Chiefs – Cheetahs betting, 635 am GMT, Sky Sports 2
Last weekend saw the proper opening weekend of the Super Rugby season and we were spoilt with some of the rugby on show, not least with the two games featuring these two sides. There is plenty on offer this weekend again and some fascinating duels thrown up. The game with potentially the most explosive components is the one that sees the visiting South Africans visit the reigning champions in their own backyard. This has the potential to be an absolute cracker and if last year’s match-up is anything to go by, we’re in for a treat.
Last season we saw an absolute humdinger in Bloemfontein which finished 39-33 to the eventual Super Rugby champions the Chiefs. Both sides provided the attacking platform for one of the games of the season (offensively anyway!) and much of the same is expected this weekend if last weeks respective showings are anything to go by.
Super 15 Teams:
Chiefs: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Ben Tameifuna, 18 Craig Clarke, 19 Tanerau Latimer, 20 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 21 Charlie Ngatai, 22 Patrick Osborn
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Frans Viljoen, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Landman Ligtoring, 19 Boom Prinsloo, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Riaan Smit, 22 Ryno Benjamin.
The bookies have this priced up around a 17 point handicap and while the Chiefs are more than capable of covering this I feel the Cheetahs might surprise a few here. We all know what the Chiefs are capable of on their day. They were incredibly impressive last year in winning the tournament outright. And while they’ve lost a few notable players, they haven’t been weakened that much. On their day, they are simply unstoppable. They were irresistible on attack last week against the Highlanders in what was the game of the round. They have decided to take this game as an opportunity to rest a couple of key players, captain Craig Clarke and scrum half Kerr-Barlow most importantly.
The expansive rugby the Chiefs play is easy on the eye but can potentially leave them open defensively at times. If the game becomes a shoot-out, there are few better teams in open play than the Cheetahs.The Cheetahs were very slow to get going last week but showed good character to claw their way back into the game. We also bore witness to the expansive type of play so much associated with the men from the Free State, especially in the second half when they nearly grasped victory from the jaws of defeat.
There is no doubt which side is the better team and on paper this Chiefs side should blow the Cheetahs away. When one considers the away form of the South African’s, it doens’t paint a pretty picture. However this Cheetah’s side can play with the best of them on their day and they’ll be relishing the prospect of playing the champions on their own patch. Whilst very suspect at times defensively (and they will concede a decent amount against a rampant Chiefs), I feel the Cheetahs, especially if Goosen can get that talented backline going again, can keep within the handicap offered by the bookies.
Cheetahs +17 at 10/11
Super Rugby – Week three’s other games
Blues – Crusaders: The work the coaching dream team are doing in Auckland is showing serious potential and they’ll be relishing taking on their rivals in what should be a cracker. The Saders might take a while to get going in their first game. Blues +5 at 10/11
Waratahs – Rebels: The Tah’s are desperate to put their losing streak to bed and have a great chance against the Rebels. Bookies have the cap right here but if pushed I’d side with the Tah’s. Waratahs’s -10 at evens
Reds – Hurricanes: The Hurricane’s will be looking to bounce back after last week’s disappointmentand have a great record against the Reds. Hurricane’s +5 at 10/11
Chiefs – Cheetahs: See above. Cheetah’s + 17 at 10/11
Bulls – Force: If the Bulls play like they did last week and the Force play like they did last week, it’ll be a bloodbath. Not sure if it’ll be quite that bad but still fancy the Bulls. Bulls -15 at evens
Sharks – Stormers: The big clash in SA this weekend’s see’s the repeat of the Currie Cup final. Sharks will be desperate for revenge and fancy them here. Sharks -3 at 10/11
Paddy Power are giving money back on all losing tryscorer bets this weekend if the first try of any game is scored by a forward.
Only a blind man with blinkers could deny all is not well in that part of the field but where to begin?
Best place to start is probably to define the role of the 10 in French domestic rugby…..Traditionally, France has always had a significant divide between backs & forwards and the out-half was generally “piggy in the middle”. Bernard Laporte walked a 16 legged tortoise around the stadia of France to win the national title in 1991. There was an out-half there too of course, for the kick-offs etc…… Four of the clubs loyal followers were given jerseys 11 to 15. These chaps were useful before a lineout as having clean kit they could wipe the ball dry for the throw in. I exaggerate of course, but not that much……..
Forwards do the work, scrum-halves guide them. When “les gros” get tired you send the ball out to the “gazelles” at the back & hope they don’t muck it up. The fly-half’s role is to act as intermediary between the two & above all else, reward the forwards hard work by scoring with his kicks. It’s very simple really. A 10 is required by the unwritten rules of French rugby “not to fart about & kick properly”. You can understand why Blanco would have built a tunnel to Cork with a dedicated TGV line if ROG had been willing to sign for Biarritz!
But back to the here & now. Trinh-Duc & Michalak are the selected French 10’s. Michalak is at best a 9 and a half imho. He was incredibly hyped up before & during the ’03 World Cup (he’s been around a while eh?) & we saw where that got him. He did a job behind a very vigorous and dominant pack during the Autumn Internationals yet he is but second choice for his club. That pack is no longer so vigorous and Freddie has been all at sea. Confidence is and always has been an issue for him.
Trinh-Duc has made his way up through the ranks of Montpelier, well coached, well protected, has a reasonable tackle, good general skills…….but he can’t kick. Why not?…………. Its not as if he doesn’t have the time or the facilities in which to practise……Temperament maybe? But then, who else is there? Actually when you come to that who else has there been?
Looking back quickly I think of Lacroix, Deylaud, Camberabero, Lamaison even Castaignède……..but apart from possibly Cambé, does any French oh spring quickly to mind when you think of “French Flair”? Obviously Maso, Blanco, Sella, N’Tamack, even Saint-André……….but fly halves? My examples are not exhaustive & I’ll stand corrected but off the top of my head none really stand out.
I do think of Fouroux, Berbizier, Galthié, Ellisade, Yachvili, Parra & many others. All on field generals marshalling their team to victory on many occasions. But they are scrum halves……So if we have a doubt about the suitability of Fred & Francois, who should the French opt for instead? Let’s have a look at the elite Top 14 league.
Toulouse have Mc Alister(NZ) considered N°1 by the club yet a chap on a fishing holiday (Donald) was called up to seal the deal for the Blacks in 2011. Beauxis has worn “Bleu” but is at best a journeyman, a good place kicker but that’s about it. Bayonne have Boyet, who in fairness has been unlucky but is close to calling it a day. Stephen Brett (NZ) arrives next season. Some young chaps on the horizon but nothing for the here & now. Clermont have “Brittle” Brock (AUS), Skrela well past it and Mike Delany(NZ) next season.
Perpie have James Hook (Wales)…….
Racing have Wisisneski, yet to convince & Sexton (IRL) will be there next year. Paris (Stade Francais) have Plisson, a possible, if he can keep Morne Styen (SA) on the bench……..ahem!
Toulon have Sir Jonny, who’s signed for another year (no doubt to the delight of Freddie!)
Biarritz have Peyrolongue, at 32, unlikely. Barraque had a great start to the season but faded….Blair Stewart in Grenoble, nobody really standing out in Castres, possibly Tales. Bordeaux have Lopez, who was given a chance by PSA, didn’t convince the staff & is off to USAP to play second fiddle to Hook, who can hardly get a game with Wales, & finally Monty, with Tin Duck……….
So what is PSA to do?
To be honest, those that have not been picked by the French staff are in no way superior to Freddie&Francois. There are chaps who can’t get a game in their club against Non French Qualified players who are not considered good enough back where they came from. The possible exception being Wilko, an aging if great talent & Bernie would be mad not to use him. In any case, you are judged on what you can or cannot do so until one of these guys steps up to the mark why on earth would PSA change what he has now?
Mind you………….there is one possibility………..one who maybe could do the job……… if you think about it……………he has 49 caps, he can kick & he’s only 24……………but then No………. its probably too mad!
Even for the French…………………….But what about?……………. Morgan Parra?
** The truth hurt it seems, The six nations have had the video removed from youtube that we used for our Craig Joubert comedy show post below. It was a sham game, handed to England, and a long litany of absolutely baffling decisions by Joubert that went far beyond anything seen before. That’s why they had the videos removed from Youtube. So our point is proven- something is most definitely not right here, and this isn’t the first game we’ve seen this kind of thing happen it happens in league games, and it happened in teh world cup final that Joubert refereed. All retails demain below, the times are still accurate if you have a recording of the match yourself on your digital box. RBS Six Nations didn’t want people seeing what we showed them.**
England beat France by 23-13 on Saturday in a crucial game for both sides. France were trying to end an unexpected losing streak, and England were trying to secure a championship. Both sets of players gave it everything they had, but the most important figure on the pitch was just not up to it. Craig Joubert not only let down the players (in particular the French players, as you will see below) – who dedicate their lives to this game, but also rugby fans around the world, and particularly the travelling French fans.
