It’s Six Nations time again, and we asked rugby legend and Unibet ambassador Gavin Hastings to give us the lowdown ahead of the weekend’s games and give us his tips to win the tournament.
Wales – England – Friday 20.05
Straight away you can’t help but think back to the game in Cardiff two years ago when Wales absolutely destroyed England. They were brilliant and ripped apart a team that was going for the Grand Slam.
Somehow, though, I don’t think that England will be as naïve in this game as they were then, and this will be a very interesting game. It might not be as one-sided.
England might have horrific injuries, but those that are left from two years ago will be galvanized by the memories of such a huge loss and will be determined to put the record straight. I heard Will Carling on the radio saying that all the pressure is on Wales and I agree. Everyone in Wales thinks they’ll win.
First games in the Six Nations are always difficult, and if England can get a breakaway try and kick a couple of goals then this match might be a lot closer than many predict.
The crowd will be important to Wales, as always. Stuart Lancaster has talked about how he wants the roof closed to release some of the atmosphere and I can understand that, but my understanding is that both coaches need to agree on it.
Regardless of that, England will be more ready this time. They’ll be going for the Grand Slam, and if they are to have any realistic ambitions of doing well at the World Cup then a victory in Cardiff should be within their sights.
Having said all that, I think Wales start as deserving favourites and will win the game, albeit not by too much.
Wales to win by 1-5 points – 4.25
England +4 to win – 1.95
Italy – Ireland – Saturday 14.30
Italy are no mugs.
Every year they get stronger and stronger. They have been a great addition to the Six Nations as they play with so much passion, they have great support and they showed real quality when enjoying success against Scotland, Wales and France in the past.
In any game, including this one, if they are still in it with 15-20 minutes to go they have a chance. Ireland will find it tough, as for Italy this is pretty much a perfect first game.
As for Ireland, though, I am very interested to see how they play as I feel that they certainly have the capability to do well both here and at the World Cup.
Losing this game simply isn’t an option for them, they’ve got to win ahead of the tough fixtures ahead and whilst I think they will win, it’ll be by no more than 10 points.
Ireland to win by 6-10 points – 4.50
Italy +9 to win – 1.95
France – Scotland – Saturday 17.00
I’m certainly very hopeful for Scotland.
From a Scottish perspective, the best time to play France in Paris is in the first game as they won’t have had the chance to build up a head of steam.
I’m very optimistic about the Scots giving France a fright, and I think that this match will be a lot tighter than many people – including the odds makers – might have considered.
It’s an exciting time for Scotland. I thought they were so impressive in the autumn against Argentina and New Zealand, and I’m not too convinced by the French, who lost 18-13 to Argentina in their last match.
The Scottish defence is solid and they are scoring tries again, and if they can take that form into this match then we could be talking about a first Scottish victory in Paris since 1999.
It’s a win which is long overdue and obviously one I’m hoping for!
Scotland to win the match – 4.25
Scotland +7.5 to win – 2.30
Six Nations Winners
Any team which wins this Six Nations will be buoyed going into the World Cup, but I think that is going to be a very close tournament this year.
If Ireland were to go and repeat their Six Nations win of last year then that could be huge for them going such a big year, whilst I think both Wales and England will need to win this tournament to have good World Cups as they’ll have built momentum.
Having said that, and having said they’ll struggle against Scotland, I think France will be the closest challengers to Ireland to win the Six Nations this year.
If the French win that Scotland match then they’ll be off and running, whilst Ireland have so many good memories from a year ago.
Other teams can challenge, and they can beat each other, but those are the teams I’d back if I was having a bet.
Ireland to win the Six Nations – 2.85
France to win the Six Nations – 6.50