Now in its 15th season the 2014 RBS Six Nations takes centre stage on Saturday with Wales looking for an historic 3rd consecutive title as they begin the defence of their crown at home to an Italian team that will be hoping to avoid the Wooden Spoon.
Wales have been in pretty dominant mood the last couple of seasons and they are favourites to win the 6 Nations @ 85/40 with BetVictor and that’s where my money is going. They have the luxury of 3 home games, and if they can beat Ireland in the Aviva while keeping all their key players fit, their experience could see them cling on to that top spot and it will be hard to topple them.
The biggest challengers to Wales’ crown will be an England side looking to build a squad in time for them hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2015. They have finished 2nd for the last 2 seasons, but they only have 2 home games this year. They begin with 2 away games but have home advantage over Wales and Ireland which could prove crucial. They need to get off to a good start if they are to challenge, but I think they are just a little short of what’s needed to make it to the top.
France have a lot to prove this year after finishing bottom last year. They had a horrible season and there have been some wholesale changes with their squad now just averaging 19 caps. They have dropped their enigmatic veteran Freddie Michalak but have some raw talent in the squad. I think they need one more season before they can challenge., but what France do have is Wesley Fofana and I fancy him to be top try scorer @ 12/1 with PaddyPower. He scored a try on his 6 Nations debut for France, and managed to score a try in each of his next 3 games making him part of an elite group to score tries in 4 consecutive games. He’ll be hoping to add to his 6 tries in his 10 Six Nations matches.
Ireland need to show some of the form they showed in their recent meeting with the All Blacks if they are to be rated as serious contenders. They stormed into a 19-0 lead but had to endure an injury time conversion to see them lose 24-22. If they show that same character, they are in with a chance to capture a title they last won in 2009, but sadly that spirit seems to be lacking when it’s most needed at times.
Irish fans will be hopeful that record try scorer Brian O’Driscoll can help his team to one last charge before bidding his expected farewell. I think they fall a little short, but I’m backing them for a top 3 finish @ 4/6 with Ladbrokes. I think they could manage top 2, but I prefer the cushion of 3 places. Ireland have finished Runners Up on 6 occasions already, which is more than any other team and another 2nd would be a very good campaign for the Irish.
Scotland and Italy will battle it out for bottom spot. The game between the sides on Feb 22nd will probably decide the fate of the other. Italy hold home advantage and that bodes well as Scotland have won only 2 of their last 27 away 6 Nations matches and have lost on their last 3 trips to Rome. I think Italy will do enough to take the points in their encounter. I don’t expect either to pick up any points in their last 2 games (Italy; Ireland (a) England (h) and Scotland; France (h) Wales (a)) so whomever is bottom after that game will probably stay there. They finished 3rd and 4th last year and picked up 2 wins apiece so they can no longer be classed as whipping boys, but this time around I fancy the French and Irish to finish above them both. Scotland to finish bottom @ 7/4 with William Hill is what I’m doing.
With Wawrinka lifting the Australian Open crown last week after being tipped @ 66/1, hopefully we can follow that up with some more wins here.