If fixtures go to form in the Six Nations this weekend the match between England and Wales at Twickenham on March 12th could become the championship decider. After round three of fixtures and wins for those teams against Ireland and France at home the showdown at the home of rugby may determine who wins the Six Nations. The Italy versus Scotland match in Rome on Saturday is the key match in determining who wins the wooden spoon for finishing last.
The weekend of European rugby begins on Friday night when Wales host France at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Wales are 8 point favourites but a win by a smaller margin is projected based on recent form. France have beaten Ireland and Italy at home but only narrowly while Wales have drawn with Ireland and beaten Scotland. However, the winning margin in those fixtures has been no more than 4 points. All four matches could have easily ended with a different outcome.
It is fair to assume that there is little to choose between Wales and France and home advantage can be key. Playing at your own stadium in the Six Nations is on average worth about six points which suggest the handicap has been pitched marginally too high and France should be backed with a start of eight points. You could take a slightly shorter price and back them at plus 10. In any case a Wales win by one score looks a feasible outcome.
The sides have met in Cardiff eight times this century and France have won five of those fixtures. However, Wales won the corresponding match in 2014 by 21 points. In those eight meetings the home side have outscored their opponents by a total of 10 points but 12 tries have been scored by both tries. All the statistics point to a close match so the bookmakers have been generous by giving France a 10 point start. In the last 16 meetings France have outscored Wales by on average three points.
Wales and France are both strong in the scrum so this match could develop in to a close battle with few tries. Wales will have plenty of confidence from their first two fixtures in the Six Nations but France literally are no pushovers. The total points line should be sold at anything around the 40 mark and the number of tries can be backed to go under the spread which is projected to be about 4.5. The spreads will be announced nearer match day as weather can be a huge factor in potential scoring.
England have to give up 7 points against Ireland at Twickenham and that is a handicap they can overcome. The home side have won two away fixtures to date in the championship by an average of 18 points. Ireland have drawn and lost once in their two matches but have scored just one point less than their opponents. A couple of marginal plays could have easily gone the other way and Ireland would have established a perfect winning start. Another defeat and ambitions of winning three 6 Nations in a row will be thwarted.
Confidence and momentum are over exaggerated when it comes to assessing relative form but Ireland have not managed to get over the line while England have come through two roads trips unblemished. In the last 8 Twickenham meetings England have outscored Ireland by 224 points to 125 and scored 10 more tries. The average margin is 12 points so England can beat Ireland this Saturday by more than 7. England coach Eddie Jones has a fit roster of players from which to choose the side.
Italy have a six point start over Scotland and that looks too big. A win for the home side, a draw or a defeat by five points or less makes that handicap bet a winner. That could be the best bet in all three matches as this fixture has been close in recent years. In Rome Italy have averaged one more point than Scotland and that trend should continue. Scotland’s efforts in the World Cup could be a red herring and it looks beyond them to cover a spread of six points even though they could win the match.
Wins for England and Wales will set up a huge match at Twickenham. England have won the last two fixtures with Wales by a total of 16 points. If the Six Nations comes down to this year’s meeting England should win it and go some way to be forgiven for the debacle of the World Cup.