Six Nations 2009 - Week 1

Today, we see the start of this year's Six Nations 2009 contest. The Six Nations (formerly Five nations, formerly Home Nations) is played annually between England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland (the Home Nations), France (making up the Five Nations) and Italy (the Sixth Nation). In each game, there are 2 points for winning, 1 for a draw, 0 for losing. 10 points is the Grand Slam, to get 10 points a team must win every game. Last year, Wales won the 'Grand Slam'.

Along the way, there are several other trophies to be won.

  • The Calcutta Cup is awarded to the winner of England vs. Scotland. Scotland hold this cup.
  • The Centenary Quaich goes to the winner of Ireland vs. Scotland, Quaich is a gallic word for 'a drinking vessel'. Ireland are the holders of this.
  • The Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy goes to the winner of France vs. Italy. France hold this trophy.
  • The Millennium Trophy goes to the winner of England vs. Ireland. England hold this trophy.
  • The Triple Crown isn't won every year. England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales compete for this - and the winner must beat the three others. Wales holds this.
  • The team that finishes in last place gets the 'wooden spoon'. Italy are the holders of the wooden spoon (there isn't an actual spoon!) Wooden spoon is the name given to the charity that supporters formed to help good causes following one year when England 'won' the wooden spoon.
  • If a team loses ALL their games, it's a whitewash.

As I pointed out, last year, everyone got something (albeit Italy didn't want theirs!)

This weekend, saturday at 3pm (coverage starts at 2pm), England take on Italy. This is followed by Ireland vs. France. On Sunday at 3pm, Scotland compete with Wales.

Apart from the six nations title itself, the only honours being decided are the Triple Crown and the Grand Slam. No team can win these yet (of course), but they can certainly eliminate themselves with a loss.

What are the chances for each team? From the Coral and Labrokes websites (accessed 3rd Feb 2009):

  • Wales - 2/1(Coral) 7/4(Ladbrokes)
  • France - 3/1 (Coral) 7/2(Ladbrokes)
  • England - 10/3(Coral) 7/2(Ladbrokes)
  • Ireland - 10/3(Coral) 3/1(Ladbrokes)
  • Scotland - 12/3(Coral) 14/1(Ladbrokes)
  • Italy - 66/1(both)

From which we can conclude that Wales are the favourites, and that Ladbrokes do slightly more business in Wales than Coral, that Coral think more highly of France than Ladbrokes; that Coral favour England more than Ladbrokes; that Ladbrokes favour Ireland; that massively more Scots use Coral than Ladbrokes (at these rates, if punting on Scotland, use Ladbrokes) and that both diss Italy.

Of course, these rates will have changed by the time you read this.

Update: As of right now (9:20am), the odds have changed a little. Wales have moved to 7/4. Coral have changed France to 10/3. Coral have changed England to 4/1. Scotland have moved to 12/1 on Coral.

Me? I'm not a gambling man as a rule, but I will have a punt from time to time. I've taken my Obama winnings of just under £10 and put it on Wales at 2/1 to win outright, though not the Grand Slam. I want England to win overall, and I'd be delighted if they do, but I want to get some compensation if the Welsh do it again.

For the first matches. I expect England to beat Italy, though Italy are getting harder to beat over time, but they're not yet as formidable as they could be. Losing to Italy would be disastrous, especially at Twickenham, and not beating them convincingly would cause serious questions to be asked.

Ireland vs. France should be a very close match, I wouldn't like to call the result there, but I will, and I'll plump for Ireland given the home advantage. It'll depend on the side of bed the players got up on.

Scotland vs. Wales, Scotland have home advantage, but I think the spoils will go to Wales who have the strong hands of Warren Gatland and Shaun Edwards at the helm. They also come from 2008 as Grand Slam winners. This could work against them, though, depending on the psychology behind the scenes. I don't think that Shaun will have allowed over-confidence to take root, though.

Will I be right? Who knows! I'd be interested to hear your predictions for the first set of matches.

For info: Last year the BBC had the rights to show the Six Nations on iplayer. I'm assuming they will still have the rights this year - though I've yet to see this confirmed.