Welcome back to the blog folks. This week we have three 6 Nations clashes on the docket, so let’s dig in.
The NAP this weekend is the Over 51 points in the Wales v Italy clash. For starters, we should have perfect weather in Cardiff, with the roof on standby if necessary. Second, we have a tournament with the most free-flowing rugby in over a decade. As rugby analyst Simon Gleave noted there have been 24 tries scored in this year’s 6 Nations matches which did not involve Italy, which if it continued, would be the most tries in the tournament by the Five Nations since 2006.
So we have the macro trends and conditions on our side, and I also like the way this game sets up.
Italy, while not included in the stats above, are also joining in the try party, playing the most expansive game they ever have. It is without doubt a long-term tactic, acknowledging that Italy were never going to really improve and contend by sticking to the ‘stick it up the jumper’ routine.
However, that long-term plan comes with short-term pain, as Italy have been shipping a lot of points, this year, albeit while scoring some of their own. Their games in 2018 have seen 61, 75 and 51 points.
The game against France is the lowest there, and that was in part because France were incredibly profligate, averaging just 2.15 points per trip to the Italian 22, compared to 3.83 for England and 5.6 for Ireland. Expect Wales to be nearer the second two teams in terms of efficiency, especially considering they scored three tries from their three trips to Ireland’s 22 last time out.
Wales, of course, have been pretty prolific all year, scoring 34, 6 then 27. The outlier here is the England game where they missed out on two tries in the corner and were hamstrung by wet and windy conditions. There will be no such issues on Sunday, while Warren Gatland has picked a light, fast and skillful team, with ten changes from the Ireland game. He has also left his two best goal kicker on the bench, suggesting this team will run the ball and go to the corner rather than kicking goals.
As Welsh rugby journalist Mark Orders noted: “Maybe the selection of so many cavaliers at the expense of a few roundheads will backfire. On the other hand, maybe it will come off quite spectacularly. Hold tight: it could be quite a ride”.
In short, this is a high-variance, volatile side, which could lead to some spectacular tries at both ends. I think this total should be 55+, and over 51 is the bet for me.
The second best bet this weekend is France +7.5 . I’ve said before this England team is overrated, having not really put in a great performance since 2016, despite churning out the victories. Well, they were undone in Scotland, and deservedly so with Scotland breaking 16% of English tackles while missing 13% of their own.
The point is not that England are a bad team, but that they can be beaten fair and square on the road by another good team.
And France could be just that, despite the public perception. They are 1-2 this tournament but had every chance to beat both Scotland and Ireland. The Ireland game is a good analogue here – the men in green went off 6-point favourites (are Ireland really 1.5 points worse than England?) and never looked like covering that number before needing the miracle drop goal to win.
The France score against Italy also reflected some poor finishing, as noted above, as their 22 entries – which are more predictive remember – reflected the true balance of the game, with France accounting for 81% of total entries.
The team selections are also interesting here, with Trinh-Duc in at fly-half for Lionel Beauxis – surely an upgrade give the way the old vet was playing. That said, I think the England side is improved as well, with the dynamic Jamie George in for Dylan Hartley, and Anthony Watson finally getting the nod at fullback where he can provide some much needed attacking spark.
Weighing it up though, this spread is a couple of points too high. It’s very very tough to win on the road in the Six Nations, and France have the pack and back-line muscle to keep this close, which is all we need to cash a ticket.
Finally, the Scotland v Ireland game. I have had a bet here, but it isn’t particularly sexy, with Ireland on the match odds at around 1.31. As already noted, Ireland were pretty dominant vs Wales, despite some inefficient finishing and kicking, winning the 22-entry battle 8 to 3.
And it’s simplistic, but this team has won ten in a row, while Scotland have been pretty poor on the road. The Jocks have five wins from their last 11 road games, including two each over Italy and Japan.
It’s also worth noting there have been just two away wins in the Six Nations (non-Italy category) in the last two years. That last-minute Ireland win in France this year, and England pipping Wales last year. It’s just very difficult to go into hostile territory and beat very good teams. I really think this line should be 1.2 or lower, and 1.31 is value, however unsexy it is.
Brad’s Weekend Six Nations Bets:
- Over 51 Wales v Italy
- France +7.5
- Ireland to win v Scotland