STAR PREVIEW: Six Nations Specials

We take a look at the Six Nations specials markets.

Top Tryscorer

Betting on the top try scorer market for the 6 Nations is a tempting but tricky challenge; There are good prices on offer, but with just five matches, there are incredibly tight margins – and indeed as the past winners’ column shows there have been three occasions when the award has been shared between one or more players, and ties for the places are also common.

However, at 4/1 the field it’s a low risk/high reward strategy, and there are definitely players of interest at both the head and tail of the market.

That 4/1 market leader is Jacob Stockdale, and with good reason. He is playing for the Grand Slam Champions, and he now has 12 tries in 14 tests after scoring the only try in Ireland’s win against New Zealand. He has kept that form up, with six tries in six Champions Cup clashes as Ulster reached the quarter-finals.

Able to finish at close range and with a lung busting turn of pace for interception scores, his ability under Ireland’s famed high ball game makes him competitive during any attack. The only negative at the prices would be that Ireland ought to find it harder going this year than last, with trips to Wales and Scotland, but that is unlikely to slow his progress down.

Johnny May is the second favourite here. He had an 11 game drought before scoring four tries for England along with tries in each test on the Tour of South Africa last season. His pace and quicksilver feet seem to make him impervious to the form swings that sometimes affect his compatriots and that has proven to be the case for Leicester, where he has scored nine tries in ten league outings for Leicester.

The 7/1 on him has the makings of a fair each/way bet, and a useful angle with which to cover English success.

Huw Jones (33/1 with lit up Murrayfield with his two tries against England, furthering a strong record he has against the traditional rivals. He scored twice against them the previous year at Twickenham and in that Autumn he also scored three times in four games.

As a brutally hard running outside centre, Jones has thrived under the attacking play of Townsend, especially with Finn Russell’s willingness to play close to the line giving him lots of chances for open field runs – like his second try against England last year.

Quality of opposition is not a worry for Jones – he has scored against all of the five other nations – and a record of 10 tries in 19 games is one of the best strike rates going in the Championship.

The worry – and probably a part of his big price – is that he hasn’t had much game time for Glasgow thanks to injury, but he’s fit for this weekend against Italy and if Scotland prove as superior as the markets expect (they’ve got a 22-point handicap) then he has a chance for a flying start.

Wales have a number of fine backs who could possibly launch bids, but there is perhaps more obvious competition between them and their forwards too, especially with runners like Navidi and Tipuric in the backrow. George North, rejuvenated since moving back to the Ospreys, would be the top choice but it remains to be seen how they fit in as a backline.

Having a solid Clermont pairing of Morgan Parra and Camille Lopez is encouraging, with a starting backline of Maxime Medard, Damian Penaud, Wesley Fofana, Romain Ntamack, and Yohann Huget. However, it could be that one of their forwards makes a charge at the title.

The French have a huge pack and the biggest beneficiary of that could well be Guilhem Guirado. Man of the match in their close defeat to Ireland, he has taken it upon himself to be the last man off the end of the driving maul, scoring 4 tries in three Autumn Internationals last year. At 100/1, he is well worth a throwaway wager.

2018: Jacob Stockdale (Ireland, 7 tries)
2017: Eight players tied for first with three tries (Danny Care, Keith Earls, CJ Stander, Stuart Hogg, Craig Gilroy, Johnathan Joseph)
2016: George North (Wales, 4 tries)
2015: Johnathan Joseph (England, 4 tries)
2014: Mike Brown and Johnathan Sexton (England and Ireland, 4 tries each)
2013: Alex Cuthbert (Wales, 4 tries)
2012: Tommy Bowe (Ireland, 5 tries)
2011: Chris Ashton (England, 6 tries)
2010: Tommy Bowe, Keith Earls, Shane Williams, James Hook (First two from Ireland, last two from Wales, all with three tries)

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK Jonny May 1 pt each/way at 7/1 with
BACK Huw Jones 1 pt each/way at 22/1 with
BACK Guilhem Guirado 1 pt each way at 100/1 with

Top Pointscorer

It’s understandable that Johnathan Sexton (13/8 with is the favourite here given Ireland’s form and that the dead eye kicker Owen Farrell (7/4 with isn’t far behind. However, the two take up a huge amount of the market and once again, margins here tend to be very tight. Machenaud beat Leigh Halfpenny by a single point last season and the top four were separated by just nine points. The year before, Camille Lopez beat Owen Farrell by just four points and Leigh Halfpenny was just a point behind in third.

Greig Laidlaw’s chances probably went with a 28-8 defat to Ireland last year when he scored just three points, but otherwise he was in sage form and he’s been enjoying himself with Clermont in the Top 14, scoring 110 points so far in the competition. The scrumhalf did well to get so close to the top of the charts given that he didn’t start the first game against Wales, but it looks very likely he’ll take to the field for their first game against Italy, and if he manages to get five full games then he’s not a 10/1 shot on all known form.

