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Six Nations 2018: Team-by-team betting preview

Six Nations odds and betting guide

We're taking a look at the Six Nations odds ahead of the 2018 tournament kicking off on February 3 and giving our verdict on each country's chances of success.

Europe's leading teams put in some notable performances in the autumn internationals and will be keen to continue preparations for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

With interest in rugby union betting at an all-time high, punters will also be keeping a close eye on all the action as England bid for a third straight title.

England

Odds: 19/20

Coach: Eddie Jones

Stadium: Twickenham

Last five seasons: W-W-2-2-2

England topped the table for the 28th time last season but it wasn't all plain sailing, with France and Wales both pushing the favourites close in the first two rounds of fixture.

It then took a while to figure out Italy's novel tactics, before Jones' side turned on the style when routing Scotland 61-21.

Ireland thwarted the bid for a second straight grand slam in a tight Dublin tussle, but England will benefit from playing their big rivals at home this season.

A fringe squad minus the British and Irish Lions stars showed good strength in depth to beat Argentina twice in South America over the summer and a trio of November wins included a 30-6 drubbing of Australia.

England weren't at their fluent best in those autumn internationals and they have a lot of injuries on their plate ahead of the opener against Italy, but their Six Nations odds reflect the fact that this is a side which has developed a nice habit of winning by whatever means necessary.

Jones can boast an incredible 22 victories from 23 Tests during his time in charge and appears to have all the bases covered at the moment.

An abundance of big, athletic forwards almost guarantees good possession and there is a nice blend of pace and power in the backs.

With fly-halves Owen Farrell and George Ford both capable of controlling play and kicking over points, there are few chinks in the England armour.

Chances: Confidence factor makes them worthy favourites again, as long as Jones doesn't experiment too much.

Ireland

Odds: 9/5

Coach: Joe Schmidt

Stadium: Aviva Stadium

Last five seasons: 2-3-W-W-5

Ireland have just lacked a little consistency since their back-to-back title triumphs in 2014 and 2015 but the odd stellar result highlights why they are clear second favourites in the Six Nations betting odds.

Few will ever forget the famous 40-29 defeat of New Zealand in Chicago in November 2016, while a record 38-3 rout of South Africa in the latest autumn internationals was right up there in terms of quality.

The men in green finished off this tournament last term by handing England their only loss under the current coaching regime, so the talent is obviously there to challenge for top honours.

However, Schmidt's side had earlier paid the price for a slow start against Scotland at Murrayfield and also struggled to cope with the free-flowing rugby Wales produced in a 22-9 Cardiff defeat.

The fear is that there is no 'Plan B' when things start to go wrong, with Ireland never lacking energy and endeavour, but sometimes falling short in the composure department.

Influential fly-half Jonathan Sexton does have the rugby brain to steady the ship if required, but the 32-year-old is starting to look fragile with persistent injury problems.

On the positive side, hard-working forwards Tadhg Furlong, Sean O'Brien and CJ Stander further enhanced their reputations during the Lions' tour of New Zealand and they will ensure Ireland are strong up front.

Chances: Sure to be competitive, especially if overcoming a tricky opening match in Paris.

Scotland

Odds: 9/1

Coach: Gregor Townsend

Stadium: Murrayfield

Last five seasons: 4-4-6-5-3

The flying Scots played better than their final placing suggests last season and many shrewd judges of rugby union odds will rate them as a value pick to go from pretenders to contenders this time around.

Dashing full-back Stuart Hogg was rightly voted player of the tournament on the back of some superb attacking moves, charging into the line to create overlaps and proving a constant threat when running the ball back on the counter.

The 25-year-old has since slimmed down in a bid to take his game to the next level, a clear sign of the growing professionalism associated with this progressive set-up.

Impressive home wins over Ireland and Wales highlighted Scotland's potential 12 months ago and they also pushed France all the way in Paris.

A 61-21 drubbing by England will have hurt, along with the lack of Lions recognition for some talented individuals once Hogg was ruled out through injury.

Having a point to prove helped Townsend's forward-thinking team to take the All Blacks to the wire at Murrayfield in November, before Australia were run ragged in a 53-24 Edinburgh romp.

