Next Saturday’s showdown between Six Nations pacesetters England and Wales at Twickenham has the potential to set the tone for the rest of the tournament, and it is the visitors who are rated the most likely victors at 4/6.
The World Cup semi-finalists have won on only one on of their last 14 trips to the English capital, but impressive wins over Ireland and Scotland have presented a chance to claim the Triple Crown and seen them cut to 11/10 to take the title.
The Triple Crown – achieved by defeating the three other home nations – hasn’t been completed in the last two editions, however the last two to have managed it (Ireland in 2009 and Wales in 2008) went on to win the competition.
If Warren Gatland’s side do triumph at Twickenham, they will be in a great position to continue that trend, as it will send them two points clear of England and, for a day at least, four points better off than their World Cup conquerors France.
Les Bleus were the pre-tournament favourites and made a victorious start against Italy, but have seen their progress thwarted by the postponement of last week’s home game with Ireland and are now 13/8 to finish first.
That match has been rearranged to take place after the next set of fixtures, and with France’s clash with Scotland scheduled for 23 hours after Wales challenge England, they face the exhausting task of requiring two wins in eight days just to pull level.
And even if they do all that, a requirement made tougher by the fact that Ireland are likely to have finally got off the mark by then having met Italy in Dublin, they then collide with fellow title hopefuls England and Wales on the closing two weekends.
France are at least expected to begin that marathon stint of four encounters in four weeks successfully at Murrayfield next Sunday; they are 10/11 with a -7 handicap.