Six Nations

Six Nations Tips: Ireland hold edge over champions France in race for title

Ireland fly-half Jonny Sexton
Jonny Sexton can lead Ireland to another Six Nations triumph

This season's Six Nations carries extra weight with the World Cup later this year and Ireland are fancied to put down a marker...

  • Top-ranked Ireland look team to beat

  • France bid to defend title ahead of World Cup

  • All change for England under Borthwick


Ireland worthy favourites for title

This season's eagerly anticipated Six Nations has no shortage of plot lines with the countdown well underway to the autumn World Cup in France. The chance to put down a major marker for the sport's showpiece event is at stake but winning the Six Nations is the immediate objective. France landed the grand slam last season but Les Bleus may fall short of a successful defence.

Ireland were pipped to the title last season after losing a tight match in Paris but the world's top ranked team could avenge the outcome this year.

Crucially, Ireland will have home advantage this time and their relentless physicality could prove too much for France in Dublin.

If Ireland can navigate their opener in Wales, the team will be well placed to reclaim the title with home matches against France and England to come.

Andy Farrell has developed this Ireland team by enhancing their attacking game and building on their defensive strength. Ireland's historic series triumph in New Zealand last summer was a huge step which will give them the belief they can finally contend at a World Cup and they are worthy favourites on the Betfair Exchange for the Six Nations.

France bid to maintain winning run

France's focus is on peaking for their home World Cup and their progress under Fabien Galthie and Shaun Edwards suggests this could be their year. Centre Jonathan Danty is one of six squad regulars missing through injury which will test their depth. Trips to Ireland and England will also push them to their limits but a team on a 13-match winning run cannot be dismissed lightly.

Back Ireland to finish 1st and France 2nd in the straight forecast

10/3

Ireland look to have the edge in fitness and fixtures this year and the straight forecast offers potential value. Backing Ireland to finish top and France to take second spot appeals at 10/3.

Another bet well worth taking is to back Ireland to be the top tryscoring team at 6/4. Despite missing out on the title last season, Ireland scored the most tries with 24 which was seven more than next best France managed. With confidence soaring after a stunning 2022, Ireland can lead the way again as prolific tryscorers during this competition.

Back Ireland to be the top tryscoring team

6/4

England ready for fresh start

It is all change at Twickenham with Eddie Jones axed after a miserable end to last year. Steve Borthwick is the new man in charge of England but expectations have been adjusted to compensate for the team's recent struggles.

England may be third favourites but they are considered some way short of market leaders Ireland and France.

borthwick.jpg

The former Leicester head coach must find a way to reignite this England team and give them the belief and confidence which helped them reach the 2019 World Cup final. Owen Farrell has been backed to lead the team and Borthwick will expect to make an impact by lifting the players after a turbulent run during Jones' final months.

Progress can be expected but Borthwick will do extremely well to instigate a dramatic overhaul in time for the Six Nations after his arrival in December. Home games against Scotland and Italy gives England a chance to build momentum before a tough finish to the competition but third place is worth a bet as the most likely outcome.

Back England to finish third

2/1

Gatland back to revive Wales

Warren Gatland is back in charge of Wales after replacing Wayne Pivac and the former British & Irish Lions coach could help inspire a resurgence.

Wales were dismal last season and suffered the ignominy of defeat at home to Italy.

Three grand slams during his 12-year tenure at Wales is an exceptional record but Gatland may not be able to mastermind an instant reaction this time, with a decent run at the World Cup arguably a more realistic prospect.

Scotland finished fourth last season and Gregor Townsend, whose contract ends this year, will be hoping to lead his team to some notable scalps. An opening win over England would be a significant statement but Scotland's lack of consistency has been a notable stumbling block during Townsend's tenure.

Italy head into this season's competition with optimism after their stunning upset against Wales. A first victory over Australia in November confirmed their progress and Italy's best chance of a win falls in the closing two rounds at home to Wales and away to Scotland. Another shock should not be ruled out but it still may not be enough to avoid an eighth successive wooden spoon.

Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

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