Talismanic Irishman misses opening game of the Six Nations

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Ireland have suffered a triple blow as they prepare for the upcoming Six Nations, and Declan Kidney’s side will be without Jamie Heaslip, Shane Horgan and John Hayes for the start of their Six Nations campaign.

Ireland are the 11/4 third favourites for the Six Nations following a poor Autumn campaign, and the Irish open their tournament in Rome against Italy.

The loss of Heaslip and Horgan is a blow to the Irish side but they should have the strength in depth to cope in Rome without two of their starting fifteen, and their Six Nations odds of 1/8 to beat Italy would suggest they should have no worries.

Heaslip should be back in the fold by the time France visit Dublin on Sunday 13th February, but Horgan and Hayes look set to miss the game which could be a defining clash in the tournament.

France are the 9/4 second favourites behind England (2/1), and Marc Livremont’s side will be using the Six Nations as a warm-up for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

At the new Aviva Stadium, formerly Lansdowne Road, Ireland will fancy their chances of beating France, and should they do so, Kidney’s side will be in a strong position to win the tournament.

Trips to Murrayfield and the Millennium Stadium will be difficult, but Ireland face tournament favourites England at home, and maximum points from their opening two games would make the Irish confident of picking up the title.

Tommy Bowe continues to play at a level above most of his peers and the Irish winger is a big price at 10/1 to finish as the Six Nations top tryscorer while the ever-threatening Brian O’Driscoll is 25/1.

Johnny Sexton is likely to be given the number 10 shirt ahead of Ronan O’Gara and he is 4/1 to finish as the tournament’s top points scorer.

A £25 stake on Ireland winning the Six Nations would return £93.75. New customers can sign up here for a free bet worth £25.

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Robbie Morris

Robbie studied sports journalism at the University of Gloucestershire, an establishment chosen for its proximity to Cheltenham racecourse, where he was a season ticket holder. Upon graduation, Robbie was a contributor to GolfPunk, a national magazine aimed at ridding golf of its traditionalist image, before joining the news.ladbrokes team.