Six Nations showdown with England, Ireland, Wales holding title hopes
It’s crunch time in the Six Nations, as the tournament reaches the climax with three home nation teams in the running for victory. We preview all the action here chronologically as the final day approaches. England are odds-on favourites at 8/11 to lift the trophy, while Ireland and Wales are 7/4 and 6/1 respectively.
Italy v Wales
The visitors to the Stadio Olimpico have to stack up a considerable amount of points, and hope that by the end of the day, both Ireland and England have a worse goal difference.
Big game players such as George North and Rhys Webb, both 11/2 to score the first try will need to be on top form, as will Leigh Halfpenny, who has been clinical from the boot this year. He is 9/4 to cross anytime.
Italy, however, are no slouches, and in Luca Morisi, have a talented try-scorer. The 24-year-old starlet is great value at 7/1 in the anytime market.
Scotland v Ireland
Joe Schmidt’s side will be looking to bounce back following a defeat to Wales last time out which ended their Grand Slam hopes, though Scotland won’t make it easy for them. Johnny Sexton has been crucial for his side this year, and needs to be on top of his game. As such, he is 4/1 in the anytime market, having crossed against Wales.
Luke Fitzgerald returns for the clash after a long spell on the sidelines, and the winger is expected to replace Simon Zebo, with odds of 13/8 to record five points anytime.
Mark Bennett scored again for the hosts, in the Calcutta Cup defeat to England last time out, and has odds of 4/1 to do so again in the anytime market. Influential fly-half Stuart Hogg, meanwhile, will need to be closely watched by opposite number Sexton, and has odds of 20/1 to cross first.
England v France
By the time they kick-off, Stuart Lancaster’s men will know exactly what is required. They are odds-on at 2/9 to beat France, at what is expected to be a full-to-capacity, raucous Twickenham.
Last year, it was Ireland who played last in similar circumstances, and just got over the line, with a narrow 22-20 victory to break English hearts to just win the Six Nations on goal difference.
George Ford was irrepressible in the win against Scotland, scoring and dictating the game throughout. He is 11/2 to cross anytime again, while Jonathan Joseph, who has been outstanding in his debut Six Nations campaign, has great value odds of 11/8 in the same market. For England to win and the player to score, take outstanding 15/8 odds.
For the visitors, Yoann Huget could be their best hope, and is 14/1 for the first try.
Lancaster has said he doesn’t want his players to worry about maths, but just to go out and play their natural game. “To win at Twickenham would mean a huge amount – for the players and the fans,” he said.
“I know how much hard work people have put in and also how much it hurt to come second for three years in a row. But you can’t start thinking about things like that until you get the detail of the game right. We’ve got a huge challenge coming our way from France.
“They’re a high-quality team – very big and physical. As they showed last year when they played Ireland, they played right through for the full 80 in that last game even though they couldn’t win the Championship.
“It could still be the case they have something to play for, so we won’t start dreaming yet, we’ll get our detail right.”