France the team to beat
Wales stormed to the Six Nations title last year but France are the favourites for this season's tournament and Les Bleus are worth backing to celebrate an overdue triumph. France have been a great disappointment in the competition, since their last success in 2010, but Fabien Galthie has moulded together a young squad primed for a huge challenge this year.
France ended 2021 with a flourish after a 40-25 victory over New Zealand.
Their flamboyant performance was a big marker for this tournament and their chances at next year's home World Cup, with France clinching a first win over the All Blacks since 2009.
France bring momentum and confidence into the competition as they attempt to improve on second-placed finishes over the last two years.
This team are blessed with a combination of pace, power and flair with few apparent weaknesses. Captain Antoine Dupont is one of the outstanding players in the world and his creativity can inspire his teammates. The fixtures play into France's hands with back-to-back opening games in Paris. Home clashes against Ireland and England also gives them an advantage which could propel them to the trophy.
England must overcome injury setbacks
England produced a dismal fifth-placed finish last year but Eddie Jones' side are expected to be much more competitive this season. Their autumn internationals offered optimism for the Six Nations with England overcoming world champions South Africa at Twickenham. The introduction of the hugely talented fly-half Marcus Smith, alongside promising prospects such as Max Malins and Freddie Steward, presents an exciting group of players that could make a big impact in this tournament.
There are concerns, however, facing England with Owen Farrell ruled out of the competition with an ankle injury and winger Jonny May set to miss a major chunk of the action. The 2020 champions have the depth to cope but face a challenging fixture list which starts at Murrayfield against Scotland and concludes in Paris. England should be involved in the title picture but, in the betting, preference must be for France.
Ireland building momentum for title tilt
Ireland also ended 2021 in style with Andy Farrell's team overcoming New Zealand 29-20 and crushing Argentina 53-7 in their final game of the year. Consistency of selection during the autumn matches bodes well for Ireland's Six Nations challenge and looking further ahead to the World Cup next year. A virtually full-strength squad is another boost in their bid for their first title since 2018.
Backed up by the experience of Johnny Sexton, the talent of James Ryan, Joey Carbery, Hugo Keenan and Caelan Doris is likely to form the backbone of their team.
An opening home game against the defending champions is a decent opportunity but if Ireland are going to win the title they will do it the hard way with away games at France and England.
Wales face tough defence
Wales were a revelation last season as they won the championship but their chances of defending the title look slim after being dealt significant blows to their squad over the winter. Their lengthy injury list includes captain Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau, Josh Navidi, Dan Lydiate, George North and Leigh Halfpenny.
Head coach Wayne Pivac has an uphill task and it would be an exceptional feat if he can lead them back-to-back Six Nations triumphs.
Scotland must find home form
Scotland finished fourth last year despite outstanding wins in England and France. Gregor Townsend's side were held back by narrow home defeats against Wales and Ireland. Scotland need to rediscover their winning touch at Murrayfield if they are to compete at the top. Expect them to be competitive, as Scotland could pull off a surprise win or two, but it is hard to envisage them lasting the course across five matches.
Back France with England or Ireland runner-up
The market has France as 2.66 favourites for the competition but there is a potential route to greater profit by backing the straight forecast.
With Ireland and England looking their closest challengers, it is worth adding them to finish runners-up to France. Each combination is priced at 9/2 and this is preferred to taking short odds on France.
Back Dupont to star in French challenge
Dupont, the World Rugby player of the year, is set to have a huge impact for France and he could be worth backing to be the leading Six Nations tryscorer. The outstanding scrum-half scored three tries in last season's competition which was the joint fourth highest total.
His standing in the game is even higher now and Dupont is capable of improving on last year's scoring tally. Dupont appeals at 12/1 each way which pays out on the five highest scorers.
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