The 2013 Six Nations Championship is knocking at the door of sports fan across Europe and the world, so let’s take a look at how the teams are shaping up.
Who are the favourites? Who are the ones to watch this year? Will Scotland have a repeat of their dismal performance in 2012?
Upsets and retirements are on the cards, with Ireland hero Brian O’Driscoll suggesting that this championship might be his last.
He missed the tournament in 2012 so will be even more fired up to go out with a bang this year, if this does turn out to be his last Six Nations outing for Ireland.
Wales will be looking to banish the bad luck and put an end to a run of seven defeats in a row, while England walk into the championship with their heads held high as 15/8 favourites, so it’s looking set to be an eventful few weeks.
England begin the campaign on home turf against Scotland this time around. A 6-13 victory got them off to a winning start last year, but they missed out on the title by two points.
The Grand Slam record holders look set to give Gloucester’s centre Billy Twelvetrees his first cap on Saturday, with Stuart Lancaster doing a great job in whipping the squad into shape over the past few months.
Grand Slams: 12
One to watch: Billy Twelvetrees
Odds to win: 15/8 (favourites)
With a new coach and a new-look side, the Frenchmen are all geared up for 2013. As second favourites, they’ll be looking and are expected to massively improve on last year’s 4th place finish.
They have a better win percentage at the Six Nations than England, with the two clashing at Twickenham on Saturday 23rd February.
Grand Slams: 9
One to watch: Morgan Parra
Odds to win: 2/1
Ireland finished third last year and they’re third favourites this year to win the tournament.
England battered Ireland 30-9 in the last game of the 2012 championship and exposed a few weaknesses in their armour, but with Brian O’Driscoll back to full fitness, they look fired up for an explosive few weeks.
Grand Slams: 2
One to watch: Craig Gilroy
Odds to win: 4/1
With the longest odds of the bunch, Italy look set for a miserable championship. They picked up just two points last year against a dire Scotland side that ended up losing all five of their games.
They’ll be out to prove the doubters wrong, but they’ll have to significantly strengthen their backs if they’re going to get anywhere near achieving that.
Grand Slams: 0
One to watch: Sergio Parisse
Odds to win: 200/1
Scotland’s recent embarrassing defeat at the hands of Tonga means that there may be a spot of nerves going into 2013’s tournament, especially considering that they ended last year’s rock bottom with no points.
They get their campaign underway with a visit to Twickenham this Saturday, hoping to turn the defeat from last year’s opening day on its head.
Grand Slams: 3
One to watch: David Denton
Odds to win: 28/1
The reigning champions will be looking to become the first nation to win back-to-back Grand Slams since France in 1997 and 1998.
They were odds on favourite at the end of last year’s championship at 2/1 but the fact that they have lost seven games in a row in the lead up to 2013 means that they’ve dropped to 9/2.
They kick off their campaign against Ireland at lunchtime on Saturday.
Grand Slams: 11
One to watch: Eli Walker
Odds to win: 9/2