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2020 Six Nations Preview

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Wales v Ireland - Guinness Six Nations - Principality Stadium

The 2020 Six Nations starts with Grand Slam champions Wales hosting Italy at the Principality Stadium on February 1st before concluding with Ireland's trip to the Stade de France to take on Ireland on March 14th.

The Six Nations gets back underway in February with the northern hemisphere’s top sides looking to bounce back from what was, in all honesty, a disappointing World Cup. Of course, this statement should be taken with a pinch of salt following the strong runs of the likes of England and Wales. However, with two European sides in the semi-final, Wales went on to take a hammering at the hands of New Zealand in the bronze medal final, while England we well beaten by South Africa in the final despite being heavily tipped to lift the trophy by most. Of course, these were good runs, but with two sides in the last-four, the fact England and Wales finished second and fourth respectively is disappointing.
Along with this, France were knocked-out by Wales in the quarter-finals following a disappointing tournament, Ireland were hammered by New Zealand in a display of total dominance from the All Blacks, while Scotland were abject as Japan deservedly put them out of the competition, with the side once again failing to get anywhere near the top teams.
So this year, who are the favourites, who are the underdogs, and who should you back in Europe’s biggest rugby tournament?

The Winner

Last year’s Six Nations championship immediately got underway with a major shock as England prevailed in Dublin as they defeated reigning-Grand Slam champions Ireland 32-20 in an outstanding performance that dashed the Irish hopes of doubling up on their triumph whilst also announcing Eddie Jones’ England as well and truly back following an abysmal fifth-placed finish in the 2018 offering of the tournament. This all paved the way for Wales to quietly but confidently build towards a Grand Slam challenge, with this roaring into life the moment Josh Adams collected Dan Biggar’s ambitious cross-field kick to touch down and help secure a 21-13 win over England in front of a rapturous crowd at the Principality Stadium. Subsequent wins over Scotland (18-11) and Ireland (25-7) secured the Grand Slam for Wales in what was a campaign that deserved the success they clinched.

This year though, Wales coach Warren Gatland has stepped down to be replaced by former-Scarlets boss Wayne Pivac, and while the Welsh players and fans will be sad to see Gatland go, the ambitious offensive play that the Scarlets employed under Pivac is something he could try to instil with his new chargers on the biggest stage in Welsh rugby.  For England, this will be a chance for Jones to begin building towards the 2023 World Cup in France, with the fact their foray to second-place was seen as a failure telling of where they feel they should be, with the likes of Owen Farrell and his teammates refusing to wear their silver medals seen as arrogant by some, but it shows the message Jones is instilling in his team that they are not ever satisfied with second-place. Ireland meanwhile will be desperate to bounce back from an awful 2019 that saw them lose their Six Nations crown following a third-placed finish and two losses, while they were also knocked out of the World Cup at the quarter-final stage, with New Zealand hammering them 46-14 in a totally dominant display. As for France, Scotland and Italy, the trio will be hoping to make more of the three wins they picked up between them, but the quality of the top three from last year is such that France, Scotland and Italy have a long way to go to catch up with them.

In this market we feel that England are the team to back. Both Wales and Ireland will be going through some real changes following the departure of their managers, while England look like they are edging towards the same level as New Zealand, which was shown following their sublime win over the All Blacks in the semi-finals. However, there is clearly still someway to go for the side after their loss to the Springboks in the World Cup final. With Jones still on board and England’s group of players young and hungry, we feel that this will be their tournament, and we are even backing them to clinch a Grand Slam in 2020, with Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Tom Curry and co all likely desperate to make up for a heartbreaking campaign in Japan.

