A superb opening weekend win in the Six Nations for England over last years Grand Slam winners Ireland means they are now odds on favourites to win the tournament. Wales produced a remarkable comeback against an error-prone Francen and Scotland did exactly as everybody expected in beating Italy.
There are sure to be many more twists, turns and upsets and the series progresses but Ireland now look up against it to retain their crown and England’s trip to Wales on Feb 23rd could prove pivotal in deciding this years champion.
The betting markets look radically different after the first round, with England and Wales the big market movers. We take a look back at the opening games and the latest odds on offer.
England are new favourites after inflicting Ireland's first Six Nations home loss for six years. Eddie Jones's side went into the match at the Aviva Stadium as underdogs but outplayed their opponents to produce a win reminiscent of a Clive Woodward-led side in 2003. England went on to beat Australia in the World Cup final that year and this side has been backed to do similar - they are now into 5/1 to win in Japan. Deserving favourite for the Six Nations after a stunning win in their opening match, England will fancy their chances of beating France at Twickenham this weekend before facing a tough task in the Millennium Stadium against Wales. An injury to Mario Itoje will be a blow for the remainder of the tournament but England have strength in depth and are now just 13/8 for the Grand Slam.
Warren Gatland's side produced a record breaking performance in Paris, becoming the first team in Six Nations history to come back from a 16-point deficit to win. The win against France was also Wales's tenth win in a row, which leaves them just one victory from equalling the Welsh side of 1910. That next win will surely come in Rome this weekend, which tantalisingly raises the prospect of Wales beating that record against England later this month. Wales are now England's biggest challengers for Six Nations glory according to the betting market but were essentially gifted the victory by France. Gatland, though, is right that his side have seemingly “forgotten how to lose” and there will be plenty of punters happy to back Wales, given that their two biggest tests against England and Ireland come at home
A disappointing defeat at home to England has left Ireland with an uphill task to retain their Six Nations Crown. The Six Nations is now out of Ireland's hands with their ambition of retaining the title now dependent on other teams losing, but there is still plenty to play for. However, three of Ireland's final four matches are away from home, with trips to Scotland, Italy and Wales still to come and Schmidt has some selection headaches with CJ Stander joining Keith Earls and Devin Toner on the injury list. With Ireland perhaps finding the pressure of favouritism difficult to deal with, Schmidt will be hoping his side displays more intensity at Murrayfield this weekend.
Scotland looked superb for much of their opening game against Italy at Murrayfield, opening up a 30-point lead before conceding three late tries. With Scotland coach Gregor Townsend committed to playing expansive rugby, Scotland look certain to provide plenty of entertainment in their remaining matches and will be confident of putting in another decent display this weekend at home to Ireland. There are plenty of Scottish rugby fans harbouring hopes of a Six Nations challenge this year and they have huge talent among their backs. It's worth remembering that Scotland have beaten Ireland, Wales, England, France, Argentina and Australia at Murrayfield in the last couple of years so it could be trips to Paris and Twickenham that dictate their finishing position.
There is no doubt that France should have beaten Wales in their first Six Nations match but a cocktail of mental fragility and poor execution will have left a bitter taste in the mouth of head coach Jacques Brunel. On the wrong end of a record-breaking Welsh comeback, things do not get easier for France who travel to a resurgent England this weekend. France are poor on their travels and have not won at Twickenham since 2005, while they finish with two away matches against Ireland and Italy, so it's difficult to see them fighting their way back into contention.
The 33-20 scoreline in their loss against Scotland flattered the Italians and they will do well to avoid the wooden spoon.
There were three players who scored more than one try in the opening round of Six Nations fixtures but pre-tournament favourite Jacob Stockdale was not among them. Stockdale was kept tryless by England in the Aviva Stadium and with three away matches to come, it is no surprise that the Irish winger has been deposed as market leader and is now as big as 12/1 to top the tryscorer standings.
The new favourite at 7/2 in this market is Scotland’s Blair Kinghorn who ran in a hat-trick of tries at Murrayfield. However, Scotland have played the weakest team in the Six Nations first and will find it tougher to score against Ireland, Wales, France and England.
Jonny May finished joint-second to Stockdale last year and got off the mark this year with a try at the Aviva Stadium. With England playing the two weakest teams in the group - Italy and France - at Twickenham this season, he could still be a good bet to win this at 5/1. He was 7/1 before the first round of matches. May scored four tries in the Six Nations last season and with 12 of his 18 international tries coming at Twickenham, he should be crossing the try line a few times in the next month or so. May's teammate Henry Slade picked up two tries in Dublin and is 8/1 to come out on top.
George North is clearly Wales's best bet to win this award. He was gifted two tries in a difficult away match in Paris and could make his way to the top of this particular leaderboard this weekend as Wales take on the weakest team in the Six Nations, Italy, in Rome this weekend. North is available to back at 4/1 in this market and should possibly be favourite given that Wales play the so-called weaker teams away from home and take on England and Ireland at the Millennium Stadium.