Some will question a shortage of experience in the front row, but having a large part of the squad based with just two Scottish clubs in Edinburgh and Glasgow will aid the younger players' development.

Chances: Scotland have the scope to go all the way if a tough start doesn't take the wind out of their sails.

Wales

Odds: 16/1

Coach: Warren Gatland

Stadium: Principality Stadium

Last five seasons: 5-2-3-3-W

Wales have lost their way a bit since being crowned champions five years ago, when overcoming an opening loss to Ireland in Cardiff to register four straight victories.

That followed a grand slam triumph in 2012, with full-back Leigh Halfpenny being the tournament's top points scorer on both occasions.

In more recent times, there have been flashes of brilliance but also costly lapses in concentration, with a desire to play running rugby often their undoing.

Fifth place last season suggests Wales have a lot of work to do but there was only one poor display when going down 29-13 to Scotland in Edinburgh, with narrow losses to England and France much easier to forgive.

The big plus this term will be getting Gatland back after a year off to concentrate on leading the Lions and there were some encouraging signs in the autumn internationals.

Wales showed plenty of ambition in defeat against Australia and New Zealand, before securing a morale-boosting 24-22 victory over South Africa.

The Dragons were hampered by injury problems during those games and Sam Warburton misses the tournament after knee surgery, while Rhys Webb has played his last game for Wales, but the nucleus of this side is still strong.

Liam Williams and Jonathan Davies stand out among a back line capable of creating breaks from anywhere on the pitch.

Back-row forwards such as Alun Wyn Jones and Taulupe Faletau are also potential match-winners who shone for the Lions against the All Blacks.

Chances: Always a threat, but difficult away fixtures against England and Ireland will limit expectations.

France

Odds: 18/1

Coach: Jacques Brunel

Stadium: Stade de France/Stade Velodrome

Last five seasons: 3-5-4-4-6

France are beginning a new era after sacking Guy Noves and appointing Jacques Brunel as coach just five weeks before their opening Six Nations match against Ireland.

Former Toulouse supremo Noves failed to rejuvenate Les Bleus after some stagnant years under Philippe Saint-Andre and endured a torrid two-year spell which featured just seven wins from 21 matches.

There were just enough victories for notoriously fickle supporters to keep the faith, but pretty much all of the major opponents have found a way to stifle the Gallic flair and that is reflected in their 2018 Six Nations odds.

Bringing in help from overseas via South Africa-born full-back Scott Spedding and explosive wingers from the South Sea Islands plugged a few holes out wide.

However, Noves failed to establish a half-back pairing capable of rekindling memories of France's glory years in those positions.

France continue to excel at club level, with the like of La Rochelle and Racing 92 joining traditional powerhouses Toulon and Clermont in making an impact in the European Cup.

The feeling is, though, that putting so much emphasis on recruiting foreign stars to bolster those teams has had a detrimental effect on the national side, with key positions so often filled by expensive imports.

Former Italy coach Brunel has been brought in from Top 14 side Bordeaux-Begles and signed a deal through to the 2019 World Cup but don't expect too much too soon.

Chances: Brunel has little time to bring about major improvements and the 2018 Six Nations has surely come too soon for him.

Italy

Odds: 1000/1

Coach: Conor O'Shea

Stadium: Stadio Olimpico

Last five seasons: 6-6-5-6-4

Head coach O'Shea earned plenty of admirers for the work he did with London Irish and Harlequins but he hasn't been able to stop the rot in Italy.

A famous November 2016 defeat of South Africa gave hope of the Azzurri entering a new era, but so far that has proved to be a false dawn.

Last season's exploits in this competition included leading both Wales and England at half-time, yet Italy ended up without a single point to show for their efforts. With just 50 points scored and 201 conceded, it is hard to see a way back for Italy at this stage.

The autumn internationals featured a decent 19-10 win over Fiji, but losing by 16 points to Argentina and 29 to South Africa soon exposed their limitations again.

Italy will only be prominent in one Six Nations betting market - and that is on which team will finish bottom of the table.

Chances: Leicester's Premier League triumph showed anything is possible in sport, but a fourth wooden spoon in five years is far more likely.

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Andrew McDermott
@a_mcdermott in Rugby Union