It has always amazed me personally how soccer referees can have every minutiae of their working performances examined in detail by newspapers (and rightly so), but rugby referees seem to get a total carte-blanche to make an astounding number of wrong calls in a match of this importance. Why is it that we frequently read nothing from most major Journos about the referees, especially after games where even novices to the game can see something is not quite right? Referees are the most important people on the field, bar none. Nothing can exist without them. Therefore surely it isn’t right that their performances are rarely if ever even critiqued? This self-imposed Omerta about rugby referees is damaging the game – there were 30 people in the pub beside me on Saturday laughing their heads off when Joubert awarded England a penalty when Ashton was holding onto the ball on 78 minutes (last clip below). It has become farce. If any other profession in the world performed as bad as some referees do, there would be hell to pay. Have the media and rugby journalists in general simply acquiesced into a zombie-like acceptance that nothing can be done about games where bizarre decision after bizarre decision is made against one side, the accumulation of which goes beyond understandable error to the realm of gross incompetence? Is that why noone asks questions?
We all have bad days, but Saturday was a truly gobsmacking ‘performance’ from Craig Joubert. And once again it was French rugby that bore the brunt of his baffling decision making, after the widely criticised officiating mess he presided over in the 2011 world cup.
As mentioned above, referees are only human, and with so much going on in a rugby match it is understandable that they can have super-bad days from time to time. Bad days that are usually bad for both sides for the most part. Saturday however, was a totally different story; where everything went against France, some of it beyond explanation. There are always bad calls in games, but there were just too many for it to be acceptable and simply brushed over here. French rugby deserves an apology from the IRB. And travelling French fans deserve their ticket price to be refunded. Sadly, the millions of us who watched this farce can’t get those hours of our lives back.
It is very easy to forget games like this, or over react, so we went back through the game to see if we were imagining things, or if the refereeing really was that bad. And it was. Below is how we saw it.
The incident notes below are accompanied by video where the erroneous (in our opinion) decision took place. Watch the incident referred to, then move on to the next one. And be sure to pause the clip before moving on to the next one. In the interest of brevity we’ve tried to keep the list to only the most obvious. All times are matchclock time
Important note – if you need to rewatch any of the below clips again, the fastest way is to just refresh your entire browser and hit play again rather than fiddle with the time on the videos (as the entire match recording is quite long and it’s difficult to get back to the clip start sometimes)
Joubert error v France 1 0 minutes, 38 seconds – the sad overture for the coming clown show – Maestri (french number 5) rucks through for France, the England pillar defender gives way so Maestri hits the ground, Maestri attempts to roll away IMMEDIATELY, doesn’t touch the ball, yet Joubert blows the penalty England. The ball was ALWAYS available. Wrong.
Joubert error v France 2 12 mins 34 seconds
Joubert penalises France for early engagement when it is CLEARLY England who engage early. Brian Moore the BBC commentator agrees on the commentary, and then is left speechless as he tries to explain it – understandably. Prior to this France’s scrum was dominant.
Joubert error v France 3 23 mins 25 seconds
Joubert is staring straight at Owen Farrell as he elbows Parra in the face. Sure it’s missable by the ref, unless you’re looking DIRECTLY at it, as Joubert appears to be (Yes we can’t see his face, but it’s seems he’s watching Farrell hit Parra not the play 2 yards to the right. Why didn’t Joubert blow it? He’s right there?
Joubert error v France 4 25 mins 50 seconds. Picamoles is penalised despite legitimately challenging for the ball – he released and re-engaged, England had no support, England were holding on, and Joubert is standing right there, and penalises France. You can see on a normal day how this could be given in error (even though Joubert is right there 2 yards away) but these are really stacking up now. Picamoles is furious as the play moves away to the right.
Other first half odd calls
24;11 ben Youngs england knock on at 2411 in front of Joubert, not given
24;40 Mas penalised for Not rolling away while Robshaw held his legs
33:20 Mas penalised again for not rolling away, when the ball was nowhere near him, that’s why he didn’t roll away. You see that as robshaw takes the ball out after the whistle is blown. Joubert right there on hand again.
The Second half (it got worse)
Joubert error v France 5 44 mins 55 seconds, Penalty v Nicolas mas for sealing off; it was never a penalty, he was rucking clearly and then naturally went over. Relieves french pressure, and the speed of Joubert’s whistle is notable. There’s a slow-mo replay a few seconds into the clip.
Joubert error v France 6 46 mins 35 seconds, France done for maul collapsing, but they never dragged it down and Joubert standing there right looking right at it. Nyanga is number six just before pen is awarded, and he doesn’t drag it down. The maul continues and hits Dusatoir, and the England lads hit the deck. You can see why this was given but again, it’s another marginal call against France. England get the penalty, and score to make it 12-10.
Joubert error v France 7 52 mins 45 seconds
Clearly Dan Cole is infringing in the scrum ( as he did quite a bit in this game), yet linesman staring right at it does nothing and we have a reset. France are then Penalised for going early in the reset. Off the ensuing up and under England score the match winning try.
Joubert error v France 8 53 mins 43 seconds– The Decisive score that wins England the game. First, there’s an English knock on as the ball comes down, yet Joubert shouts ‘back off blue’ – for me this is 95% an England knock on from how the ball reacts, and should now be ‘advantage France’. He’s standing right there. On a normal day you’d accept the mistake but not with all that has preceeded this.
Second, Barritt (12) kicks the ball into Vunipola who is in front of him, and then Tuilagi scores a try. Even though Vunipola is accidentally offside, he is still offside and this is a penalty to France. That Joubert doesn’t even check it with the TMO is another huge red flag for me and I can’t believe that with the unorthodox nature of the lead up he doesn’t use his powers to go to the TMO. Why didn’t he go to the TMO? He was right up with the play looking right at Barritt kick the ball into Vunipola? Is Joubert the referee or is he a spectator? The second clip and the slow-mo demonstrates the offside clearly and where Joubert was – i.e., right there, getting it wrong. At this point the French players have given up with the incessant calls going against them. Two big mistakes, England try, France wronged again by Joubert.
Joubert error v France 9 57 mins 48 seconds – Penalty England………. given against Fofana for not rolling away, but Michalak had his hands on the ball on the england player on the ground holding on. Fofana with three bodies on him made the effort to get out of the way, and not interfering with ball placement. Joubert saw the whole thing ONCE AGAIN with a clear view on the ball side, yet still makes the wrong decision. Wondering why yet? me too. The ball was still there for Ben Youngs to take it. Yet Youngs, not for the first time just looks at Joubert and stands off the ruck and gets a penalty – you may have noticed that in previous clips. He’s right to do it, if Joubert is willing to keep penalising France. And by-jove, willing he is!
Joubert error v France 10 62mins 20 seconds- Vunipola on his ten metre line off his feet grabs french ball; a clear penalty,and Joubert is right there AGAIN. The linesman contacts Joubert, and Joubert is in clear contact with him as his hand is to his earpiece for at least five seconds. The IMMEDIATE call should have been ‘advantage France’ as play continued. However, Joubert slowly lowers his hand from his ear and acts like nothing happened. Watch him – he just slowly muddles along and ignores the blatant infringment that should have been a kickable penalty for France, one that he more than likely saw, and had been informed about by the linesman over the earpiece. But Joubert was NOT INTERESTED – despite the crowd, the French players up in arms when it happened, the contact from the linesman, and his own eyes looking at what happened. I am 100% sure that the linesman here would NOT have contacted Joubert unless certain there was a penalty infringment. Advantage never comes. Another damning indictment of Joubert – he didn’t even consult with his linesman after play broke down (which you see EVERY week in the TOP 14, Rabo Pro12, and Aviva Premiership). Any ideas? Answers on a postcard please.
Later on, at 68 mins 40 seconds on the commentary, the Scottish commentator comes on, highlights the incident, and shows it as a clear yellow card for Vunipola. So If Joubert knew about it via his earpiece, (and John Lacey is a forthright man, who was running that line at the time, and who would have been very clear about what happened) why didn’t Joubert at least call French advantage? We have entered unknown territory….oh wait, I just remembered the world cup final. Nevermind.
