Six Nations: England very short-priced favourites to retain their crown

Bookies rate France as second favourites to win with Ireland third most likely winners

England celebrate their success in last autumn’s  Nations Cup at  Twickenham Stadium, London. They are favourites, at around even money, to retain their Six Nations trophy. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Inpho

England celebrate their success in last autumn’s Nations Cup at Twickenham Stadium, London. They are favourites, at around even money, to retain their Six Nations trophy. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Inpho

 

Ireland finished third in the last two editions of the Six Nations, the same again in the Autumn Nations Cup and, accordingly, are third favourites going into this year’s tournament.

There is widespread uniformity, or copycatting, among the bookies, with Andy Farrell’s side 7/2 across the board, odds which one ventures will not prove too tempting for Irish supporters given the apparent chasm between the top two, England and France, and the rest.

Those of a more optimistic nature can back Ireland to win the Grand Slam at odds of 10/1 to 12/1, but it’s worth noting that they would have been similarly priced before the 2009 and 2018 Grand Slams, as well as the back-to-back titles of 2014 and 2015.

England are very short-priced favourites to retain their crown, at odds varying from evens to 6/5, with France second in the market at a commonly priced 5/2 to win their first title in 11 years, while they are around 6/1 for the Grand Slam.

There is also consistency across the board for this weekend’s opening matches, with the bookies possibly overrating the advantage of playing at home in echo chambers. For example, they make the Wales-Ireland match by far the closest in the betting, with Wales marginal underdogs at plus one, two or three points.

True, Ireland have lost on their last three Six Nations visits to the Principality Stadium, but have also won the last four meetings, by margins of five, nine, and, last year, 10 and 23 points.

Scotland at plus-16 on the handicap against England also looks generous. Only once in the last six meetings between the sides have England won by more than 12 points. Scotland won in Murrayfield three years ago and although they haven’t won in Twickenham since 1983, they memorably drew there 38-38 after recovering from a 31-0 deficit to lead until the last play of the game two years ago.

Yes Scotland have a tendency to inflate their chances but they have a settled side, strength in depth and Finn Russell back in harness.

Furthermore, there won’t be any fans this Saturday, England have lost some big-game players up front, have many others lacking game time and had their preparations disrupted by coaches having to isolate.

Picking the top try scorer can be a lottery, as evidenced by French flanker and captain Charles Ollivon becoming the first back-row player to finish clear first with four tries last year, emulating Imanol Harinordoquy (2004) and CJ Stander (2017) who previously shared the honour. Ollivon can be backed at anything from 33/1 to 50/1 this year.

Dry run

Jonny May, leading try scorer two years ago and joint second the year before, is the favourite across the board at 4/1 or 9/2. But those odds lack appeal given a relatively dry run for England (two in his last eight games) and Gloucester (one in nine) of late.

Wingers have topped the charts in six of the last 10 years , the exceptions being Johnny Sexton and Mike Brown sharing first place in 2014, a centre, Jonathan Joseph, finishing first a year later, and an eight-way tie in 2017 featuring Stander and Keith Earls.

Tommy Bowe was first in 2011, a year after sharing top spot with Keith Earls, James Hook and Shane Williams, and a year after Brian O’Driscoll finished joint top with Ricky Flutey in the 2009 Grand Slam, when Ireland’s and the Championship’s record try scorer could be backed at 33/1 and Ireland at 8/1 for the Grand Slam before the start.

In-form French scrumhalf Antoine Dupont could be a decent bet in the top try-scorer market. Photograph: Dave Winter/Inpho
In-form French scrumhalf Antoine Dupont could be a decent bet in the top try-scorer market. Photograph: Dave Winter/Inpho

James Lowe is the shortest-priced Irish player, at around 16/1, while Jordan Larmour could be worth a punt at 20/1 with Paddy Powers to 28/1 with Ladbrokes.

No Frenchman has scored the most tries since Damian Traille in 2003, and no scrumhalf has ever done so, but Antoine Dupont looks a decent shout at 18/1 with Paddy Powers, who offer 1/5 each way odds on a top-seven finish. With his low centre of gravity, awareness and support play, Dupont has been in rich try-scoring form for France (seven tries in his last 14 Tests) and for Toulouse this season (six tries in nine starts).

The betting for tournament top points scorer features three players who have figured prominently over each of the last seven seasons, Owen Farrell, Johnny Sexton and Leigh Halfpenny. Twice top points scorer (in 2016 and 2019) and twice runner-up, Farrell is a warm favourite to top the charts again, between evens and 6/4. Sexton, leading scorer in 2014 and second last year, can be backed at around 4/1 or 5/1.

When Maxime Machenaud topped the scoring charts in the 2018 Six Nations, he was the first Frenchman to do so since Gerald Merceron in 2002. That is probably a reflection of the way Les Bleus alternate their half-backs and kickers. But Romain Ntamack repeated the feat last year and on the premise that Mathieu Jalibert is likely to be their first-choice outhalf and goalkicker throughout the tournament, he could be the best value at around 5/1 or 6/1.

