It has only been four months since the curtain closed on the 2020 Six Nations, but the 2021 instalment gets underway at the beginning of February. It looks set to be one of the most exciting in recent years, as there the gap between the sides has certainly narrowed over recent years. But, how are the teams shaping up ahead of the big kick-off?
The extended 2020 Six Nations was ultimately won by England, in one of the tightest fought battles in recent years. England were eventually able to get their hands on the trophy after France defeated Ireland in the final round of fixtures. The championship was decided by points difference, and there will be a sense that Eddie Jones’ side will need to improve further if they are to successfully defend their title this year. However, they are currently the outright favourites when examining the rugby bets online.
Confidence will be high in the England camp, as they won the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup at the end of 2020. COVID has affected their preparation for the start of the Six Nations, as Eddie Jones had been forced to miss the first couple of weeks of their training camp. However, there will be no excuses on the opening weeks, as England look to continue their unbeaten home record against Scotland, which stretches back to 1983.
Those looking to wager against the Six Nations betting favourites may not need to look any closer than France. Fabien Galthie will be looking to lead his French side to the promised land and their first Six Nations triumph since 2010. A number of injury problems have impacted France's preparations, and they will once again be without Romain Ntamack.
The fly-half was impressive throughout the competition last year, but there is no shortage of up-and-coming talent that will be keen to make an impression in his absence. All eyes will be on France’s showdown with England in the middle of March, which could go a long way to deciding the destination of the Six Nations title.
It was a year of nearly for Ireland in 2020, as they had the Six Nations crown in their hands going into the final round of games. They were the leading side with the top Canadian sportsbooks going in the final round, as all they needed to do was avoid defeat against the French to reclaim the Six Nations title. However, defeat meant that they not only didn’t win the title, but they also finished the competition in third; level on points with Scotland.
The Irish remain a credible threat in the competition this year, but they will need to hit the ground running with testing back-to-back fixtures against Wales and France. Their chances of success will hinge on the results that they get in those two games. Two wins, and they could host England on the final round of games with the title in their sights.
Scotland will be looking to kick on from a decent showing in the Six Nations last year, as they finished in fourth. There will be renewed hope ahead of their opener, as the Scots will be boosted with the return of Finn Russell. Russell was dropped from selection after breaking team protocols last year, and injury meant that he couldn’t return for the Autumn Nations. Scotland’s chances will likely be impacted on how well he is reintegrated into the team this year, but there are certainly positive signs.
Wayne Pivac is optimistic about his side’s chances in the Six Nations this season, but it appears unlikely that they will be genuine contenders to last year’s top three. Pivac hasn’t enjoyed an excellent record since replacing Warren Gatland, as he has won just three of the ten games that he has taken charge of. Wales finished fifth in the standings last year, which was the lowest finish since 2017. Dan Lydiate returns to the fold this year, but his inclusion alone isn’t going to be enough to close the gap.
Italy haven’t won a Six Nations fixture since their 2015 win against Scotland. That was also the last time that they avoided finishing with the "Wooden Spoon". Rugby union betting online markets already have extremely high prices on Italy to avoid finishing bottom again, and in truth, they look far inferior to the other teams in the competition. It will be an emotional competition for the Italians this year though, as it will be the final Six Nations campaign for their talisman Sergio Parisse.
The battle for the Six Nations this year will likely be contested between England and France. The side that wins the battle between the nations on the 13th March at Twickenham will likely be the outright winners. It currently looks hard to see past the reigning champions successfully regaining their title. Like in 2020, Wales and Italy will be the sides at the foot of the standings, but it will be difficult for the Italians to escape the wooden spoon for the sixth consecutive year.
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