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Although it wasn’t good for our bets on Ireland to win the Six Nations and complete the Grand Slam, the Welsh win over the Irish in Cardiff has blown the Six Nations wide open, and makes for a thrilling day of action on the final day this Saturday. England and Ireland are fighting it out at the top of the table and it could well come down to who scores the most points in Saturday’s matches, but both Wales and France could pull off an unlikely title win if results go their way.
Six Nations – Who Needs What?
Wales beat Ireland 23-16 last week when four quick penalties took them into what proved to be an insurmountable lead, and that put an end to Ireland’s 100% record. England beat Scotland comfortably by 25-13, and France trounced Italy 29-0. All that means that England, Ireland and Wales are joint top of the table with six points apiece, but its England who hold the advantage on points difference. They have a +37 difference to Ireland’s +33 and Wales’ +12. The English are in the driving seat and simply need to maintain that points advantage by the end of Saturday’s games. They’ll be helped by the fact that they kick off last and will know the Welsh and Irish results, and therefore what is required of them. If, by chance, Wales and Ireland both lose on Saturday afternoon, France could pull off a Six Nations shock by beating England by more than eight points at Twickenham to snatch the trophy.
The fixtures are as follows:
12.30 Italy v Wales
2.30 Scotland v Ireland
5.00 England v France
Wales kick off first and know that only a landslide victory against Italy will put them in with a chance of winning the tournament, and they’d still be relying on Scotland and France keeping the scores down later on against Ireland and England. The Welsh are as short as 1/14 1.07 -1400 0.07 -14.00 0.07 to win in Rome, but the Italians showed when beating Scotland away that they are capable of a shock, and they won’t roll over here. Of course, if Wales put it together, a big victory is not inconceivable and pride will ensure that they throw everything at Italy in search of a famous win. Wales are 10/11 1.91 -110 0.91 -1.10 0.91 to overcome a -22 handicap, but that looks like poor value against a spirited Italian team at home.
Scotland v Ireland
Talking of pride, Scotland will be desperate to put one over the Irish and to avoid the wooden spoon. Their defeat against Italy has left them rock-bottom of the table with no points from four defeats. However, they’ve been more ‘competitive’ than the Italians in most games and have a far superior points difference. If Italy lose to Wales as expected earlier in the day, then Scotland will have it all to play for. Ireland need to come here and win by a big margin to make up the 3 point advantage that England have over them, and to put pressure on the English when they line up against France in the evening. Ireland had the Six Nations in their sights last week, and would have all but sealed it with victory in Wales, but the Welsh came out firing and caught the Irish cold. Scotland will aim to do the same and repeat their 2013 Six Nations win against Ireland, but they are up against it based on their previous results.
Scotland – 7/2 4.50 +350 3.50 3.50 -0.29 with Boylesports
Ireland are strong in defence, and Scotland have been prone to conceding penalties in this Six Nations, so the Irish have to be fancied to win the game. With so much at stake on points, this could be an open attacking game and Ireland can be expected to keep on trying to score right to the death. With that in mind, they look good value to beat the -8 Handicap.
England v France
It hasn’t been a sterling England performance throughout this tournament, although it has had its high points such as the thrashing of Italy. It will certainly be good preparation for the upcoming World Cup in England if they go on to win the Six Nations, but they will be under no illusions that the Rugby has to improve if they are to beat the likes of South Africa and New Zealand to the Web Ellis trophy in September. They have a distinct advantage here as they will know the outcome of the other two games before they kick off, and it’s likely that they will know what points target they need to hit. They have a good record against France at Twickenham and it hasn’t been a great competition for the French, so England have to be fancied to win. France have been as hit and miss as ever in this tournament, with defeats at the hands of Ireland and Wales, but victories over Scotland and Italy putting them in mid-table mediocrity. There is a chance that they could win the whole thing if results go their way, but that notion will probably have been put to bed long before kick off (if Wales or Ireland win), so France have little to play for but pride.
With the home crowd at their backs England will surely win, and the -10 Handicap doesn’t look an impossible task. England have won by 10 points and by 8 points in the last two Six Nations matches against France at Twickenham, and if they need a bigger points differential, there’s every chance they can grind down the French and complete a victory with a big scoreline. Much depends on what ‘target’ is set by the Irish earlier in the day, but with both teams needing lots of points, it makes sense to back both to beat their respective handicaps.
Six Nations Rugby – Saturday 21st March 2015