Chris Robshaw
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England can beat France at Six Nations if given a small headstart

| 31.01.2014

While Wales have been given a gimme at home to Italy to kick off the 2014 Six Nations, England visit a France team they have beaten in three of the last four meetings.

These two games feature on the opening matchday of the Six Nations and our top bets are below.

England (+3) to beat France @ 1/1

Three debutants start here, with another six playing in no more than three internationals, showing that there is a focus on youth for this opener in Paris.

France can hardly do any worse than when claiming the wooden spoon 12 months ago and the fact they only managed to beat Tonga and Scotland in 11 games in 2013 hardly suggests they can make a big improvement here.

Furthermore, the French are without inspirational captain Thierry Dusautoir because of a bicep injury and are having to fast-track young fly-half Jules Plisson into the first team.

This all bodes well for an England victory at 6/4, despite an inexperienced back line and Jack Nowell being picked ahead of Chris Ashton on the wing, with Nowell still waiting for his first Premiership try of the season.

The last two meetings at the Stade de France between these two have been settled by a winning margin of only two points, so there is also some mileage in backing the England victory with a three-point headstart.

Wales (-20) to beat Italy @ 1/1

Alun Wyn Jones leads the Welsh for the first time since 2009 with Sam Warburton on the bench as Wales look to win the Sin Nations for the third time in succession.

Italy have never beaten Wales outside of Rome and not anywhere since 2007, so their chances of victory are priced about right at 12/1.

Being overpowered at the scrum and a few injury problems will not aid the Italian cause either and the Welsh should win comfortably, with Leigh Halfpenny sure to have a profitable time from a points perspective.

Wales have won the last three in Cardiff with Italy by at least 21 points and so the Welsh are worth backing at 1/1 to overcome a 20-point handicap.