rugby union betting
On this page you find articles on rugby union betting and sports betting in general.
Rugby Championship 2016 Current Best OddsNewZealand (5/11), Australia (6/1), South Africa (7/1), Argentina (80/1)
Scotland v Italy rugby betting is the order of the day north of the border, as coach Andy Robinson looks to build on the positives that his side took in beating Ireland. Scotland opened their 2011 Rugby World Cup warm up account with a narrow win over the Irish at Murrayfield, but it was a game in which there was little inspiration from either side. It really was more of a practice season than a fully fledged test match, a scrappy and thoroughly uneventful affair. There have been a lot of positives vibes around Scottish rugby as they have put on some good performances this year. You’ll remember back to their trip to Paris in the Six Nations, and the stubbornness they showed against England at Twickenham. Robinson is to make fourteen changes from the side which started against the Irish two weeks ago, and this is a chance to look a more players as this is their final warm up match. Defence is very much on the fore of the mind in Scottish rugby and they did manage to keep the Irish out, but they definitely need to find more potency going forward if they are going to show well at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. They did squeeze in a try right at the death against the Irish, but the thing with the Scots is that they rarely look totally threatening. We’re not expecting a fully expansive Scotland by any stretch of the imagination, and Robinson at least has them improving their all round standards. It means that Italy will be a good test for them here ahead of the World Cup, and the Scots will be confident after beating Italy 21-8 in the Six Nations earlier in the year. But then again, by the same measure, Italy are improving too, and they will try and put on a good show for themselves. It can be argued that Italy are probably the better of the two nations in the pack and it may be to their advantage to grind the Scots down in that area. Italy definitely have better scrummaging technique than the Scottish pack on evidence of the Six Nations. Italy are not afraid to throw the ball around when the time comes as well and really push teams hard in the Six Nations last year. But Scotland have a win against Ireland under their belt, and Italy could be caught a little cold away from home. Italy have posed Scotland plenty of problems before in meetings, but we have to take a look at home advantage here being worth an extra few points. Don’t think there is going to be a great margin in points if you are going to take a look at Scotland v Italy rugby handicap betting, so it could be close. However, we’ll take the Scots just to edge it, their experience in front of the Murrayfield crowd should just take it.
Scotland v Italy Rugby Betting
Scotland to win: 1/3 at SkyBet
Draw: 22/1 at Bet365
Italy to win: 3/1 at Totesport
Scotland v Italy Rugby Betting Tip: Under 28 points for 2/1 at Paddy Power
Wales v Argentina rugby betting will take on a different complexion from the home side’s triumph over England last week. Wales desperately hung on in the match, but fought back to punish England for their lack of clinical finishing at the Millennium Stadium. Now Wales will welcome Argentina, who will likely give them a more bruising affair up front in the loose. Wales will be without captain Ryan Jones for this match, which is the final match for the Welsh before the 2011 Rugby World Cup. So back into the side comes Martyn Williams for his 99th cap, and he knows that he needs big performance, one of the biggest of his career to be able to fight his way onto the plane to head to New Zealand for the World Cup. Wales will be extremely pleased with themselves for the way they beat England. It was a backs to the wall affair, but their defensive line stood up to the test, time and time again. England just could not find a way through for all of the possession that they enjoyed. Wales will want to head to the World Cup in confidence, and so this is an important game for them. There are still holes in the Welsh game, there is not the control and power up front, and the backs seem a little unsure of themselves, and coach Warren Gatland unsure of who should fit in where to the side. Wales do get back Stephen Jones, who will likely start from the bench, and they need his presence at the World Cup. This is the state of the Wales side at the moment, there is enough equal talent to come in and fill positions, but picking out the quality from that is a little difficult to do. Wales are a solid side, prone to getting bullied off the ball, but are still pretty adventurous with their running in the backs. However, a flaw is that their running and handling ability in the backs is something which could get them in trouble as it is not the most efficient at times. But this is a chance for them to carry momentum forward and they will be chomping at the bit to get into Argentina. The Pumas are sending an experienced side out to face Wales, led by Felipe Contepomi. Argentina of course finished third at the last Rugby World Cup and have made themselves an ever growing presence in world rugby. They play a tough game, but this is the first time they will have gotten together in the national set up since November when they hit UK shores. On that tour they lost to Ireland and France and beat Italy. England and Scotland fans will be taking an interesting look at this one, as Argentina are in their 2011 Rugby World Cup group. Still, all said and done, Argentina will bring a tough game, but it may be a bit much to expect them to win their first match back in action. So will go for a Wales win in your Wales v Argentina rugby betting.
