The Reuters global sports blog
What are the odds on getting the Six Nations winner right?
Picking the winner of the Six Nations championship is always a tricky task as the vagaries of form and the fixture list ensure that no two seasons are the same.
France, who finished third last season, are rated 6/4 favourites by Ladbrokes while grand slam champions Ireland are only second-best at 9/4.
Wales, who had their own clean sweep in 2008, are considered a pretty long shot at 5-1 while England, who they have beaten three times in a row, are above them at 9/4.
Scotland, yet to finish even second since the expansion to six teams 10 years ago, are unlikely to tempt punters to mortgage the house at 20/1 while even the 250/1 available on Italy is not exactly generous for a team who have only once won more than one match in a tournament.
Every coach says it every year but the beauty of the Six Nations is that just about every team is capable of beating every other on a one-off.
Largely the same England side that laboured past Italy and lost to Wales and Ireland last year suddenly looked world beaters when they thrashed France 34-10 at Twickenham.
Ireland looked a long way from grand slam material when they trailed Italy 9-0 in Rome and Scotland 12-9 at halftime at Murrayfield yet had enough to turn those games round and then edge past Wales by a the width of a goalpost.
They were hanging on against England too to win by a point but the history books show them as Ireland’s greatest team for more than 60 years.
Wales’ last eight finishes in the tournament have been fifth, sixth (whitewash), fourth, first (grand slam), fifth, fifth, first (grand slam), fourth. Try finding a form guide from that.
It all kicks off on Saturday when Ireland play Italy at Croke Park and England play Wales at Twickenham in a game that marks the centenary of the fixture at the west London stadium.
Scotland play France at Murrayfield on Sunday.
Easy – three home wins, right?
PHOTO: Players from the competing nations pose with the trophy during the launch of the RBS Six Nations rugby tournament at The Hurlingham Club in London January 27, 2010. The players are (L-R) Chris Cusiter of Scotland, Leonardo Ghiraldini of Italy, Ryan Jones of Wales, Brian O’Driscoll of Ireland, Steve Borthwick of England and Dimitri Szarzewski of France. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh