‘Wales will struggle in Rome’: How rugby experts’ predictions matched up to Six Nations reality
Wales went into this year’s Six Nations unfancied after a dismal Autumn campaign – and emerged as Champions.
But how many rugby pundits saw this potential resurgence coming beforehand?
The Telegraph asked “Will this year’s competition be a two-horse race between England and France?” with no single pundit placing Wales above fourth, and one placing them dead last.
“There is a chance that I will not receive the warmest of welcomes on St Mary’s Street or Chippy Alley, but Wales could trip up on their intimidating trip to Rome,” Charles Richardson said.
England, who eventually came a disappointing fifth, were considered the most likely winners by six of the eight pundits, with the two others putting them in second place after France.
“Wales face a tough few weeks, a feeling all too familiar to Italy,” Mick Clearly said – a few weeks before declaring that Wales’ run at a possible Grand Slam would be the “worst ever”.
“England may not be winning hearts and minds but they are winning titles,” he added. “By the time England arrive in Dublin on the final weekend, a Grand Slam will be within their grasp.”
“Wales, in a potentially messy period of transition, are still ahead of Italy,” Charlie Morgan says, while Richard Bath believes that “shaky Wales should (just) edge Italy”.
Wales eventually beat Italy in Rome by 48 points to seven.
To be fair on the Telegraph’s writers, Welsh-based pundits did not seem to see a Wales win coming either.
“Based on form I’d go with England,” Scrum V’s Aled Brew said. “Closely matched with France. Let’s put Wales down as fourth, based on the fact that Ireland are going to be a little bit too strong.”
Elinor Snowsill said her prediction was a “real battle between head and heart” but said she thought “France are going to win it – they look really, really strong”.
Scott Quinnell was the only one to call it (almost) right. “You talk about head and heart, I think they’re the same thing with me.
“It’s going to be Wales. We’ve had bad years in the past. OK, last year wasn’t a great year for us. But we’ve bounced back off bad years with Grand Slams!
“That’s why, we’ll beat Ireland in this first game, we’re on a roll to a Grand Slam! You just wait.”
It wasn’t just human pundits getting it wrong. According to Ruck, a super computer has predicted all the results for the Six Nations – “and it’s good news for Eddie Jones men, who are predicted to seal the Grand Slam”.
The computer predicted a 26-17 win over Wales in the third round, with England eventually slumping to a record 40-24 point loss.
QBE Rugby Predictor, which has simulated the tournament 10,000 times and produced results for 150,000 matches, suggested that Wales were likely to only win two matches throughout the tournament.
The bookies too were not keen on the prospects of a Welsh win going into the tournament, putting the dragons 11/1 to win the tournament outright, ahead of Scotland (18/1) and Italy (100/1).
England were favourites at 11/10, just ahead of France (5/2) and Ireland (7/2).
Despite coming within a whisker of achieving the feat, Wales were Wales 50/1 of securing the Grand Slam at the start of the tournament.