Wales v Argentina Rugby Betting Tip: Would take a decent Wales -9 Handicap for Evens at Victor Chandler
Ireland v France rugby betting is back in the limelight for this weekend, as the two nations continue their 2011 Rugby World Cup preparations. After a dour defeat at Murrayfield the week before to Scotland, Irish coach Declan Kidney was looking for more from his side in Paris. Yes, he has been giving his entire squad time on the pitch in preparations, but he will be a bit disheartened by how easily France found their way through the Irish defence in the first half. Ireland found themselves down 13-0, but the game did have a bit of a momentum swing in the second half. Whether it was France taking their foot off the gas, or Ireland finally getting a bit of a foothold into the match it is a little unclear. This is the nature of these international tests, there is not the all out ferocity and passion of putting everything on the line, so it is a little hard to read. But Ireland did claw themselves back into the game but still lost 19-12 in the end. It really was the brilliance of France in the first half, who still look a little inconsistent over eighty minutes, which was the real highlight of the day. But Ireland are simply not helping themselves at the moment, as they can’t seem to retain and recycle ball well enough. Back into the side will welcome Brian O’Driscoll back into the side, who hasn’t played in either of the World Cup warm ups just yet. He’s unlikely to play the 80 minutes though after returning from his shoulder injury, and O’Driscoll is one of ten changes which have been made to the starting line up by Kidney. Kidney is clearly still looking at his options, moving players around in positioning in order to assess the true strength of depth in his squad. On the whole, Ireland still don’t have that cohesive identity which has made them one of the strong European forces. They are somewhere a bit short of their very best and they are running out of time to build that cohesion. An Ireland Select XV ran out 38-3 winners against Connacht on Thursday night, and some of those players will be back in action on Saturday. As for France, they look far more ready and primed to make a genuine run at the World Cup. The French are powerful up front as well as being very mobile, and they still possess that flair in creating something out of nothing from the back. There are good option for the French side all over the pitch, and should be favourites again here. But this is Ireland back on home turf, the scene where they controlled England in the final round of the Six Nations. Will we see that Ireland turn up, or will we see the Ireland which looks a bit disorganised? The strengths in the game really are with the French more here and so would back them in your Ireland v France rugby betting.
Ireland v France Rugby Betting Tip: Would take France in an outright for value here.
Wales v England Rugby betting for Saturday, August 13th at the Millennium Stadium, will see the two old rivals go back into action against one another for the second weekend running. England ran out 23-19 winners at Twickenham in their first encounter, which was a bit of rusty affair after players were getting back into action. England had to survive a good second half comeback from Wales in the second half, and while some questions for the coaches will have been answered ahead of Saturday’s rematch, there are still plenty awaiting conclusion. Wales v England rugby betting is another step along the path to the 2011 Rugby World Cup, and that is what this is all about. While the Southern Hemisphere teams scrap it out in the Tri Nations, the home nations square off against each for vital fine tuning ahead of the tournament. England go into the match having made 13 changes from last Saturday’s line up at Twickenham. Centre Mike Tindall will take over the captains armband again as regular captain Lewis Moody remains under cautionary watch. It should be an England side closer to what we may see at the World Cup. The likes of Toby Flood, Dan Cole and Courtney Lawes will be on display in a strong side. After the match against Wales, coach Marin Johnson will trim the current 40 man squad down to just 30.
