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Six Nations: Unstoppable Ireland value with or without Sexton

| 02.03.2015

Despite both England and Wales suffering crushing losses in this season’s Six Nations, neither Stuart Lancaster’s nor Warren Gatland’s side are out of the title reckoning according to Ladbrokes, who go 9/4 and 5/1 about their respective championship hopes.

The bookies’ fanning of English and Welsh flames is cracking news for backers of Ireland, who cruelly dismantled the next World Cup hosts’ dreams of going into the tournament as the dominant force in Europe over the weekend.

After Joe Schmidt’s men swatted aside the swinging chariot’s challenge so comprehensively, ending the game as a contest at 19-3 with almost half an hour to go, the 6/5 about Ireland winning only their third ever Grand Slam, but second in six years, practically demands backing.

The defending champs will likely go into their match against Wales as slight favourites, deservedly so considering they’ve won on five of their seven Six Nations visits to Cardiff since the tournament took in Italy at the turn of the last century.

Schmidt’s side are in the midst of an almost unprecedented 10-Test winning run and although Wales have clearly improved since being beaten up at home by England on the opening night of the current campaign, lessons should still be learned from that flattering 21-16 loss.

All Gatland and co have done since is edge past an admittedly-improving Scotland outfit who were, nevertheless, subsequently beaten at home by Italy, before seeing off a France side seemingly lost under Philippe Saint-Andre.

Injuries to Johnny Sexton and Sean O’Brien will worry Irish fans, as the fly-half and flanker went off with a hamstring problem and concussion respectively before the hour mark in Dublin, but with two weeks to go before D-Day at the Millennium Stadium there’s hope both will recover in time.

That being said, the likes of Tommy O’Donnell and Jordi Murphy have shown the depth in Ireland’s back-row forward ranks, and while Sexton’s loss would be a big blow, the continued presence of playmaking scrum-half Connor Murray means Ireland wouldn’t want for creativity.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Alex Fortune