Rugby Union Betting: Gavin Hastings' Six Nations 2014 Preview

I really look forward to the Six Nations each year. Considering it's an annual event, the novelty never seems to wear off, and I'll be glued to the action over the course of the next six weeks.

This competition brings a rich tradition of fast and furious entertainment, which means a greater intensity than domestic rugby. For young players getting their first chance, it's a sink or swim situation. Time and space is limited and great players think quicker on the rugby field. 

With huge crowds and national pride at stake, the pressure is increased at this level. It'll be interesting to see which nations can handle it best this year...

Wales, odds to win: 2.85. 

I don't think you can look beyond Wales to win the 6 Nations again this year. Warren Gatland has a bulk of top class performers at his disposal and they'll be well-drilled as ever. The thing about this current Wales side is that they have a core of high profile players; guys that have not only done it at the top level for Wales but also for the British Lions.

When pitted up against the other contenders, I just think Wales have more quality in their ranks. I'm not saying it will be easy for them, in fact I highly doubt there'll be a grand slam this year.

But I would back them to achieve the triple crown at odds of 5.50. I know they have to play some of the big guns away, but they're plenty capable of pulling it off. 

Meanwhile, the brand of rugby they play means Wales will score plenty of tries. So, back Lions star George North for top 6 Nations try scorer at odds of 7.00. 

England, 3.25

This is a fine England side, make no mistake. I admire Stuart Lancaster's achievements since taking charge of the side and I like his style.

Lancaster has surprised a few by dropping the likes of Ben Youngs and Chris Ashton and introducing some fresh blood ahead of the opener in Paris on Saturday. This sends a message out to the rest of the team: the players will know they must perform or they'll be surplus to requirements.

England have a bigger pool of players at the top level than any 6 Nations side. That makes it harder for Lancaster, though, because he is charged with fitting them all into one cohesive unit.

What they need to find early on in this championship is a settled side. He is throwing a few lads in at the deep end and it's important they don't take too long to adjust.

Visiting the Stade de France constitutes a tough opener on Saturday. I think it will be a close game, but the French will pull through by a narrow margin. I wouldn't be surprised if it comes down to a late French kick or a missed kick by England. 

Back England on the +3.5 handicap at odds of 1.90.

France, 3.75.

You never know what you're going to get with the unpredicatble French. But if ever they are going to get up for a match then it'll be this weekend against England in Paris.

They often fail to match expectation, but if they can buld some momentum then I have a feeling their long suffering fans could be pleasantly surprised this year.

France boast the best centre in world in the shape of Mathieu Bastareaud (pictured).

Meanwhile, they have a wealth of experience and hardness, and there's not so much expectation this year, so that might play into their hands.

Ireland, 6.50

This is an ageing side, but I still believe Ireland have enough hunger to put the cat among the pigeons. They'll miss influential flanker Sean O'Brien, whose destructive tendencies are a key weapon for them normally.

Ireland were superb in their last outing back in November. They really took the game to the mighty All Blacks, and so nearly recorded a famous victory at the Aviva Stadium. They'll regret letting that slip, but will be buoyed by the manner of their performance.

This will probably be a final 6 Nations for Irish legends Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell, and they'll be keen to ensure one last hurrah.

Back them to sneak past Scotland on the -12.5 handicap at odds of 1.90 on Sunday, but don't expect them to challenge for greater honours.

Scotland, 40.00

It's not going to be easy for the Scots this year, but write them off at your peril.

There's a lot of talk about a lack of pedigree coming through the ranks up here, but with the likes of Hogg , Maitland, Ford, Hamilton and Brown, Scotland have a strong spine of experience and know-how.  

The challenge, as ever, is consistency of performance. But rest assured they'll be fired up, and will aspire to more than just beating italy and avoiding the wooden spoon. 

This Scottish side are no push overs and they can cause upsets. It's important they capitalise when they're on top in matches. They need tries, and it's about creating their own luck by being brave in attacking areas. 

If they can do that then who knows what they can achieve with a lucky bounce or two. 


Italy 150.00 

The Italians get progressively more competitive every year, but they are still short of the consistency that's required to be contenders in this championship. 

What they do have is the best number 8 in the tournament. Sergio Parisse is a world class talent and a talismanic figure for this side. They will rely on his creativity if they are to pull off a shock like last year. 

I get the feeling that once Italy get over the hurdle of beating top sides regularly, then more belief and momentum will come. They're not as far away as the odds suggest. 

Back Italy to win one 6 Nations match this year at odds of 2.00. 

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