Joubert error v France 11 71 mins 46 seconds – Joubert penalises the French thirteen (Bastaureaud) for not rolling away in front of the French posts. When in fact, he was nowhere near the ball after the tackle after making every conceivable effort to move out of the way, and Freddie Michalak had challenged for the ball fairly to win it on his feet, along with Classens. French players walk away shaking their heads totally perplexed. With the time on the clock this easy penalty meant England were 7 points ahead and almost home. Joubert with another huge decision based on nothing, against France.
Joubert error v France 12 – this one had us laughing in the pub like a clown’s encore at the circus, it was so bizarre, thanks for the laugh Craig. 75mins 19 seconds- Fritz tackles Ashton, then CLEARLY disengages from the tackle as both hands go on the ground so he can get back on this feet. He then, on his feet, engages Ashton on the ground who is holding on with no support, and Ashton won’t let go of the ball. Ashton stares at Joubert, Joubert awards England a penalty, when it should clearly have gone the other way. In the act of the tackle Florian Fritz is looking up at Joubert wondering if he has swallowed his whistle, or if it’s broken, you can SEE the lack of understanding on his face ” eh hello, blow your f*cking whistle you twit?!”. Then he blows for England. Easy penalty, game secured for England with three minutes to go; no chance the French can come back now.
The laughter had died down just in time for us to hear John Inverdale of the BBC say ” I think it’s because their stamina goes, so does their discipline”. No sir, you’re wrong, as much as your voice is agreeable, you haven’t a clue what you’re on about. Much like Mr. Joubert. Brian Moore, whose normally up front and genuine commentary I often enjoy was also conspicuous by his absence throughout the game in giving honest appraisals of the penalties England were awarded. If it wasn’t for the Scottish interdiction at crucial times I’d have lost faith entirely in the BBC by now.
France lost this game for three reasons – England played well, Saint Andre took off Parra (Trin-Duc had to go off as he had a knock ten minutes previously and looked out of it), and Craig Joubert reffed France off the park for reasons only he knows. We (the fans, who make it all possible) were treated with utter contempt. This wasn’t a rugby match. It was a progression to a home win.
In every game of rugby, there are bad decisions, and home teams often get a few hometown calls – it is human nature and empirical studies have demonstrated the psychological refereeing fact that it happens in all professional sports – it is just part of the game. But when does it all become too much? If there’s a level above Joubert’s performance against France I’m not sure I want to know. How many more games will Joubert get to ruin now as the Chariot steamrolls any hope of balanced and reflective discourse on what was akin to the Battle of Carthage being re-enacted in the Twickenham-Collesseum (France being the Carthaginians and England being the victorious Romans)? Maybe he’s just bad at his job, in which case surely he needs to be sent back to school by his employers.
You really have to wonder about the possibility that, had Sergio Parrisse not recently been banned for speaking out of turn to a referee, would the French players have held their tongues so admirably?
England have learned nothing here, and they’ve had three games that have fallen very nicely for them. As a fan, I think that while England have played well, Lancaster has been incredibly lucky this tournament with a Scotland side that rolled over to have it’s belly scratched, an Irish side that lost it’s leader in Sexton that had no replacement, and a French side that were hobbled by Craig Joubert.
This guy (Joubert) has not only ruined this game for France, but more importantly he took the world cup title from them and handed it to New Zealand, such was the magnitude of his incompetence/call-it-whatever-you-want in that game. How many more chances is he going to get? How many more times will we have to sit through Brian Moore and Inverdale ignoring the blatantly obvious?! Are they afraid England’s public school boys will burn them out of Studio five if they utter one word to question an England side’s good fortune?
Enough is enough, that’s twice now this has happened. Let’s stop the pussy-footing around the subject of officials finally – he’s a rubbish referee that has been the centre and cause of two of the most inept and baffling refereeing performances in recent memory. Why is he still getting these big games for the big home unions?? How is he still getting big games when he made a mockery of the biggest game in world rugby – the world cup final? Why are those people in charge still happy with him after that performance? Why are they happy to let him ref a home game for them?? Did they watch the World Cup final? Do they wheel him out like Hannibal Lecter every now and again to keep us on our toes? This game was an international farce when it should have been a cracker. Whoever picks the refs for these games is probably more to blame. I’m not sure of the exact make-up of selection panels but serious questions have to be asked.
Six nations Betting – England v France Preview, BBC 5pm Saturday 23/2/2013
We’ve been searching for final reasons to back England to win by 1-12 points all week but Stuart Lancaster may have blown that for us with his selections today. More on that below; first I think it’s important to acknowledge that we’ve been burned two weeks in a row backing England’s opposition on the plus handicap (Scotland +16, and Ireland +1). But there were large mitigating factors in both bets losing; Ireland lost all shape and direction when Sexton (Ireland’s only functioning number ten) went off injured early; and it took an injury time try for England to blow the +16 bet against Scotland. After much deliberation I can’t help feel this England side are still being given a bit too much respect and admiration by the bookies.
France name a much changed side, most notably involving players in their correct positions. Amazingly, Wesley Fofana, possibly the best inside centre in world rugby right now, is actually playing at inside centre! Well done Monsieur Saint Andre! Now take a bow. You meddling berk.
Aside from that, it all looks tres magnifique. The on-form Bastauread will seriously challenge Tuilagi (who had a very poor losing game against Quins last week) and Barritt alongside with Fofana. Parra the general is back at nine inside a quick-thinking ten in Trin Duc – a man will actually care about what happens and also has fitness; Au-revoir Freddie Michalak – how on earth did you get back in anyway?! Parra will slow things down and make the decisions Machenaud just wasn’t executing right. The backrow has a great balance to it in Picamoles, Dusatoir and Nyanga, who is having something of a renaissance of late.
England on the other hand look to have opened the door somewhat for France by selecting Hartley and Lawes to start. It’s one decision I just can’t get my head around and it may well have a huge bearing on this game. You only have to go back to last week’s premiership game between Northampton and Worcester for your first warning light – both players were yellow carded for foul play. In general they don’t add much to any side’s structure beyond the rolling maul, and they’re always prone to losing the head or doing something stupid or dirty, and generally put their team in the shit. They’ve been part of a Northampton side that have done very little in recent years and one that, on current form, won’t get into the Premiership playoffs. I can’t work out why lucky-Lancaster is picking them up against an experienced, determined, and hard French pack that won’t be phased by their antics in the slightest.
Furthermore, Lawes has been put in at six for a reason – to throw himself and his shoulders into tackles at France’s ball carriers, and to help in the lineout. This may well backfire on England as initially conditions were expected to be wet but the forecast has since been changed to cold and dry. If the weather (met office weather here) does indeed turn out dry, suddenly you’ve got one big slow yellow-card-loving liability at six whose potential positive impact has been drastically reduced.
And while England will still kick a lot from their big boots in the backline, once it’s dry France will run alot of ball back into places where Scotland found plenty of holes against England’s defence (finding opportunities that they just couldn’t finish off). Conditions will also be good for quick lineouts to negate England’s lineout jumpers – watch out for TrinDuc here – he’s done it a few times for Montpellier this season to create tries.
But the game won’t revolve around Courtney Lawes and Dylan Hartley even if they do get yellow cards (no six nations betting odds for Sin-binning are available at time of writing and I’d imagine that’s largely to do with their inclusion in the starting lineup). England have a good side out, and they still have four big boots in Goode, Brown, Farrell and Youngs that will kick everything and try to use the power game that worked against Ireland in the rain, and against a Scotland side that just didn’t look bothered.
But France have the strong and talented individuals who can challenge England’s power, and exploit the holes Scotland couldn’t in the dry. In searching for a close comparison to this game I can’t help but come back to Leicester v Toulouse in the Heineken cup last month. There are a lot of similarities – ten players from both sides that day play on Saturday. It was freezing cold too. Toulouse missed seven kicks (i.e. all of them) in that game and had a try disallowed, and despite dominating Leicester (particularly the Toulouse backrow and Huget, who all start here) they lost the game. England have the better team right now and France have the better individuals. They have to start playing as a team some time though.