England were surprisingly cautious and not really willing to play with too much width. Delon Armitage did try and get things moving, and the steady old hand of Jonny Wilkinson was attempting to move the ball, but the width was not there. Certainly not the kind of invention we had seen in the Six Nations from the English. Still, Martin Johnson used the match very wisely in only fielding four players from the 2011 Six Nations in the starting line up. Johnson wanted a good look at players on the fringe of the starting fifteen, so that players could have their chance to impress and make a World Cup starting place their own, or even book their place in the squad travelling to New Zealand for the 2011 Rugby World Cup which starts on September 9th in new Zealand. While England were the better team in the close quarters, and Jonny Wilkinson gave a very controlled and efficient performance in taking over from Toby Flood at fly half, the expansion wasn’t there. That is not to say that is it is not coming, that it is not going to be there at the World Cup, but this was more of a match for Johnson to see what further work needed to be done on the training ground. One area is certainly in discipline as the English defence gave away a lot of penalties when they came under pressure from the Welsh toward the back end of the match. They won’t be able to afford to do that against better teams on the day. There was a lot of solidity about the pack, and England do look to have pretty good coverage in depth in that area, just what is needed for a tough World Cup campaign. One of the bright sparks for England, was Manu Tuilagi, who ran in a fantastic try off a Jonny Wilkinson pass. His pace and power in the midfield is something England will certainly benefit from at the World Cup. He gives England big options there to split a game open. England will know that they can still rely on Wilkinson himself, who was precise and controlled all afternoon, and while he may not get the starting call in New Zealand, he is still pressing hard for a starting place. England said that they needed realistic pressure to really see where they were, and because the whole test match was a bit lack lustre (just compare it to the relentless blood and thunder of the New Zealand v Australia Tri Nations match earlier in the day), both sides will probably feel satisfied to shake the rust off and look ahead.
Wales, for their part, although they lacked a bit of quality at times, put up a better show than many were expecting. After losing Stephen Jones in the warm up and then Morgan Stoddart to a broken leg in the match, there was a degree of disruption going on for Wales. Still, they tried to approach the game with as positive a mind set as possible and they will be relatively happy with what they delivered as a whole. They kept their penalty count down to a minimum and they threw the ball out wide. They also made England work very hard at the break down, because the Welsh were very, very keen in aggressive defence. Granted, Wales do need a bit more defensive organisation, and their pack looks as if it needs someone to hold it together and give it a bit more cohesion. On the first outlook of the match at Twickenham, Wales may get easily bullied by opposition packs. Young captain Sam Warburton was something of a revelation for them, and is a definite huge prospect for the future, while Rhys Priestland stood up very well in goal kicking duties. There will be worries about the strength of depth that Wales will be able to carry down to New Zealand for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, but there does look to be something taking shape there, so there are positives to take and build upon. Coach Warren Gatland does need quite a bit more time on the training ground with his squad, and they looked as if they were playing off the cuff as to having any concrete game plan in how to approach the game. We could see a much stronger, more experienced Welsh side, with the likes of Lee Byrne, James Hook, Matthew Rees, Gethin Jenkins coming back in to the fold. Hook will come in at Full Back on Saturday, while Gavin Henson also makes his way back into the starting fifteen in the centre. Wales want to send a message to their rivals and their fans that they can compete.
With the home crowd, Wales will be keen to overturn the damage done to them at the Millennium Stadium by England in the Six Nations earlier in the year. Then England seemed to be in control and had to weather a come back from Wales. These test matches are never going to be played at full intensity, it is just not going to happen. Both coaches will continue to work the kinks out of their squads, and take a look at players, so there could be several different personnel in action on Saturday. Still, England are the more accomplished, stronger team all round. They are able to knuckle down and win the big battles up front, and if they do expand, then they look ready to pick the Welsh off. But the Welsh will probably be the more open of the two teams again, and that may be a good thing for England’s defence as they test their mettle. England did look a bit naïve in defence, and while it wasn’t anywhere near the starting fifteen that we will see at the World Cup, Martin Johnson will want to know that he can rely on players coming in. This is massive game for some of the players involved, especially in the competitive England squad. There are places to be grabbed on the plane to the Southern Hemisphere to face the best in the world, and the preparations really need to start going up a gear.
Wales v England Rugby Betting Tip:
Has the makings of being close again, with the two teams feeling their way to their strongest squads, yet players wary of not getting injured. Wales will be fired up on home turf, but England may just have that bit of extra control in the end to get the job done. England should still have a greater advantage in scrimmaging power and technique.
