Six Nations 2021 Round 1 kicks off in the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday afternoon when Italy host France. The 72,000+ seat arena will, along with all others in the tournament, be empty due to Covid restrictions, but it won’t stop fans around Europe gluing themselves to the couch for the weekend to catch all the action. It’s back to London in the early evening for the big England v Scotland grudge match, before Wales host Ireland in Cardiff on Sunday afternoon.
When are the Six Nations on TV?
Sat 6 February, Italy v France, 2.15pm Live on ITV
Sat 6 February, England v Scotland, Twickenham, 4.45pm Live on ITV
Sun 7 February, Wales v Ireland, Principality Stadium, 3pm Live on BBC
After just over 3 months of a break, quite a bit less than the usual 11 between fixtures, the tournament is back, and with a Lions tour still, for now, coming up this year, the four ‘Triple Crown’ teams will be full of players looking to earn their place on the plane to South Africa.
Here’s all you need to know ahead of this weekend’s three Six Nations Round 1 fixtures:
Italy v France Six Nations Preview
It seems unfair to predict a dominant opening day win for the visitors, but they’ll be looking to intimidate England by putting big points on the board early, and likely going for bonus points. Coach Fabien Galthie is inundated with good options in his young team, although their opponents have youth on their side too with an average age of just 24.
They were inches away from a Grand Slam last year, when Scotland pulled off a wild final day upset which ended up handing the title to England. Les Bleus will be missing Romain Ntamack, but will still be an unbackable 1/1,000 favourite while Italy are 10/1 to win, with a draw priced at 32/1. There may be something to say for Italy to score last at 17/10, if France are as far ahead as most are predicting there’s a good chance that Italy sneak in late on and make you some money.
Italy XV: Trulla; Sperandio, Zanon, Brex, Ioane; Garbisi, Varney; Traore, Bigi, Riccioni, Lazzaroni, Sisi, Negri, Meyer, Lamaro.
Replacements: Lucchesi, Fischetti, Zilocchi, Cannone, Ruzza, Mbanda, Palazzani, Canna.
France XV: Dulin; Thomas, Vincent, Fickou, Villiere; Jalibert, Dupont; Baille, Marchand, Haouas, Le Roux, Willemse, Cretin, Alldritt, Ollivon (capt).
Replacements: Bourgarit, Gros, Aldegheri, Taofifenua, Jelonch, Serin, Carbonel, Penaud.
England v Scotland Six Nations Preview
In what’s likely to be a more competitive fare than our opening match, England host bitter rivals Scotland at Twickenham. Last time out in 2019, the visitors came agonisingly close to picking up their first win on English soil since 1983 in a barnburner of a draw, and despite England’s favourites tag we can expect similar energy from both sides. After depriving France of an amazing Grand Slam last year, at the cost of giving the title to their neighbors, the Scots will be looking to throw the cat amongst the pigeons again this weekend. The odds of England winning currently sit at 1/10, while a repeat of their 2019 draw is priced at 27/1.
With Scotland 5/1 underdogs, that draw doesn’t look like the worst way to spend your shrapnel, just £2 would give you £56 should the same happen again, and this game certainly will be closer than the odds are indicating. Scotland winning the race to 10 points at 3/1 could be worth having a look at, especially if they can fire out of the traps and take advantage of England’s defensive woes that have come from a disjointed training schedule after a number of coaches tested positive for Covid. However, you should expect England to pull through over the 80 minutes and begin what many are hoping will be a back-to-back title win.
England: Daly; Watson, Slade, Lawrence, May; Farrell (capt), Youngs; Genge, George, Stuart, Itoje, Hill, Wilson, Curry, B Vunipola.
Replacements: Cowan-Dickie, Obano, Williams, Lawes, Earl, Robson, Ford, Malins.
Scotland: Hogg (capt); Maitland, Harris, Redpath, Van der Merwe, Russell, Price; Sutherland, Turner, Z Fagerson, Cummings, J Gray, Ritchie, Watson, M Fagerson.
Replacements: Cherry, Kebble, WP Nel, R Gray, Graham, Steele, Van der Walt, Jones
Ireland v Wales Rugby Six Nations Preview
The weekend will finish up with a trip to Cardiff for Ireland, in what bookies are predicting to be the closest game of the weekend. Andy Farrell’s men defeated Wales twice last year, but both were in Dublin, and they’ve lost their last two Six Nations games in Cardiff and know they face a huge challenge away from home. The visitors are slight 4/7 favourites, while Wayne Pivac’s troops are 5/4 underdogs, which could fit nicely on to an accumulator over the weekend. The draw is priced at 17/1.
Ireland would be delighted to leave Cardiff with a bonus point, but we’d be surprised if they were to rack up the scores that England and France are expected to this weekend. For that reason, Ireland willing by 1-12 at 5/4 seems a cracking price to us.
*Odds are subject to change.