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England Six Nations Odds: Red Rose huge 20/1 title outsiders

England started the Six Nations totally out of the picture as potential champions, yet they are still in the running heading into the final weekend after a remarkable home victory over Ireland in round four.

It’s still a huge long shot that they can snatch the title from defending champions Ireland, but the mood around the camp, in the media and among fans is a far-cry from what was heard after two unconvincing wins to open the tournament followed by the loss to Scotland at Murrayfield.

So, have the real England stood up or did they get lucky against the Irish?

The two teams have identical records of three wins and one defeat, but Ireland’s four bonus points and huge points-difference advantage makes them almost out of reach and it would take a freak combination of record results to swing things England’s way.

Six Nations outright odds

Ireland - 1/100
England -
Scotland -
France -

France v England

Italy close to turning England over

At the start the title battle was seen as a two-horse race between France and Ireland, winners in the last two years.

Both teams had key players missing or retired, but although France had home advantage for the opening match, Ireland took the spoils with a bonus-point victory in Marseille and were hailed as champions in waiting.

England’s bow was a lot more low-key as they opened against Italy in Rome and were also missing stalwart fly-half Owen Farrell, who opted to sit out the tournament, while first-choice back-up Marcus Smith was injured.

Into the squad came a number of exciting backs including Tommy Freeman, George Furbank and Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, but without his two frontline fly-halves coach Steve Borthwick was left with the choice of pragmatic George Ford or young gun Finn Smith.

He went with the experience of 95-cap Ford, but while his kicking game probably saved the day against Wales, there has been a bluntness to England’s attack, as underlined by a tally of nine tries in four games - only Italy have scored fewer.

Against Italy, England went off as 15-point favourites, but were behind at half-time and ended up being outscored three tries to two in a 27-24 victory.

Van der Merwe exposes weaknesses

It was even closer against Wales, when England were ten-point handicap favourites but were 14-5 down at half-time before edging home 16-14.

So far, so mediocre, and while Borthwick hailed his team’s fighting spirit, the team looked short of ideas and travelled to Murrayfield as outsiders, the first time they had been underdogs for a Calcutta Cup match in the Six Nations era.

England scored the first try, but Duhan van der Merwe’s hat-trick laid bare the gulf in attacking edge, with Ford’s drop goal for England when they trailed 17-10 singled out as showing a lack of ambition and creativity.

Red Rose rise to Twickenham occasion

So to Ireland, and England were a huge 4/1 to win at Twickenham, the biggest price they had ever been for a home Six Nations match. They were given a 12-point handicap start, an unprecedented double-figure mark for a home game.

Again England scored the first try but were behind again at the break, although still within touching distance as Ireland seemed to lack their usual clinical edge, perhaps knocked off their stride by the hosts’ intense and uncompromising approach.

A late rally ended in Marcus Smith’s winning drop goal - met with cheers rather than the jeers that followed Ford’s kick a week earlier.

Ireland unlikely to falter

And so finally on Saturday England head to France, who are 4/9 to end England’s campaign on a losing note, with the Red Rose 11/5 to claim a victory in Lyon.

Both teams can mathematically pip Ireland to the title and they kick off last on Saturday, but Ireland’s huge +80 points-difference compared to France’s +4 and England’s -3 means finishing level on points almost certainly won’t be enough, and only England can finish with a bigger points haul.

For that to happen England need Ireland to lose in Dublin, where the Men in Green have won 11 of their last 12 tournament encounters with Scotland, without a losing bonus point. If that happens, a bonus-point win for England would put them on 17 points, ahead of Ireland on 16.

Unfortunately for England, the Irish are heavy 1/9 favourites to defeat Scotland, who are out at 7/1 to pull off an almighty shock.

But to get that bonus point England need to score four tries on French soil, something they have not achieved this century.

If Ireland win or draw, it all becomes academic, but should they offer a glimmer of hope to England and France, minds will be cast back to 2015 when England kicked off last in round five needing a 26-point margin of victory over Les Bleus at home to take the title.

They fell short in a 55-35 12-try rollercoaster as the game turned into a free-for-all and it’s 1/1 that we see more than 50 points scored under the Saturday night lights in Lyon.

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