After a number of impressive performances by the Northern Hemisphere teams against their southern rivals last year, the Six Nations Championship promises to be one of the most competitive and intriguing in years.
England come into the Six Nations as 10/11 favourites (Boylesports) on the back of a 14-match winning streak that saw them go through 2016 with a 100% record, including a Six Nations Grand Slam.
The problem for coach Eddie Jones is that England come into the championship with a number of injury absentees and doubts that could leave them vulnerable, particularly as they face arguably their two toughest rivals – Wales and Ireland – away from home.
Joe Schmidt’s Ireland team are the best priced 5/2 second favourites with Paddy Power for the title and will fancy their chances against anyone after beating Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in 2016. Schmidt has also signed a new contract taking him up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup, so there is certainty going forward too.
Wales came close to pipping England for the Six Nations title last year, but their form has been largely disappointing since and, with coach Warren Gatland preparing for the British and Irish Lions’ summer tour of New Zealand, Rob Howley will be in charge as interim coach. Even so, Wales can’t be discounted, with an experienced squad and the benefit of facing both England and Ireland at the Principality Stadium, but they seem low on self-belief and are a 9/1 Six Nations bet with Coral as a result.
It’s always difficult to predict what France will do, but there were signs of improvement last year. Are they capable of winning the title? The best odds of 14/1 (188Bet) would seem to suggest that it’s doubtful at present.
Likewise, Scotland have been improving over the last couple of years and they could certainly play their part in deciding the eventual destination of the title. Whether they could mark the end of Vern Cotter’s tenure as coach with the championship seems unlikely though, as best odds of 25/1 (Skybet) indicate.
Italy will be under a new coach in Conor O’Shea, but they are available at 1000/1 with Betfred to win the title for a reason.