New ZealandAbsolute favourites to win the 2011 Tri Nations and not surprising really. They really look untouchable at the moment, and have won seven of the last nine tournaments. They won last year’s event with a 100% record and the other nations just couldn’t get close to them. They ran up a massive points difference of +73, which is the largest in Tri Nations rugby history. Their dominance in the Tri Nations is superb, winning ten of the fifteen renewals of the event. They are the only team to have a positive points difference when all Tri Nations records are totalled up. They are the current IRB ranked number one team in the world and they play one warm up match against Fiji on July 22nd. That will be their first outing for the year, after successfully touring the UK last November and beating all of the home nations. So this is the first time we will get to see just how powerful they are again, and all signs are pointing to them running away with this year’s tournament. You have to look at the main man Dan Carter in the half backs, who pulls all the creative strings for New Zealand. The Kiwis do rely on him a lot, and they need him fully fit for the World Cup. They can be got at in the line outs, but otherwise they do have control in their pack, and once they secure quick ball, they can be devastating once they get out wide. Skipper Richie McCaw, who missed most of the Super 15 season with a foot injury, is an important cog in the Kiwi machine, and he is ready and fired up to prove himself for the Tri Nations and the World Cup of course. The Skipper is not in his best form, that’s understandable, but the more games he gets under his belt, the better the Kiwis can get. Well worth backing and the price on them is not too bad at the moment. There's a big six weeks ahead for the Kiwis, in their Tri Nations hopes and their World Cup hopes. New Zealand 2011 Tri Nations Fixtures 30th July: New Zealand v South Africa 6th August: New Zealand v Australia 20th August: South Africa v New Zealand 27th August: Australia v New Zealand New Zealand 2011 Tri Nations Betting Odds: 1/2 at Boylesports
AustraliaThere is a bit of a weakened feel about Australia ahead of the Tri Nations. However, there is still a lot of raw, young talent in the Australian side. They are not the strongest which they can be, not by any stretch of the imagination, but look as if they are on the right side of their transition. One thing the Aussies will have is confidence, but they have been prone to whinging their way through the Tri Nations. They did upset the Kiwis in friendly match last October, which was something of a surprise given their status as underdogs, and the rise and rise of the Kiwis. However, if they were looking to challenge at the Tri Nations, then their warm up match, a shocking loss to Samoa won’t have done their confidence any good. They really came out sloppy, looking as if they felt the match was a foregone conclusion right from the kick off. But in slippery conditions, they really slipped up badly. Or will have been the wake up call which they really needed? Wallabies Coach Robbie Deans has selection problems, with prop Benn Robinson a major casualty. But it is not all doom and gloom for the Aussies, as there really is a wealth of young talent in the country. Whether they are ready or not to break through fully at international status to compete with the Kiwis, is a different matter although. The biggest thing that the Aussies can build upon here, is their defence. There is a train of thought, that the Aussies, because of their exciting crop of young players, can prove many people wrong if their defence holds up. The Tri Nations is actually all about defence. The best defence wins, and so that organisation is there for the Aussies, even if the team together needs to build cohesion which will only come through experience. The Aussies may be capable of causing an upset in the Tri Nations, but realistically you do not see them beating the Kiwis twice, so that will just hold them back in the title race here. May be worth a punt, because of value, and because there is an air that a new golden generation is brewing. The Wallabies are not as strong up front as the Kiwis, but we could see some brave performances from them. Watch out for Ashley Cooper and Will Genia as they will likely be the stand out stars for the Aussies. The Aussies have not won the Tri Nations since 2001, but how they would love to finish on top before the format of the competition changes. If they do happen to pull out the stops in the Tri Nations, they will be a strong bet for the World Cup. Australia 2011 Tri Nations Fixtures 23rd July: Australia v South Africa 6th August: New Zealand v Australia 13th August: South Africa v Australia 27th August: Australia v New Zealand Australia 2011 Tri Nations Betting Odds: 3/1 at Stan James
