The annual Six Nations rugby tournament begins on February 1st. Can Wales hold on to the trophy that they have won for the past two years? Richard O’Hagan takes a look ahead.
Wales go into the 2014 RBS Six Nations campaign as hot favourites, best priced at 3.25 with Stan James. However, Warren Gatland’s side have problems. Inspirational back row forward Ryan Jones, who captained them in three of their five games last year, will miss the whole tournament with injury, whilst regular captain Sam Warburton hasn’t played since November. Also likely to be missing from the early rounds is Jonathan Davies, the star of last year’s British Lions tour.
Second favourites in most markets are England, with BetVictor offering 3.5 on them taking a title they have come close to winning in the past couple of years. Again, though, there are problems with following that money, as the team still seems shackled to a pedestrian style of rugby that is ill-suited to the fast moving game that the likes of Wales play.
Instead, the biggest challenge to Gatland’s men may, surprisingly, come from last year’s bottom side, France. The French rarely have two bad seasons in a row and although captain Thierry Dusautoir misses the tournament with injury, they have an able replacement in Pascal Pape and a burning desire to avenge last year’s embarrassment. At 3.8 with Sportingbet they look good value.
At the bottom of the table the battle seems to be between Scotland and Italy, as has been the case in most of the last five years. At a best price of 1.62 with Bet365 there is little point backing the Italians, but at 2.62 in the same place Scotland should be a reasonable return in a two horse race.
Top tryscorer is always a good market to get into early and with BetFred offering 8.5 on each of the Welsh duo of Alex Cuthbert and George North, there’s a chance to wager on both and still make a profit.