Six Nations | Rugby
Andrew Robinson previews Wales’ chances in this season’s tournament
Defending Grand Slam champions Wales will be looking for a season like 2012 when they swept all before them, including wins away in Ireland and England, two of the hardest grounds to play at. So, what are their chances like of achieving the same again?
Six Nations History
In the early days of the Six Nations tournament, Wales struggled to get to grips with the new format, but since 2005 they have picked up three tournament wins.
And when they turn up, they do it in style, as their 2005, 2008 and 2012 triumphs were all Grand Slams. However, Wales are about as inconsistent as a Rafa Benitez-led Chelsea side and they have had some disastrous Six Nations campaigns recently.
In 2003, they picked up the wooden spoon after losing all five games, falling 30-22 to minnows Italy in their opener.
Wales have been going through something of a revival since 2004, but they have been in poor form recently. The autumn internationals were not kind to them, perhaps due to the fact Warren Gatland is focused on the British Lions squad.
They fell to home defeats against Argentina, New Zealand and Australia, which is easily done, but a 26-19 loss on home turf to Samoa was embarrassing, to say the least.
A distinct lack of tries has been the main worry, but it is something attacking coach Mark Jones believe they will overcome against Ireland on Saturday at the Millennium Stadium.
With Wales’ previous tournaments going the same way as their opening game, it is vital that they get off to a good start against Jamie Heaslip’s Ireland.
They are 4/6 favourites to pick up the win, as they have triumphed over the Irish in the last two encounters.
Rob Howley’s men do face a tough trip to France in week two, followed by trips to Scotland and Italy. If they can manage to muster some form on the road, they could go into the final weekend against England with a shot of the title.
Players to watch
The likes of Gareth Thomas and Shane Williams have departed the Wales side, leaving it to a new breed. The squad has been struggling with injury, but only Rhys Priestland will be missing from a very exciting back line.
Alex Cuthbert, Wales’ top try scorer in the 2012 Six Nations, and George North are both ready to set the tournament ablaze, with their no-nonsense battering ram approach to back play. The jinking of Williams has been replaced by the crash-ball of the two youngsters.
Jonathan Davies’ partnership with Jamie Roberts is also something to keep an eye on and they both look to be coming back to fine form at the right time.
Wales’ latest Six Nations betting odds with Paddy Power
The Welsh have a habit of pulling off the Grand Slam and they are 12/1 to do it again, but as inconsistent as they are, they could prop up the table. You can have a flutter on them at the same price with Paddy Power to finish bottom of the Six Nations table.
- Betting: Six Nations 2013
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