Form and the betting markets do not suggest the Six Nations is heading for a deciding showdown between France and England in Paris next month. However, the best bet may be to back England giving up 16 points to Italy.
England have won their last 16 matches against Italy, home and away. Over that spell they have averaged 28 more points than Italy and outscored them by 78 tries to 18. They have registered more than three times as many points overall and slightly less in Rome. The question is are this England 15 better than average and after the debacle of the World Cup there were improvements under the new coach, Eddie Jones, last weekend against Scotland.
Jones has coached three national teams and worked at two World Cups but looking after England is totally different. The other sides in the Six Nations give a bit extra when they play England because of perceived arrogance and superiority. England are favourites in just about every fixture with another European nation and rarely enjoy the lack of pressure from underdog status. However, they got the job done efficiently against Scotland and after Rome have two fixtures at Twickenham.
The fixtures have worked out well for England as they have home games against their two biggest rivals in the betting, Wales and Ireland, and have a strong nucleus of players despite such a poor World Cup. Chris Robshaw will never be allowed to forget the flawed call to go for a line-out in the crucial group match against Wales. That decision ultimately cost him the England captaincy and the new man Dylan Hartley made a good start against Scotland. England -16 v Italy must be taken.
The fixture that brought together France and Ireland in Paris yesterday was the most evenly matched of the tournament and the home side were only slight favourites. The outcome France 10 – 9 Ireland.
Ireland scrapped a draw against Wales at home in the first round and that is an underachievement. The fixtures have worked against them and their Six Nations ambitions could be over. As if the pressure of chasing three titles in a row wasn’t enough Ireland are trying to achieve that feat with key players unavailable or out of form. The slightly better organised France under a new coach beat Ireland but only just!
Tipping Scotland to win in Wales would of been strange as that has happened only once in the last eight meetings. Those fixtures have seen Wales outscore their opponents by 26 tries to 10 and an average scoring superiority of 14 points. Wales beat Scotland at home by 48 points two years ago but the deficit was just three last year at Murrayfield. But Scotland couldn’t build on a good World Cup and still await their first win in the 2016 Six Nations. The final score was Wales 27 – 23 Scotland!
Enjoy the Italy v England match this afternoon and have a Super Valentine Sunday!