Mon, Feb 5, 9:57am by Staff Writer
A thrilling first weekend of the Six Nations saw the best of the northern hemisphere in action. England are looking for an unprecedented three tournament victories in a row with everyone out to stop them.
Eddie Jones’ England continued their fine form with victory over Italy in Rome, extending their unbeaten run against the Italians. A favourites tag for the Six Nations can often weigh heavy on a side’s shoulders and it appeared that way for much of the match as Italy battled to stay in contention for a shock win. England, however, had too much class on show as they ran in seven tries to two.
England return home to Twickenham next week to take on Wales and remain as favourites for the Six Nations title priced at $2.10. With Italy still well off the pace at $501 despite improvements under Conor O’Shea.
A sensational last-minute drop goal from Ireland fly half Johnny Sexton saw them edge past France in Paris. On a wet, cold evening both sides struggled to threaten the try line with just the one try scored. The win is all that matters though for the Irish as they look to upset England and claim the Six Nations. They will be confident of beating Italy next week and edging closer to securing the title at a price of $2.30.
France remain a team in transition after a disappointing 2017 and will need vast improvements in the coming weeks. Although a tournament victory is unlikely at $51, Les Bleus could well help decide where the title ends up if they can spring a surprise against England on the 10th March.
Prior the start of the tournament few pundits were backing Wales to mount a serious challenge for the title. Indeed, it was their opponents this weekend, Scotland, who were receiving all the plaudits.
How wrong they were though, as Wales sensationally hammered Scotland in the opening round of the Six Nations. Despite several injury concerns, Warren Gatland’s men scored 34 points and it took until the closing stages of the match for Scotland to register points on the scoreboard. With a defence as solid as that and sublime attack to measure, Wales look like possible outsiders at $7.50. Leigh Halfpenny was in magnificent form and if he can continue that then Wales will be a real threat to England and Ireland’s hopes.
For Scotland, they will need to reassess their 2018 Six Nations. After impressive showings against Australia and New Zealand in the Autumn Internationals, many thought it was time that Scotland would return to be a contender. The manner of the defeat against Wales will have hurt the most, especially how impotent they appeared in attack for much of the match. Their attacking play had been a hope that they could challenge for a first title since the tournament expanded to six sides.
Scotland stand at $67 for a first Six Nations title.
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