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Much like last year’s tournament, the 2021 Six Nations looks like a straight shootout between England and France.
Defending champions England head into the opening weekend as favourites, but there is definitely value in backing Les Bleus.
They are fast developing into one of the world’s most exciting international sides under Fabien Galthie, who has a seemingly endless supply of young talent coming through the Top 14.
France missed out on the 2020 title to England by virtue of points difference – and an avoidable red card in their only defeat to Scotland.
Their second string only narrowly lost to Eddie Jones’ side in the Autumn Nations Cup final, and it feels almost inevitable that they will win something soon.
They have a tough schedule this year, including away matches in England and Ireland, but a lack of crowds is likely to diminish home advantage.
Led by their inspirational captain, Charles Ollivon, and once-in-a-generation scrum-half, Antoine Dupont, France look well placed to win their first Six Nations title since 2010.
GRAND SLAM: No winner
Whichever team wins the tournament are unlikely to go unbeaten.
England v France on 13 March looks to be the decider, but there are several teams with the ability to derail a Grand Slam bid.
Last year it was Scotland, as Gregor Townsend’s side beat France 28-17, but Ireland and Wales also represent significant challenges for the two favourites.
TOP POINTS SCORER: Mathieu Jalibert
One issue for France ahead of the tournament is the absence of fly-half Romain Ntamack, who finished as top scorer in the 2020 Six Nations.
They have a more-than-able deputy in Jalibert, though, who has impressed in his eight international appearances to date.
Jalibert is a solid kicker from the tee – he has slotted 13 of 15 kicks for France so far – and is a more incisive runner than Ntamack, so should chip in with a couple of tries.
With France set up to play more attacking rugby than England, it’s worth backing Jalibert to rack up more points than favourite Owen Farrell in the coming weeks.
TOP TRY SCORER: Jonny May
The explosion of try-scoring forwards in recent years has made this market tougher than ever to call.
Ollivon became the first forward to top the try-scoring table outright in Six Nations history last year, while England’s Jamie George and Luke Cowan-Dickie also regularly cross the whitewash.
Backing any of those three each-way looks a good bet, but if you want to keep things simple then look no further than the favourite.
May has scored 12 tries across the last three Six Nations at an average of four per tournament.
He is always a threat on the wing for England, who should be among the top try-scoring teams in the competition.
BOTTOM TWO FINISH: Wales
There is little to suggest that Italy will avoid a sixth-successive wooden spoon this year, but who will join them in the bottom two?
Scotland are the second favourites in this market at , but it is Wales who look most at risk.
Wayne Pivac has been unable to impose his expansive style since succeeding Warren Gatland, with Wales finishing fifth last year and only beating Georgia in the Autumn Nations Cup.
It may be that Pivac tries to tighten things up this time round, but Wales are in the middle of a transition period and may struggle for a second year running.
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