Morgan Parra has returned to the French squad and whilst there are questions over France for some, Maxime Machenaud won this from nine for France last year. Parra is partnered with Camille Lopez, but Baptiste Serin kicked during the Autumn with Lopez at 10 and it looks likely that Parra will be given a chance to take shots at goal.

At 16/1 there’s very little downside to taking a chance on him, and he’s a helpful way to keep France onside in their opener against our title choices in the shape of Wales.

Gareth Anscombe is of some interest for Wales but if Leigh Halfpenny returns then kicking duties could change and we don’t know if he’ll get a full eighty minutes against France.

Past Winners:

2018: Maxime Machenaud (50 points, France)
2017: Camille Lopez (67 points, France)
2016: Owen Farrell (69 points, England)
2015: George Ford (75 points, England)
2014: Jonathan Sexton (66 points, Ireland)
2013: Leigh Halfpenny (75 points, Wales)
2012: Leigh Halfpenny (66 points, Wales)
2011: Toby Flood (50 points, England)
2010: Stephen Jones (63 points, Wales)

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK Greig Laidlaw 2 pts at 10/1 with
BACK Morgan Parra 2 pts at 16/1 with

Player Of The Tournament

The market for the Player Of The Tournament is arguably the hardest market to predict, due to the nature of the award. Each year, a shortlist of players are chosen by an expert panel – the first hurdle to be jumped. Then this list then goes to a public vote, with the winning player announced in the week after Super Saturday, the final weekend.

So there are a number of factors to consider. The first is obviously Championship impact – although being a winner of the title is not a perquisite to success. Only three winners since 2010 have won the title in the same year. Much like successful awards in football, attacking players tend to grab the imagination of the public after nominations too, and the correlation between the top try scorer and the Player of the Tournament is rather closer.

Tommy Bowe was joint top try scorer in 2010, Mike Brown was also joint top try scorer in 2014, and 2017 Hogg was one of eight players tied on three. Jacob Stockdale won last year after a magnificent seven tries.

Anyway, this is a good chance to cover bases with each country capable of producing a player that could take the honors. Jacob Stockdale is 4/1 to win the top try scorer award again but 16/1 for this, and if Ireland win the tournament as is expected then is looks unlikely that he’ll be far away. Stuart Hogg took this award in back to back years, and Stockdale secured 32% of the public vote, even higher than Hogg’s in either of his back to back wins.

Ireland took the first four places in the vote with Stockdale beating Conor Murray (18.2%), Johnny Sexton (18%) and Keith Earls (14.5%) and perhaps Murray at 10/1 is another good cover bet. He missed the Autumn internationals but Ireland have few more important or recognizable players. If they find things harder going in an attacking sense, then his tactical mastery and box kicking will surely prove to be important.

England’s Owen Farrell is likely to be a particularly vital part of any title challenge too and if the second favorites do manage to bounce back and take their title back, then he wouldn’t be far away. When England last won the title Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Joe Launchbury all made the shortlist – and indeed Billy Vunipola was second in 2016.

Farrell is a natural selection but Maro Itoje has been in fine form in recent weeks and is perhaps popular enough to make public appeal should he get there.

Past Winners:
2018: Jacob Stockdale (winger, Ireland)
2017: Stuart Hogg (fullback, Scotland)
2016: Stuart Hogg (fullback, Scotland)
2015: Paul O’Connell (lock, Ireland)
2014: Mike Brown (fullback, England)
2013: Leigh Halfpenny (fullback, Wales)
2012: Dan Lydiate (flanker, Wales)
2011: Andrea Masi (winger, Italy)
2010: Tommy Bowe (winger, Ireland)

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK Jacob Stockdale 1 pt at 16/1 with
BACK Owen Farrell 1 pt at 10/1 with
BACK Maro Itoje 1 pt at 18/1 with

Top Points And Tryscoring Nation

This could be a much tighter 6 Nations than last year, although generally speaking the Championship has seen a more attractive brand of rugby thrive with the introduction of bonus points prioritising attacking rugby, whilst the improvement of Scotland and their new attacking style especially.

Ireland are odds on to score the most points and tries, but things might be harder for them with a visit to Italy rather than facing the Azzuri at home and a late trip to Wales might not see the points flow. England have to visit the Irish in Dublin, but they do face Scotland and Italy at home, two games that have traditionally been free flowing games, and their points scoring record against the French is not terrible either. If the weather holds up for those particular games, then they might be value in both categories. It’s worth remembering that England managed to score 14 tries last year despite finishing fifth, including a game against Wales when they were kept scoreless for an hour.

Last year’s tally of 78 tries was a ten year high, but the line has been devilishly set for tournament tries at around 71. A better bet might be to go slightly under on the tournament points line – last year we saw 682 points but that was with extremely high levels of tryscoring and miserly defences could bring up just back under that number.

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK England Top Points Scoring Nation 2 pts at 3/1 with
BACK England Top Try Scoring Nation 2 pts at 10/3 with

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