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Alex Spink: History favours Ireland as Six Nations approaches business end

11 Mar | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Alex Spink: History favours Ireland as Six Nations approaches business end

Not since the early 1980s have Wales beaten the Irish at home and Scotland won at Twickenham in the same year.

The dream scenario for Welsh fans this weekend is a Scotland win at Twickenham and unbeaten table-toppers Ireland losing at the Millennium Stadium.

It would knock England out of the title reckoning and put Wales level with Ireland on four wins apiece – with everything to play for in next week’s final round.

Well don’t hold your breath.

This is not ‘arrogance’ from the keyboard of an English-born journo, assuming that just because the Scots have not won at Headquarters for 32 years and are rock bottom of the 2015 championshithey have no chance.

Nor is it wishful thinking that Wales will suffer a second successive home defeat to shatter their confidence going into a World Cup in which one of them, England or Australia will be eliminated from the ‘group of death’ that is Pool A.

It is a straightforward assessment based on the historical statistics of this most fascinating of international sporting championships.

You have to go all the way back to 1983 for the last year in which England lost the Calcutta Cup at home AND Wales sent Ireland back across the Irish Sea with their tails between their legs.

That was the year Manchester United were taken to an FA Cup replay by a freshly relegated Brighton & Hove Albion side, managed by Jimmy ‘white shoes’ Melia, who would have won had United keeper Gary Bailey not denied Gordon Smith one-on-one at the death.

The year that Bjorn Borg retired from tennis after winning five consecutive Wimbledon championships. The year McDonald’s introduced the McNugget. The year Swatch brought out its first timepiece.

Which is remarkable even before you consider that Wales have won six championships, three with Grand Slams, in the intervening years. And that England have beaten Scotland at Murrayfield on only four of their eight visits in the Six Nations.

Walk around Cardiff this week and you will find confidence in the home team is not in short supply. Back-to-back away victories in Scotland and France have repaired the damage to morale caused by England’s opening night win at the Millennium – and recovered much of the lost momentum.

As Wales great Shane Williams told me this week: “We are getting stronger as the tournament goes on – and I’m sure we will get stronger and stronger again.” 

Such talk has kept the match odds closer than the record books suggest they should be. Ireland are just one-point favourites despite being ranked number three in the world, having won 10 Test matches in a row and being victorious on 11 of their last 14 visits to Cardiff.

I find it nigh on impossible to make a case for 16-point underdogs Scotland, even if Vern Cotter’s side is full of players from the Glasgow club which so impressed in this season’s European Cup. England are stronger in forwards and backs and they will be primed to avenge their loss in Ireland.

But Wales I can make a case for. In fact, were it not for the tide of history they are swimming against, I might actually put a couple of quid on them.

 

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