Australia v Lions Betting, Second test. Saturday 29th June 11am GMT
There’s alot going on this week across the Lions tour soap-opera – it’s very like an episode of neighbours (back when Kylie was there of course). Anyway, Buckle up.
It’s fairly clear that there’s plenty of subtext behind this week’s media releases, from both camps. Gatland praising Joubert, Beale & O’connor taking pictures at 4am, the IRB going after Horwill in an unprecedented move. Anyone who takes these releases at face value needs to wake up and enter the real world. I have no proof why O’Connor and Beale were eating burgers at 4am, and making sure the world knew about it by taking pictures with all and sundry (they do have drive-thru’s in Australia you know). But there was a reason, and I doubt that Robbie Deans was unaware it was coming. Maybe they wanted to create an illusion of a fractured squad. Maybe they wanted it to look like they didn’t care. Whatever is was, if Robbie Deans offered me 2/1 that he knew about it before hand, i’d bite his hand off. And that episode has mirrored the tone of every thing else this week.
Warren Gatland’s waffles
Gatland praising Joubert was simply his way of taking the piss. Saying he’s ‘the best ref in the world‘ was actually quite funny. Many many people know he is a poor ref – everyone at least who watches any decent amount of rugby and is unbiased knows he isn’t the best. (The French have even created a new national holiday based on him to mirror Guy Fawkes night in the UK). Even forgetting the disgraceful world cup final handover to New Zealand, he is accepted as a poor ref in most of my own circles anyway. Hence, we can probably assume Gatland wasn’t being truthful and was trying to somehow curry favour – like him or love him, Gatland knows more about rugby than most (if not all) of us.
So why did Gatland say it, if he wasn’t being truthful? Well, it’s because Joubert clearly favours home teams. He is 70% for home wins since he started reffing internationally almost ten years ago. His away wins are mostly made up of the likes of New Zealand playing away, or Wales at the USA. He is a Homer. Personally, I think the main reasoning for his favouring home teams is the fact he’s too slow to keep up with the game mentally and physically; thus his decisions come down in favour of the home team as a safe bet. It also means that home unions are happy for him to ref their home games, and he keeps getting work.
Gatland more than likely knows all this, so my genuine belief is he was taking the piss in the expectation of a tough day at the office from the referee. You could almost argue that’s why he has picked Vunipola in the front row – if you’re going to be done by the ref in the scrum anyway, you may as well have your best man in the loose on the field.
The IRB start waving their Pitchforks
The IRB’s witch-hunt after Horwill is unprecedented on a Lions tour, and rarely happens in international rugby in general. It doesn’t matter if you think he was guilty or not. The simple fact is they have never appealed a disciplinary board’s decision before. So ask yourself why are they doing it now? It’s not over worries about fairness or how the game looks – they’ve let plenty of international transgressions go in the past when it suited them. The horn-blowing hunt screams out a few things to me. Number one being they’re really worried they’ll lose this second test. Number two being, the Lions know they’ve lost their main man in Paul O’Connell. Forget ‘Tiger-face’ Warburton. Forget Brian O’Driscoll. POC was the main man here, and the IRB (whose interests are well connected with the Lions money-machine) no doubt received a well placed phone-call. Taking Horwill out of proceedings evens things up somewhat, and there is no doubt he would be a massive loss for Australia.
There is big money on the line here for the Lions franchise. Big money on the line for business interests. Essentially it’s a money making jolly at this point, and it will be a much harder sell in four years if they fail again to get a series victory. But i’m talking about the third test here, let’s get back to the second this Saturday.
Big Money burning at the stake
a) the Wallabies
b) the bookies
c) the tour marketing organisers
d) the tv stations
e) the fans
f) Sheila’s happy-ending massage emporium
g) The pub owners in Crocodile Dundee
all have in common?
They all secretly or overtly want Australia to win this game so we get a series decider. The big money showdown. The increased spend by everyone. The broadcast the rugby world will all be tuning their tellyboxes in to. I wouldn’t say there’s more than three die hard lions fans out there who really care if they lose this game, and most want a decider. It’s not like this is your countrymen lining out for HSBC against the world here. It’s a cobbled together team of a load of tired lads at the end of a long season. A tour that Sky have been forcing down our throats since three months ago. Everyone wants it to go to a decider! And with Joubert in place, you couldn’t have a better referee to get the full entertainment effect.