The only question is will France be up for it? And I think they will. I’m putting my head on the chopping block here but this England side still haven’t done anything of real substance to make me want to take them on a seven point handicap against this French side. Rugby is often characterised by that raw human motivator revenge, but even more-so this season, particularly in Europe. Toulouse were knocked out of their love affair with the Heineken cup by Leicester. France were beaten at home last year in Paris by most of this English side. They’ve had two losses on the bounce against inferior opposition and there’s even more motivation there for them to end the rot and do to England what they did unto them last year. Plus, they have a Castres power house Samson back in the second row! (hence the cover image)…..
Overall I have both sides pretty even here, with France having more experience, England having a slightly better lineout and France a better scrum. England are due a speed-bump on the remarkably smooth road they’ve been on recently and France are just the team to give it to them. I’m putting myself up to be hung here, but I think France will win this game through hunger, revenge, and underdog status (not forgetting the class they have on the park). And crucially, Parra will take his points just as well as Farrell has done. And if the pressure comes on I’d fancy it to be Farrell who crumbles first and not Napoleon.
While we think France will win, we’ve not backed them on the outright as England are a good side and will make this a tight game, and anything can happen. But the Plus 8 available on the handicap at 10/11 is more than enough to get us interested. Third time lucky for the plus cap versus England!
England v France Betting verdict; France +8 10/11 in bet365 (+7 most other places)
Side bets – A couple of big prices are interesting
No tryscorer is biggest 18/1 in Coral, and in a tight cold game where the home side will be preoccupied with the win and taking their points, 18/1 doesn’t look half bad. With Parra back, France will kick every penalty opportunity they get too.
England Half time/France full time is a whopping 12/1 in Skybet (as low as 9/1 elsewhere). In an expected tight game where France have most of the motivation and England have the home advantage, this is well worth a small wager. You can get a free tenner no deposit bet to throw on this at Skybet here.
France: 15 Yoann Huget, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Benjamin Fall, 10 Francois Trinh-Duc, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Thierry Dusautoir, 6 Yannick Nyanga, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Christophe Samson, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo. Replacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Luc Ducalcon, 19 Jocelino Suta, 20 Antoine Claassen, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Frederic Michalak, 23 Florian Fritz.
England: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Mike Brown, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Joe Marler. Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 David Wilson, 18 Mako Vunipola, 19 Thomas Waldrom, 20 James Haskell, 21 Danny Care, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Billy Twelvetrees.
Super 15 Betting Preview – Melbourne Rebels – ACT Brumbies
This weekend sees the proper beginning of the Super XV season with a total of seven games taking place. A captivating duel takes place at Friday morning in Melbourne with the Rebels hosting the visiting Brumbies. The bookies currently have the line around the 5 point mark.
There is a bit of history between these two teams with the Rebel’s first ever win in Super Rugby coming against the Brumbies in 2011. There is no love lost between the sides and we should see another tough, bruising encounter this weekend.
Whilst the Rebels won the first game (by 1 point), the Brumbies have triumphed in the three thereafter. The margins of victory in these were by 15, 31 and 8 in the most recent match up in Melbourne.
Both sides started off the season with vital wins. The Rebels came back impressively against the Western Force to win 30-23 in the end. They were lucky in some respects and a poor start won’t be so easily recouped against a strong Brumbies side. The Brumbies hosted the Reds last week and were very clinical and impressive in most facets of the game, with huge intensity in the break down and solidity throughout the side.
Rebels 15. James O’Connor , 14. Lachlan Mitchell , 13. Mitch Inman , 12. Rory Sidey , 11. Richard Kingi , 10. Kurtley Beale , 9. Nick Phipps , 8. Gareth Delve (c) , 7. Scott Fuglistaller , 6. Scott Higginbotham , 5. Luke Jones , 4. Hugh Pyle , 3. Laurie Weeks , 2. Ged Robinson , 1. Nic Henderson
Replacements : 16. Shota Horie , 17. Paul Alo-Emile , 18. Cadeyrn Neville , 19. Jarrod Saffy , 20. Nic Stirzaker , 21. Alex Rokobaro , 22. Tom English
Brumbies 1. Ben Alexander , 2. Stephen Moore , 3. Dan Palmer , 4. Scott Fardy , 5. Sam Carter , 6. Peter Kimlin , 7. David Pocock , 8. Ben Mowen (c) , 9. Nic White , 10. Matt Toomua , 11. Clyde Rathbone , 12. Christian Lealiifano , 13. Andrew Smith , 14. Joe Tomane , 15. Jesse Mogg
Replacements , 16. Siliva Siliva , 17. Scott Sio , 18. Fotu Auelua , 19. Colby Faingaa , 20. Ian Prior , 21. Robbie Coleman , 22. Tevita Kuridrani
In what should be an interesting encounter, the Rebels have it all to do to ensure that they can build on last week’s decent result. The Brumbies will be determined to finally fulfil their potential of recent years.
The Rebels impressed up front last week but the ball was slow coming back and that was against a relatively poor Western Force pack. The Brumbies are a completely different proposition, especially with the new addition of Pocock. Their work at the break down was intense last week, with Mowen and Kimlin in exceptional form, and the Rebels will seriously need to up their game if they are to keep up and a big performance is needed from Scott Fuglistaller if they’re to do this. In the front five, the Rebels have continually improved but advantage must lie with the Brumbies again. Big advantage to the Brumbies here and if the weather is poor, as expected, this could be the determining of the game as without quick ball the talent out wide for the Rebels is wasted.
The half back duel will be extremely interesting with Phipps constantly improving and Beale beginning to develop more into his role now that position has been finalised. It’s not something I’d agree with as I think O’Connor would complement the Rebels backline more at 10 but Beale seems to be the preferred choice for now. I’d prefer Lealiifano at 10 for the Brumbies as well but their backline has a nice balance to it all the same. The Brumbies back should ensure plenty of ball and it’ll be interesting to see if they can build on last week’s impressive outing.
The major worries for the Brumbies are their place kicking and the amount of missed tackles last week. They need Nic White to take over the responsibility completely and hope he’s on form as they’ll get plenty of opportunities for 3 pointers.
Prediction: Whilst home advantage should never be discounted and any team with the individual talent the Rebels shouldn’t be underestimated, I’m siding with the Brumbies here. They have a massive advantage in the front eight and that could well be the determining factor in the game as without quick ball, the threat the Rebels possess can be nullified.
Super 15 Betting verdict; Brumbies -5 at evens
Super Rugby Betting– Week 2 overview (other games)
Highlanders – Chiefs: Home advantage and strong signings in the off season could favour the home side who always start strongly against the reigning champions. Highlanders -2 at 10/11
Rebels – Brumbies: See above. Brumbies -5 at evens
Bull – Stormers: Possibly the clash of the weekend in a titanic duel of the South African giants. Bulls to keep it very tight and maybe scraping a win. Bulls +2 at 10/11
Hurricanes – Blues: Blue have the coaching structure in place to build on and can see them keeping up with a depleted Hurricanes side. Blues +6 at evens
Reds – Waratahs: Another potential humdinger. Hardest game to call all weekend but if pushed I’d go with the Waratahs +2 at 10/11
Cheetahs – Sharks: Should be entertaining, always is with the Cheetahs, but the Sharks should have too much for them. Sharks -6 at evens
Kings – Force: Instinct would be to back the Force but this is the easiest game the Kings will have all year and their first at home. Will be staying away as too unpredictable but if pushed,Kings +12 at 10/11
Bath v London Irish 2.15pm, Bath -7, Not televised
Since the arrival of Peter Stringer Bath have been on a big upswing, and after a couple of good wins in the lv cup, and a hammering for Worcester last week, things are suddenly looking rosy at the Rec. However, if you look past those three results to two games beyond when Classens was there, they were well beaten away to Wasps and drew at Exeter (who should have won). While Stringer has definitely been a huge plus, it would be very easy to get carried away and back Bath to beat the 8 point handicap tomorrow; but I’m not convinced that I should back them based solely on Stringer’s influence. Irish are on a bit of an upswing themselves, and despite missing a few players like wantaway Jonathan Joseph they have a competent side out. They beat Saracens well in the end last week, and I was hoping the bookies might have forgotten the fact two of their tries were interceptions and award them more respect here down around the +4 or +5 mark (so I could maybe back Bath), but they’ve put the handicap right where I didn’t want it.
Neither handicap appeals then and while I think Bath will win, and probably beat the handicap, I’m not willing to put my money on either side. One market does interest me for small money, and that’s London Irish Half time, Bath full time at 7/1 biggest in Skybet. Homer is back in good form with the boot, kicking 18 points last week, and London Irish could easily get in ahead at half time for bath to come back in the second half. David Rose is refereeing in good weather (don’t back Irish if it’s raining ever), and he may be a pain in the arse for Bath at the breakdown throughout this game. Small money, as not on tv. Incidentally Stronger is a whopping 11/1 in skybet for anytime try, (13/2 in paddypower). He scored two in an lv game and one last week against Worcester, so that looks maybe worth a whirl too.
