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Six Nations Predictions – Round 1

The Six Nations kicks off with an absolute blockbuster as France face defending champions Ireland in Marseille on Friday night, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

Six Nations

The Six Nations kicks off with an absolute blockbuster as France face defending champions Ireland in Marseille on Friday night, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

It’s the most regal of rugby rumbles and this year’s northern hemisphere showpiece ushers in the start of the new four-year cycle post the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

As such, it has a different look and feel to it than last year’s championship with only Italy’s Michele Lamaro remaining of the 2023 class of captains.

The Azzurri, who have a new coach in Gonzalo Quesada, start their campaign against England in Rome while Wales and Scotland square off in Saturday’s other showdown in Cardiff.

France v Ireland

Friday, 2 February – 22:00

The two title favourites tussle right out of the gate with both teams eager to shake off their World Cup hangover.

After splitting time at the top of the world rankings for much of the last two years, both sides came unstuck on the grandest stage and suffered quarter-final exits. Friday night’s blockbuster opener is all about putting that heartache behind them and building to a fresh future.

France are without the talismanic Antoine Dupont, who is taking time out to seek Olympic glory in sevens. In his absence, Gregory Alldritt will don the captain’s armband and will be Les Bleus’ key player in the No. 8 jersey.

The loss of Dupont is massive, but Ireland have an ever-greater gap to fill with long-time general Johnny Sexton having retired after the World Cup. One of the most decorated team drivers of all time, the legendary flyhalf gave Ireland an added dimension of confidence, class and tactical astuteness that, quite frankly, make him irreplaceable.

Dupont, the 2021 World Player of the Year who won his third Six Nations Player of the Championship award last year, is in a league of his own, however, France have the players around him to better offset his loss than Ireland can when it comes to Sexton.

The zombie-like relentlessness of the Irish will see them put up a good fight, but the power of the French pack – along with all-important home ground advantage – should propel Fabien Galthie’s side to victory.

With France playing at home in their other crucial clash against England as well, they are outright favourites (2.20) for good reason. Andy Farrell’s 2023 Grand Slam winners are second outright in their quest to retain the crown at 2.50.

Prediction: France by 5.

Suggested Bet: France -3.5 at 1.85.

Italy v England

Saturday, 3 February – 16:15

England, as they showed when they surprisingly emerged as the best-performing northern hemisphere team at the World Cup, are competitors who are willing and able to do whatever it takes to win.

Steve Borthwick’s group of bronze medallists are missing captain Owen Farrell, who’s taking time away for mental health reasons, and the trio of Ben Youngs, Courtney Lawes and Johnny May, who have retired.

However, they have adequate depth to challenge big guns France and Ireland and stand strong against Scotland, Wales and Italy, leaving them third outright at 6.50. Borthwick will be better equipped for the championship after his introductory season last year and as a hard-nosed veteran, Jamie George is a sound choice as captain.

Italy are once again no-hopers at 501.00 outright but they’ll be looking to pull off an upset or two. Former Racing 92 and Stade Francais mentor Quesada has replaced Kieran Crowley as coach and says he wants to bring Latin passion back to the side.

They’ll be fired up, but they won’t be able to stay in the fight.

Prediction: England by 19.

Suggested Bet: England -16.5 at 1.94.

Wales v Scotland

Saturday, 3 February – 18:45

A cracker is on the cards in Cardiff. Wales are a tricky tactical nut to crack under Warren Gatland, often succeeding in turning games into chess matches. After finishing fifth in last year’s championship, they showed promise at the World Cup in a run that included a record 40-6 win over the Wallabies that ended with a quarter-final exit.

Optimism for a strong Six Nations campaign, however, has taken a major hit as retirements – with Dan Biggar at the top of the list – and injuries have left the Dragons depleted.

Fifteen players in all who featured at the World Cup are unavailable, including injured skipper Jac Morgan and wing Louis Rees-Zammit, who has quit rugby to pursue a career in the NFL. As a result, they enter fifth outright at 26.00.

Having to contend with South Africa and Ireland, Scotland were always going to struggle to get out of the pool stage at the World Cup and they indeed were the big victims of the pool of death. There’s much to like about them, though. 

They have an improving pack and exciting backline and Gregor Townsend’s decision to replace Jamie Ritchie as skipper with the duo of Finn Russell and Rory Darge speaks to the balance in the squad.

Fourth outright at 12.00, their dynamism should see them get off to a winning start and break their Cardiff curse.

Prediction :Sotland by 7.

Suggested Bet: Scotland -1.5 at 1.75.

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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