Here at Red Rugby Towers™, we know that rugby activity on the betting markets peaks around Six Nations time. Why do we know this? Because at this time of year we usually get approached by Ladbrokes to daub our digital walls with advertising banners and the like. But who should the casual (or hardcore) rugby fan put their well earned penny on to win this year’s championship? Woodrow Hughes (a man who knows these things) has his say…
If I were a betting man, what I am, I’d like long odds. I’d convince myself that my ridiculous assertions could be backed up with facts or I’d look up stats that encouraged my daft opinions, crunching the numbers until I was ‘certain’. Then I’d garner the opinion of other fat blokes only to convince them I was right by presenting my argument. So here I am (not that all of you are fat).
(Also, before I continue, could we all take a moment to appreciate the fact that Wayne Barnes has only been allocated one game to referee this year. Thank the stars!! It’ll be a better competition for it.)
So here I go…
There is a trend that has developed since the Six Nations was formed in 2000: there are an increasing number of draws. Drawn games in ’01, ’06, ’10, ’12 and ’13 signify that, as the game has evolved and the championship becomes ever more competitive, the games have become closer and closer to call (bar that 30-3 scoreline). So could this be the year that we see another game end in a tie? Or as I’m inclined to think, two games?!? The first game I’m going to pick out for a draw is in Round One: the tie between a France side (in a state of constant flux and arguable disarray) versus a resurgent Scotland (ever growing in confidence). If a tie is the outcome here then I think the French will go into meltdown and could potentially not win a game throughout the whole tournament.
So, the first prediction is that the wooden spoon will be fought out between the French and Italians come March 15th. This could spell the end of the Saint-André era. France will win that contest but finish fifth overall, nonetheless. Elsewhere in Round One, the Irish will dominate in Italy but the scoreline won’t reflect just how dominant they are and Wales will beat England, probably by 11-15 points. We don’t need to dwell on that last game much more do we?*
Week Two will see England return to Twickenham with a win against Italy, affirming Lancaster’s unsackable position (he’ll be in that job well into his 80s). Another confident but close victory for Ireland against France will follow in Dublin. Wales will travel to Murrayfield to face a tired but buoyed Scots team following their heroics in Paris. It’ll be a cold and shaky affair that Wales will win.
Then, after a break, Scotland will outclass the Italians in Round Three with their back-line indulging in a try-fest in the 2nd half. Wales will grind out a win after a bloody contest in Paris and Ireland v England will prove quite a spectacle. I predict an Ireland win with England still in patchwork injury mode. Maybe Cipriani will be starting by then but his trickery will be nulled by a well prepared and tactically astute Ireland outfit. All of which, after another break, leads us nicely to the biggest week of the tournament…
Round Four and, as aforementioned, France will save some face by beating Italy in Rome. The English will grind out a scrappy win against the Scots at HQ. Then the big one: Wales hosting Ireland. Much has been made of the revenge England want to exact following the 30-3 defeat of two years ago, but what about the heartache Wales suffered at the hands of Ireland in 2013 and 2014? Two years ago Ireland triumphed in Cardiff 22-30 and last year a 26-3 win in Dublin will surely still be ringing in Welsh ears? Gatland cannot let this slide. This is the game that decides the championship as far as I can see. If there’s a genuine revenge mission to be spoken about, it’s this one. With home advantage (and a reasonably empty physiotherapy room) Wales can edge this. That sounds circumstantial but, oh wait, Steve Walsh is refereeing! Wales will emerge victors as Ireland have collective sore heads following too much St Paddy’s day Guinness. BUT this is the other game I’ve earmarked as a potential draw…highly possible with the two fighting it out on points difference. Sure. Why not.
Week Five: not the formality it should be had there been a victor in Cardiff a week previous! A weary Ireland will try and hammer an even wearier Scotland for points difference but won’t make much of the task ahead. Either way, Wales will know what to do in Rome as France eye an unlikely victory at Twickenham…but that hasn’t happened since ’05 so, no. England will show improvement which will be overly lauded by the press led by chief cheerleaders SkySports. Wales will lead a rout in Rome making up any points difference they’ve had advance warning of needing to secure. This isn’t how anyone really envisages the tournament finishing. “You couldn’t write this poor excuse of a story!”, you’ll be saying. But, like I said, I like long odds. I will be betting on my final table prediction which is thus: Wales the victors followed by Ireland, England, Scotland, France and Italy. Please note, no refunds will be given if you actually spend money after reading this…you numpty.
*Some stats for the upcoming Wales V England match from IBM’s Trytracker:
Wales will win if:
- They offload in at least 10% of tackles
- They have a 92.6%+ tackle success rate
- 6 or more clean line breaks
England will win if:
- They win 56% of turnovers
- Have 6+ attempts on goal
- The average ball carry from their backs is 6.9 meters.