The Six Nations is the biggest rugby tournament in the northern hemisphere and the outcome of the competition is decided by quality and resilience under the greatest pressure. However, fortune and fitness can also play a decisive role in determining the winner.
All six teams start the Six Nations with the hope of remaining unbeaten to win the Grand Slam and the title, but expectations can change in an instant with an injury blow. For the coaches of all the six teams involved, they will hope that their key men remain unaffected, but there are already doubts regarding many of the potential leading lights heading into the tournament.
Johnny Sexton has been struggling with injuries on and off over the last three years, and he suffered a knee injury in Ireland’s win over New Zealand in the Autumn Internationals. Ireland are one of the leading contenders in the Six Nations betting odds at 3/1 to win the title, although the loss of their influential skipper particularly for their opening two matches in the tournament would be a bitter blow.
Tracking his fitness and availability in the Six Nations betting tips for Ireland’s games against Wales and France in the first fortnight of the competition before placing a bet will be key such is his importance to the side even though Jack Carty was solid in relief against the All Blacks. Sexton was voted the best player in the world in 2018, and his skills on the field have not diminished since, although his body is starting to display the wear and tear of a long career.
Wales have been hit hard by a number of injuries, including inspirational captain Alun Wyn Jones who has already been ruled out of the tournament. Veteran hooker Ken Owens and flanker Josh Navidi have joined Jones on the sideline for the competition, while there are also doubts regarding the fitness of George North and Justin Tipuric.
Lee Halfpenny is also scheduled to miss the tournament, robbing Wales of their dynamic full-back. Wayne Pivac will have to field an inexperienced outfit in the defence of Wales’ Six Nations crown, especially in his forward line. Wales do have talented players in their backfield such as Louis Rees-Zammit and Josh Adams that could make the difference, but compared to England and France, their injury woes could cost them dearly.
England have been handed good news rather than bad as skipper Owen Farrell looks to be fit for the start of the tournament after overcoming an ankle injury. The question is whether he will be ready to compete at a high level following his lay-off, although the rise of Marcus Smith will ease concerns regarding the fly-half position.
Jamie George and Manu Tuilagi should also be in line to start against Scotland at Murrayfield in the opener. Having all three players and their experience in the ranks could be massive for Eddie Jones, but the Red Rose do have the depth to cope with their absences.
The injury situations regarding three of the major sides in the competition could all change with a click of the fingers, but England have to feel optimistic their health is trending in the right direction ahead of the tournament. However, the Six Nations is a grind over three months of action and no team will come out unscathed when it comes to injuries.