Round one of the Six Nations often produces tense, close-fought battles as teams look to find their feet and are focused more on avoiding defeat than on winning.
But it has also brought its fair share of upsets and the opening weekend of the 2023 tournament looks set to tick all the boxes.
Wales to beat Ireland @ 11/5
Over 47 points in England v Scotland @ 11/10
Italy +21 v France @ 1/1
Ireland go into the Six Nations as the top-ranked team in the world and short-priced favourites to seal the title, but they face what could be their trickiest test first up.
Cardiff hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the Irish, having won there on just one of their last six visits and lost the last four.
This all-conquering Ireland team ought to feel no lack of confidence whatever has happened in the past, but they are heading into the unknown to some extent with Warren Gatland back in charge of Wales.
When Gatland was succeeded by Wayne Pivac after the 2019 Rugby World Cup it was supposed to signal a transition to a more expansive and attractive game from the hard-nosed mentality of ‘Warrenball’.
It’s unlikely that Wales will simply revert to old ways but Gatland looks to hold the upper hand and he knows he has players he can rely on.
Even after Leigh Halfpenny’s withdrawal there are five players in the line-up who started the title-deciding showdown against England 10 years ago, while captain Ken Owens was on the bench that day.
Ireland have the second-highest win rate in the Six Nations at 66 per cent, but while Wales lag behind on 55 per cent, they have won four Grand Slams to Ireland’s two.
Ireland have the consistency while Wales are more of a hot-and-cold team, but all the key ingredients for a hot performance are there this weekend.
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Opening-round fixtures are often cagey and close, and matches between England and Scotland usually follow that path too.
But a new-look England side in their first outing under a new coach and a Scotland outfit full of attacking intent could break that mould in Saturday’s second game.
Steve Borthwick has taken over the reins for England and signalled his intention to move away from the emphasis on power and physicality that predecessor Eddie Jones endorsed, instead opting for mobility.
Winger Ollie Hassell-Collins makes his debut while Jack van Poortvliet gets the nod at scrum-half ahead of Ben Youngs.
Both will add zip to England’s game but Scotland look sure to fight fire with fire and underlined their attacking credentials last year.
The Scots scored 15 tries in four autumn Tests, including eight against Argentina, and in all four of those matches, including against the All Blacks, they were on the board inside 15 minutes.
They also hit the front after just 18 minutes in last year’s Six Nations victory over England and even with winger Darcy Graham injured, attacking stars Stuart Hogg, Duhan van der Merwe and Sione Tuipulotu will look to get at an unfamiliar England defensive unit from the start.
Scotland scored a dismal nine tries in eight trips to Twickenham during a torrid run starting in 2001, but have scored 10 in their last three visits and they can contribute to a high make-up on Saturday.
Italy finally ended a losing run of 36 matches in the Six Nations with victory over Wales last year, and also claimed a historic victory over Australia in the autumn.
Top-class players Tommaso Allan and Matteo Minozzi are back in the squad, but a 21-point handicap against France tells you bookmakers are prepared to believe a whole new chapter is about to start for the Azzurri.
France have won on their last four Six Nations trips to Rome, three times by more than 21 points, most recently with a 50-10 triumph in 2021.
But they fell short of similar-sized handicaps in two of their three clashes with tier-two Japan last year, and won their two bigger autumn Tests against Australia and South Africa by one and four points respectively.
Italy’s point-scoring has picked up after a low spell and they topped the 20-point mark in their November matches against Australia and South Africa.
If they can at least match that number again, they should keep within that big handicap line against France.