WILLIAM CHRIMES AND BEN CLEMINSON PREVIEW THE BEST OF THE WEEKEND’S SPORTING ACTION
WALES will look to rewrite rugby’s history books over the next 10 weeks as they bid to become the first nation to win three consecutive Six Nations championships.
Having landed a third grand slam in impressive fashion in 2012, they needed a monster performance to beat England 30-3 in Cardiff last year to deny the visitors the grand slam and land their fourth win in the annual tournament.
They head into tomorrow’s tie at home to Italy as favourites on Sporting Index’s Outright 60 Index with a spread of 34-37 (winner make-up 60, runners-up 40, third 20).
But while the Welsh have the easiest opener of all, with their supremacy over the Azzurri pitched at 19-22, they have lost Ian Evans for the entire Six Nations campaign after the lock’s suspension for a stamp on Leinster’s Mike McCarthy. Luke Charteris is a class act, but he doesn’t boast the win record of Evans.
Sam Warburton’s contract with the Welsh Rugby Union is also causing a bit of a stir in the dressing room, but more worrying is their fixture list. Warren Gatland’s side has to travel to Dublin and Twickenham. In particular, the visit to Twickenham on 9 March could be the pivotal match of the competition with the Red Rose pumped for revenge after last year’s heartbreak.
England, second for the last two years, performed well in their autumn internationals, comfortably beating Australia and Argentina before giving the sensational New Zealand a real scare. Stuart Lancaster’s hopes of selecting a fully fit squad have been disrupted with Manu Tuilagi, Alex Corbisiero, Marland Yarde and Christian Wade all recovering from injury.
However, blows like that open up opportunities for hungry new faces to make an impact and Lancaster has gambled for the trip to Paris tomorrow.
Exeter wing Jack Nowell and Northampton centre Luther Burrell will make their England debuts against France, who were appalling last year, finishing bottom to land the wooden spoon for the first time.
There’s no way you could be making a case for Les Bleus on the back of that, or their form at the end of last year. Granted they played the All Blacks four times – and were beaten each time – but they were workmanlike in seeing off Tonga and rounded off the year with a home loss to South Africa. Interestingly, though, they have won the Five and Six Nations every year after a Lions tour since 1995.
But I can’t see why they are trading at 33-36 with Sporting Index for the championship and that’s worth a sell. England, on the other hand, look to have been underestimated by the traders in Kennington. They have the ammunition to beat the French tomorrow – so sell the hosts’ supremacy at 2 – and that should set them up perfectly to go one better than the last two years.
I’ll be buying them at 33 on the outright index and I also like the look of buying England/Opposition at 31 (prediction on the aggregate points scored by England versus the aggregate points scored by each of their opponents).
Buy England at 33 on the Outright Index with Sporting Index
Sell France at 33 on the Outright Index with Sporting Index
Sell France supremacy at 2 versus England with Sporting Index