SPORTS BETTING analyst Ben Hathaway (@SkipHopz) runs the rule over Italy ahead of the 2017 Six Nations, picking out the best betting opportunities ahead of the big kick-off.
Six Nations 2017 | Italy Team Guide
Italy have lost 40/43 (93%) away games they’ve played in the Six Nations since joining the competition back in 2000 – 13 (33%) of those 40 defeats arrived by 30 points or more.
The Azzurri haven’t exactly excelled at home either, winning only 10 (24%) of 42 fixtures. Their two domestic teams in the Pro12 are cannon fodder, bravely lying 11th and 12th in the table, and although Sergio Parisse was also talked out of retiring recently, Italy are unlikely to make much of a mark.
Nobody wants to be wrong more than I but they could ship a lot of points in this tournament, especially on their travels.
Strengths and weaknesses
Carlo Canna and Georgio Bronzini in the halves is promising but so raw and youthful, and Parisse is 34 this year. I think this may well be the skipper’s last Six Nations, with Simone Favaro looking like the potential replacement.
I think Italy’s tight five is going to get schooled, leaving two young halfbacks without a great deal to go on. Their centres will run all game, and tackle their hearts out, but as soon as the replacements start coming on, the lack of quality may start to show and superior teams will pull away.
The Azzurri may well be backable with first-half head starts on the handicap, and opposable on the same markets in the second 40 minutes. The last 15-20 minutes of matches may end up being expensive for Italian defences, so there’s decent potential for an angle in-running.
Italy usually fade as the competition progresses, as you may expect with such a thin squad. Their fifth game is often quite a hammering and I think there’s another angle to exploit here – some bookies have early lines up for the final fixture at Murrayfield.
The betting angle
Conor O’Shea’s side have been given a 13-point start and I’d be amazed if that’s not 5-7 points higher come kick-off in mid-March. I’d back Scotland -13 into a 1.5 price so the -13 at Paddy Power for 10/11 is a definite bet.
Italy have lost their last three Six Nations concluders by 41, 43, and 53 points – and two of these ties were in Rome.
Overall, I make the 500/1 on Italy taking the title about right.
If anything you could argue it should be a higher – it would be a bigger shock than Leicester winning the Premier League if Italy were to lift the Six Nations.
Prediction : 6th
Scotland v Italy – Scotland -13 handicap (10/11 Paddy Power)