This weekend sees the conclusion of the 2017 Six Nations. England’s thumping 61-21 win over Scotland has taken them to another title and they have the chance to win back to back Grand Slams by beating Ireland in Dublin this weekend (all prices William Hill).
Scotland v Italy
Scotland’s nascent recovery was blown off course against England last weekend with a 61-21 loss. The game started badly with an early sin-bin and then got worse as the team suffered a number of injuries in the back line that left them vulnerable to a lack of defensive organization against rampant opponents.
Scotland’s first XV is a dangerous side, but their bench strength does not match a few of the other six nations teams and in that match, it showed.
Nevertheless, they have the chance to record their third win, all at home, of this season’s six nations this weekend against winless Italy who went down at home to France last weekend by 22 points. Scotland may be depleted, but the win should be routine enough at 1/16 odds it is a question of whether they cover -23 on the points spread. I am going to assume they do and 2017 will be seen as a year of progress with three wins out of five in the Championship.
France v Wales
France and Wales meet in Paris battling it out for second place in the final six nations table. France have won their only game at home so far, by six points against Scotland and are another developing side. They have a big pack of forwards, young talented half backs and plenty of pace and creativity outside. Not quite the finished article but getting there as a team
Wales have had a “curate’s egg” of a Championship and with a couple of poor performances rebounded from defeat at Scotland with a strong performance to beat Ireland comfortably (as underdogs) last weekend. They are a very experienced team with particular strengths at the back row, scrum half and the back three but have typically struggled to put attacking performances together to fulfill that potential in recent years. Against Ireland though there was some creativity on show
Wales are underdogs again here, 6/4 outright and +4 on the handicap. Home advantage is a strong factor in the six nations and Paris is a tough place to travel but I am going to back Wales at 6/4 to finish their championship on a high in a game where they match up well with their opponents and could be more street-wise in what should be a tight match.
Ireland v England
Ireland lost in Cardiff in what was a surprisingly meek performance. Notwithstanding disruptions suffered during the game to key players Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton, it was most disappointing that the team did very little with the ball in hand, though part of the credit has to go to Wales defensively.
England stepped up several gears in putting 60 points on Scotland to secure another Championship. It will be a different type of game entirely in Dublin with a likely arm wrestle up front and Ireland’s half-backs capable of playing a territorial game to put pressure on England
England though will be highly motivated, not only going for a second successive grand slam but also the 19 game world record for successive international wins. At the start of the championship, I thought this was a game that Ireland could win, they were priced as marginal underdogs at 5/4and now, four matches into the championship they are 6/4 and 3 point underdogs on the handicap
During England’s 18 game winning run they have played 7 away games, six of them against top 10 ranked opponents and won by an average score of 30-19. On the form, you have to say that England -3 at 10/11 looks attractive as does England 1-12 at 6/4in the winning margin market.