The confetti from the World Cup final in Yokohama has barely returned to ground but already attention is turning to the upcoming 2020 Six Nations and the next four-year cycle building to France 2023.
England’s adventure in Japan ultimately ended in disappointment, but their odds for Six Nations glory have shortened considerably from 11/8 pre-World Cup to 8/11 with Paddy Power following their peerless semi-final victory over the All Blacks.
Ireland, the 2018 Grand Slam winners and world No.1 nation heading into the World Cup, have slipped to fifth in the world and are 3/1 for the Six Nations with head coach Joe Schmidt moving on and defence coach Andy Farrell stepping into his role.
The men in green sit narrowly ahead of the 2019 Grand Slam champs Wales. Despite punching well above their weight to reach the semi-finals in Japan, narrowly losing out to eventual champions South Africa, their odds have moved from 3/1 to 5/1.
Those odds are perhaps a reflection of the scale of the challenge facing incoming coach Wayne Pivac. The New Zealander and former Scarlets boss, who coached Fiji at international level from 2004 to 2007, has mighty big shoes to fill with Warren Gatland ending 12 years in charge that produced four Six Nations titles, three of which were Grand Slams.
Next in line according to the bookmakers are France, halving their odds from 22/1 to 10/1. Les Bleus missed out on a place in the World Cup semi-finals by just one point to Wales and are also going through a period of transition with Fabien Galthie succeeding Jacques Brunel as head coach.
Yet many are tipping them to capitalise on back-to-back Junior World Cup wins over the next four-year tournament cycle when France will host the competition in 2023.
Scotland's Stock Falls Further
Scotland, following a disastrous, forgettable World Cup, have been leapfrogged in the pecking order for the Six Nations.
Despite potentially being the only side that will be retaining their head coach, with Eddie Jones’s future still unclear, heavy defeats to Ireland and Japan have pushed them down to ninth in the world rankings and from 16/1 to 20/1 for the title.
Notably, Scotland have never won the tournament in its modern format, with their last Five Nations title coming 20 years ago in 1999.
Perennial whipping boys Italy are non-movers with rock bottom odds at 500/1. Their best player Sergio Parisse has retired and they’ve been further handicapped by the departure of boss Conor O’Shea.
The Irishman is taking up a senior development role with England’s RFU, leaving Italy in limbo without a head coach. Wales Online have reported former South Africa and Newport RFC outside-half Franco Smith, who coached Treviso between 2007 and 2013, is expected to fill the position.
The 2020 Six Nations, the 126th edition of the competition, kicks off on Saturday, February 1, with defending Grand Slam champions Wales against Italy at the Principality Stadium.
If England are to fulfil the bookies’ favourites tag, they’ll have to overcome tricky away ties to France and Scotland before potentially decisive Ireland and Wales clashes at Twickenham in rounds three and four and their final match in Italy on Saturday, March 14.
Under Eddie Jones England have finished first twice, fifth and second. Of the nine World Cups to date, England have won the consequent Six Nations title four times, in 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2016, earning a clean sweep with a Grand Slam in three of them.