Premiership rugby Betting verdict; Irish half time/ bath fulltime, 7/1 skybet, very small money for interest and value as it’s not televised.
Worcester +3 biggest Coral v Northampton, 3pm. Not televised
Northampton have been truly atrocious lately and you just couldn’t back them, the coaches Mallinder & co. don’t seem to have a clue and the player don’t look arsed. Hartley and Lawes are back from England bench-fodder duty last week, and Foden returns from a post-injury break but it’s not enough to get my money on them. Worcester were well beaten by Bath last week but the score was probably a little flattering on Bath. Worcester also lost talisman Andy Goode immediately before kick-off, who curiously cried off with the pukes, so it never looked good for them right from the start with them not having much of a backup ten……
I’d say it will be a different story this week once Goode doesn’t pull another last minute sicky, and the 1-12 available at 2/1 would appeal if this was televised. However, Northampton seem to play best when nothing is expected of them, and it would be typical of them to come back from the dead and win this. Worcester’s home games tend to be quite low scoring when decent sides come to town so if you must have a bet on this game for some reason, unders on points would be the way to go if you can get anything under 41/42. I’m leaving this alone though.
Premiership rugby Betting verdict; Betting Verdict; save your money
Saracens -9 v Exeter, 3pm, Sky Sports
Exeter have been the masters lately of screwing up try scoring chances. It’s been going on for a few months now but the amount of chances they blow in the opposition 22 has got to be some kind of record at this point. Knock-ons with the line gaping, forward passes under no pressure – it’s a real problem for them and I can’t see any reason for it to stop this week. They name a decent side but are missing some key men like Camacho and Naquelevuki in particular who has been in excellent form, getting them an awful lot of places whenever he gets the ball. There’s four changes and I get the feeling they’re not travelling expecting too much here.
Saracens are still missing their England contingent but get some key men back from the international second sides, particularly Fraser and Botha. Last week’s loss at London Irish was a blip as far as I’m concerned, and I think Saracens look too good here with a nice looking pack, for an Exeter side at something of a low ebb who haven’t won a game in the league in four games. In all those games they’ve been pretty poor in the second half too.
Saracens also have one large mitigating factor in their favour this weekend – their new plastic pitch. I can’t say I’m crazy about it as a spectator but it’s here, and Sarries will have been training on it since completion where no one else has. They’ll know how it feels under foot, how balls react when they bounce on it, how it feels when you hit it hard, how it feels when you touch down for a try, how it feels when you smoke it, and how it feel when you lean on it with one leg and kick for goal with the other. They also owe Exeter a revenge beating after they hung on at home to win grimly earlier in the season. Saracens should win this comfortably all things considered, and I’ve backed them to beat the handicap of -9.
Premiership rugby Betting verdict; We’ve backed Saracens -9 available in Paddypower and Boylesports at 10/11.
Two players also interest me for tries anytime for small money; Strettle is biggest 3/1 in skybet and has been scoring lately. On the wing here, on a dry day with the ref no doubt sympathetic to Sarries on their big corporate day he should see plenty of chances. Tomkins is biggest 7/2, also in Skybet, and in plenty of space tomorrow the rugby league man should get a few chances against an Exeter centre partnership that I wouldn’t be too confident in defensively.
Harlequins -1 v Leicester +3, 5.15pm, Sky Sports
The second big game of the day for Sky is the theoretical match of the weekend with Quins hosting Tigers, and both in joint first place on 47 points. The bookies have been see-sawing on this one since prices come out, and there’s a wide discrepancy with some offering Quins -1 and others offering -3. Whenever you see that big of a difference there’s probably a bit of opportunity around.
Leicester see the return of key man Tuilagi and also Toby Flood into ten. Both men haven’t had a lot of rugby since being away with the England camp and you wonder how up to speed they’ll be. They’ll be fresh if nothing else. Aside from that Leicester have a slow looking backrow, and Waldrom hasn’t had much rugby either. Besides Tuilagi I see nothing special in the backs with Hamilton possibly being done for pace by an improving Ugo Monye. The four Leicester men still with the England camp are four key guys – Cole, Parling, Ben Youngs, and angry-Youngs. That’s a key cog in every facet of their game plan gone for this weekend, playing away from home against the champions. Also, Leicester have done nothing in the past 2 months to say they should be favourites here. Leicester fluked a win against Toulouse in the Cup (who missed seven kicks and had a try disallowed, and had to deal with George Clancy’s bizarre interpretations) and were really lucky agasint Worcester and Gloucester in the league, nicking tight squeaky-bum wins. Several members of this side were also beaten by half a Scarlets side (is hammering too strong a word?) a few weeks ago in the nothing-cup (lv). There’s a few punter’s tipping Leicester to win this, but I’m not one of them.
Quins are missing a few too, but mainly Robshaw and Brown. They’ve gotten Care back who is the number one scrum half in England right now (after peter Stringer*) and should have been starting for England’s two six nations games so far. George Lowe is back on the bench which really should have been the call last week, as easy as he is to turn against Varndell and Wade. Quins are a form side excepting last week; on a double digit winning streak before last weeks 1 point slip up at home to Wasps when Evans missed a late penalty. For me Quins are even enough with Leicester in most areas of the field apart from two key areas that will win this game on a dry day – the half backs, and the backrows.
Care and Evans have the beating of their opposite numbers Flood and Harrison all day long. And Quins have picked Easter in the second row with Guest, Wallace and Fa’asavalu in the backrow. That’s four backrows, very mobile, all able ball carriers on a dry day playing offloading rugby against a Leicester side that has been conceding a lot of tries out wide, and who are missing four of their five key men this season. This is something Leinster do for big games on dry days and it usually works a treat for them. Wayne Barnes is refereeing and as long as he doesn’t start acting the bollox for his chums in green Quins should win this well.
Premiership rugby betting verdict; Quins are -1 only in Williamhill right now (everywhere else is -2/3). And we’re on it. Quins 1-12 I don’t like, as this Leicester side have given me no reason to think they can live with Quins if they play well, and plus, the prices are truly Craig Joubert (shit) at best 6/4. 11-20 on Quins at biggest 9/2 is something I might get involved with before kick off for small money as it looks value to me over the 6/4 going on the 1-12 winning margin.
If you’re looking for an anytime try scorer punt, I really like Tom Williams of bloodgate fame on the right wing for Quins at 4/1 biggest again in Skybet (as low as 15/8 elsewhere). An exciting, underrated, intelligent player who always has me saying ‘he is quality’ every time I see him play. Also, if you want something small for interest, Leicester half time/Quins full time at 7/1 biggest in Skybet merits consideration. I feel like Quins have been serial slow starters this year (last week being a case in point), and they are well able to reel anyone in on dry ground with four flankers waring Leicester down.
IF you disagree (or agree), head over to the rugby betting forum and kick up a stink and contribute. Plenty of winning tips so far this weekend, and membership is free until 2046.
Ulster play in front of a sold out Ravenhill this Friday night, and after a loss last week to the Ospreys at home the focus will be on the defence and going back to basics. They’re seven points clear at the top of the table and it’s unlikely they’ll slip up here and be Zebre’s first victim. The handicap is a tricky one to call- Leinster only managed to beat that cap against Zebre with a last minute try a few months ago. It’s also very hard to back Ulster confidently to beat that 24 point handicap with them missing some key players like Wallace, Williams and Tuohy. There’s little pockets of inexperience here and there in the side and the lineout wasn’t functioning at all last week with Herring throwing to Stevenson and Muller, with the latter just coming back from injury. The Ulster bench is a bit light too.
Rather than backing the handicap here, i’m more interested in the points line. Not many bookies have a line out yet, but BET365 have it set at 48.5 right now. Ulster will be concerned with their defence after last week, and Zebre are in the hunt for an elusive first win. With the side they’ve named they look like they intend to stifle Ulster early and release a couple of decent lads off the bench like last week’s try scorer Van Scwhwalk in the second half. It’s unlikely to work for Zebre, but Ulster will likely be slightly cagey after last week, they’re missing important attacking players, and they’ll be tight in their defence after giving up a costly try to the Ospreys; so the Under 48.5 points in the game looks good as I can’t see Zebre scoring much. On top of that, Ulster look far from fluid in attack, missing as I said important guys you want playing if you’re backing Ulster to go for the jugular. Referee Neil Paterson should help – he refereed Zebre’s narrow loss at Osprey’s 16-15 recently. Weather is set to be dry, not much wind.