South AfricaSadly, with South Africa announcing that they have 21 players who can’t participate in the tournament because of injury, it is a weakened Springboks which will be seeing in the Tri Nations. There is a massive amount of experience missing from their squad, so it really is not worth looking at them to win here. They were the last team to break New Zealand’s dominance in the Tri Nations, the Springboks winning it back in 2009. Their travel plans to Australia for their first match of the Tri Nations was disrupted when their plan had to turn around and head back because of engine failure. Coach Peter de Villiers and his crew made it though, and after seeing Australia lose to Samoa in one of the biggest international rugby shocks for some time, the young Boks may be ready to throw caution to the wind and upset some people. They certainly have nothing to lose going into the 2011 Tri Nations, because they are so short on first team talent and experience, that no-one is expecting them to produce anything. Some are criticising the Springboks for this, as it is what they did ahead of the 2007 World Cup, the year when they edged England in the final. They had players who were well rested for the World Cup, but it is always a risk to take over consistency in selection. One thing is for sure, is that it will give Peter de Villiers a very good look at his support staff, as most of the first team will be back for the World Cup. The Springboks on show will be fighting for places in the World Cup squad, so they could be inspired, but with just two regular starters in the squad, the Springboks aren’t going to win this. The Springboks are always rough and ready up front in the pack, and while they will bring size and power to the Tri Nations, but not so much quality perhaps. That will hurt them. They have three Tri Nations titles to their name, but don’t look capable of adding to it this year. South Africa 2011 Tri Nations Fixtures 23rd July: Australia v South Africa 30th July: New Zealand v South Africa 13th August: South Africa v Australia 20th August: South Africa v New Zealand South Africa 2011 Tri Nations Betting Odds: 10/1 at SportingBet
Ireland will be happy to get back to home turf after being pushed to the wire by the plucky Italians in the opening Six Nations match of 2011. Ireland looked down at end heading into the closing stages of the game in Rome, until Ronan O’Gara popped up with a drop goal to save the Irish blushes from a first ever Six Nations defeat against the Italians. Ireland were a long way from perfect and nearly threw the entire match away when they conceded a try in the 75th minute. The Irish were terribly guilty of being wasteful and not executing a lot of simple stuff in the face of the weakest opposition in the tournament, but at least they can be happy that they came away with a victory. They will have been glad to have gotten that one out of the way, and now they can move on. There were doubts about the potential of Ireland heading into the 2011 RBS Six Nations, simply because their form has been dipping and they don’t quite have that brilliant old Irish fluency and control that has made them a force to be reckoned with in the pass. They just didn’t have the clinical penetration needed to close out the Italians, who, to their credit, defended pretty solidly for the entire match. If Italy had simply held on to ball themselves at the end of the match, then the Irish would have been going into this one on the back of a defeat. That is something they could have ill afforded to do, and now they will have to raise their game to take on the French. They may have to face the French without scrum half Tomas O’Leary who has been struggling with a back problem, which as forced Ireland to call up Peter Stringer as a reserve.
The Irish have recalled Jamie Heaslip to number eight, with Denis Leamy moving to the bench. The Irish were hit pretty hard with injury before the tournament, which really hasn’t helped them, missing key men like Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble, who misses out again. That is the only chance that coach Declan Kidney has made, and he is never one to be forced into major panicked changes. The Irish threw a lot of passes astray and couldn’t hold onto the ball in hand against the Italians, and if they continue that trend, then the French will punish them hard. What the Irish cannot afford to do, is start the game in any kind of conservative manner, and stress themselves out too much about handling errors. They have to relax and take the game to the French at the Aviva Stadium, because if they set back, that will just invite trouble from the French. For the French, they looked to be over a dip in form themselves, as they put in one of the best performances of the opening weekend of the Six Nations, with a solid victory over Scotland in Paris. France, who had been battered senseless by Australia in the autumn, responded extremely well, and looked full of power, pace and creativity.
