Six Nations Preview
The opening weekend of the Six Nations is vital for all sides’ chances of success and online tipsters, bettors and rugby fans around the world are looking ahead the tantalising feast that kicks off tomorrow. Can Ireland make it three in a row or will Wales step up and see off the challenge of a revitalised England squad and what about the other three teams who play in various shades of blue? We take a look at their chances to see what online bettors and the top rugby tipsters make of the individual nations’ chances of success.
NEW OPTIMISM FOR NEW LOOK ENGLAND
A new coach, new captain and new philosophy have given England fans new hope for glory after a shambolic World Cup during which they became the first ever hosts to fail to reach the knock-out stages. Coach Eddie Jones has chosen Dylan Hartley to captain the side and England’s chances will depend heavily on the skipper’s discipline. Misdemeanours have cost Hartley 54 weeks suspension in his career to date and England can ill afford another spell on the sidelines for their captain if they are to take the title.
FRANCE NEED TO GEL
French coach Guy Noves has all the talent and skilful players to choose from – the question online tipsters will be asking is whether the new coach can get the side to gel and achieve what is certainly within their grasp. Tipsters are looking at the last match of the tournament – France v England – as a possible decider but that will depend on Noves’ ability to get Les Bleu purring.
IRISH EYEING THIRD IN A ROW
Injuries to key men – most notably Paul O’Connell – hampered Ireland’s World Cup chances and coach Joel Schmidt has named Rory Best as the man to lead the Men in Green and fill the massive boots vacated by talismanic O’Connell. Their toughest test could be the opener against Wales in Cardiff – win and the morale boosting effect could build the momentum needed to go all the way and achieve an unprecedented third Six Nations championship in a row.
WALES IN FRAME FOR TITLE
Wales should have advanced further than they managed in the World Cup and that sense of unfulfilled promise is giving many punters cause to back the Welsh for the championship. Coach Warren Gaitland needs to make sure his side get over the disappointment of their narrow WC quarter final defeat and build on the form that their settled side showed in the autumn. They are the most experienced and cohesive squad and that makes Wales many people’s favourites for the title.
FLOWERING OF SCOTLAND?
It’s a long time since Scotland achieved anything of note in the Six Nations but a strong showing in the World Cup – particularly against Australia – has given their supporters and many rugby punters cause for optimism that Vern Cotter’s men could be set for a change in fortune. The Scots have only won one of their last 12 Six nations matches – Duncan Weir’s last gasp drop goal sealing a hard fought win in Rome in 2014 – and last season finished bottom of the pile. Coach Cotter has emerging players of genuine talent – ones who nearly reached the World Cup semi-finals – and he’ll be desperate to avoid the ignominy of the Wooden Spoon and record his first Six Nations win in charge.
Sergio Parisse could be playing in his last Six Nations and the magician will be hoping his team mates step up and achieve the unlikely and provide him with the send off his talents deserve. Italy are the perennial underdogs and it’s no different this year with tipsters, pundits and many punters seeing them as the most likely to finish bottom of the table come March.
By: Joe Cahal