Verdict; Under 48.5 points, BET365 at 10/11
Dragons v Glasgow Rabopro12 betting, 7.05 BBC Wales. Dragons +4, Glasgow -3 evs
The Dragons name virtually the same side to last week’s home win against Treviso 23-14. Glasgow make some changes but all positive from the 36-20 away win at Zebre, with players coming back from the Scotland squads. Six games ago Glasgow went into a deep dark hole in an attacking sense and came out of it firing. They scored 3 points losing to Munster, and the next week they scored nothing in a 6-0 loss to Leinster at home. But since then they’ve changed things up big time, scoring 122 points in 4 games to bring them up to second in the league. The Dragons have done alright defensively over the winter but they tend to concede alot against attacking sides in the dry (Ulster put 46 on them here, and it’s been dry today and tonight).
The ‘Away team total points’ market is available at the moment only in Bluesquare, and they have it priced up at 20 points over and under. I’d expect Glasgow to score more than 20 points based on their four most recent outings so that interests me for a medium sized bet. DTH Van Der Merve the try machine is back, and they’re starting an exciting young Clermont loanee Bennett at outside centre. He’s only 20 years of age, but could be a big star so watch out for him. Glasgow concede alot as well as score, and the 1-12 winning margin is slightly tempting for Glasgow at by far the biggest at 13/8 in Coral – (who seem to be pushing for rugby customers lately with by far the bigger prices than anyone else for these markets – two months ago it was Stanjames but they’ve shrunk right in for the past month, and tomorrow they offer a miserable 5/4 for Glasgow to win by 1-12, and only 7/4 for Dragons to do the same, where they’re 12/5 elsewhere. If you’re into margin betting Coral are offering by far the biggest prices lately, decent website too).
Anyway, moving back to the task at hand, the 1-12 is tempting but I have a feeling Glasgow could beat the Dragons here by more than 12, so with the rubbish prices it’s probably best just to leave it and go for the points
Verdict; Glasgow to score over 20 points and win (Away team total points market) (more books than just Bluesquare will be offering this market tomorrow so hang around ’till late afternoon if you’re interested in it)
Friday’s other two games are a bit of a coinflip the way I see it. Edinburgh are in turmoil but Cardiff are probably not the side to take advantage of that. Both sides lost heavily last week, with Edinburgh being particularly woeful against a shallow enough Munster side. This looks like a tight home win to me and if you must have a bet on it, the 1-12 at 13/8 ( biggest again in Coral) would be best probably, with Patchell keeping Cardiff in touch from penalties.
The Ospreys play Connacht away and they won last week against Ulster who were quite underdone. While it was a great win for their second side, they are still missing more than 20 squad members, and despite some big names like Futual-hee-hee and Wynn Jones, i’m not sure you could count on them fully. I make it a personal rule not to bet on Connacht as you never know what you’ll get. However, after four losses in a row at home to the Ospreys there’s no doubt they’ll be up for this, and if they want to consider themselves a serious side they have to be winning these kind of games. If I had to bet, i suppose I’d follow the bookies with the handicap of -3 and take Ospreys 1-12, again biggest in Coral at 13/8
If you’re looking for a speculator we’ve also had small money on a double of Edinburgh and Glasgow to win by 1-12 points. Also, our usual 50/1 gamble in the halftime/fulltime markets for very small money – Connacht half time/ Ospreys full time doubled with Dragons half time/ Glasgow full time, which comes out around 50/1 in most bookies. Two tight games where the hosts usually fade away in the second half – worth a few quid.
We’ll have some thoughts on Saturday’s games tomorrow evening.
I’ve had a long deep think about the weekend’s rugby this morning on very little sleep, in particular Ireland v England on Sunday. It’s rare enough for me that I doubt my mind on an international bet (whether ultimately wrong or right) but this week I’ve endured an assault on my self-belief – much more violent than the many last minute suck-outs of recent months.
I embarked on this week’s journey thinking that Ireland were a great bet after their purposeful demolition of Wales, and Scotland’s roll-over-and-get-tickled job against England. So I figured I’d hang around for the Ireland -2 to contract some. Sure enough the price duly contracted, with the weight of the patriotic-punting English pound sending English bookies to fumbling in their greasy tills, adding the half pound to the pound of flesh England are apparently going looking for this Sunday. By Thursday, most turf accountants had the game a dead heat, no handicap, evens for the win either way. Surely now was the time to wade in with a lump the size of Hartley’s rump. But I hesitated.
The torture had begun long before that. Every paper this week in England has been extolling the virtues of this ‘humble’ English set-up. Gone is the arrogance of times past it seems; of filming grand slam winning ads, and printing grand slam winning t-shirts long before the Goose has even been sighted. Everywhere I turned they fancied England, subtly for the most part, but the message was clear – the chariot is back on the go forward and bollox if Ireland are going to stop it.
I found some welcome relief from my internal twitching watching the Rugby club on Sky on Thursday night, with Dowie Morris and Stuart Barnes notably avoiding eye contact with the camera whenever they mentioned an English box-ticker. Will Greenwood was another man staring at the shine on his shoes whenever he mentioned how good England’s chances were. I felt blood returning to my cold dead hands! ‘These lads are dodging questions’ I whispered conspiratorially to the neutered cat beside me. Self belief was returning. When Barnes said that ‘England have won seven out of seven of their last Sunday starts’ as justification for why England would win I punched the air and scared the shit out of the pussy beside me. I was finally being vindicated (in my own mind). I decided to wait for the Irish papers on Saturday morning before making my move.
They didn’t make things as easy as I expected. Matt Williams, who in my mind is the best rugby pundit out there bar none, is making out like England are a superhuman force requiring everything Ireland can give for a win in today’s Irish times. Gerry Thornley is artfully dodging the real beef while simultaneously pissing in our pockets and telling us it’s raining. After that I realised I was on my own and I’d had enough, and I decided against reading George Hook in the Independent as I’m all stocked up for toilet paper in the caravan.
So for an half an hour I sat and stared out the window of a greasy spoon, over a half eaten fry-up with rashers with that weird white stuff on them lying mostly untouched on the plate. Are England really that good? Am I wrong in my contention that this Ireland team has the bating of them in every position? Am I wrong that England have done nothing since last March to justify the optimism they travel with?
I finally realised I still believed I was right. As I went through each matchup in my head I decided I was sticking to my green-tinted guns. Let me preface this by saying there’s no doubt this England side has a big future ahead of it. Right, with that out of the way, Ireland will beat England on Sunday for the following reasons;
Experience and non-experience.
Ireland have more than double the international caps of England and the average Irish age is 28 tomorrow – prime-time in most sportsmen’s careers – compared to 24 for England. This Ireland side has a spine to it that has seen it all, and they fear no English side having generally wiped the floor with them the past several years in the Heineken cup, and the majority of years internationally. England were blown away by South Africa away from home in the summer and had no answer to a quick tempo, accurate game-plan. They beat a sick New Zealand side and suddenly the world is their lobster?
I’m just not buying it Arthur, I’m sorry.
The last time England did anything of note away from home in the past 18 months was a win in Paris in last year’s 6 nations (that almost wasn’t but for a Trin Duc Duck-drop that wobbled under the bar in the final minute). Think back to that game and what was notable – three breaks, three tries, and game won. Who were the three men that did it? Ben Morgan (break from half way to set up the second try). Tom Croft – skinned Rougerie and another slack jawed Frenchy to take the lead to nine with nine minutes to go. And Manu Tuilagi, who finished off a turnover in the opening quarter, running from half way with a double fend to touchdown in the corner and set the tone for the rest of the game.Check it all here if you don’t believe me.
All three of them are missing this weekend – where’s the pace in England’s backkrow this time round to cope with Heaslip, O’Mahony and O’Brien with the green madness fuelling them? Tuilagi is the big one for England though, and springing him from the bench won’t be good enough.
