The Six Nations was back last weekend and we had some major upsets with Scotland beating England and Wales beating Ireland, who is the new favourite to win the 2021 Six Nations.
England lifted the title in 2020 and had to wait until October of that year to be crowned champions. We are hoping for an event filled tournament this time around, but hopefully with no disruptions to the schedule.
Behind England last season, France caught the eye after looking like a team in transition during 2019. They appear to have found their identity once again and have enough players to certainly make a bid to win in 2021.
Both Scotland and Ireland showed on their day they can be a match for anyone, while Wales disappointed and once again, Italy were left trailing behind in last place.
Will the same happen again in 2021, or will a new name find its way onto the cup?
Who are Favourites with the Bookies?
After lifting the 2020 crown, England were favourites to repeat that and win again in 2021. They were strongly fancied by many, and the bookmakers had acted accordingly, not only are they favourites, but they are clear of the rest. But after their shock defeat to Scotland, they are now 9/2 third favourites.
Behind them, France were the second favourites, with many people were clearly taken by what they saw from this French team last season. They will need to take another step forward to contend here, but that is certainly possible given the youth in their line-up. Ireland is third best, and they round off the three main contenders. We know a lot about the Irish, and they are certainly capable of picking up the pieces if England struggle, or if France don’t move forward as expected. After their huge win against Italy and Ireland and England losing they are now 6/5 Favourites.
Wales, Scotland and Italy round off the betting, the first two named were double-figure odds for success while you can get huge odds on an Italy Six Nations win if you think the Italians can make a mark. You can find the best current odds at William Hill for the Six Nations with Scotland now 4/1, Wales 6/1 and Italy 1000/1
Pre Tournament Battle Between England, France & Ireland
These three are the main contenders, and while England won in 2020, the French have not lifted this trophy since 2010, which is remarkable to think. They came agonisingly close in 2020, losing out to England on total points difference, with both teams winning four of their five games.
What will give the French hope is the fact that they gave England their only defeat last season, beat them again and stay unbeaten this time around and the Six Nations title will be heading to Paris.
As for Ireland, they are looking to win their first Six Nations title since 2018 and did many of the basics right last year. They found a way past Scotland, Wales and Italy, but when they came up against the big two teams, they were found a little wanting.
There is every chance that this Irish team can play even better this year, and if that happens, or the big two fall short in games against Ireland, seeing the Irish lift the title would not be a big surprise.
That takes us back to England, who are the most successful Six Nations team in history with seven title wins as well as being the current holders. There is a lot to like about this English team, and they have been there and done it all before.
England will play France at home this time around, and they have won their last seven clashes at home in this competition against France, so confidence will no doubt be high. It is also the fourth weekend when they play, so England should be up to full speed and into the games.
They round off with an away trip to Ireland, which could be a winner takes all clash. Ireland have beaten France in their last three home meetings in the Six Nations, so that could set up a scenario where the Irish are the only team who can catch England when they kick off against each other on the final weekend of the tournament.
Five weeks of fascinating rugby awaits us, and the battle to lift the Six Nations crown is going to be brilliant to watch. The bookmakers have installed England as favourites to win the tournament, with France and Ireland behind them.
England deserve to be favourites, and France may improve, but watch out for Ireland, who play the big two on home soil which will give them an advantage, even without fans in attendance.