Six Nations

Six Nations Betting Tips: France to topple champions Ireland in heavyweight opener

Damian Penaud playing for Ireland against France
Damian Penaud will be a huge threat for France against Ireland

The Six Nations launches on Friday night with a huge opener and Simon Mail is backing France to overcome Ireland...

  • France look for explosive start

  • Ireland face tough opener

  • England need stylish success

France v Ireland
Friday, 20:00
Live on ITV

France to put World Cup woe behind them

France and Ireland lock horns in a huge opening night showdown in Marseille which could go a long way to determining the Six Nations champions. Both teams must put World Cup disappointment behind them after falling at the quarter-final stage last year. It was a particularly bitter blow for hosts France but they are favourites to reclaim the title this season.

Ireland dominated the competition last year, with Andy Farrell's team storming to the grand slam. Despite this success, they were unable to break their quarter-final barrier at the World Cup after an agonising defeat to New Zealand. This marked Johnny Sexton's final game for Ireland and Jack Crowley has taken over as fly-half with Peter O'Mahony their new captain.

France were unable to live up to the soaring expectations at the home World Cup, with eventual winners South Africa edging a classic in the first knockout stage. Fabien Galthie must manage without star scrum-half Antoine Dupont this season, following his decision to focus on the Olympics. Maxime Lucu takes his place and forms a half-back partnership with Matthieu Jalibert.

Three of the last four clashes between the teams have been won by France and the hosts are fancied to extend this recent run. There are so many potential matchwinners in the France team, such as prolific wing Damian Penaud and centre Jonathan Danty, with Ireland likely to struggle to keep them at bay. France's last seven wins against them have all been by less than 12 points and a narrow opening victory is worth backing at 2.588/5.

Back France to win by 1-12 points @ 2.588/5

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Italy v England
Saturday, 14:15
Live on ITV

England need fast start

England finished third at last year's World Cup but Steve Borthwick's team benefited from a favourable draw and their limited attacking gameplan is unlikely to be enough to win the Six Nations title. Significant progress is the target after a disappointing fourth place last season with just two wins.

george captain.jpg

It is all change for England after Owen Farrell's decision to take a break and his summer move to France, with Jamie George taking the captaincy. Marcus Smith has been ruled out of the start of the tournament through injury, leaving George Ford to resume his role at fly-half. Inside centre Fraser Dingwall and flanker Ethan Roots make their debuts in Rome this weekend.

Italy have been unable to make an impact in recent seasons in the Six Nations. They have propped up the table every year since 2016 and new coach Gonzalo Quesada faces a huge challenge to inspire his players to an upset this year. Paolo and Alessandro Garbisi start a Test together for the first time at fly-half and scrum-half respectively.

England have won every game against Italy, defeating them 31-14 at Twickenham 12 months ago. Another victory looks inevitable but it may not be a rout with Italy under new management and England hardly prolific scorers. Four of the last five meetings have resulted in under 49 points and this appeals again at 11/10.

Back under 48.5 points @ 11/10

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Wales v Scotland
Saturday, 16:45
Live on BBC One

Scotland bid to end Cardiff hoodoo

Wales face Scotland in this weekend's opener with the much-changed hosts in transition under Warren Gatland. His team reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup last year but the odds suggest they have little chance of competing for the Six Nations title. Full-back Cameron Winnett makes his debut but George North misses out through injury.

Scotland failed to progress from a daunting World Cup pool but third place in last year's Six Nations was encouraging and playmaker Finn Russell can help Gregor Townsend's team remain competitive against all their opponents. Kyle Rowe makes his first start at full-back, with Blair Kinghorn ruled out due to injury.

Visitors Scotland are 1.68/13 favourites but this holds little appeal, considering their record of just two wins in the last seven against Wales. Scotland have not won in Cardiff for 22 years, covering their last 11 trips, and there is no guarantee they will end this long wait. Wales may be under the radar but backing them with a four-point handicap advantage is preffered to putting total faith in Scotland.

Back Wales +4 @ [Evens]

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