England v Fiji Rugby Betting Preview, Nov 10 230pm. England -32 evens VictorChandler, Fiji+34 Stanjames (10/11)
One of our new forum members on the England v Fiji betting thread was good enough to share an innovative method he uses to handicap International games, involving IRB rankings and home advantage. The number he came up with was a 34 point win for England – very close to the current bookies handicaps (and bang on what Stanjames have up, at biggest +34 for Fiji). Now we’re not saying it’s science but it’s an interesting boost to the growing bunch of people backing the -31/32. (Alot of money has come in William hill with the handicap moving from -31 to -33).
First of all, let’s just say that +34 is a whopping handicap to beat, and England have only beaten it once against Fiji – over ten years ago in a 35 point winning margin victory. Obviously alot has changed since then, with the Fijians getting much more exposure at European club level, and alot more structure. Fiji tend to do OK in November Internationals in Europe, with a draw in Wales in recent years, and the French only beat them by 22 points. Many will look at Scotland’s game down in Fiji during the summer for some guidance on Flying Fijian form (which we tipped on here as having over 4,5 tires, and it did, waheyy!). There are some Youtube highlights of the game here if you have 5 minutes to spare. Scotland eventually won that game by 12 points, and if you were to watch that highlight clip, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a walk in the park for Scotland. Well it wasn’t – we stayed up till 5am to watch it (like the sad people we are) and the Fijians made an excellent fight of it against a fully coherent Scotland side, on the end of a tour which saw them beat Australia. Lack of finishing cost them in that game, and in particular just before the end of the game; what the highlight reel also leaves out is that Fiji had an extended period of pressure on Scotland’s line towards the end and couldn’t make it count, losing their concentration when it really mattered. Had they scored they would have gone into the lead with very little time left. Instead they screwed up, and Scotland got another late try to make the result look far more comfortable than it was. This is why we stay up bleary eyed watching things like this – it usually helps down the road at some point.
So what does that mean for Saturday’s game? Fiji are missing Edinburgh’s Talei, who is a big loss for the leadership he brings. However he is replaced by Qera of Gloucester who has hit some form and he’s just the man to lay down some early hits. Naquelevuki didn’t play that day against Scotland but he starts in the centres tomorrow and he will get Fiji on the front foot more often than not. He can also offload which is something Tuilagi possibly doesn’t have in his arsenal. Leicester’s Goneva, who after a slow start in the Premiership has really hit some form, was instrumental in a couple of Fiji’s tries against Scotland and starts in the centre tomorrow. The rest of the team is about 60% of what the Scotland game was, and they’ve replaced two of the front row which can only be a good thing considering the penalty try they gave up, and one of those is more likely than not again tomorrow if England get close in. Their scrum wasn’t all bad though, and they took a few penalties against the head v Scotland.
So enough about Fiji, what about England? Time to try to pull apart this handicap if we can. It’s clear they are superior to Fiji in many positions and they are rightly favourites, but the real advantage European teams have always had over all of the Islanders is structure. England should have the lineout sorted overall with a Leicester man throwing into his Leicester team-mates, but i’m not buying the total media whitewash of debutant Young’s throwing form. Essentially all dissent has been crushed but sticking your fingers in your ears and not pretending not to hear the doubters won’t make it all right on the night. He has good overall stats, but the fact is that in his last big game against the Ospreys he was absolutely woeful, as was the Leicester lineout in general – losing the majority of their own ball. Then last week against Northampton he didn’t play (granted he was probably being kept for England duty). I’m not saying the lineout will be Fiji’s, all i’m saying is don’t expect perfect lineout set play ball for England. Looking across the rest of the team, there’s plenty of class and solidity and they should have scrums mostly their own way. The backrow doesn’t have much beauty about it but it should do the job, and England will probably play a Quins type short game close in around the ruck with Care exploiting any gaps.
But here’s the thing- What if that doesn’t work and the Fijians front up around the break down? Will they go wide? Sharples is lightening quick on the wing but you wonder how much ball he’ll get from Tuilagi and Barritt – and his defence is questionable. A few big early hits for Fiji and England could revert to type for all the chat in the media of them being allowed to play naturally. The England bench isn’t exactly one to set the world alight either, and Robshaw as captain hasn’t been in great form and is probably not the most inspirational leader. England don’t have a terrific record in the Autumn internationals in recent years either, and they come off two losses and a draw away to South Africa and they have plenty of new combinations from different teams playing together for the first time. It’s a big ask to beat a 32 point handicap first game back, and with the Fijians talking midweek of loving the fact they’re playing in a sold out Twickenham- maybe it reminds them of a sold out Cardiff a few years back! England are a second half side and should pull away here in the final 20 but they write the Flying Fijians off at their peril.
