A new era starts for France under head coach Guy Novès as they look to entertain whilst turning around their fortunes in the Six Nations. They go into the Championship without influential centre Wesley Fofana which is a blow, but they should have more than enough to see off Italy in Paris. While Zebre have improved in the PRO12, Treviso are struggling and with so many uncapped players in the Azzurri squad one feels it could be a long day against les Bleus. We like France to win by -17.5 at 1.00 on the handicap and also the first-half spread of -9.5 at odds of 0.90 as the French look to impress on their first outing post Philippe Saint-André. For Italy, 2016’s wooden spoon awaits.
Scotland v England
Odds of 2.15 for Scotland to win on home soil look a wise bet to get on, especially with England possibly taking a little time to get used to Eddie Jones and his style of play. England are also going down the route of starting two fly-halves in their side – George Ford at ten and Owen Farrell at centre – which rarely works in the international arena and this is something Scotland can feed off. Scotland have all the momentum after the recent Rugby World Cup and if they can carry that form into this Murrayfield clash they should edge a win, with a half-time/full-time bet boosting your odds to 3.45. If you are more cautious, take Scotland +7.5 on the handicap which is a shorter 0.50.
Ireland v Wales
This should be the game of the weekend as Ireland look to bounce back from their heavy loss to Argentina at the quarter-final stage of the World Cup. Wales, who were more injury hit than most at the tournament, played with real tempo in September and October and have been well backed to win the Six Nations in 2016, with their odds subsequently having tumbled. It is no surprise however that Ireland are the bookies favourites to win this Sunday’s fixture though as they’ll be hard to beat in Dublin, despite the absence of the now retired Paul O’Connell. Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip and Conor Murray should help edge the Irish (0.60) to victory. Wales though at +3.5 (1.00) is also a good bet.