Fiddes' Cent

Sky Bet's Jordan Fiddes previews this weekend's Six Nations action and tells us where the smart money will be going

By Jordan Fiddes.   Last Updated: 08/02/13 10:31am

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Manu Tuilagi: Back in the England frame

Manu Tuilagi: Back in the England frame

Sky Bet

Last weekend's fixtures saw more tries than any other opening round since 2004.

Ireland defied the odds to win away against Wales but undoubtedly the shock of the round came at the Stadio Olimpico as Italy beat the bookies to edge out the French.

That result has pushed France from pre-tournament favourites of 2/1 to 13/2 to lift the Six Nations trophy this year.

Although I didn't think the Italians would win, I did predict that they would beat the handicap of +12 with the 82,000 crowd behind them.

The big question this week is whether they can maintain some momentum and secure two wins in one Six Nations competition for the first time since 2007.

One of their two wins back then was a 37-17 victory over this weekend's opponents Scotland, at the same venue, Murrayfield.

Scotland start the game as slight favourites at 8/15 and are handed a -4 handicap at 10/11.

The game against France will have taken a lot out of the Italians and, apart from that victory in 2007, Italy have never won at Murrayfield in the Six Nations championship.

For that reason, and the much-improved performance against England, I'm backing Scotland to beat the handicap this week and topple any potential Italian surge.

Hurting

In Saturday's other game, Wales travel to France to face a side who will be hurting, and could well be on the receiving end of a backlash.

Wales haven't won in France since 2005 and have conceded at least two tries in all their previous 14 meetings.

Although they will be buoyed by their second half display against Ireland last week, they have now lost eight games on the bounce and confidence will surely be low.

If either team manage to get on a roll in this one, they will go onto win it, it just depends on whom will take initiative.

Wales, having scored 19 unanswered points in the final 35 minutes of their game against Ireland they may have a slight advantage, whereas France lost the second half of their game 10-3 to the Italians.

That makes the 'race to 10 points' market appealing here, with Wales 6/4.

Confidence

Finally, England travel to the Aviva Stadium to face an Ireland team brimming with confidence.

The bookies can't pick this one so both teams start on scratch at 10/11.

This is likely to be England's toughest away fixture of this year's competition and although they have won the last two games against Ireland, they have lost four of their last five visits to Dublin.

With that in mind, I don't expect England to play with as much freedom and flair as they did last weekend against Scotland, making the game a much tighter affair.

With Owen Farrell back on form with the boot, I'm going for the 'First Scoring Play' being an England penalty at 11/8.

This is a good opening bet for two reasons; firstly, the fact that Farrell scored 20 points against Ireland in last year's Six Nations competition which is the joint third highest total scored by an England player against Ireland.

Secondly, against Wales, Ireland committed 15 infringements including two sin-bins, which was the highest by any team in the Six Nations last week.

So I expect penalties and, if they are anywhere in the opposition's half, Farrell is likely to convert.

View from the Trading Room...

"France were humiliated last week with the loss in Italy, the team were not organised and I think they expected to win comfortably.

"Wesley Fofana, the young winger played well and he looked dangerous, expect to see the French utilise him more this week. He's the favourite to score first at 17/2.

"England put away Scotland with a 38-18 win even though they didn't play at their best.

I think they will put in a big performance this weekend as well, and beat Ireland.

"Bookmakers went out with +2 England on the handicap and that went straight away.

"Tuilagi comes back in the England squad and will prove a threat to Ireland, he will be looking to run into O'Driscoll and D'arcy and look for the pace around him."

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