Thu, Dec 14, 10:30am by Staff Writer
With international rugby over for 2017, all eyes will return to European domestic rugby over the coming months. The Six Nations is, however, only seven weeks away, when the top nations in the northern hemisphere come together in one of the oldest and most prestigious tournaments in world rugby.
The early prices give current Six Nations Champions, England, the edge at $1.80. Having won back to back tournaments under Eddie Jones’ tutelage following a dismal 2015 Rugby World Cup, they are a side people are beginning to believe can compete with the dominance of the All Blacks. A third tournament victory in a row would be an incredible achievement, especially as injuries continue to plague the squad at present. Their strength in depth was tested during the recent November Test wins over Australia, Argentina, and Samoa. The growing experienced player pool could be crucial next year.
Ireland denied England a famous second Grand Slam in 2017 with a stunning win in Dublin. Since then they appear to have gone from strength to strength. Most notably they crushed South Africa, 38-3, keeping the southern hemisphere heavyweights try less. Ireland have begun to bring in a new wave of talent from the provinces that will give them hope for 2018. They stand at $3.40.
Both England and Ireland stand well ahead of the competition for the 2018 Six Nations. Although in a tournament with so much passion and the dominance of a home crowd, anything can happen between these rivalries.
Scotland and Wales stand at $11 as they go in search of the title. It would be Wales’ first Six Nations success since 2013, with them struggling to stamp their authority on the tournament in recent years. Much like England, they will be tested in their squad depth with key injuries to players including star back row Taulupe Faletau. His knee injury could keep him out of the Six Nations, a huge blow to Wales’ chances.
Meanwhile, Scotland will be hoping for a first tournament win since the expansion to six teams. Having won the final Five Nations in 1999, they have not been able to challenge the top sides. Hope springs eternal, however, for Scotland and impressive performances in 2017 including wins home and away over a resurgent Australian side, bodes well for the future. They demolished Australia in Edinburgh and pushed the All Blacks all the way. One off performances against the best sides in the world won’t mean very much though if they can’t get the consistency to compete in the Six Nations.
France did not have the greatest 2017, with an abject performance on their South African tour in June and disappointing results in the November Tests. In the Six Nations they pushed eventual winners England all the way but failed to compete at the highest level throughout. Priced at $12, they are certainly not out of the running, unpredictably is what French rugby does best.
The wooden spoon has unfortunately become synonymous with Italy. In the last two tournaments they have finished bottom of the pile and their hopes for 2018 don’t appear much better. They are priced at $501 to win the tournament. Whilst they have provided a few shock victories over the years, Italy has never really been able to challenge for the title.
In 2018 a lot of attention will start to drift to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, so sides will have begun preparations. The winner of the Six Nations can go a long way to putting themselves on the right track for the future.
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