Top Try Scorer

While the Rugby World Cup was hugely entertaining one that showcased the very best of the game, the eventual winners of the entire tournament were an outfit that leant more on their defence than they did their attack, with South Africa one of the great defending outfits in world rugby. The Springboks only conceded one try in their three knockout matches in an incredibly tight encounter against Wales. Their effort was one that saw them keep an England side that had torn New Zealand apart with the ball in hand the week before from going over the line, and while they did showcase their supreme attacking ability with two tries in the final, it was their defence that was the cornerstone of their World Cup triumph, with the now world champions in incredible form without the ball.

At the World Cup it was Josh Adams who shone the brightest as far as scoring is concerned with an impressive tally of seven scores across the tournament. His achievement is made even better when taking into account the fact that he went over most often in a Wales team that is not renowned for their attacking ability in the same way as New Zealand and England are, with Adams instead having to showcase an outstanding ability to pick running lines and score in tight corners, with Wales often having to work hard for their scoring opportunities. Adams will likely feature heavily under new coach Pivac and he will surely be given more license to attack under a coach that got the Scarlets playing some really good attacking rugby. Other options in this bracket come in the form of England’s Jonny May, Scotland’s Stuart Hogg and Ireland’s Jacob Stockdale, but we think that this Welsh side may shock one or two with a more open game in the upcoming tournament, and Adams could thrive in this change in tactics.

To Finish Bottom

In recent years this has been a tough one to call, but the quality of the championship has improved to the point where one team in particular has been left in the dust. Italy have finished at the bottom in the last four Six Nations championships in a row, while they have picked up a record 14 wooden spoons, with Scotland a distant second with four last-placed finishes. The Italians may be improving themselves, but the improvement of Scotland has seen their usual wooden spoon rival slip through their grasp as the top five teams in the competition battle for supremacy, leaving Italy to prop up the table. This year they will hope it will be different, but we cannot see anything but another tough campaign for an Italian side that have been left on the wayside by those above them.

Italy To Win The Wooden Spoon (Finish Bottom) Odds TBC 

2020 Six Nations Fixtures

Home Team Date & Time Away Team Venue
Round 1 Wales Saturday, February 1st – 14:15 GMT Italy Principality Stadium
Ireland Saturday, February 1st – 16:45 GMT Scotland Aviva Stadium
France Sunday, February 2nd – 15:00 GMT England Stade de France
Round 2 Ireland Saturday, February 8th – 14:15 GMT Wales Aviva Stadium
Scotland Saturday, February 8th – 16:45 GMT England Murrayfield
France Sunday, February 9th – 15:00 GMT Italy Stade de France
Round 3 Italy Saturday, February 22nd – 14:15 GMT Scotland Stadio Olimpico
Wales Saturday, February 22nd – 16:45 GMT France Principality Stadium
England Sunday, February 23rd – 15:00 GMT Ireland Twickenham Stadium
Round 4 Ireland Saturday, March 7th – 14:15 GMT Italy Aviva Stadium
England Saturday, March 7th – 16:45 GMT Wales Twickenham Stadium
Scotland Sunday, March 8th – 15:00 GMT France Murrayfield
Round 5 Wales Saturday, March 14th – 14:15 GMT Scotland Principality Stadium
Italy Saturday, March 14th – 16:45 GMT England Stadio Olimpico
France Saturday, March 14th – 20:00 GMT Ireland Stade de France

2019 Six Nations Top Try Scorers

1 Jonny May England 6
2 Yoann Huget France 4
=3 Josh Adams Wales 3
Keith Earls Ireland 3
Darcy Graham Scotland 3
Blair Kinghorn Scotland 3
Edoardo Padovani Italy 3
Henry Slade England 3

2019 Six Nations Top Points Scorers

Position Name Team Points Scored
1 Owen Farrell England 59
2 Gareth Anscombe Wales 43
3 Tommaso Allan Italy 34
4 Jonny May England 30
5 Jonathan Sexton Ireland 23
6 Dan Biggar Wales 21
Greig Laidaw Scotland 21
8 Yoann Huget France 20
9 Finn Russell Scotland 17
10 Conor Murray Ireland 16