The Six Nations tournament is the biggest annual rugby event in the Northern Hemisphere, in which six nations (England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, and Wales) compete in a five-match, round-robin format to determine supremacy. The English have dominated the Six Nations the last two years and have evolved into one of the strongest sides in world rugby, but the tournament remains competitive with strong Irish and Scottish squads.
The first matches take place this weekend (Feb. 3-4, 2018) and the competition will wrap on March 17. We’ve broken down some of the outright odds available on Bet365 on January 31, 2018 to help you make informed wagers [Read-up on Bet365’s sportsbook in this fulsome review].
Six Nations Winner
- England: 10/11
- Ireland: 13/8
- Scotland: 9/1
- Wales: 16/1
- France: 20/1
- Italy: 1000/1
Obviously, England are the favorite to win the Six Nations, as they’ve won the last two tournaments and completed the Grand Slam (i.e. won all five matches) in 2016. There are some signs of trouble: James Haskell is suspended for the first two matches, and neither of the preferred 8s will be available due to injury, but the strength of this team remains largely intact.
Ireland have the best chance to challenge England. They won the last game of last year’s tournament and denied England a second consecutive Grand Slam. They’ve also showed good form recently, walloping South Africa in the fall and going on to beat Argentina and Fiji to end the year.
If you ask your dad what a team needs to win the Six Nations, he’ll list all of the things Scotland is lacking. The front row has lost a ton to injuries and is bringing in two uncapped players, including a 21-year-old to serve as tighthead prop. Their star player is an attacking fullback. It’s not the traditional recipe for success, and they’ll struggle to get a win off England or Ireland.
Similarly plagued are the Welsh contingent, who won’t bring a capped halfback to the tournament. Those are, to say the least, important positions, especially when playing nominally superior sides. Both wings are hurt, which further cuts into the Welsh side’s ability to score tries with the back line.
France and Italy are, at best, outside shots. Italy are a true longshot and have “won” the dreaded Wooden Spoon (i.e. lost all five matches) in seven of the last ten years. France are trying to recover from a period of losing, and come to the tournament with a young squad and an entirely new staff. Success in the Six Nations for these teams must be in relative terms.
Betting Tip: you don’t get any value with England at 10/11, but if you like Ireland’s chances head-to-head with England, 13/8 is a good price.
2018 Grand Slam Odds
- No Grand Slam Winner: 1/1
- England: 11/5
- Ireland: 10/3
- Scotland: 22/1
- Wales: 50/1
- France: 80/1
- Italy: 2500/1
The only realistic bet to win the grand slam here is England, so let’s dig into their chances. Their biggest hurdle is their away match with Ireland: Ireland are without a doubt the second-strongest side in this tournament, and winning there is difficult for any team in the world. Listing 11/5 odds for something that has happened three times in this decade is actually not bad value, particularly when England are this heavily favored, accomplished the feat two years ago, and came so close last time.
“No Grand Slam Winner” at even odds is decent value, historically. Since 1883, there have only been 37 Grand Slams, but there have been five in the last ten years and England certainly seem ready for another.
Betting Tip: England at 11/5 is the only bet with any value here. Grand Slams have become more and more common recently and these odds undervalue England.
- Jonny May (England): 8/1
- Keith Earls (Ireland): 10/1
- Steffan Evans (Wales): 11/1
- Anthony Watson (England): 11/1
- Jacob Stockdale (Ireland): 12/1
- Stuart Hogg (Scotland): 14/1
- Jonathan Joseph (England): 14/1
Jonny May scored eight tries last year and is the fastest player and top scorer on the best team in the tournament. Keith Earls is a great player, but didn’t score quite as much as May in last year’s tournament and shares a position with Jacob Stockdale, another proficient wing. Stuart Hogg is a great scorer, but coming from the fullback position makes racking up big numbers more difficult, unless Scotland commits him to that role.
Betting Tip: Jonny May at 8/1 is by far the best pick, and it’s interesting that he’s listed so long.
Players to Watch
The injury crisis in Scotland has elevated some interesting players to starting positions in the front row. None are more interesting than Jamie Bhatti, who played junior rugby for Scotland but spent two years working in a slaughterhouse and applying for the police force. In the former position, he estimates that he has killed 100,000 cows. It’s a rags-to-rugby-riches story that you’ll hear a lot about, and it will be interesting to see how that experience translates to the Six Nations.
Jacob Stockdale, the Irish winger who made his debut against South Africa in the fall, has a nose for the try line. He scored three times in his first two appearances (against good teams to boot) and is just 21 years old. A talent to watch, certainly.
Josh Adams is just 20 years old but leads the Premiership in tries scored, so he’s not only a young talent to watch but an outside shot to lead in try scoring. For Wales to have any success, Adams will have to continue his upward trajectory.