Tuilagi was everywhere in that French game. He was everywhere against New Zealand (England wouldn’t have won without him, of that I’m sure). Without him this season Leicester have been like Lennie Small missing George Milton in ‘Of mice and men’ – a big strong simple animal without their leash. He’s that important. Forget last week’s game against Scotland – England could have put Joanna Lumley at inside centre and they still would have beaten Scotland, who simply weren’t interested. As far as I’m concerned Lancaster is playing politics a bit with his selection here. With the win against New Zealand, he has maybe three years of goodwill ahead of him (ok, exaggerating slightly, but you get my meaning). So by leaving 12trees in this week and not changing a winning team, he’s still pretty untouchable if they lose. Whereas if he plays Tuilagi and they lose, it’s his fault. There’s a long term plan for this England side and it may be served well in the long term by his team selection tomorrow. However, putting an inside centre at outside centre (Barritt) and a likeable guy with one cap up against the longest serving centre partnership in international rugby (who are both in great form) doesn’t seem like smart business to me.
Finally, the favourites in my mind. This is a great Irish side that has underachieved, but is now on a decent run of form, with a huge win against the champs in Wales and a hiding given to Argentina in the autumn. No one is in bad form for them, and aside from maybe wedging Launchbury in for McCarthy (who has done nothing wrong), I couldn’t see Kidney taking anyone else from this English side ahead of their Irish counterpart if he had to pick 15 from 30. The scrums look equal; the lineout looks equal, and Ireland have the better halves and better ball players and are more likely to score tries (especially with the Sarascenic creative roadblocks Barritt and Farrell running things – and that’s backed up statistically too). As long as Ireland keep the discipline as good as last week they should be golden. And even if they don’t, Farrell is due to have the yips in a big game soon ; for all the slobbering lazy praise he’s been getting this week (merited for now, admittedly), people forget that he couldn’t kick or pass a ball from May to October last year in truly atrocious form.
Ireland are also seasoned nicely after last week’s run through the mill, while England on the other hand had it all their own way – Ben Youngs in particular had minutes to get passes away, such was the passivity of the Scottish defense. Ireland have revenge from last year’s hiding away from home, and importantly, they’re at home. Matt Williams made out that England are a crowd of Martin Johnson’s on a crusade this weekend. I don’t think they are. They’re a group of young classy internationals with big futures ahead of them, about to learn one of the most valuable lessons of their young careers. Ireland to win, and to likely win well enough. Hands up who wants to see the Predator Donnacha Ryan and Peter O’Mahony for the anthems? John Hayes may have given Irishmen stirring tears, but these boys are proper crocodiles. The blood’s up.
Head over to the betting forum for the rest of this weekend’s rugby betting, man of the match picks, tryscorer jollies, or to tell us if you think we’re full of shite.
Scotland v Italy- six nations rugby betting preview & tips
230pm GMT, Saturday Feb 9th 2013, BBC television.
Six Nations Rugby Odds best – Scotland -3 10/1 in Bluesquare, Italy +5 10/11 in ladbrokes
Even the most passionate England supporter will admit that last weekend’s least entertaining game was the victory over Scotland. We’ve had plenty of discussion throughout the week in the forum, with many contending that England didn’t have to work hard for the win, while Scotland barely had any kind of defensive or attacking coherence. Italy on the other hand, rolled with the French punches and despite France blowing a few opportunities they were, for the most part, stifled by powerful Italian defending and some excellent attacking play. You just never felt Italy were out of it and the key turning point in that win came off a french mistake that could have saw them 12 points ahead – Machenaud made a break down the right and failed to recycle on the Italian five metre line, and about a minute later, Italy had broken and scored down the other end with some fantastic, patient play. Parisse made the break, recycled, Castrogiovanni straightened, Italy went wide and manufactured an overlap with the big lad Venditti, and then Orquera found a gap to put Castro in with a beautiful offload. It was a total team try, and teamwork was something Scotland were definitely lacking last weekend, going into everything in ones. Teams win rugby matches, not individuals.
When you look at the positional matchups, it’s hard to find anywhere Scotland are superior to Italy, except maybe at scrum half and in Visser on the wing (where Maclean’s excellent boot should make up for any attacking shortcomings). The Scottish back row is arguably their strongest asset with Beattie, Harley and Brown. But Zanni, Minto and Parisse are more than a match for them. Hamilton and Gray fell off tackles last week in the second row (particularly Hamilton, who offered nothing at all last week but granny-tackling, and why Kellock isn’t starting is a mystery), and the front row won’t get superiority over their Italian counterparts. Italy are superior at ten and that could be the winning of the game. More on that below.
Head to head Stats
17 Mar 2012 Italy 13 – 6 Scotland
20 Aug 2011 Scotland 23 – 12 Italy
19 Mar 2011 Scotland 21 – 8 Italy
27 Feb 2010 Italy 16 – 12 Scotland
28 Feb 2009 Scotland 26 – 6 Italy
15 Mar 2008 Italy 23 – 20 Scotland
29 Sep 2007 Scotland 18 – 16 Italy
24 Feb 2007 Scotland 17 – 37 Italy
18 Mar 2006 Italy 10 – 13 Scotland
As you can see Scotland have beaten their current handicap of -5 in the past two years at home to Italy, while two years previous to that Italy came in on this handicap. Games between these two teams are always close and Italy are no doubt the form side of the two coming into this game after last weekend. They’ve also beaten Scotland for the past three years in a row at home so all they need is some away-day confidence.
More interesting head to stats however, are to be found in the Rabo Pro12 games between the two countries this season. Both Italy and Scotland both have two professional sides where they draw the bulk of their players from, so we feel this is a decent indicator of form. Treviso have picked up an away win in Edinburgh and without-a-win-all-season Zebre came within a late score of beating Glasgow recently in Glasgow, losing by three points. Glasgow have beaten both sides convincingly this season but the point here is that these Rabo Pro12 Italian players will have no fear of playing away in Scotland, and will be buoyed by their recent performances here. The French based Italian players won’t have any fear either.
The winning and the losing
There’s one massive weakness in this Scotland side (aside from the inability to contest at the breakdown, the passive defence, and the lack of passers at 13 and 15), and that’s Jackson at ten. He not only offered very little in attack, but he was also a massive liability defensively and Italy will target him in the same way England did. We have nothing personal against Jackson, but facts are facts, and maybe he just isn’t ready yet and Duncan Weir should start.
In last week’s game against England he missed tackles in the lead up to all four of England’s tries.
In the four video’s below, when you hit play you’ll be taken to a Ruaridh Jackson missed tackle just prior to an England try. Watch the try, then pause move on to the next one;
Ashton breaks through Hogg and Jackson
Jackson falls off Morgan, and Twelvetrees scores
Jackson shoots out of the line to leave a huge gap for Youngs to go through – Parling scores other side
Jackson falls off Haskell prior to Danny Care’s injury time try (that ruined our handicap bet!
It’s important to note in Jackson’s favour that at least he was trying, whereas most of the rest of the Scotland team were simply sitting back waiting for the big lumps to run straght at (and over) them. He deserves some credit for that at least
So what does this all mean? (aside from England looking slightly flattered by last week’s result?) Well, if we can see it the above, then the Italian management can see it. They’ll have everyone running down Jackson and Laidlaw’s channel, and the more back rows that they bring in to cover, the more space it will leave for Italy in the line. Italy showed last week that they can exploit that space well against the French. Italy have Man of the Match from last week Orquera to pull the strings at fly-half, and it’s hard to see Scotland beating a handicap of 5 points with this big a problem in such a key position, along with half of their other players looking shagged come 60 minutes last week (watch the ‘scramble’ defence after Young’s break for Parling’s try in the third video).
Last week I had faith in new coaches Johnson and Ryan but their gameplan was so poor I have lost any belief in them. On top of that, they’ve started again with Jackson, Lamont at outside centre, and Hamilton and Ford in the pack, signalling that rubbish performances are accepted and in fact encouraged by the new management. Bring back Andy Robinson I say!
We’ve backed Italy with an extra bit of security on the ‘No draw Handicap’ at +5.5 in Ladbrokes (this is the biggest handicap start you can get on Italy at the moment, for a decent price (5/6) ). It’s quite simple really – Scotland have obvious weaknesses and few strengths, and Italy just beat France and can match Scotland everywhere. Italy are the better team, that much is clear (they’re three better in the IRB rankings compared to Scotland too). If Italy turn up with belief (which they surely will after last week), they should actually win this game let alone stay in the handicap. They have a real chance of getting three wins in the six nations for the first time ever, and they’ve said in the Italian paper ‘La Republica‘ midweek this week that the win against France means nothing unless they can back it up away against Scotland. That’s exactly what you want to hear before backing them.
