Six Nations – Round 1 Preview

A new year, a new dawn, but will it be a new story in the quest for European glory in 2020 as the 126th edition of the Guinness Six Nations gets underway this weekend, with three intriguing entrees to whet the appetite for the next month of ferocious clashes.

2019 Grand Slam winners Wales start out their title defence on hallowed home territory at the Principality Stadium in Saturday’s curtain-raiser, before Ireland host Scotland in Dublin later in the afternoon, while last year’s runners-up and Rugby World Cup silver medalists England take a trip to Paris on Sunday for a clash with France.

Wales v Italy
February 1, Principality Stadium
Kick-off: 14:15 (GMT)
Match odds: Wales 1/33 Draw 66/1 Italy 16/1

Reigning kings of Europe Wales begin their title defence on familiar turf as they welcome perennial wooden spoon winners Italy to Cardiff and the Principality Stadium in the opening showdown of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations.

A Grand Slam in 2019 was a profound statement, but a disappointing end to the Rugby World Cup will have left Wales with the bit between their teeth.

Fresh blood is being thrust into the Welsh setup with exhilarating Gloucester wing Louis Rees-Zammit making the cut, alongside Saracens centre Nick Tompkins – encouraging for fans given Jonathan Davies has been ruled out of the competition, while there is also a recall for scrum-half Rhys Webb.

Italy, meanwhile, have little form to speak of, other than wins against lowly Canada and Namibia in the Rugby World Cup, which, as much as incoming head coach Franco Smith may wish to dress it up, is nothing much to write home about.

However, talisman Sergio Parisse – the nation’s most capped player – will be desperate to end his 18-year career on the international stage by taking some serious scalps.

There is only one favourite and one natural outcome to this opening encounter, with Wales destined for a bonus-point victory to kick start their campaign.

Ben’s Prediction: Wales win by 25 points

Coral pick with Harry Aitkenhead: Wales couldn’t of asked for a better start to Wayne Pivac’s first Six Nations campaign and it’s hard to make a case for Italy causing an upset, as the odds show. It wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see Wales cover the -24 handicap.

Ireland v Scotland
February 1, Aviva Stadium
Kick-off: 16:45 (GMT)
Match odds: Ireland 1/7 Draw 33/1 Scotland 5/1

Andy Farrell’s reign as Ireland head coach gets underway with a Saturday afternoon showdown against Celtic rivals Scotland at the Aviva Stadium, in the heart of Dublin’s fair city, in a repeat of the Rugby World Cup group stage match which say the men in green prevail 27-3.

Former cross-code star Farrell – father of England captain Owen – takes over from Joe Schmidt and there is a renewed expectation on the shoulders of the Emerald Isle, who will be expected to regain the silverware they lifted in 2018.

Fly-half Jonathan Sexton has been appointed as captain for the competition, while Ulster No 10 Billy Burns comes into the squad as back up and one of five new faces introduced by Farrell and there is a recall for 67-cap Devin Toner, who was a shock omission when he failed to receive a boarding pass for Japan.

Scotland, though, remain under the tutelage of Gregor Townsend, but start the campaign without their influential playmaker Finn Russell, leaving a dark cloud over the squad.

Racing 92 stand-off Russell was ruled out of the opening fixture after breaking team protocol and it is yet to be confirmed whether the internal dispute will be resolved for the No 10 to return to the fray, but captain Stuart Hogg will be expected to lead the way in a squad which boasts four uncapped players.

Prospects of a Scottish victory are minimal, while Farrell will be desperate to ensure his opening salvo is an impressive triumph, including a bonus-point, in front of the Dublin faithful.

Ben’s Prediction: Ireland win by 18 points

Coral pick with Harry Aitkenhead: Ireland and Scotland both endured disappointing World Cup campaigns and although Ireland are firm favourites to get the win here, it’s definitely not a foregone conclusion. Scotland’s troubles off the field might leave them susceptible to a slow start though but a lot of punters will fancy them with a fourteen point head start.

France v England
February 2, Stade de France
Kick-off: 16:00 (CET)
Match odds: France 6/4 Draw 25/1 England 8/15

With the England camp resting under the cloud of Saracens’ relegation from the Gallagher Premiership for breaching salary cap regulations, Eddie Jones will hope to put scorelines back in the headlines as England travel to the Stade de France to face Les Bleus on Sunday afternoon.

England boast an almost full contingent, apart from the major loss of back-row bulldozer Billy Vunipola, leaving a gap for rising stars Tom Curry and Sam Underhill to come to the fore.

Entering the European competition as the highest ranked side, third in the word standings, England are bookmakers favourites and will want to go one further then their fall at the final hurdle in the World Cup and return to lifting silverware for the first time since the 2017 edition of Six Nations.

Each time we come around to the Six Nations pundits chin-stroke over French prospects and yet again, it will be a tale of the unknown as head coach Fabien Galthie brings 19 uncapped players into his 42-man squad.

Some big names who have featured in recent years have been axed from the squad, with the likes of Camille Lopez, Yohan Huget, Maxime Machenaud and Ribah Slimani all omitted, leaving almost everyone guessing which France will turn up on the day.

Le Crunch always throws up some exciting and tantilising play, but England will be fully expecting to come out on top in what you would anticipate to be a free-flowing encounter.

Ben’s Prediction: England win by 22 points

Coral pick with Harry Aitkenhead: On paper this is the closest game of the opening window and an experimental England squad could well be the victims of a shock result if they don’t get it right. France can be formidable at home but punters are still confident England will get the job done and they’re odds on to get off to a winning start.

Related Posts

This website is strictly for over 18’s. If you do have any concerns about gambling please contact GambleAware
© 2023 The Gambling Times. All rights reserved.