Six Nations 2019: Who are the favourites for glory?
Odds and previews ahead of the 2019 Six Nations Championship
The Six Nations Championship returns for another year, but this time it provides the six competing teams a chance to prepare for September’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Defending champions Ireland will be looking to retain their crown and sit as favourites. But they’re not expected to have it all their own way, with England and Wales expected to make the championship a close run thing.
Scotland, France and Italy complete the annual line-up, with the Italians hoping to better their performances and results from the last campaign.
We cast our eye over the three favourites and look at the odds before the tournament kicks-off on Friday night…
Defending Champions – Ireland
The Irish were a very impressive outfit in the 2018 edition of the Six Nations, running out as comfortable winners and achieving a Grand Slam in the process.
Leading point scorers, tightest defence and most tries scored in the tournament last year suggests that the Irish have formed a team that is a force to be reckoned with.
Since their tournament victory last year, they’ve only been beaten once against Australia. They eventually ran out as winners of that three game series despite the disappointment of losing their 12-match winning streak.
In the build up to the Six Nations, Ireland have won all four of their 2018-19 season matches, the most impressive of which saw them beat New Zealand 16-9 at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. What made the victory over the All Blacks more impressive was that they held them to only picking up points via penalty kicks.
The only concern Ireland have going into the tournament is over the fitness of their experienced fly-half and vice-captain Johnny Sexton. Sexton had picked up a knock on domestic duty for Leinster in December, but he’s set to recover from his small knee issue and return to action in time to face England on the opening weekend.
With our traders, the Irish are favourites to pick up the trophy at 4/5. You’ll also find them priced as favourites out of the six to win a Grand Slam again at 2/1, although it’s odds-on that there will be no Grand Slam winner this time around at 8/11.
The Irish are also heavily backed to repeat their feat of being the highest scoring nation at the tournament, priced at 4/5.
The Main Challengers – England & Wales
England boss Eddie Jones was disappointed with the performance from his side last year. After winning the first two games, signs were promising for a relatively inexperienced side.
The wheels soon fell off and they fell to defeats in the final three games, including a Calcutta Cup defeat to Scotland, and losing to the Irish in the final game, handing them the Grand Slam.
Jones handed eight non-capped players a call-up during last year’s tournament, and has halved that this year by only handing four non-capped players place in the squad.
The English have been steadily improving throughout the autumn, and a 37-18 victory over Australia would have filled both Jones and the squad with a much needed confidence boost. The side played well in their narrow defeat to New Zealand in November, and have to take confidence from the experience despite relinquishing a 15-0 lead.
The Welsh come into the tournament on a very hot streak, unbeaten in nine matches. Although the majority of pundits are backing Ireland as the favourites, the Welsh are getting a fair amount of backing themselves and the draw could play a part in that.
When Wales play at home, they’re an altogether different beast, with the crowd at the Principality Stadium roaring them on from the first minute until the last. The draw has seen them land home ties against the other two favoured sides in England and Ireland, and this could play a major role in who wins the tournament this year.
Every favourable draw has to come with some negatives, and their first match is one of the hardest on paper. They’re being hosted by the French in the Stade de France, a daunting stadium in itself, but they’re faced with the prospect of a youthful French side that are a bit of an unknown quantity.
If the Welsh can put in an impressive performance in the tournament opener against the French, it’ll send a message out to the others which could help their cause. Wales are 5/1 third-favourites to win the tournament, and 14/1 to win a Grand Slam.
Rank Outsiders – Scotland, France & Italy
Scotland and France are both sat close behind the three front-runners which it comes to tournament favouritism.
Scotland have landed themselves a favourable position courtesy of the schedule, as they are hosting Ireland and Wales at Murrayfield.
Head coach Gregor Townsend has formed a side that can play some exciting rugby at times, and playing some of the more fancied teams at home could give the Scots a chance to spring an surprise.
Scotland are currently fourth-favourites to win the tournament at 16/1, but building a squad for future tournaments is currently a priority, and this experience will help the squad develop.
France are a young, talented and exuberant squad. They’re coming together at long last, and although they beat England in last year’s tournament, their form was too inconsistent to mount a challenge.
The French have never been the best on the road, and the fact they have to play both England and Ireland away may hamper the progress of the squad.
They’ll need to put in a performance and get over their travel sickness if they’re to be taken seriously, so the week two fixture at Twickenham against England will be one to look out for.
Italy are always the least backed side in the tournament, and this year is no different. Their woeful performances last year left them with just one point in the table, notching five defeats and conceding over 200 points in those five games.
The Italians haven’t notched a victory in the Six Nations since a 22-19 away win at Murrayfield against Scotland in the 2015 edition of the tournament. They’ll be looking to end their dry spell in this year’s tournament and win at least once.
Click here for the latest Six Nations odds.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publication.