Sporting Index make the Red Rose favourite to sit atop the six-team table in six weeks’ time, quoting their spread at 35-38, narrowly ahead of France, with an outright index spread of 33-36. Behind Ireland, Wales are given a spread of 17-20. Given that Warren Gatland’s men have won only two of the 12 games they played last year, there is likely to be quite a few punters prepared to sell at 17.
On the match itself, the Welsh and sellers of England’s supremacy spread have more reason to be upbeat as the Dragons have beaten the English twice in the last three Six Nations, once at Twickenham and, in 2009, a 23-15 victory in Cardiff. Furthermore, Martin Johnson’s plans have been hit by a number of injuries to key players, notably outstanding second-row Courtney Lawes and captain Lewis ‘Mad Dog’ Moody.
Although 38 points were scored on the last occasion these teams met at the Millennium Stadium, only three tries were scored. The differing conditions this time – namely the closed roof and the added excitement of the post-work, opening Championship fixture – might affect buying and selling decisions on the total points and tries spreads in either direction. A lack of discipline and some excellent kicking from Wales number ten Stephen Jones won it for Wales two years ago by kicking six successful penalties, and spread buyers of total kicking metres will hope for a similar method of victory for either side. However, the Autumn Internationals showed that England’s ‘expansive rugby’ is finally taking shape, so perhaps sellers of the kicking metres spread should be right to expect fewer penalty opportunities and more five-pointers. Spread buyers may well agree, but conclude more tries may well lead to more conversions. Toby Flood will carry the burden of reliable boot for the Red Rose, and Sporting Index punters who fancy the Leicester fly-half to impress might like to buy England’s tournament kicking metres at 885.
Plenty of expectation will be carried on the rather broad shoulders of England’s back three of Mark Cueto, Ben Foden and Chris Ashton. Northampton Saint Ashton has just been awarded try of the year for that score against Australia, and his match performance spread will no doubt be as high as most spread bettors would predict.
On Saturday, Italy host Ireland but remain big outsiders to win their match. The Azzurri are given a negative total supremacy 67-72 for the tournament and spread sellers will be keen for the hosts to get off to a strong start with home advantage.
Scotland also jet to the continent as they take on Les Bleus at the Stade de France. Scotland recorded an excellent victory over World Champions South Africa in November, something that both England and Wales failed to do, but can they overcome a rugby union nation that is riding high on the back of club success in the Heineken Cup? Even if they can, plenty will be selling the total tries spread. In their victory over the Springboks, Dan Parks kicked every single one of his side’s 21 points.