Side bet– If you fancy a small bet with a big return, then Scotland half time/Italy full time at biggest 9/1 in Paddypower (as low as 7/1 elsewhere) appeals somewhat. This would have win in last week’s game against France, and Italy seem fitter and hungrier than Scotland. I’d expect this game to be tight enough by half time, and there’s a decent chance Scotland will get in ahead before being overtaken by Italy just as France were. 9/1 is good value for a small money roll of the dice. We’ll have our man of the match pick in the forum for you too on Friday evening.
Six Nations Rugby Odds- Wales -1 Sportingbet, Ireland +3 Stanjames
As the month of January was born from the embers of another samey Christmas, Ireland with a three point start against Wales were really starting to look like the early punt of the opening six nations weekend (along with a small speculative punt on Wales to finish bottom on the ten year anniversary of same – details here). Wales were firmly rooted in a quagmire and approaching a record losing run, injuries were mounting, and Gatland was Howleying at the moon. It’s not often I look forward to a punt, but I was looking forward to this one. Alas, a couple of demons started to stir from the Irish camp and suddenly doubts began to creep in.
First of all, Tommy Bowe bent his knee sideways in a Heineken Cup game in mid-December and was confirmed as missing this year’s tournament. Who could forget Bowe’s try in Ireland’s ’09 grand slam year? I had had a huge punt on him to score anytime pre-game. It was a hugely successful tournament for betting, even better than the world cup two years ago – I must have backed Ireland to win every game by 1-12 points and won, and every England wager came off for me. I was on fire. When Tommy Bowe scored that try I was dancing around the pub half-cut with the lads singing “Tommy, Tommy Bowe” to the tune of Boney-M’s “Daddy, Daddy cool!” (go on, try it; you know you want to). When Bowe was confirmed out, my titanic-sized bet stake had already been shaved considerably by this chilling iceberg.
Lettuce consider what Bowe brings- pace, power, intelligent running, and an intimate knowledge of the Welsh lads from his time at the Ospreys, and also the Lions. I’m superstitious, as stupid as I know that is, and I immediately started looking for cracks in the Ireland hypothesis. Then the IRFU messing with the one and only Brian O’Driscoll over the Irish captaincy issue threw another spanner in the works. It all seemed too stupid to be unintentional. Why couldn’t they just come out and say “Brian will be leaving the shores of middle-earth soon, and he’ll be chaperoning our new cheery captain elect Jamie ‘Bilbo Baggins’ Heaslip through the same decisions that Chris Robshaw sadly had to navigate alone, with a brat like Farrell buzzing in his ear. But no. They had to turn it into an argument. Heaslip will be captain, BOD looks jilted, Kidney has been strangely quiet, and we haven’t been paying any attention to his other picks….
Then it hit me. The IRFU and Kidney for once seem to have a plan. All of the media attention and chat has been about Heaslip and BOD on the captaincy (non?) issue. There’s no pressure. Ireland are sure underdogs in their own minds, which is an essential ingredient for any possible Irish win. No one has been talking about whether Gilroy or Zebo are up to defending against ‘Manchild’ North or ‘Caution Wide-defensive-turn’ Cuthbert, or whether Trimble’s lousy form should still have had him starting on the wing. Ireland, for once look determined and set. It’s actually quite brilliant when you think about it. There has been absolutely nothing for Wales to get riled up about. Mike Phillips on interview yesterday looked non-plussed, with a searching look in his eyes. It was almost like he knew he was missing something, but hadn’t a clue what it was. No Gatland on the wind up, BOD saying he’s finished this summer, Ireland for once doing the SMART thing and talking everything down, and they’ve even managed to get the media in on the act.
The teams pick themselves at this point and we all know the ins and outs. Wales have massive quality throughout as we all know but half of them are in no kind of form. Wales have a new boy Coombs in at second row and the fact is Kohn from Quins would have been the better pick. Their lineout and general chances up against Ireland’s soaring Gaelic footballers will definitely suffer without the outstanding Lydiate and other quality like Ryan Jones. Shingler is lightweight in the back row but given space he’ll tear Ireland open. Biggar isn’t a playmaker but he can kick his goals. The Welsh scrum is a bit of a mess but they’ll get close to parity somehow. North and Cuthbert are out of form, and Cuthbert is a poor defender in my eyes, and Gilroy definitely has the beating of him. Evergreens Darcy (who is in brilliant form) and O’Driscoll know Roberts and Davies inside out and vice versa, the only difference here if both combinations perform is that BOD can truly magic something up out of nothing and that could be the difference. Wales have lost seven games in a row, and the last time they did that they were whitewashed in the six nations in 2003, losing every game and finishing with a wooden spoon.
Ireland on the other had are an inconsistent mess. Blessed with talent they’re the Amy Winehouse of rugby – no matter how much potential they have they just can’t believe in themselves enough to be happy. As evidenced above, they have to deliberately fool themselves into thinking one way, to cause them to think in another way that they think they need to think in. It’s fascinating, but a nightmare for a betting man. But facts are facts, if they perform; they have the beating of this Welsh side. It’s hard to be as angry with Ireland as it is with Wales because generally their players have been in form lately. They should have their own lineout their own way, and the question is how they use it after that. Wales will be expecting them to keep it tight but if they go to Gilroy and Zebo they can turn North and Cuthbert and conceiveably get the better of them. Scrums should be even enough too with O’Brien, O’Mahony and Heaslip holding the advantage braking off the back, versus Wales holding the advantage on the ground in Warburton. But good weather means the Irish trio can make hay high up at nipple level and feed the wide boys.
For me this game comes down to three things- Roman Poite, the coaches, and Craig Gilroy. Poite is a bumbler but to give him some credit, he has been making a serious effort to let games flow recently when I’ve seen him. So we should see some scores. He’s also reffing the offside line better than he used to, which might be bad news for Wales with that rush defence that Howley and Edwards are definitely not marshalling as well as Gatland does. Wales are a tired team, and they’ll make mistakes in that department. I’m not sure about Edwards either lately; his defensive systems definitely haven’t been working since last June for Wales, and London Irish seem to have turned a corner the moment he left in the Premiership.
That leaves us the coaches. In the Kidney versus Howley game of tiddlywinks, I’d take Kidney every time to be smarter and to have plays up his sleeve. Howley’s record speaks for itself since June and the look in Mike Phillips’ eye yesterday tells me nothing has changed. Kidney will want to go out with a bang and in my eyes he’s leaving his job after this tournament whether Ireland do well or not. Along with O’Driscoll going, and the now-obvious smokescreen above, I now have no doubt in my mind that Ireland think they can win this championship and have proper confidence that they will do Wales this weekend. Howley on the other hand might be hearing the Wolves at the door, and picking Coombs won’t keep them away.
Lastly, Gilroy. Gilroy stepped, paused and pivoted like a ballerina against Argentina in the Autumn and in dry weather Ireland need to try to line him up against Cuthbert at every opportunity, with captain Heaslip doing his customary blocking to stop any supporting defenders. He’s the big unknown here and his defence needs to stand up, and Kidney will need to have worked on his kicking which has been absolutely atrocious at times. These teams know each other so well, it’s the smallest things that will make this match, and Gilroy’s ability to step around (and defend against) a lurching, runaway, Sandra-Bullock-piloted oil tanker (with speed) like Cuthbert may well be the winning and losing of this game. Gilroy mightn’t be the worst pick for anytime tryscorer either at biggest 10/3 in Ladbrokes. (as low as 9/4 elsewhere)
Ireland want revenge here, and they want a tournament win too. You’d have to be a hard-nosed Taff to not admit that Ireland have been slightly hard done by in the last two years in this fixture. Ireland have had their heart broken by Wales in massive games for the past few years and they simply have to be the more motivated side this weekend. Wales have so many injuries and new combinations, a coaching ticket that’s offering nothing, poor Heineken cup form and a horrible run of international losses behind them. I know, I know, they always seem to get it together for the national team, but they haven’t been to the ice-baths in Spala this year and if they’re too tired for that, they’re probably too tired to beat an Ireland side that want it so much more. Everything in life is cyclical and so is rugby; this time Ireland have youth and the unknown on their side.
Main Bet- Take Ireland +3 , only still available in Stanjames. Ireland were +3 almost everywhere last week but they’ve moved in to +2 so money has been coming for them. As above, these two teams know each other so well it’s hunger and the unknown that usually wins these tight games. Ireland should give us a win here, and may well challenge for a title with France and England at home, but take the +3 as this looks like a 50/50, and Ireland might get another Howler of a refereeing decision. Oh, Ye God’s Gerry!
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