There were still some holes in the back line for the French, which should give Ireland a bit of hope of making a breakthrough, but as a whole the French look solid. They really controlled the ball well up front against the Scottish, and even though Scotland had a huge weight advantage in the scrum, the technique of the French won the day in that area. The longer the game went on, the more that the French flair came into play, and were ready to attack from the back with some breathtaking counter attacking moves. There always seemed to a man right there on the shoulder of the breaking player, and the extra pace that they had over the Scottish backs, simply meant that they could find space. The Irish back line isn’t particularly full of pace and so you would expect the French to gain some kind of upper hand. Even though it is an away game, last year’s winners and defending Six Nations Champions France, can really come up trumps in this game. Ireland don’t look a confident side, they don’t look together as a unit, and while they will gain an extra man with the home support, judging from the first weekend, the French have the all round game to break the Irish down. Home advantage is huge in the Six Nations, but France are just the better team at the moment and they are capable of overcoming the away trip. Would look for the French to sneak this one, even by a narrow margin. The Irish are just in a bits and pieces at the moment, and the French are looking far more fluent.
Ireland to win: 8/5 at SportingBet
Draw: 20/1 at SkyBet
France to win: 4/6 at Totesport
Paddy Power are running a Six Nations special on the Ireland v France match. If Brian O’Driscoll scores a try at any time in the match, then Paddy Power will refund all losing try scorer and winning margin bets placed on the match. This is some pretty good coverage, and Ireland will certainly need a big performance from their captain. Paddy Power offer a £25 free bet for new customers opening an account with them.
It is less than a week now before the 2001 RBS Six Nations betting gets underway, with the Friday night lights shining down at the Millennium Stadium as England head across the border to face Wales. England are favourites in the betting to take the Six Nations crown this year, and that is fair enough, considering their much improved performances over the autumn, which finally saw them cut loose a little bit, and develop something of an attacking edge. It was not prolific, there are definitely still kinks to work out of the master plan, but this Six Nations is huge. The teams need to be ready, as this will provide those all important competitive matches ahead of this year’s Rugby World Cup. So with the fixture list drawn for the opening weekend, what can we expect from the combatants. Well, England are standing out front with the online bookmakers and in all likelihood, none of the teams look good enough to complete the Grand Slam. England still have their faults, so do Ireland. France will always be a threat, but even they have their weaknesses at the moment. Really the tournament is wide open, and you have to have a look at those away fixtures. England have to be looked at as the favourites, they are improving where the other nations seem to be stuttering just a bit. Therefore they will rightly be front runners, but this is going to be a close, hard fought tournament.
RBS Six Nations Fixtures 2011
Friday, 04 February 2011
Wales v England
Saturday, 05 February 2011
France v Scotland, Italy v Ireland
Saturday, 12 February 2011
England v Italy, Scotland v Wales
Sunday, 13 February 2011
Ireland v France
Saturday, 26 February 2011
England v France, Italy v Wales
Sunday, 27 February 2011
Scotland v Ireland
Saturday, 12 March 2011
Italy v France, Wales v Ireland
Sunday, 13 March 2011
England v Scotland
Saturday, 19 March 2011
France v Wales, Ireland v England, Scotland v Italy
2011 RBS Six Nations Betting Tips
So where to go with your betting? The first market in which you want to look, is the Six Nations Grand Slam betting odds. You can use a bit of reverse betting here, and pick No Grand Slam, which will pay out at 4/6 at Paddy Power. That is the favourite in this market and really makes a sound bet. It all least should guarantee some return and makes a pretty good Six Nations betting tip. If you want to push the boat out on this market, then England are the favourite nation to do the Grand Slam, but best priced at 11/2 at Totesport, you can that it really isn’t expected. What about the Triple Crown between the home nations? Well, again you can picked a healthy 15/8 at Paddy Power for No Winner in this market, and again England are the only team who look to have a chance at pulling it off, and they are 3/1 at Totesport to win the Triple Crown. The away matches against Ireland and Wales may scupper that dream. Italy are 2/5 favourites at BetFred to finish bottom, and that should pretty much be a banker. As for the winner market, well here are the outright odds along with previews for the hopes of each nation:
England: 2/1 at Totesport
