The biggest international tournament in the northern hemisphere is about to get underway and rugby fans from across Europe and around the world will be closely following the action. Will Ireland defend their title, can England bounce back or will a resurgent Scotland claim the glory?
Six Nations Preview and Predictions
It’s one of the hardest tournaments in world rugby to predict, with Wales and France also in the mix, and Italy capable of springing a surprise or two along the way. To help guide you through what promises to be a feast of top rugby action, here is our must-read Six Nations Betting Preview.
Six Nations Record
The history of the Six Nations has seen four teams dominate the tournament, though England have claimed the most wins. In fact, they kicked off the Six Nations era in fine style, winning three of the first four editions of the new-look competition. France are second on the all-time list, with five wins, although they haven’t won the Six Nations since 2010, while Wales and Ireland have four wins apiece, with the men in green prevailing in three of the last five renewals.
When it comes to Grand Slams – winning all five games in a tournament – England’s record is less impressive. They’ve achieved the Grand Slam twice, but Wales and France have won it twice, while Ireland are the most recent Grand Slam winners, recording that feat last year.
Neither Italy nor Scotland have ever won the Six Nations, and are more familiar with the battle for the wooden spoon, which Italy have earned in 13 out of 19 tournaments so far. But both teams have had their moments. Italy have twice beaten France in the Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy game, while Scotland have beaten England to win the Calcutta Cup on four occasions.
Last Ten Six Nations Results
Year Winners Runners-up
2018 Ireland Wales
2017 England Ireland
2016 England Wales
2015 Ireland England
2014 Ireland England
2013 Wales England
2012 Wales England
2011 England France
2010 France Ireland
2009 Ireland England
Ireland remain the team to beat after a dominant 2018 – in both hemispheres. After clinching last year’s Six Nations, they won a series in Australia 2-1, and then pulled off a clean sweep in their Autumn Internationals, including a famous 16-9 win over New Zealand.
England recovered somewhat after a shocking first half of the year, and wins over South Africa and Australia, and a narrow one point loss to New Zealand will give them confidence this time round. Wales also go into the Six Nations in great form, having won nine in a row since they lost to Ireland last February, while Scotland lost a little momentum in their Autumn Internationals, losing to Wales and South Africa, but will be hoping to build on last season’s tournament when they finished third.
For France, 2018 was a year to forget, and included a 3-0 series loss in New Zealand, a demoralising late defeat to South Africa and a first ever loss to Fiji, so Jacques Brunel’s side, now ranked ninth in the world, will be going into this year’s Six Nations with hope rather than expectation. The same goes for Italy, who lost nine out of eleven games in 2018, beating only Japan and Georgia.
As the Six Nations doesn’t have a home and away format, the schedule can have a significant impact on how the competition develops, and this time round, it appears to have favoured England, who have three home fixtures, compared to two each for Ireland, Wales and France. But that has to be balanced by the fact that their two away games are tough encounters in Dublin and Cardiff.
Ireland’s schedule has a good balance to it. They kick off with a home game against England and if they can win that one, a run of easier fixtures culminates in what could be a rousing conclusion in Cardiff against Wales. Welsh coach Warren Gatland won’t be too unhappy with his team’s schedule either, as they take on both of their biggest rivals, Ireland and England, in Cardiff, although it’s worth noting that both teams have a good recent record in the Welsh capital.
Given that it comes in the second half of a long, grinding northern hemisphere season, the Six Nations has often had more than its fair share of injury withdrawals, and the list of absentees this time is dominated by back row players. England’s latest back row find, Sam Underhill, appeared to be the solution at 7, so it is frustrating for Eddie Jones that he has been ruled out the tournament.
Scotland fans will be similarly disappointed that Hamish Watson will not be available, and Scotland will surely miss his energy and drive at the breakdown. But the biggest absentee impact will be felt by Wales, who will go into the tournament without their Lions star Taulupe Faletau. Had he been available, he would have been arguably the best back row player in the Six Nations, and without him, it is going to be harder for Wales to break up the Ireland and England duopoly.
The looming World Cup will inevitably take some of the focus off this year’s Six Nations, but equally, a good performance in this tournament would be a significant confidence boost ahead of Japan.
And we can certainly expect Ireland, now ranked second in the world, to be fully focused on the task in hand. It is hard to find a weakness in the Irish team, whose line speed, ball retention and titanic defence makes them relentless opponents. But an opening game against England exposes them to the risk of being caught cold, and if they do make a slow start, they could be left trying to make up ground. Having to win their final game in Cardiff would be a tough assignment.
Wales could be a threat, and are a tempting proposition at around 11/2 but the absence of Faletau is a blow, and I think England look the better bet. They appeared to be over their problems by the end of 2018, and they can afford to go all out for victory in the opener, knowing that a win in Dublin would massively tilt the tournament in their favour.
Back England to win Six Nations at 4/1
Please note betting odds quoted are correct at time of publication and are subject to change. View the latest rugby betting odds