Six Nations Betting: Gatland's Lions have not lost their bite yet

George North powers over for Wales against France
George North powers over for Wales against France

Wales had their chances of a historic third successive Six Nations title written off after one bad day in Dublin but Ralph Ellis warns against the dangers of making instant judgements.

"Northampton team mate – and England opponent – Luther Burrell describes George North as the new Jonah Lomu and it’s a fair comparison. At the very least Sunday’s game is a 50-50 encounter, making odds of 2.982/1 as black and white an example of value as you could hope to find."

The best selling book might have had 50 Shades of Grey, but the modern media world barely has room for anything between black and white.

The constant demand is to make instant judgements on everything. Brilliant or rubbish, there's nothing in between. Because TV, radio and the internet answer for everybody in double quick time the question: "What happened", in newspapers you have to look at the bigger issue: "What does it mean?"

The result is that sometimes, when the answer is simply that one player or team has just had an off day, you search for a deeper reason for a defeat. And I suspect that is what happened with Wales when their Six Nations campaign began with that calamitous thrashing by Ireland.

Warren Gatland's team had gone into the tournament as the holders, chasing a third successive title. He had a team packed full of British Lions, and the perception was their strength and experience of coming through the historic winter tour would make them far too powerful for the other Northern Hemisphere sides.

By the time Chris Henry and Paddy Jackson had clattered over for tries, and Johnny Sexton's kicking had done more damage, everyone had come to a different conclusion. Far from being strengthened by their experiences Down Under during the summer, the Welsh pack of Lions were actually pretty much exhausted and were playing more like feeble pussy cats.

That theory clearly still holds sway, because I can't see any other reason why Gatland's team should be as long a price as 2.982/1 to win at Twickenham on Sunday afternoon. In turn they look cracking value at 5.79/2 to be the tournament's outright winner.

England's performance in beating Ireland was impressive, of course. It suggested that Stuart Lancaster's side have reached a new stage in their development towards the World Cup where they are capable of digging a win out of a tight game, rather than merely being pleased at a promising performance. But there we go again, making a sweeping statement on the basis of one game. Wind the clock back only to the start of February and the same side were not streetwise enough to hang on to a lead in France.

The truth is somewhere in between.  Sorry about that, but a shade of grey.  England are still very much a work in progress. Lancaster has revamped his team around young talent. They weren't ruthless enough to score the absolute mountain of points that their dominance of a poor Scotland team should have created, and while winning against Ireland was a plus, they could just as easily have been beaten.

Wales will go to Twickenham on Sunday with nothing to make them afraid. The memory of last March when they massacred Lancaster's side 30-3 at The Millenium Stadium will be enough to see to that. And the awesome running power of George North gives them a weapon that can hurt any team in the world.

His Northampton team mate - and England opponent - Luther Burrell describes North as the new Jonah Lomu and it's a fair comparison. At the very least it makes Sunday's game a 50-50 encounter, making odds of 2.982/1 as black and white an example of value as you could hope to find.

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