Oval balls will be flying around like snowballs as the Six Nations Championship opens today while another Super League season kicked off last night. Both codes return in the doghouse. England were dismal in the Rugby League World Cup, while the six northern hemisphere teams spent autumn being trashed by the southern hemisphere – apart from Wales, who beat Australia.
Wales are the reigning Six Nations champions (tipped here at 5-1) and are 2-1 favourites now. England, after their autumn of discontent, are fourth favourites at 4-1. Their set-up still seems confused, with coach Martin Johnson now picking a conservative team to stabilise the ship. With France (7-2) still faffing about over selection, Scotland (16-1) making fragile progress and Italy (100-1) weak behind a formidable pack, it falls to Ireland to challenge Wales.
The Irish have not won the title in decades but the current squad contains battle-hardened players from Munster and Leinster, and Brian O'Driscoll is the most exciting back in the tournament. Ireland have two big home games, France today, then England in three weeks. Wins in these could set up a grand final in Wales: £10 win Ireland (7-2 with Boylesports).
The Grand Final, in October, is the objective of the 14 clubs in Super League. It has become a two-horse race of late with St Helens winning the regular season, then losing the Grand Final to Leeds. Wigan and Bradford Bulls will get into the argument but I'm chancing Warrington for the championship plate – £5 win (14-1 Ladbrokes).
*Seven hundred quid was trousered from Super Bowl XLIII (all heading to HMRC, alas). Meanwhile our FA Cup picks Everton (12-1 from 25-1) deserved their win over Liverpool but the fans who cheered Steven Gerrard's injury did not.Reuse content