Still in that mould of potential more than being able to deliver. They should win their home matches here at the Six Nations, but there are still question marks over them, enough to warrant looking at them losing their away matches (against Wales and Ireland). England did develop more of a running game and took the Aussies and the Kiwis on when they came over in November. England still fell short against the All Blacks, and were pretty much mailed by the South Africans as well. As for all of the hype about England being a much better team than they have been for some time, well, that probably can’t be argued with. They need to find improvement from their third place finish last year, and hopefully the Six Nations will be the perfect testing ground for the team to gel together even more, and work out the flaws which are still in the team. The midfield is far from perfect defensively and with Captain Lewis Moody out, manager Martin Johnson probably won’t be able to select his preferred starting fifteen. Moody’s partner in the back row Tom Croft will also miss the Six Nations, both big blows. But Johnson has also lost Courtney Lawes, which is perhaps one of the big elements missing from the pack, as the rampaging Lawes looked mightily impressive in the autumn internationals. Those are England’s two most mobile forwards, and that could have a major impact on how they play. Will hey go back to a static, set piece, territorial game? England will be without Delon Armitage, who has picked up an 8 week ban. But what England managed to do over the autumn, was to finally bring a bit of flair into the side, and that is in the shape of Ben Foden from Full Back, Ben Youngs and Chris Ashton, who is an incredibly talented and exciting young winger. England simply are not going to win the Grand Slam, the opposition, who always like to give the English a hard time, will make sure of that. The final match of the campaign in Ireland, really looks as if it will be the make or break one, and with having lost on all three of their last visits to Wales, England are not guaranteed of anything. They need to find the balance between the new found running game, and holding shape in defence. They have a big chance at winning the Six Nations with three home games, but they do still carry a very poor away record of late, and that will be the dampener on the whole Grand Slam party. Well worth a punt, but simply not consistent, or refined enough as a unit to win all of their matches.
Ireland: 7/2 at Stan James
Not quite sure what has happened to the Irish really. Two years ago they were rampaging their way to the Grand Slam, but now they are struggling for victories, and a bit soft in the centre. There is a proud rugby tradition in Ireland, but the balance of power seems to have shifted back in favour of England to be honest, particularly at club level. The fixtures have been kind to them this year, as they get home advantage for their main rivals for the Six Nations title, France and England. Ireland won a couple of games in the Autumn, but there is something from missing from them, that spark that has made them one of the strongest forces in the Six Nations. Something is not right, as it is not with England, but England seem to be going forward, while Ireland seem to be looking to stop the slide backwards. There is still quality in the side, like Brian O’Driscoll, but the best days of the golden generation of Irish rugby has probably gone, and they need to take stock and rebuild. A bad campaign here could mean the end for coach Declan Kidney, and while his team may be past their best, he has to get the young blood in there now to work alongside the experienced heads. They may be without Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble though because of injury. They do have a good record at home against England and France, so they will still be hopeful of gunning for the Six Nations. It is unlikely that they are going to win the Grand Slam anytime soon, but those two home matches will be crucial to their overall performance. The Irish have had their struggles on the road, just like England, and lost to Scotland last year in a shocker.
France: 13/5 at Victor Chandler
What has happened to Ireland? What has happened to France? They were awesome in last year’s Six Nations, ball retention, running, forward power, defense, there was a lot to be admired about them. The wheels rapidly fell off though in the autumn, including an embarrassingly heavy defeat against Australia, by a score of 59-16. The French simply had no fight in them, and their defence is completely in tatters at the moment. They will concede tries in the Six Nations, more so than many will expect them too. The key games for them this year will be the visits to England and Ireland, so they don’t have a very friendly fixture list awaiting them. The French will still be unpredictable, and you never know, coach Marc Lievremont may well put out a side which makes a clean sweep of the Six Nations. That is just a far fetched example of how unpredictable the French could be. For your Six Nations betting, one of the most crucial factors is the fixture list. They are not at their best, but should still win matches and be close in the running for the Six Nations title. They always make an exciting World Cup side, but they need to step up from where they were in the Autumn. They looked incredibly short on confidence for some reason, and it does not take too much to fracture the spirit of the French. They can be got at in the packs this year, and will lose games. Most likely those crucial away ones.
