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England’s Late Shows Set to Continue
According to Eddie Jones, England used the last of their ‘get-out-of-jail-free cards’ when claiming a dramatic 21-16 win over Wales a fortnight ago.
But it won’t be Monopoly money that the bookmakers will be paying out to punters if the Red Rose nation continue their record breaking run of victories.
England stretched their winning sequence to 16 in Cardiff and the liabilities must be stacking up for the layers, with Grosvenor Sport now quoting the defending Six Nations champions as 3/10 chances to win the tournament for a sixth time since Italy were added to the event in 2000.
A more damaging result for the odds-makers would be an English Grand Slam, which now trades at 9/10 (from an opening quote of 2/1). ‘No Grand Slam winner’ has been eased to 9/10 – the biggest price quoted for the 2017 renewal.
Jones’ men were not at their fluent best against Wales, relying on a 76th minute winning try from Elliot Daly, nor were they particularly impressive against France in their opening Six Nations fixture, again leaving it late to secure a 19-16 success.
However, the fact is they got the job done and showed a resilience that has been synonymous with all the teams Jones has coached over the years.
Ireland registered their first win of the campaign with a 63-10 thumping of Italy two weeks ago and have been clipped from 11/2 to 5/1 to win the Six Nations. France have moved inwards to 10/1 from 16/1 following their win over Scotland, whose odds have doubled to 20/1, the same price as Wales (from 6/1), with Italy at 2000/1.
Joe Schmidt’s side are the only team so far to take advantage of the ‘score four or more tries in a match’ bonus system that was introduced this year, but with England, France and Scotland still to play Italy, more nations could easily pick up extra points.
Ireland, though, remain England’s biggest danger and the showdown in Dublin in mid-March still looks set to be the title decider.
Round Three Matches
Scotland v Wales
Wales head to Murrayfield looking for a 10th consecutive Six Nations win over Scotland, with the layers rating Rob Howley’s team as 39/50 favourites and their hosts marginally odds against at 51/50. Those odds are reflected in a very tight handicap mark with Vern Cotter’s team receiving just a 1.5-point start at 87/100. I don’t think that will be enough, though, and take Wales to cover the spread.
In fairness to Scotland, they’ve managed to win on the handicap in both of their games, suggesting that the odds-makers have underestimated them.
But with Cotter making five changes to the team that lost to France for Saturday’s game, and regular captain Greig Laidlaw missing out because of an ankle injury, it might just be that Scotland’s squad is beginning to look a little thin.
Wales are probably still wondering how they didn’t beat England a fortnight ago, but with George North back for the visitors they should have enough to win in Edinburgh. The Northampton wing looks a fair bet to go over for the first try at 9/1, while Wales to be leading at half-time and at full-time at around 6/4 is also worth a punt.
Ireland v France
Ireland will be the latest nation to take on France’s powerful pack, and while Les Bleus have an enviable record in Dublin – with four wins and a draw in their last seven visits – the bookmakers make Joe Schmidt’s team overwhelming 3/10 favourites to claim victory. France are 5/2 shots, while the most popular handicap mark offers both sides at 87/100 with Ireland giving up 7.5 points.
In both of France’s fixtures so far, Guy Novès has set his side up to dominate the forward battle, and although 24 stone prop Uini Atonio has been dropped for the trip to the Irish capital in one of three changes to the side that defeated Scotland, the visitors’ strength is obviously in their pack. It makes me believe this could be a tighter encounter than the traders are expecting.
With no quarter asked nor given in what is sure to be a brutal opening to the match, backing the second period at around 4/5 to be the ‘highest scoring half’ could pay dividends.
Johnny Sexton returns after injury and, as the Leinster fly half has been the most influential player on the pitch when these two nations have met recently, his presence should ensure a home win.
England v Italy
Eddie Jones was quoted saying he wanted to take Italy ‘to the cleaners’ when the Six Nations Championship leaders host Conor O’Shea’s side at Twickenham. So, it’s been no surprise to see the handicappers take the Aussie at his word, with England asked to cover 41.5 points on the spread at 87/100 your choice.
Italy have conceded 96 points in defeats to Wales and Ireland, failing to cover the handicap in either match. And while they can point to a narrow 18-11 loss in London in 2013, since then they have failed to overcome the handicap mark three times.
Still, Jones is set to experiment a little in midfield, with Jonathan Joseph missing out completely and Owen Farrell, who’ll be winning his 50th cap, switching to fly-half, could the visitors take any sort of advantage?
Well, the Azzurri have registered the first score of the match in each of the last two meetings and that’s something worth an interest at around 7/2.
Also watch out for the Grosvenor Sports in-play markets. England under Jones have scored 83 more points than their opponents in the last 20 minutes of fixtures and can stretch a winning margin like no other side late on.
Head down to any of Grosvenor’s 53 local casinos in the UK to keep an eye all the Six Nations action this weekend!