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There’s more storylines than an episode of EastEnders at this year’s Six Nations as the tournament gets ready to play warm up act to this year’s World Cup.

Warren is back, Eddie is gone, Scotland still look for “their year”, the Irish and French look set to lay down a marker for who’s king, whilst Italy… Just ask Australia if they’re to be dismissed.

Here we run down each team and look to solve the 2023 Six Nations puzzle.

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Best Bets:

France/Ireland dual forecast
Damian Penaud top tryscorer E/W
Duhan van der Merwe top tryscorer E/W
Wales to finish bottom 2

Ireland – 3/1 – Predicted finishing position – 2nd

Anyone who remembers the last World Cup cycle will recall Ireland downing the All Blacks on their way to number 1 in the world before doing their usual World Cup routine and limping out at the quarters.

Their form coming into this Six Nations has been irresistible once again, so can they maintain to September? Being Leinster in green is no bad things with the province being the best team in Europe for a couple of seasons now, with seamless transition from club to international stage being a big advantage on those who get together a couple of times a year.

Sexton’s crown is nearly ready to be handed over but it’s not slowing the Green Machine down. Three away games but home games to England and France have them favourites here and it’s hard to argue with trips to Scotland and Wales holding no fear for them. Week 2 at home in Dublin should decide the whole thing.

Look out for that rolling maul and Dan Sheehan crossing the try line (16/1 top tryscorer), while in Mack Hansen (10/1) and James Lowe (10/1) they have two dangerous finishers, reflected in their prices.

France – 7/2 – Predicted finishing position - Winners

Les Bleus bagged three wins during the Autumn series but scraped past Australia when looking beaten. They weren’t overly convincing in victories over South Africa and Japan but the record shows a 100% record and that was when not playing well so beware world, the French are going through the gears.

A brutal schedule away to Ireland and England will truly test their credentials and is a great warm up for the World Cup. Come through this unbeaten and their World Cup outright odds will come under some serious pressure.

With the best player in the world in Antoine Dupont leading them round the pitch and Shaun Edwards signing a new contract to continue to bolster the defence they are the team that everyone should fear.

Damian Penaud 8/1 top try scorer with 5 places looks a cracking each way play.

England – 9/1 - Predicted finishing position – 4th

Could write a book about the goings on at England but to for the purposes of a brief preview; Eddie Jones is gone and Steve Borthwick is in, but more excitingly he brings with him Kevin Sinfield and Nick Evans for defence and attack coaching.

No huge changes with the squad, giving Owen Farrell the captaincy suggests he will be at 10 when many might have been hoping for Smith at 10 and Farrell benched to have a more attacking platform.

With some young, exciting wingers in the squad and the likes of Ben Earl likely to finally get his chance to impress, this could be a great platform to showcase what England can expect to build to for the World Cup.

England have been dire for a while now though and whether that rot can be stopped this quickly will be fascinating to see. I think this is a work in progress and getting through this tournament playing more exciting rugby with signs of improvement will probably be enough.

Certainly don’t see England troubling the top two, Scotland have the wood over them at the moment so they’ll do well to wrestle the Calcutta Cup back.

Max Malins looks under-priced for Top England Tryscorer with Ollie Hassell-Collins at 4/1 looking a more assured starter. Keep an eye on team news and what price Borthwick favourite Anthony Watson comes in at.

Wales – 25/1 - Predicted finishing position – 6th

“Warren Ball” is back! Feels a short term plan despite what they say, should you never go back? We’ll soon see but Wales can’t be worse than recent times which saw them lose to Georgia in Cardiff.

Probably less work to do than England but lower ceiling to improve to. With Lewis Rees-Zammit (injured currently though), George North and Josh Adams in the backline they’ll always carry a threat but most of the other teams looks stronger and in better positions.

An away trip to Scotland spells trouble and Italy will target this as the game they can win. Having seen the Welsh team for the opening weekend think they could be in trouble and don’t think it’s a stretch to see them with the Wooden Spoon, 11/10 for a bottom 2 finish looks good.

George North in at 13 for Wales’ opener is bound to see a lot of crash ball and looks a good each way play for Wales top try scorer at 11/1 with 4 places being paid.

Scotland – 66/1 - Predicted finishing position – 3rd

Every year expectations for Scotland are high only to usually end in failure to mount a title challenge, usually with themselves to blame.

Mixed results in the Autumn as well as Finn Russell being dropped before hurriedly bought back caused unnecessary issues. It seems unlikely they’ll go without their talisman again.

In Duhan van der Merwe and Stuart Hogg they have a truly potent threat from broken play and if they can beat England first up with three home games after that then who knows but they will find a way to lose a game you’d expect them to win and continue their quest for ‘Scotland’s year’.

Van der Merwe bagged top try honours in 2021 despite Scotland finishing 4th and a repeat would not surprise at 16/1.

Italy - 2000/1 – predicted finishing position – 5th

In a year of transition for a few, the Azzurri could finally get an overdue Six Nations win. Having downed Australia in the Autumn and unearthed a genuine star in Ange Capuozzo, I think they can cause some minor upsets this time round.

I’ve pegged Wales for bottom but anyone bar the two favourites wouldn’t be a monster surprise.

Capuozzo 6/5 top Italy try scorer looks a rock solid pick.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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