The Six Nations begins this weekend and our Rugby Expert is here give us some insight ahead of the action.
2022 The Year of ‘Les Bleus’
The rugby gods have smiled upon us and crowds will be there in the teams’ own respective stadiums and we could be in for a tournament for the ages.
Ireland/Leinster are in fine form, Scotland have genuine title aspirations, France have Dupont, England could be anything and Wales…well I learned the hard way last year to never write off Wales.
So, who to bet?
We’ll start with the defending champions who to anyone that only watches the Six Nations may think 10/1 is a huge price but shorn of a vast array of talent due to injury and having to play away to Ireland and England, defending their crown looks a tall order and just like 2021, I will write them off again.
The solid favourites France at 6/4 deserves their place at the head of the market. In Antoine Dupont they have the current best player in the world, pulling the strings and scoring the tries as well as getting to host Ireland and England, make them look good for their first title since 2010.
The cliché of ‘never know which France will turn up’ still rings true in moments but much less often now. Shaun Edwards has turned their defence into one of the best around and their options in attack are the envy or many with Penaud, Fickou, Ntamack and of course Dupont, giving any defence the longest of afternoons.
Should Les Bleus chuck in a stinker then Ireland will be the ones to capitalise. Packed full of Leinster stars, (and why not given the form they’re in), they look full of confidence and have started to look full of points in recent games.
Even if Jonny Sexton can’t play every game, they now have able deputies and some eye-catching young talent in the squad (keep an eye out for Robert Baloucoune and Mike Lowry) and the Triple Crown looks well within their grasp at 9/4.
I could write a dissertation on the wonder that is England, but as it would come out at the same conclusion of ‘could be superb but probably still work in progress’ I’ll save you the essay.
Marcus Smith is rightly being lauded but with no Farrell to guide him through the pressure games, will he step up in the play making and leadership duties on his own? I’d say almost certainly yes, but with questions at 12 and an endless rotating cast of wingers, other teams look much better equipped to win the title, although a vast improvement of last year’s 5th is non-negotiable.
Everyone will be intrigued by the back row conundrum, if Eddie will finally give either Dombrandt or Simmonds free reign at number 8. He surely must and both could be a very exciting addition to the attack if given a solid run of games during the tournament.
Scotland could win this. That is for sure, and at 10/1 it is tempting to get involved but exciting as their squad now is, they have flattered to deceive nearly every year for a while now. So while I can’t recommend them as a bet, if they turn over England in game one, which they really should at home, they have to be taken seriously.
If it came down to a final game away in Dublin for glory however, it would surely see them fall just short.
Predicted finishing order – 1st France, 2nd Ireland, 3rd Scotland, 4th England, 5th Wales, 6th Italy