenham ahead. Scotland, meanwhile, could be the tournament’s surprise package, with Murrayfield match-ups against Ireland, Italy and Wales. Strong displays from them could severely upset one of their Celtic cousins’ respective title chances.
Looking at individual accolades, Ireland fly-half Jonny Sexton appeals at 8/1 with Betfred Sports to top the individual points tally, while England full-back Mike Brown is 18/1 with the same bookie to be the top try-scorer. Both men achieved the respective feats in 2014.
With no clear favourite for this season’s championships, most bookies offer 4/6 that no side will win the Grand Slam. Bet365 Sports offer Ireland and England at 11/2 to do so. Who are you backing to win this year? For more Six Nations specials, visit Bet365 Sports today!