by Rugby4Cast / 29th January 2019


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The Algorithm’s Six Nations
Championship Chances

Well. There you have it. Simple, eh?

And just what the devil is that?

The above graph shows the percentage chance that the Algorithm gives to each team finishing in each respective position. So it can be read that Ireland have a 46% chance of winning the tournament, a 20% chance of a Grand Slam, but also a 3% chance of finishing 5th. Italy have a 92% chance of collecting the wooden spoon, and a 7% and 1% chance of finishing 5th and 4th respectively.
This has been calculated from the individual match probabilities that you can see in the Six Nations section of the website. We’ve then run a simulated tournament 5,000 times to see what the most likely outcomes are from each of those match ups.

No! I mean, just what the devil is that? My team aren’t going to finish that high/low (delete as applicable).

Well tough potatoes. It is what it is. Remember, this is just the chance of that team finishing in that position. They obviously can, and might, finish anywhere. You can just use this as a measure of how likely your particular scenario is to occur. Our table may well be wrong, and you might disagree with it, which is fair enough. But usually, we aren’t too far out.

Fine. So talk me through it. Why is it like it is?

So some of the discrepancies between your expectations and the above graph may come from the fixture list. This is what we see as the biggest failing of most media outlets and commentators when assessing a teams chances. Most seem to only look at team form going into the tournament, and ignore the fixture order and home and away status. Here, we try to accommodate all the information.
For example, a lot of people have talked up Wales chances of winning the tournament, and rightly so, to some extent. They come into it on a nine match unbeaten streak. However, looking at the above, the Algorithm gives them just a 15% chance of winning the title, below that of Ireland (46%) and England (31%). Why so?
This is because we estimate Wales to have four (close to) 50:50 fixtures. France and Scotland away, and England and Ireland at home. Wales may well indeed win all four and likely therefore, the Grand Slam, but we make the chance of that happening to be around 1 in 20. They are quite likely to lose at least one of these fixtures.
England on the other hand, have three relatively easy fixtures at home – Scotland, Italy and France. All teams that they should beat in Twickenham. They then have Wales in Cardiff, which, as discussed, is around 50:50; and Ireland in Dublin – which Ireland are favourites for.
It is due to these combination of fixtures, their mix of home and away and the relative chance of winning each one, that has lead to the Algorithm giving Wales less chance at winning the title than England. Sorry to any Welsh fans out there. It isn’t saying it’s impossible! Just more unlikely.

Anything else we should look out for?

Yes of course! Here’s a quick summary of each team’s chances and why they are as they are. You can read the full whack in each teams individual Six Nations preview.

England: Finishing position: Probably 2nd. Maybe 3rd

Good chance of a solid tournament due to the three easy wins as discussed. Ireland and Wales will clearly be their big games. They will likely struggle to beat this Irish side in Dublin, on opening weekend, so Wales is likely to be England’s Championship defining game.

France: Finishing position: Probably 4th. Maybe 5th.

Will probably struggle to be above mid table. They have two difficult fixtures away in Twickenham and Dublin, but also have Wales and Scotland visiting. Two or three wins is likely the best they can reasonably hope for.

Ireland: Finishing position: Probably 1st. Maybe 2nd.

Are clearly the favourites to take the title. If they can get past England in the opening weekend, they will feel relatively confident of getting through to the final weekend unscathed. Depending on the way the other fixtures have gone, this may be a Championship showdown with Wales but, either way, Ireland’s most difficult game is their last one, away to Wales in Cardiff.

Italy: Finishing position: Almost certainly 6th.

Unfortunately, might struggle to win even one game. Their best chance is perhaps opening weekend against Scotland, or last weekend home against France. All others look very improbable.

ScotlandFinishing position: Probably 5th. Maybe 4th.

Might also struggle due to a difficult fixture list. Ireland and Wales at home, and England and France away. If they can get some momentum early doors they could get on a roll, and cause some damage. At Murrayfield they are a strong side and would be disappointed if they didn’t turn over one of Ireland and Wales. However, given their fixtures, they also could easily only win one from their five matches.

Wales:  Finishing position: Probably 3rd. Maybe 2nd.

Fine margins. Four of their five matches are predicted to be within 3 points, and clearly could go either way. In 2017 Wales finished 5th. But had Jonathon Davies successfully kicked to touch and prevented England scoring at the death, and had they held on against France in that 100 minute match, they would have won the tournament. It literally was that close between 1st and 5th. Could easily be a case of this again for Wales, either way.

England Preview          France Preview          Ireland Preview          Scotland Preview          Wales Preview

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