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by Rugby4Cast / 27th January 2020
Analysis Six Nations 2020

Men’s 2020 Six Nations Preview

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Predictions


Wonderful isn’t it?

Crumbs. What is that?

That, fellow human, is the result of 5,000 simulations of the Six Nations using our machine learning Rugby Algorithm. We use various factors to determine team strength, team form, head to head records and a few other bits and bobs and cram them all together into a veritable soup of rugby statistics. The Algorithm has a look at all this, decides what is important in determining the outcome of a rugby match based on previous matches, and the builds a prediction for future matches and the tournament as a whole. Lovely job.
[For individual predictions for the whole tournament see here.]

Right-oh. So England are going to win?

England are the most likely to win. A subtle, but important, difference. It means that England have the best chance of winning. But, read another way, it is near 1 in 2 that someone else lifts the trophy.

And why is this?

England are the strongest team according to our own bespoke ranking system (see below). They also have the advantage of playing the two other strongest sides – Wales and Ireland – at home.

Indeed, this gives England such an advantage (at least according to our Algorithm) that their hardest games are likely to come in the first two weekends – away to France and Scotland. They are predicted to win these games by under a converted try, but beat Ireland and Wales by close to two scores.
History would tend to agree with the predictions. England have only won 4 times in 10 matches in Paris in the Six Nations and those wins have never been by much. In Scotland their record is marginally better – 5 wins from 10 – by an average margin of just under 5 points.
BEYOND THE NUMBERS: It will be interesting to see how the Saracens salary cap affects England. I feel it is perhaps too late to properly affect England in this years Six Nations. However, it may have repercussions in years to come given the extent Saracens formed the backbone of the English national side.

Should England get through their first two games their chance of winning the title rise significantly. England fans, watch out for those matches particularly.

So who can stop them?

Well clearly France and Scotland. If those sides beat England though, they are unlikely to be the ones lifting the trophy. Ireland are our next tips for the title, again due to the home and away status of their matches. Ireland have England and France away, and Wales at home. Despite their World Cup woes, we predict that they should get past Wales in the Aviva Stadium with home advantage, but that the France game will be a real nail biter. This is predicted to go the way of the Irish by 1 currently, but could easily swing after the first rounds of tournament results come in.
If England have lost one of their early away matches to France or Scotland, then this final match for Ireland in Paris could be a decider.

And Wales?

Wales are our third place tips this year – given they have both England and Ireland away from home. They should win their home matches fairly comfortably, but are unlikely to win both of these away from home. For the Welsh fans, watch out for the second round match against Ireland away from home – this could really define the tournament for you. Win that and England should be the only worries (and the Welsh have a reasonable record in Twickenham). However, should they lose that and suddenly visits from France and Scotland look a little more suspect.
BEYOND THE NUMBERS: Wales have a new coach for the first time since 2007. Warren Gatland, who took Wales to 3 Grand Slams and four titles in total, left after the World Cup last year. He was widely credited with being the reason Wales always seemed to be so much greater than the sum of their individual parts. It will be interesting to see if Wales can continue so successfully without the coach who has been the brains behind their operations.

And what about France and Scotland?

France and Scotland are likely, as has been the case for the past few years, to be battling for 4th place. Although we have Scotland to beat France and get two wins, the French are actually more likely to take 4th place. This is due to the closeness of their other matches, and bonus points.
BEYOND THE NUMBERS: Personally, I actually like the look of this French team. Individually they look brilliant. And with Sean Edwards – who brought defensive nous and hard-headedness to Wales for more than a decade – in the coaching staff I feel that they could spring a long awaited heist on the Six Nations. The Algorithm however (which has long been proven wise against my own predictions) disagrees, giving them just a 4% chance of winning the title.

Scotland will hope that this French revival doesn’t take place. Their home match against France has become a bit of a banker in recent years. For Scotland fans their best hope at upsetting the apple cart will be against England in the second week. If they win that, then the French match may come with reduced pressure and their hopes of perhaps winning three matches look realistic. However, with momentum always such a factor in the Six Nations, losing the opening two weekends may have a negative effect on the Scots. As if Scotland England in Murrayfield needed any extra spice.
BEYOND THE NUMBERS: Scotland are without Finn Russell for at least their first game of the Six Nations. Russell is, to put it bluntly, a maverick. So often he controls the strings in Scotland’s greatest wins, but is often heavily involved in their biggest losses. However, without him Scotland are far less likely to challenge the bigger sides, and the tournament will be poorer without him. Hopefully he returns for their second match against England.

And Italy?

Sadly, Italy are predicted to go another year without a win. This would be their 5th consecutive year without a win. Their last victory coming against Scotland in Murrayfield in 2015. Their best chance comes against the Scots when they visit Rome in the middle weekend. Currently the Algorithm has Scotland by 10.

Italy have been steadily declining in our rankings for many years now, but last year showed a bit of a revival. We hope this continues, and that they can start to compete in a tournament where they have long disappointed. Fingers crossed for them.

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