Positives for England? As above, there’s a great bunch of players here and a very happy looking mood in the camp (maybe too happy) if the Sky love-in on Thursday night was anything to go by – (hardly a word mentioned about Scotland, Wales and Ireland by the way). Flood, though coming off a slight injury, is in great form as is Care inside him and overall it’s a pretty dynamic pack…but I just can’t shake the feeling there’s a slightly cobbled together look to the side (we’re getting negative again!). This Fijian side could have beaten Scotland with a bit more composure and you’d fancy them for a score or two, and they have an able kicker. Bookies have the away team points line set at 13 points over/under and that looks about right (though you’d expect a little more from Fiji against a backline that hasn’t played together). So if the bookies are right then England will need to rack up 45 points to beat -32 with equates to around 7 tries. Yet the bookies are also pricing up over 6 England tries at 6/4 so they don’t really fancy that outcome. So ask yourself, will this England team score seven tries more than Fiji? They might, but as long as Fiji show up it doesn’t look likely. Also, If Flood’s injury kicks up early and Farrell has to come on at ten then you can kiss any notion of England beating the handicap goodbye too – Saracen’s average is LESS than 1 try per game whenever he starts.
Main Bet- there’s the usual market optimism for England and the patriotic punt is swinging high across the land. England could beat this handicap but the Fijians should be able to stay inside with the quality scattered around the side and the space that should open up if the England in-camp smiles are anything to go by. We’re taking an effective Fiji +35 in Stanjames – Fiji +34.5 on the no draw handicap) at 4/5. As above it’s hard to see a rusty England getting the interplay needed to put this kind of score up, there’s a fair bit of rain about tonight and Saturday morning around Twickenham, and referee Glen Jackson should be an extra bit lenient to the Fijians, lest he be called out for England favouritism with him having so many close ties, having played for Saracens himself. Here’s hoping for a cracker of a game, and here’s an important point – if England DON’T beat this handicap it’ll be far better for them with the upcoming three games on the horizon. I think Lancaster would prefer a tough game to an easy canter, and he’ll very likely make early use of his bench here.
Side bets – We’ve taken a small interest in Danny Care to be the top home nations tryscorer (includes Ireland) for the entire autumn internationals at 20/1 in Ladbrokes (you’ll find it in the specials section, where Welshman Cuthbert is 4/1 current favourite. (Care has been in great tryscoring form for Quins, scoring in many or their games recently, and 20/1 is a bit of value worth investing in for a small few quid. Williamhill also have exactly one card to be awarded in the game at 5/2, with no card at 11/8. This doesn’t really tally with Paddypower who have any card to be awarded in the game at odds-on, so there’s value there for there to be one card awarded – Jackson isn’t known for giving many cards bit Fiji could give one away tomorrow in one of three areas – the scrum, big tackles, or the breakdown. Two cards is 11/4 but one card only looks best at 5/2.
No tryscorer bets appeal as prices are far too tight, but one other slight tempter is for a Fiji try to be the first score of the game at 16/1 everywhere except Ladbrokes, powers and Skybet. How many times have we seen the underdog get the first try of the game? 16/1 is too big and well worth a fiver or tenner.
Again here’s hoping for an entertaining game. If you want your say, head on over to the betting forum and chip in with your opinion. Also, there are so many games on this weekend we can’t cover them all from a betting perspective (there’s only so many hours in the day). But that’s where the forum comes in – get on there, ask your questions, or read the opinions of others – there’s plenty of wisdom on there from around the rugby world.
England: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Danny Care, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Tom Palmer, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 David Paice, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Joe Launchbury, 19 Tom Wood, 20 Ben Youngs, 21 Owen Farrell, 22 Mike Brown.
Fiji: 15 Simeli Koniferedi, 14 Samu Wara, 13 Vereniki Goneva, 12 Sireli Naqelevuki, 11 Watisoni Votu, 10 Metuisela Talebula, 9 Nicola Matawalu, 8 Akapusi Qera 7 Malaki Ravulo, 6 Api Naikatani, 5 Apisolame Ratuniyarawa, 4 Leone Nakawara, 3 Deacon Manu, 2 Viliame Veikoso, 1 Ratu Makutu.
Replacements: 16 Seremaia Naureure, 17 Setafano Samoca, 18 Manasa Saulo, 19 Sekonaia Kalou, 20 Iliesa Ratuva, 21 Kelemedi Bola, 22 Josh Matavesi, 23 Ravai Fatiaki.