SPORTS BETTING analyst Ben Hathaway (@SkipHopz) runs the rule over Wales ahead of the 2017 Six Nations, picking out the best betting opportunities ahead of the big kick-off.
Six Nations 2017 | Wales Team Guide
To assess the Welsh in this year’s tournament, after scribbling my notes down and the stats alongside them, the first thing that jumps off the back of the fag packet is a severe case of cognitive dissonance.
Wales are, by and large, an excellent Six Nations side. That’s an opinion, subjective of course, but then their record backs that up, doesn’t it?
Fantastic track record
Over the last five campaigns, of the 25 games within, the Dragons have lost only five – W19-1-L5 – a win rate of 78%. That’s mightily impressive. Increase that to a decade, back to the glory days of Gavin’s Grand Slam and it slips slightly to a win rate of 67%.
They were runners-up in 2016, lost on points difference in 2015, third in 2014, champions in 2013, and did the Grand Slam in 2012. That’s an incredible pedigree over the last five years and in terms of results, they’ve improved.
So why aren’t they a genuine contender this year? Or are they?
Reasons to oppose
The bottom line is they’ve been rank under Rob Howley recently. They’ve won their last three but have looked poor. Its hard to read much into a tri-series away in New Zealand before that, so it’s the four autumn internationals on which we have to focus, as well as the form of the individual players.
Leigh Halfpenny and Sam Warburton aren’t playing like they were three years ago, Jonathan Davies was ruined by his time in France, Jamie Roberts is a busted flush, George North is one more head knock away from retirement, Taulupe Faletau is injured, Rhys Webb has been rushed back and there are rumours of issues within the camp. They’ll probably win it.
It’s Wales’ fixtures that concern me the most and make me relatively pessimistic here. They only have two home games and they face both England and Ireland in Cardiff – they are unlikely to win either game.
The betting angle
The Dragons are also unlikely to win both their away games against France and Scotland, so although they should start with a victory against Italy and are circa 1/5 to do so, it could be their only win of the campaign.
As with the Scottish bet (to finish third at 6/1) and bearing in mind I see a middle tier of Wales, France and Scotland, the 9/2 on Wales to finish fifth holds massive appeal at 9/2 (William Hill) with Howley’s charges away to their tier two rivals.
Six Nations 2017 – Wales to finish fifth (9/2 William, Hill)