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The Betfair Contrarian: Why England won't win the Grand Slam

Owen Farrell is set to miss the game against Italy

"Since the halcyon days of Wilko and Johnson England have averaged 1.8 defeats per tournament in the last nine editions."

Lay Stuart Lancaster’s men for the Grand Slam at 1.63.

Our resident contrarian thinks England will fall short of securing a historic Grand Slam in this year's Six Nations, and here he tells you why...

As the Six Nations rolls towards the penultimate weekend many fans believe an England grand slam is gift-wrapped already after they fended off the French at Twickenham.

However, still standing in the way and hoping to blow some petals off the white rose is a strong Italian outfit and a Welsh side with the championship trophy still within their sights.

After casting his eye over the evidence, the Contrarian has good reason to believe England will have to wait just a little longer for a first slam since 2003.

Laying Stuart Lancaster's men at 1.635/8 is the way forward.

Weaknesses evident against France

England's designs on the slam went perilously close to extinction against the French at Twickenham. Arguably, it was only France's indiscipline and Owen Farrell's accuracy with the boot as a consequence, which saw the home side over the line. Some of England's tackling was straight off the school playing field. Watching a succession of seasoned professionals let Wesley Fofana slip through their fingers as if he was coated in washing up liquid, made for painful viewing. Added to this were some poor set pieces which could have been punished by better sides.

Wales are England's bogey team

A visit to the dragon's lair in the last game is the worst possible fixture for England. Last year's slam champs are England's Six Nations' thorn, having lost to them on no fewer than five occasions in the last nine editions. Three of those defeats have come over the border too. If the Welsh beat Scotland and have a chance of winning the championship in front of a raucous Millennium Stadium crowd, then look out England. Even if they can't win the tournament, preventing England from securing the slam will still be enough motivation to lift the roof off. 

England's loss percentage

Ten years is a long time for a country of England's proud rugby tradition not to have won a grand slam. However, when you delve into the statistics it's no surprise that the last time England completed the feat was in the spring of that glorious World Cup winning year. Since the halcyon days of Wilko and Johnson England have averaged 1.8 defeats per tournament in the last nine editions. Even when they won the championship in 2011, the copybook was blotted against the Irish to prevent grand slam glory in the last game. The loss in Dublin was also the second time in the last three tournaments England have lost the last game.

Owen Farrell is injured for this game at least

England's pin up had to come off against France after injuring his quad muscle and will now miss the Italy game as the fly-half battles to be back for Wales. This strikes a massive blow to the English as Farrell not only represents their own top points scorer but also that of this year's Six Nations with 42. Alongside captain Chris Robshaw the Saracens player has become one of the faces of Lancaster's new dawn and was instrumental in England's record-breaking Autumn win over New Zealand, contributing 17 of the 38 points. 

Italy are capable shock-causers 

If England, minus their best player, perform like they did at times against France then the Italians are more than capable of causing a shock. The Azzurri have already stunned France with a thrilling victory in Rome and have run England to within five points three times since 2008. Under coach Jacques Brunel Italy have rapidly improved, finishing just two points behind Australia in an autumn test and going toe-to-toe with New Zealand for an hour. Led by prop Martin Castrogiovanni they have the strength to unsettle England in the scrum.

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06 March 2013

Six Nations

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