Six Nations Rugby Predictions: Fixtures favour France
- The 2024 Six Nations gets underway on Friday as France welcome Ireland
- After a positive World Cup hopes are high for England under Steve Borthwick
- Recommended bet: France to win the Six Nations
The days are getting longer and for rugby fans that can only mean one thing: the Six Nations.
The 2024 edition gets underway on Friday night and in some style, with 2022 winners France hosting reigning champions Ireland in Marseille.
Les Bleus are on the road this year as the Stade de France undergoes an Olympics-inspired makeover ahead of this summer's Games in Paris and are also set to play home matches in Lille and Lyon.
The support they received around the country while hosting last year's World Cup hints that should not be an issue and, despite the optimism surrounding the Irish, England and Scotland, Fabien Galthie's side could take some stopping.
France to respond in style
Both France and Ireland were cruelly dumped out in the last eight of the World Cup, eliminated by South Africa and New Zealand, who would meet in the final.
They have been head and shoulders above the rest of the competition in recent years but with Ireland and England both crossing The Channel, the fixture list benefits Les Bleus.
Like at the World Cup, Galthie will again be without fly-half Romain Ntamack. His absence is compounded by Antoine Dupont stepping away as he aims to earn a place in France's Sevens squad for the Olympics.
However, understudies Maxmime Lucu and Matthieu Jalibert are an excellent half-back partnership in their own right, while full-back Thomas Ramos has previously been selected at 10 ahead of Toulouse colleague Ntamack and will step in when needed.
Playing behind a fabulous forward pack, that trio should provide a platform for 7/2 with LiveScore Bet top try scorer favourite Damian Penaud, who shared the award in 2022 before taking it individually in 2023, and his fellow backs to enjoy themselves.
Questions at number 10 for both Ireland and England
Jalibert's excellence in the autumn ended French fears regarding his temperament and, while Finn Russell's co-captaincy cements his status as Scotland's playmaker, the same cannot be said for Ireland or England.
Jack Crowley looks to be Ireland's 'Chosen One' as Johnny Sexton's replacement but for all the 24-year-old's talent and big-match experience – he guided Munster to URC glory last season – he still only has nine caps and Andy Farrell chose not to bring him on in the defeat to New Zealand.
Speaking of the Farrell clan, Owen will not be around for England. Hooker Jamie George has taken the captaincy and Marcus Smith was expected to start at number 10, but an injury on Monday means he will miss the opening weekend against Italy.
That could offer an opportunity for his namesake, Fin, or the experienced George Ford. Either are fine options and should have no issues in Rome. They could also star in the second round against Wales but Marcus' malady may force Borthwick into a rethink.
Worries for Wales
Russell's Scotland are also contenders but head to Dublin in their final match and doubts linger over their ability to translate potential into performances but life could be more challenging for their opening opponents Wales.
Injuries and other issues have left Warren Gatland short of players and his Welsh side and Italy, now under the guidance of new boss Gonzalo Quesada, may battle it out for the Wooden Spoon.
Their 'Super Saturday' meeting in Cardiff could decide who finishes bottom but there could also be an outright showdown when France and England meet in Lyon on March 16.
There is real excitement about Borthwick's England selection and playing Italy and Wales in the first two rounds allows them to build momentum.
The French do not have that luxury but an opening win over Ireland could set them up for a Grand Slam at 9/4 with LiveScore Bet. The way the fixtures have fallen makes Galthie's side the rightful favourites for a second title in three years.