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Green or blue feel for our Tipster

01st February 2012 11:01

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Sean OBrien Ireland v France World Cup warm-up Aug 2011

Ireland: Fourth favourites?!

Brace yourself for five rounds of big games where national pride and hurt goes on the line in what our Tipster hopes will be a profitable two months.

There is little doubt that RWC events have left a rather sour taste in the mouth of some outfits - Scotland with England is one that jumps out.

Furthermore, Ireland will feel they have unfinished business when they meet Wales for what has turned out to be a fitting opening week of clashes.

Such is the magnitude of the showdowns that we simply had to get Ben Hathaway back in the mix and he now gives us the rugby betting lowdown.

So without further ado, let's see where Ben is putting his money. Any questions or comments for the man? Twitter: @TheHathawayFund.

Click here to compare odds on Rugby Union with Oddschecker.com!

Six Nations

This Six Nations sees a lot of teams in transition: England, France and Italy have new coaches and a host of new players. Wales could struggle to match the heights achieved during Rugby World Cup 2011, and Scotland, well Scotland just want to score some tries. This leaves Ireland, missing the talismanic Brian O'Driscoll but blessed with quality and experience in almost every position. If they can overcome Wales in Round One, will the Six Nations boil down to a titanic struggle in Paris between Les Bleus et Les Verts? Peut-être.

The bookmakers see it slightly differently. France are their standout favourites, with 2.7 being offered on exchange. Next come Wales, justifiably perhaps given their RWC at 4.4, then the Red Rose at 5.5, Ireland at 5.7, Scotland at 29.0 while Italy are written off at 390.

First impressions. Ireland are the standout value here. I see them as second favourites and only this as they have to go to Paris. Potential value in Scotland perhaps. I'd almost be tempted by the borderline absurd price on offer for Italy if they didn't have the opener in France, where they could concede a few. Trends: oppose England on outrights, back Italy and Scotland in home games on handicap. Taking a good position on Ireland at a huge 5.7.

Wales

I am talking them down because of injuries. Taking eight players out of the World Cup side, including Rhys Priestland and Jamie Roberts, and any side will struggle against Ireland. Dan Lydiate and Gethin Jenkins are two fine players missing too, and I'd question whether they can match what they achieved in New Zealand. That been said, their defence is usually solid and they will be hard to beat, but I think both Ireland and France will be able to do so.

England

Where do you start here? I remain convinced that until England establish a balanced pack with a genuine openside that has pace to arrive at the breakdown they will struggle. Come the end of their game at Murrayfield, I can see them having three blindsides on the pitch again. Elsewhere, the front-row looks weak, bearing in mind the age of the potential starters, all could be world beaters in a few seasons but I don't think England have a top class front rower at present. England are consistently overbacked. They could fire but with so many players with no or very few caps in both the pack and backs, they may well struggle.

France

Only France could lose to Italy and Tonga and then almost win a World Cup final. To have players effectively ignore the coach, making him almost irrelevant, is again something phenomenally French. Now, under Philippe Saint-Andre, with a new midfield tyro in Wesley Fofana, a very strong set-piece, and potentially the best back-row in world rugby when they click, is the Six Nations theirs to lose? I'd say yes. Three home games: Italy "should" be a formality, and I think they will have too much for England. Ireland will be a tough game, admittedly, and the French will view visits to Murrayfield and the Millennium Stadium with equal unease. If they play well, they could win most of their games by beating handicap, within reason. But then again, this is a French rugby team, and usually the only time I like backing them is when they are underdogs. Also, if they can play to the best of their abilities, then midfield duo Fofana and Aurelien Rougerie will take some stopping. I believe only Ireland can deny them, unless they crumble in Cardiff - which they have done before.

Scotland

Not as bad as people think. 29.0 is just a huge price. Take a tiny nibble at it. If they overcome England, they'll come in drastically, and I don't see them much worse than even money to do so. Their pack is good, even by international standards. Kelly Brown is a loss but 1-8 they will front up. They can achieve parity at least against most teams. No, they aren't going to score tries for fun, but, neck on the line, they will surely get a couple. I despair at them losing Joe Ansbro, which means their backs do look poor, but head coach Andy Robinson will get Scotland playing to their strengths. Expect the Scots to be the "nearly-men" of this 2012 tournament. There will be definite value in them getting inside handicaps, and outright betting could prove value as they will keep games close. Finally, their set-piece is pretty decent and throw in a bit of rain and they will trouble sides at Murrayfield.

Italy

Again, like Scotland, they have a decent pack. People will rave about Sergio Parisse but his back-row colleague Alessandro Zanni was fantastic last year while their front-row will fancy it against anyone. Their backs don't look outstanding, a lot will be expected of Andrea Masi at 15 yet the question over who will start at number 10 remain. Who will kick the goals? I would expect them to lose comfortably on the road, but compete well in every home game. However, if they concede early in France they could be on the wrong end of a big score.

Ireland

I think if they win in France next week they could just about sneak a Grand Slam. The blend of experience and youth is excellent, and they have game-breakers all over the pitch. Stephen Ferris and Sean O'Brien almost guarantee front-foot ball, and I think they have one of the best hookers around in Rory Best. Jonathan Sexton should move the ball wisely and nail his goals which is why I feel 5.7 is a simply monstrous price on offer and should be taken. How they are fourth favourites is beyond me. I'm relatively confident they can come through a tough test against the Welsh, giving them momentum into the second week.

Welcome any thoughts and discussions on here or on Twitter, @thehathawayfund

Tournament bets

Ireland for outright 6N @ 5.7
France for Grand Slam 4.9
Julien Malzieu top try scorer 9.0
Scotland outright at 29.0 (look to trade out at shorter price mid tourney)

Initial weekend bets

Ireland to beat Wales (outright)
Scotland to beat England (+handicap)
France to win well at home to Italy

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