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I think it has to be England again following on from last year. I wouldn’t say they were particularly convincing across last year’s Championship or the Autumn Nations Cup at the end of the year, but a combination of a kind fixture schedule and weakened opposition means they have to be clear favourites.
Their two easiest opponents in Scotland and Italy are both at home to start off allowing them to build up a bit of momentum, and I think that’s particularly important this year with a large contingent of their Saracens based players not having played competitively since the beginning of December. Those two games will almost act as a warm-up before the tougher challenges that lie ahead.
They may already be too short for some to back outright, but I do see them completing a clean sweep and winning the Grand Slam which is still available at a nice price.
Anyone who has seen Wasps this year will know all about his pace and finishing with six tries already in just eight matches so far this season. Eddie Jones has already come out and talked highly of him when announcing the squad so I think he is definitely one to watch out for if given an opportunity.
Jonny May would be the clear favourite here, and rightly so given his track-record for England, but I think if given the chance Odogwu could represent some great value in the Top English market, especially with each-way paying 3 places. If he gets in for the Italy game, in particular, I think he has the potential to run riot.
I think everyone was a bit underwhelmed with Ireland last year off the back of the disappointment of World Cup at the end of 2019, however I do see signs of optimism going into the is year’s Championship. Johnny Sexton’s fitness will be key but if he’s fit and with a forward line that stands up to anyone’s, I give Ireland a real chance.
Wales away on the opening day will set the tone but should they come through that, I could well see a scenario where Ireland and England go head-to-head in the last round of fixtures with both the Championship and Grand Slam on the line. I do think they probably just fall short but their current price to win it may well look big come the end of the Championship.
Another one just back from injury who has timed his return to perfection. I thought he looked very sharp with ball in hand against Munster the other weekend and if he gets a starting role on the wing he could do real damage.
France were definitely the most impressive team last year, and probably would have won had they not lost their discipline away to Scotland. On top of that, a vastly understrength side were moments away from winning the Autumn Nations Cup at Twickenham. However, it’s unfortunate that the fixture schedule doesn’t fall kindly to them this year with trips to both Dublin and London as tough as it gets, and France not being the greatest on the road at the best of times. Add in the fact that two of their star performers in Ntamack and Vakatawa are missing and I think they will just fall short.
Like Odogwu for England, I’m looking further down the market for potential value and Villiere really stands out. He has continued his form for Toulon following on from his debut try for France against Italy in the Autumn, bagging himself a hat-trick against Clermont recently in the Top 14. Virimi Vakatawa’s injury means there could well be a reshuffle to France’s backline leaving an open vacancy for Villiere on the wing.
Scotland are coming in with a bit of momentum having won four of their six matches at the end of last year, boosted by the return of Finn Russell. I think they have the potential to cause a shock and will be eyeing up the home games against Wales and Ireland to get some wins on the board. They do have two tough away trips to London and Paris but I think fourth should again be a realistic target for them with Italy to come in the last round of fixtures.
With Fraser Brown and Stuart McInally ruled out through injury, Turner is likely to be first-choice Hooker and has an impressive try-scoring record with six in just 12 tests. Scotland’s rolling maul stood out at the back end of last year so expect to see Turner pick off the back ready to grab any chance that comes his way.
This would probably be the least optimistic Welsh fans have been about their team going into a Six Nations Championship. A fifth place finish last year and an underwhelming Autumn Nations Cup campaign have kept expectations low, and I can’t see Wales challenging at the top in this year’s tournament.
Of the games they won last year, two came against Italy and the other was a hard-fought win over Georgia. I expect them to raise their game for the opening round at home to Ireland but it could be a long tournament for them if they get off to a poor start there.
Still only 19, Rees-Zammit is one of the few bright sparks breaking through for Wales and is one the fans can be optimistic about. He already has 15 tries in just 23 professional appearances and is one of the fastest wingers around. He scored his first Welsh try back in November against Georgia and could be in contention for a starting berth this time around.
Winless in the Championship since 2015, Italy are set for another tough campaign with two key members of their squad in Matteo Minozzi and Jake Polledri both missing. It does seem like the gap between themselves and the rest is getting bigger rather than smaller and it’s hard to see Italy ending their winless run in this year’s Championship. They look destined to end with the wooden spoon once again.
Ioane has just recently qualified for Italy on residency grounds having spent the last three seasons at Benetton after moving over from Australia. His try scoring record has been impressive, averaging one every other game in the Pro 14 and he could be vital to Italy’s chances of ending that long barren run.
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