The Championship begins on Friday 1st February. Last year Ireland won the Grand Slam, since when and following beating New Zealand at the end of the Autumn Internationals they have been installed as World Cup favourites ahead of the RWC in Japan in September.
A look at each team in turn:
2019 Fixtures: R1 England (h), R2 Scotland (a), Italy (a), France (h), Wales (a)
Ireland have won the 6N in three of last five years, mirroring the development of Leinster, Munster and Ulster all of whom have been forces in European rugby in this current generation, aided by a domestic game structured with player central contracts and limited playing time for the best players.
I think 4 wins out of five is the most likely result (think they could lose either in Murrayfield or Cardiff) and obviously Championship favourites but the current price isn’t offering us anything we don’t know…
2019 Fixtures: R1 Ireland (a), R2 France (h), R3 Wales (a), R4 Italy (h), R5 Scotland (h)
England fell to fifth last year with creativity in the backs and balance in the back row (struggled to win breakdown ball, often played a back row of three “sixes” that lumbered around the field a step off being able to influence games) big issues
They have three of five matches at home but are likely to be going into round 4 with losses at Ireland (They are 8 point underdogs) and potentially Cardiff and with a best overall outcome of three wins which would be an improvement on last year but not quite setting the world alight ahead of the World Cup.
2019 Fixtures: R1 France (a), R2 Italy (a), R3 England (h), R4 Scotland (a), R5 Ireland (H)
Wales have finished second in two of the last three years. Ahead of Gatland’s final six nations this time round, Wales had a solid year and especially so in Cardiff where they won all three of their Six Nations fixtures and four more test matches in November. The end of year internationals included wins over Australia and South Africa. They were beaten just twice in 2018 and both those defeats came in their Six Nations away fixtures in Dublin and at Twickenham in Rounds 2 and 3.
For 2019 the side will be without Halfpenny for the first two games and Faletau for the tournament and generally with more injury problems at the start than say England. They also have three games away but the two favourites at home. Win in France first up on the Friday night (50-50 type match ) and they will have a shot at being in contention throughout,
2019 Fixtures: R1 Italy (h), R2 Ireland (h), R3 France (a), Wales (h), England (a)
Scotland won both home matches (against France and England) in the Six Nations last year and having won all three home fixtures in this tournament in 2017 their form at Murrayfield catches the eye especially with Ireland and Wales visiting this time.
It is of course a big ask to expect Scotland to go to Paris and/or Twickenham and win and beat both of Ireland and Wales such that the team could get to the four wins they’ll need to win the Championship but the possibility of three wins and possibly second in the Championship exists which would be more progress.
2019 Fixtures: R1 Wales (h), R2 England (a), R3 Scotland (h), R4 Ireland (a), R5 Italy (a)
First things first, this year France, habitually poor travellers, play in Dublin and London which probably caps their upside at three wins. Secondly consistency of selection remains a big issue. None of the backs who were selected in the squad for round one last year are even in the larger 35 man squad this year! France have only scored 16 Six Nations tries in the last two years/ten games
Fixtures: R1 Scotland (a), Wales (h), Ireland (h), England (a), France (h)
Italy once again lost all of their Six Nations matches in 2018 and since beating Scotland in Edinburgh back in 2015 they have lost 17 consecutive matches in this tournament.
There was very little to shout about throughout the rest of the year although they did draw a series 1-1 in Japan and their only other victory came at home to Georgia in November. They ended their year with a defeat to the Wallabies (26-7) and a hiding off the All Blacks (66-3)
Under Conor O’Shea Italy are at the stage where Individual young talent is being introduced into the team but not yet with sufficient depth to challenge teams in this tournament and it’s a long term process to get there.
I am not saying anything by saying that Ireland should win again. They went off 2/1 favourites in 2018 and go off 4/5 this time round.
I think there is value in other markets
- Winner without Ireland
Here my focus is to oppose Engl
and at Evens on value grounds and look at Wales at 9/4 and Scotland at 5/1
Taking my comments from above about ranges of expectations for wins this season. My central cases are
Which tells us the battle for second is going to be very tight and therefore we are likely to be looking at bonus points and points differences for deciders for finishing positions for teams on the same point points totals
For reference the scoring system is as follows: 0 points for a loss, 2 for a draw, 4 for a win, 1 point for scoring four or more tries in match, and 1 point for losing by 7 points or fewer
Here Wales, who conceded 83 points in 2018 and 86 in 2017 with their Edwards coached defence are structurally less likely to suffer heavy defeats than Scotland (conceded 128 and 118 points in the last two years) and therefore more likely to pick up losing bonus points as Scotland’s strength is still in attack rather than defence.
In terms of scoring four tries or more in a match, Wales scored 13 tries last year up from 8 the year before (Scotland 14 then 11), this is the more rounded attacking approach taking place. Assuming Italy are gradually becoming more difficult to beat and less likely to be an easy source of try bonus points for their opponents especially at home (which here is an advantage for Scotland who play Italy in Edinburgh, Wales go to Rome)
So, “without Ireland” odds (best generally available)
Expecting them to be in a group of teams with c3 wins and with defense coming to the fore for bonus point potential:
Wales to win the Six Nations “without Ireland” 9/4 BetVictor and Betfred