The week off in the 6N always throws me. Combining that with a Friday night game is just plain unreasonable! The predictions for the last round were acceptable, if not spectacular. The worst was the Ireland-Wales match where a predicted win for Wales by 1-5 was thoroughly humiliated by an Irish win by 26-3. The implications of that match will be widespread; Wales, who didn’t look overly convincing beating the Italians, no longer appear as strong as they did before the tournament started, whilst Ireland now have a chance to prove that they can play away as well as at home.
England’s victory over Scotland by 20-0 (falling within the prediction) was no surprise, but the sheer atrocious nature of the Scottish performance was. I expected a 30-10 sort of win, but no points, no real danger of points and all on a pitch that was a disgrace to international sport. Yes, I know Scotland had problems with worms etc. But that pitch was not up to standard for international rugby, and the game should have been moved to England. The round four game at home to France should also be moved as combining a dreadful team and a dreadful pitch calls into question Scotland’s very presence in the Six Nations. As I have said for some time, the bottom 6N team should play the ‘holders’ of the European Nations Cup for the final 6N place (in a home and away play-off). Scotland would, I am sure, beat Georgia, but the Georgians deserve a chance to see how far off they are from the top table of international rugby, and shouldn’t be denied that chance due a historical glories.
France’s 30-10 victory over Italy was by a wider margin than predicted, but it was not the most commanding of performances. But what France have done is ensure that they made the most of their opening two home matches (as did Ireland), and they are still in with a chance.
As for this week, I had hoped for more data (or time to analyse data), but made a mess of that by forgetting about the Friday game. So the analysis will be more of the heart than of the head.
That pesky Friday game sees Wales host France in what will probably be the game of the weekend. Wales will certainly be determined to return to winning ways after the Ireland debacle, but that will be difficult with a number of injuries taking their toll and resulting in one of the best wingers in the world having to fill in as centre for the game. France’s injury woes have abated during the week off, but they will know that despite the two victories the team has not yet performed to the level it will probably need to for maximum points this evening. The lack of form, injuries, out of form players (even if dropped) and out of position players will, I fear, be too much for Wales in the face of a very solid French team – against almost any other 6N team the home advantage would be enough to compensate, but not this time. Add to that the penalty count thus far and it all just favours France. Bookmakers have Wales 2 point favourites, but that is effectively an even match up. I don’t see a margin such as that enjoyed (or suffered) by these two teams last time out, and maybe a match odds bet would be better. On that score, the match odds of 2.30 are better than the handicap odds of 2.00 – the spread is only 2 points which is less than a single score; the chances of France losing by 1 point are just too small.
Italy-Scotland is likely to be the battle for the Wooden Spoon, and for that reason alone it would be a vital game for both teams. Italy performed well with no real reward in their two opening games away from home, and history shows the Italians to be a difficult team to beat in Rome. Scotland desperately need a good performance at least (a win would be nice) after the lows of two weeks ago. Another capitulation could have dire consequences for the future of the very game in a country with effectively only two club teams. The form and home advantage will make the difference here; a closer game that Italy will win.
England at home to Ireland will be a crunching game, although it may not be pretty. Ireland may have 2 wins to England’s 1, but arguably the overall performances of England have been better (Ireland seemed very flat in their opening match against Scotland). England have dominated possession but haven’t turned that into points as effectively as Ireland, and the Irish are the 3 point kings of the 6N at the moment. Bookmakers have England as the 4 point favourites here, but I find it very difficult to call. There certainly isn’t enough difference to warrant a bet on fixed odds (as always, in-play the exchange markets are likely to offer far more opportunities).
Overall my previous ‘prediction’ (with 0 confidence) was Fra-Wal-Eng-Ire-Ita-Sco. I would have to change that to Fra-(Eng-Ire)-Wal-Ita-Sco, but England and Ireland are so close it is difficult to call; I am going with England in what I am sure is a demonstration of complete bias!
So to summarise:
- Wales – France
- Result: France to win (if pushed, by 6-10 which is odds of 7.00, but I wouldn’t back it)
- Bet: France to win (no handicap) at 2.30
- Italy – Scotland
- Result: Italy to win by 11-15 at 7.50
- Bet: Tie-Italy for the HT-FT market, at 17.00 just seems to call out in a game where 0-0 is quite possible after 40m
- Result: England to win (if pushed I would have to say by 1-5, but even at 5.00 it is too close to justify a tip)
- Bet: Over 43 points at 2.70 on the 3-way total (alternative) at Bet365. Failing that, the simple 3-way total odds of 2.05 for Over 39 would do.