Six Nations Betting

(Paddy Powers, Ladbrokes, Bet365, Boyle Sports)

To win Six Nations outright

England: 11/10, 6/5, 1/1, 11/10.

France: 5/2, 5/2, 5/2, 5/2.

Ireland: 7/2, 7/2, 7/2, 7/2.

Wales: 12/1, 14/1, 14/1, 16/1.

Scotland: 20/1, 16/1, 22/1, 25/1.

Italy: 500/1, 500/1, 750/1, 1000/1.

Grand Slam

No winner: 10/11, 10/11 1/1, 19/20.

England: 2/1, 15/8, 2/1, 5/2.

France: 6/1, 5/1, 6/1, 11/2.

Ireland: 10/1, 12/1, 11/1, 17/2.

Wales: 33/1, 40/1, 25/1, 33/1.

Scotland: 100/1, 100/1, 100/1, 66/1.

Italy: 500/1, 1000/1, 1000/1, 5000/1.

Triple Crown

No winner: 11/10, 1/1, 11/10, 23/20.

England: 6/5, 6/5, 6/5, 13/8.

Ireland: 8/1, 7/1, 9/1, 5/1.

Wales: 20/1, 20/1, 16/1, 16/1.

Scotland: 33/1, 40/1, 33/1, 25/1.

Top Try Scorer

Jonny May (Eng): 9/2, 4/1, 9/2, 4/1.

Josh Adams (Wal): 15/2, 7/1, 15/2, 7/1.

Teddy Thomas (Fra): 8/1, 8/1, 6/1, 9/1.

Damien Penaud (Fra): 12/1, 14/1, 12/1, 12/1.

Duhan van der Merwe (Scot): 12/1, 14/1, 12/1, 12/1.

James Lowe (Ire): 16/1, 16/1, 14/1, 16/1.

Antoine Dupont (Fra): 18/1, 20/1, 18/1, 14/1.

Gabin Villiere (Fra): 20/1, 20/1, 25/1, 16/1.

Keith Earls (Ire): 20/1, 25/1, 14/1, 28/1.

Jordan Larmour (Ire): 20/1, 28/1, 20/1 25/1.

Jamie George (Eng): 25/1, 25/1, 14/1, 33/1.

Louis Rees Zammit (Wal): 25/1, 33/1, 25/1, 28/1.

Garry Ringrose (Ire): 33/1, 33/1, 33/1, 33/1.

Andrew Conway (Ire): 33/1, 40/1, 28/1, 40/1.

Anthony Watson (Eng): 33/1, 20/1, 28/1, 20/1.

Stuart Hogg (Scot): 33/1, 40/1, 33/1, 33/1.

Gael Fickou (Fra): 33/1, 33/1, 25/1, 28/1.

Hugo Keenan (Ire): 33/1, 25/1, 28/1, 33/1.

Top Points Scorer

Owen Farrell (Eng): 1/1, 1/1, 6/4, 1/1.

Johnny Sexton (Ire): 9/2, 5/1, 4/1, 5/1.

Mathieu Jalibert (Fra): 5/1, 6/1, 5/1, 9/2.

Dan Biggar (Wal): 6/1, 6/1, 4/1, 13/2.

Finn Russell (Scot): 10/1, 8/1, 10/1, 9/1.

Leigh Halfpenny (Wal): 20/1, 14/1, 16/1, 25/1.

This weekend’s matches

Italy v France match betting

Italy: 10/1, 9/1, 10/1, 11/1.

Draw: 45/1, 40/1, 40/1, 50/1.

France: 1/20, 1/25, 1/20, 1/33.

Handicap odds

Italy: (+21) 10/11, (+20) 10/11, (+21) 1/1, (+21) 10/11.

Draw: 22/1, 25/1, 16/1, 18/1.

France: (-21) 10/11, (-20) 10/11, (-21) 10/11, (-21) 10/11.

England v Scotland match betting

England: 1/18, 1/12, 1/9, 1/8.

Draw: 35/1, 33/1, 33/1, 33/1.

Scotland: 6/1, 13/2, 13/2, 11/2.

Handicap odds

England: (-16) 10/11, (-16) 10/11, (-14) 10/11, (-15) 10/11.

Draw: 22/1, 25/1, 16/1, 18/1.

Scotland: (+16) 10/11, (+16) 10/11, (+14) 1/1, (+15) 10/11.

Wales v Irealnd match betting

Wales: 5/4, 11/10, 11/8, 11/8.

Draw: 16/1, 25/1, 20/1, 22/1.

Ireland: 8/11, 8/11, 4/6, 8/13.

Handicap odds

Wales: (+2) 10/11, (+1) 10/11, (+2) 1/1, (+3) 10/11.

Draw: 22/1, 25/1, 16/1, 18/1.

Ireland: (-2) 10/11, (-1) 10/11, (-2) 10/11, (-3) 10/11.

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