So the point here is, even if you think rugby is squeaky clean (it isn’t, sorry to burst your bubble), almost every bit of influence that can be wielded wants Australia to win.
Australia v Lions Rugby Betting – Teams (at base of post).
There’s only one thing that matters this week – Paul O’Connell is out. The man talking in the huddle, the man talking to referees. You have to feel sorry for Warburton – he was the captain pick of the marketing men, the younger man. Can you imagine Paul O Connell making tiger faces? No. No you can’t.
With POC gone you lose leadership, a rallying point, incessant tackling, and top-class ability. Watch any clip of last week’s game and you’ll see him putting in tackle after tackle. The reason Lydiate has been drafted in despite playing 80 minutes on Tuesday is primarily to make up for that lost O’Connell tackle count. And Heaslip, Warburton and Lydiate don’t exactly scream guile and electric-dreams-ball-carrying-prowess either.
Phillips out is a blow for the Lions even if Australia shepherded him well last week. The whole ‘knee-issues’ excuse is a charade – he’s not fit aerobically, simple as that. Watch the clip of Folau’s try with Dirty Mike and the boys huffing and puffing in the background. Youngs is a weakness despite his good record against Australia. If the Lions pack gets them on the front foot, he’s a dream. Going backwards it’s a whole different story. Vunipola in the front row is a red rag to Joubert and expect penalties. The best thing the Lions have going for them is the relationship between Parling and Tom Youngs. The lions threw to the front every time last week and that should change this week, giving them more clean attacking ball. Will they be able to disrupt Australia’s 100% lineout from last week though? I doubt it. The bench doesn’t look too sharp for the Lions to be honest, and I think it’s their turn to have some horrid injury luck this week, after last week’s nightmare for Australia – at one point I thought I was watching a re-run of the movie Braindead with the amount of crippled Aussie bodies lying around everywhere…
The Australian pack is the same as last week, with a few changes in the backs, with the main one being Tomane on the wing for Ioane. Make no mistake though, as RA pointed out in the forum, he’s all class, and has a try rate of one every two games (including his rugby league career). He’s in Rugby-union two years now with the Brumbies so knows exactly what he’s about.
Aside from all that, the main thing to remember is that Australia WILL be better this weekend, as they hadn’t played a test in seven months before last week. They’ve now had time to gel, and they’ll know they were the better side last week and should have won (and that was with O’Connell on the field). For me there’s big question marks over defensive cohesion for the Lions when they’re on the back foot, and that’s understandable, not knowing each other that well, and being at the end of a long season.
Take your IRB-sponsored witches cauldron.
Now throw in Joubert the homer. Throw in the IRB working like crazy to get Australia’s main man Horwill out for the third test (if they were confident this week, would it matter?). Toss in the loss of Paul O’Connell. Sprinkle in fatigue at the end of a long European season. A dash of Aussie pride. A dollop of home advantage. And just a smidgen of increased Aussie cohesiveness and it all points to one indisputable conclusive concoction – Back the Lions!
nah, just kidding! We’ve taken Australia +4.5 in Boylesports on the no-draw handicap at 5/6. Best priced and biggest handicap start you can get on Australia right now, and the start is generous for a game they should win with Joubert on the horn. Everybody needs good Neighbours, and the Craig does oblige.
There will be lot’s more insight in our rugby-betting forum (where membership is free, and always will be) on the Lions game thread with plenty of side-bets and value picks for this week. The forum voted on Australia plus cap last week and won, and we were robbed by Kurtley Beale’s two missed kicks on a 10/1 Lions half time/ Australia full time bet!
British and Irish Lions: :15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O’Driscoll, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 George North, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Makovina Vunipola.Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Ryan Grant, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Tom Croft, 20 Sean O’Brien, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Alex Cuthbert.
Team : 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Christian Leali’ifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Will Genia, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ben Mowen, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson. Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Rob Horne, 23 Jesse Mogg.