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6 Nations 2015 tips

February 3rd, 2015

The 2015 RBS 6 Nations gets under way on Friday with defending champions Ireland once again looking like the team to beat. Inspired by Brian O'Driscoll in his farewell season, Ireland won four of their five games to take the title ahead of England, who beat them 13-10 in a tense tussle at Twickenham.

O'Driscoll's retirement could have led to a troublesome transition for the Irish, but they continued their rich vein of form through the autumn internationals and they approach this year's tournament having won their last seven Test matches and nine of the last 10. Victories over South Africa and Australia in Dublin have been the highlights, alongside the title clinching win over France in Paris in March.

If Ireland have continued to show their mettle, England have gone through a difficult period which has included a six-match losing streak. Victory over Samoa in November was only to be expected, but the 26-17 win over Australia was a welcome morale-booster. However, Stuart Lancaster's side come into this championship with much to prove and with a host of injury concerns making things all the more difficult.

Ireland and England are joint title favourites, with both countries available at odds of 2/1 - only Stan James offer the Irish at that price while Bet365, Sky Bet, BetVictor, Paddy Power, Stan James and William Hill all go 2/1 about England.

Despite playing only two of their five matches at home, Ireland remain the better of the two options. Visits to Italy and Scotland should end in success, while they have home advantage in what could prove to be the pivotal match once again, as England visit the Aviva Stadium on March 1st. England have won the last four meetings of the two nations, and the last two in Dublin, but Ireland look ready to end that sequence.

Momentum is building for the men in green, who lost only one match in 2014 and head towards the World Cup ranked as the world’s third best team. It’s been some turnaround since Joe Schmidt took charge of a team who finished fifth in the 2013 championship in September of that year.

Ireland have also scored the most tries in two of the last three 6 Nations Championships - including when they finished third in 2012 - and odds of 4/1 with Paddy Power on them doing so again also look generous (just 5/2 with William Hill).

England, who play three times at Twickenham, also face a daunting trip to Cardiff to take on a settled Welsh side in their opening fixture on Friday, where the hosts are favourites to get their campaign off to a winning start. By contrast, Ireland begin in Rome, and it is more likely that Schmidt's men will be the shorter price in the outright betting by Sunday evening.

By the end of last season's tournament, which closed with four successive wins, England's development ahead of this year's World Cup looked to be on course, but a summer of setbacks has given way to a winter beset by injuries, with fly-half Owen Farrell the latest to be ruled out for the duration of the 6 Nations, joining an injury list that includes Manu Tuilagi, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Ben Morgan, Ben Foden and Ed Slater, with various other fitness concerns ahead of the first match.

Wales, who fought bravely in unfortunate defeats against Australia and South Africa before beating the Springboks 12-6 in their most recent Test, look a better bet than England at odds of 3/1 across the board, particularly as they are now as short as 8/15 to beat the English on Friday - as we suggested last week when they were a 4/5 shot.

The last time England visited Cardiff two years ago they were hammered 30-3 and Wales coach Warren Gatland’s tactic of naming his line-up two days ahead of schedule – a XV featuring just two changes – suggests the hosts are confident of another success.

France, who have claimed the title only once in the last seven years and not since 2010, are a 6/1 chance as they look to overcome the inconsistency which has dogged them in recent years. Only four of their last 13 Tests against their 6 Nations rivals have ended in victory and with trips to Dublin and Twickenham ahead they will struggle to take the honours this year.

Scotland have made great strides under Vern Cotter and will be confident they can play a part in deciding the outcome of the championship, even if they are rightly 33/1 outsiders for the title. Their win over Argentina at Murrayfield in November was followed by an eight-point defeat to world champions New Zealand when few would have expected them to run the All Blacks close. The Scots could make things uncomfortable for Wales when they visit Murrayfield on February 15th and they follow that with a winnable home game against Italy.

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