A PLACE in the world cup final might be regarded as the holy grail for any nation's rugby team, but the small matter of the Six Nations has become a European obsession and results in the opening round of fixtures in February will be as closely followed as any events in New Zealand later in the year.
The age old enmity which has developed on the sporting field between six of the best means the competition’s history is littered with stirring deeds where predictions and the odds have been upset in glorious fashion. Expect more of the same this year.
The world's best rugby-playing nations now operate on a four-year cycle designed to peak for the World Cup, but the small matter of Wales v England on February 4 will not be for the faint-hearted with no quarter asked or given and an early place at the top of the standings up for grabs.
There is too much tension in these fixtures to expect a classic of free-flowing rugby, and betting odds will reflect the importance of these results, but the predictor looking for an early heads-up on the form of the UK teams would do well to pay attention.
Bets on the other two fixtures should be more straight-forward with an improving Scotland unlikely to be offered much favour in the betting when they travel to France, while Ireland should be a safe bet to see off Italy in Rome.
For internet punters searching for good value odds, it's worth exploring the sizeable volume of free bets on offer from online bookmakers before making a final bet.
Summing up the forthcoming Six Nations, one sports writer observed: "It would appear Wales versus England will be the match that offers best potential for a highlights reel, but these other two fixtures are worth a closer look.
"Scotland are getting a lot better and Ireland have been awful for a while now, so why not look at placing bets on all three results in a win treble?
“Consider too that your online bookmaker will be looking to tempt punters by opening makes which enable betting on a game’s points spread or who will be the leading points-scorer. In other words, there is plenty of scope and fun to be had with your final selections.
“Finally, whichever side finishes top of the Six Nations standings will be a decent bet in the World Cup in New Zealand, but if truth be known, I’ll be sticking to one of my online bookmaker-supplied free bet until the Six Nations fixtures are played.