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Six Nations tips: Best outright bets for the tournament

30 Jan | BY Adrian Mills | MIN READ TIME |
Six Nations tips: Best outright bets for the tournament

The 2024 Six Nations starts on Friday, with France hosting Ireland in what promises to be a magnificent clash in Marseille.

The first Six Nations after a World Cup are often the most unpredictable, with coaches ready to experiment as they begin a new four-year cycle towards the next global showpiece.

However, with France playing both Ireland and England at home, the fixture list gives them a real advantage and the 2022 Grand Slam winners look like the team to beat.

Selections

France to win Six Nations @ /

Damian Penaud to be Top Tryscorer @ /

Tommy Freeman England Top Tryscorer @ /

Fixtures suggest a French success

There is something special about a sporting occasion under the lights and Friday evening’s Six Nations opener between France and Ireland at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome could set the tone for a thrilling Championship.

Both countries experienced World Cup quarter-final heartache as they crashed out to the two teams who would contest the final, New Zealand and South Africa.

In truth, they were terribly unlucky to come up against two sides in inspired form and head coaches Fabien Galthie and Andy Farrell have retained their roles after each winning a Grand Slam in the last couple of years.

With the Stade de France undergoing a makeover for this summer’s Olympic Games, Les Bleus are hitting the road, with games also scheduled for Lille and Lyon.

However, Marseille’s selection as the venue for France’s toughest game feels deliberate and a win on Friday could set Galthie’s side up for a second clean sweep in three years.

It might be premature to back them for a Grand Slam but with the fixtures seemingly falling France’s way, it feels sensible that they are just ahead of 6/4 Ireland in the outright betting.

Dominant Damian could shine again

Consistency is the key to success and French wing Damian Penaud has been the epitome, sharing the Six Nations’ top tryscorer award in 2022 before taking the award on his own last year.

The 27-year-old grabbed six tries at last year’s World Cup but missed out to New Zealand’s Will Jordan, who grabbed eight.

While everything Jordan does seems smooth and measured, Penaud’s angular style, with his socks rolled around his ankles, makes him look similar to football’s Thomas Muller.

However, like the ungainly German, the wing is incredibly effective and has only improved since joining Bordeaux-Begles in time for the current domestic season.

Penaud leads the Top 14 tryscoring charts with seven and has also touched down four times in the Champions Cup.

With clubmates Maxime Lucu and Matthieu Jalibert expected to start in the halves and Yoram Moefana a candidate to feature in the centres, Penaud and his fellow Bordeaux wing Louis Bielle-Biarrey should have inside knowledge of where to be when France go on the attack.

Bielle-Biarrey is an intriguing 7/1 in the top tryscorer market but is still developing. In contrast, his elder colleague is the finished article and is hard to look past at 33/10.

Tommy Free to shine in new-look England attack

Steve Borthwick’s preference for a stodgy yet successful gameplan in guiding England to third at the World Cup was roundly criticised, but his squad selection for this tournament hints that he may look to be more expansive.

Borthwick’s squad includes the intriguing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, but fellow wing Tommy Freeman could play a more important role.

To pigeonhole Freeman as solely a winger would be foolish, with his ability to cover full-back and the centres making him a shoo-in for England’s matchday 23 at the very least.

With three caps, the 22-year-old has had a taste of the Test arena, but this is his chance to nail a starting role.

Like Penaud, the Northampton man could be joined by some familiar faces in the line-up for his team’s opener against Italy on Saturday.

A couple of tries or more in Rome could set him up for a breakthrough tournament where he establishes himself as this new version of England’s key strike weapon.

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