Scotland: 16/1 at Bet365
Well, they have a new captain. Alastair Kellock, after leading Scotland through the autumn internationals, keeps his job, and will try and give them hope of better things to come. Coach Andy Robinson really has done a fantastic job with them, and they are the most in form team of all the competitors going into the 2011 Six Nations. That’s right, after beating Ireland in the last round of the 2010 Six Nations, they had a great rest of the year. You may remember them beating Australia. You may remember them beating South Africa as well. In fact, the only blot on their copy book in the last six Test Matches, was a thrashing dealt out by the All Blacks, which, all things considered, is nothing to be ashamed of. Andy Robinson has made Scotland very hard to beat. No, they do not have the flair, or quality of personnel that the likes of France and England can call upon, but they have a great team ethic and spirit, which the other nations could be envious of. As for the Six Nations in 2011, well, Scotland aren’t going to win it. They are pencilled in again as one of the runners for the Wooden Spoon, perhaps harshly, given the positive strides forward which they have taken. Have a great chance to take out Italy and Wales up at Murrayfield, and will probably rattle the Irish again. However, their away trips may just break their resolve, as they have to go to Twickenham and to the Stade Francais, and the Scots haven’t won at either of those places in the last five matches at each venue. You really should see a much improved Scottish side, and one that should pick up a couple of victories at least. They should beat Wales and Italy, the crucial one should be against the Irish really, a match which could move them well clear of the bottom (if you are writing off the away games as defeats).
Wales: 15/2 at SportingBet
The Welsh will be chomping at the bit to get their teeth into the improving England at the Millennium Stadium in the first match of their campaign. Coach Warren Gatland needs to pull some kind of miracle out of his hat, if he is to keep the Welsh fans happy. They are on a run of seven straight defeats, and they need to turn to their great record against England to give them some confidence ahead of the rest of the Six Nations campaign. That match will probably make or break the Welsh to be honest. If they can eek out a fourth consecutive win over England at the Millennium Stadium, then they will set themselves up well. A defeat, and they will be wondering where the next win is coming from, and that is because it will be a long way to fall after getting so hyped up against the auld enemy. The problems for Wales really lie in their defensive frailties. They just have not got any staying power, and have no clue as to how to see out a game. They blew some strong leads during 2010, and what really set the Welsh fans groaning was an absolute dire performance in which they could only draw with Fiji. It was that bad. They have lost Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones, which will weaken their front line, the last thing they want when trying to take on the might of England’s front row. Suddenly Wales find themselves behind Scotland in the pecking order, and they won’t be happy with that. There are winnable games, one against Italy (in Rome) and perhaps their only other best chance is a spirited rousing affair against the Irish at the Millennium Stadium, because Ireland haven’t got a great record there. There is no poster boy Gavin Henson to add a spark in the three quarters, there is a little indecision as to how Wales will actually line up at the back, with James Hook, Lee Byrne, Stephen Jones and Jamie Roberts all looking to hold their favoured places down. However, when Wales start tossing the ball around in the backs, they look a threat. They haven't got the defensive power to back it up, and have a weak front row in the scrum. Wales are a long way from their Grand Slam winning year of 2008, and may well find themselves scrapping it out with Italy for the wooden spoon, although only in terms of finishing fifth, as they aren’t going to be worse than the Italians.
Italy: 250/1 at Paddy Power
Well, they have still really to make an impact since joining the Six Nations, and again they will be favourites to finish last. The Italians do have a good crop of young players coming through though, and that should finally give them some good hope for the years ahead. They look to be on the right track finally, but they need time and experience to really step up. It is hard to picture the Italians going out and winning two matches in the campaign this year, but there are a couple of matches which they could be targeting. First of all they get to face Wales in Rome, and if Wales are having one of their off days, their defensive is poor enough to be rattled by the Italians. The strength of the Italians will be in their front row actually, and this is where they could get into teams and perhaps cause an upset. They are not going out looking to be world beaters at all, they seem to understand that this is an ongoing process. The only other team that Italy have beaten in the Six Nation apart from Wales is Scotland. But Italy face Scotland at Murrayfield, and you really don’t bank on Italy going away and picking up a victory. It would be hard to see them doing that, even if Scotland weren’t the much improved side that they are at the moment. With tough trips to France, England and Scotland, the Italians are going to come up short again. Hopefully they won’t just be the whipping boys, and some fairly solid performances in the autumn internationals suggest that they are going to get better over time.