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Six Nations: Wales to punish France for World Cup heartache

| 13.02.2012

With Wales securing an assured victory over Scotland at the weekend, and France’s home tie with Ireland postponed, Warren Gatland’s young side have been made 2/1 favourites to claim the Six Nations Grand Slam.

Beginning the tournament as second-favourites behind France, the snatching of a late victory at the Aviva Stadium against Ireland, coupled with a strong second-half display against Scotland, has seen Gatland’s men compose a 100 per cent record from their opening two matches.

Leigh Halfpenny was the undoubted star of the Welsh side’s 27-13 win at the weekend, with 22 points to his name, including two tries.

Gatland hailed the likes of 23-year-old Halfpenny when giving a glowing appraisal of his inexperienced squad, telling BBC Sport: “It’s a good sign that we can lose some key players and just keep our head and not let it affect us.

“That’s pleasing that there’s a lot of maturity; we know how young this team is but there’s a lot of maturity being shown in the side. Leigh Halfpenny has had to move around again but he’s kicked his goals well, so yeah it’s pleasing.”

It was France who halted Welsh progress in the 2011 World Cup, scoring a narrow semi-final victory in New Zealand, but the 10/3 shots for the Grand Slam could struggle to overcome them this time round, with new coach Philippe Saint-Andre in danger of making too many changes in such a short space of time.

They did comfortably beat Italy 30-12 in their opener but will need to improve and cope with the pressure of chasing points now with a game in hand.

England meanwhile, 11/1 for the Grand Slam, recovered from being behind at half-time for the second match running to beat Italy at Stadio Olimpico.

Stuart Lancaster’s men therefore have scraped two wins from two, but could struggle in their next encounter with Wales, and the many imperfections of the side’s game will need to be brushed up on to give patriotic punters a good run for their money.

It is 5/4 no team achieves the Grand Slam.



John Klee