It’s hard to argue with England being solid 6/5 favourites to successfully defend their Six Nations crown, but you have to look back to 2017 for the Red Rose’s last home win against Scotland and their opening week clash is no easy one.

Meanwhile, quietly fancied 5/2 tournament second favourites France will be confident about seeing off Italy in Saturday’s earlier kick off, and then Sunday’s clash between Wales and Ireland looks the tightest to call on paper.

We preview the opening weekend of the 2021 Six Nations below.

Saturday – England v Scotland, 16:45

Eddie Jones’ men were in faultless form during the Autumn Nations Cup, drawing criticism only for being too boring.

The ever-popular elongation of the ruck to box kick and territory-led kick tennis can be a bit of a tedious watch, but there’s more to England than that and that’s why they’re 1/7 to overcome this opening tie with Scotland.

England’s Jonny May can be lethal when he gets the ball in space and heads the first tryscorer market at 13/2, but the fireworks could be more likely to come in the second half, priced at 8/11 to see more points scored.

South African-born Scottish winger Duhan van der Merwe and Stuart Hogg look the big attacking dangers for the visitors and are priced at 12/1 and 20/1, respectively, to cross the whitewash first.

On the handicap front, 15 points is the predicted margin, with England (-15) and Scotland (+15) both even-money chances.

Saturday – Italy v France, 14:15

On the continent, Les Bleus visit Rome and will be hoping for a bonus point win over Italy, with the handicap mark set here at 21 points.

Italy are no pushovers and can be backed at 9/2 to be holding their own with a half-time lead, but the French are no bigger than 1/20 to prevail by the time the whistle blows.

It’s eight years since the Azzurri last turned France over in Rome and they’re 10/1 to repeat the feat this year.

Sunday – Wales v Ireland, 15:00

Ireland have had bragging rights over the Welsh in recent years, coming out on top in five of their last seven meetings and are fancied at 4/6 to make that six from eight on Sunday.

However, only one of those recent wins has come in Cardiff and there’s no doubt that Wales are a tougher opposition under the roof at the Millennium Stadium.

Under new management with Wayne Pivac, Wales have struggled to hit full stride, though the same can be said for Andy Farrell’s Ireland.

Farrell clearly wants to put his stamp on the Shamrocks but is still clinging on to the Conor Murray- Johnny Sexton half-back connection.

This match looks like one that could really swing either way and the handicap line is set suitably tight at just three points in favour of Ireland, making Wales (-3) available at 10/11.

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