The 2015 edition of the Six Nations Championship – the annual rugby tournament between England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, and Wales – will get underway on February 6, 2015.
Last year’s winner, Ireland, will try to become the fourth team in history to win back-to-back titles. In the 2014 tournament, Ireland defeated France on the final day of the competition and, in the process, narrowly edged out England for the overall title on point differential. The win was just the second ever for Ireland in the six-team tournament.
Despite winning the last tournament – and coming in with the highest World Rugby Ranking of the six teams – the Irish are not favored to repeat. England currently leads the pack at 8/5, even though they haven’t won the tournament since 2011. Ireland is a close second in the odds at 11/6 and Wales rounds out the top three at 7/2. (Scroll to the bottom for the full odds list.)
The Italians are the odds-on favorite (2/5) to take home the Wooden Spoon (the imaginary award bestowed on the last-place team). Italy has won the dubious honor ten times in the 15-year history of the tournament.
Though the larger English squad is favored by the oddsmakers, the Irish come in a confident group. “I would look forward to the Six Nations in a pretty positive light based on how we performed last time and how we adapted from the Guinness Series to last year’s Six Nations,” Ireland coach Joe Schmidt told In Touch magazine.
Schmidt recognizes that selecting his team will involve some difficult decisions. “There is some quiet confidence there and probably some guys who are going to come back into the reckoning and make it competitive, give us some tough decisions,” said the coach.
Recent struggles notwithstanding, England has historically fared well at the tournament, winning 21 titles (counting both Six Nations tournaments and its predecessor, the Five Nations, which included all of the same teams except Italy). Wales is next with 19 wins combined, and France is third with 17. Ireland won two Five Nations titles before winning its second Six Nations trophy last year. Scotland took home the Five Nations title five times, but, like newcomer Italy, has yet to win the current six-team incarnation.
Wales was the last team to win the tournament in consecutive years (2012 and 2013). This year, Wales can join England and France as the only teams to win three in four years.
The 2015 tournament will start with Wales hosting England in Cardiff on February 6, and conclude with France visiting London on March 21. England travels to Dublin on March 1 for a much anticipated match against Ireland.
With its recent success on the pitch, Ireland has moved up to third in the World Rugby Rankings, trailing only New Zealand and South Africa. But coach Schmidt knows that rankings mean nothing when it comes to the Six Nations. “You don’t win anything for third place in the rankings,” said the coach (not even top-spot in the odds).
Rugby Six Nations Championship Odds:
(Photo credit: By Conor Lawless from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, United Kingdom (Tower) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)