Category Archives: Rabo Pro12 Rugby Betting

Round 4 – general weekend opinion

Round 4 2016/2017 – Rugby – Britain & Ireland- general weekend thoughts & opinion

It’s the end of week four in the UK and Ireland and a few things are becoming apparent as the new season gets into full swing;

Shallow pools

Looking at the premiership teams and the Pro 12, the depth of talent is reducing all the time. Whether this is due to increased injury concerns across the sport, or a natural cycle of rebuilding, it’s hard to tell. But it is happening.

Take for example Bath, with the money they have spent in the past two years their bench was abysmal, save for the underrated Lahiff leading a late charge. Then there’s Connacht, Champions last year, now under serious pressure – unable to make ground against a woeful Scarlets team. Leinster’s depth isn’t what is once was (though they’re rebuilding with youth), Munster’s is diabolical, Leicester’s pack is pish…the list goes on. Yes there’s injuries everywhere, but we are seeing the bare bones now, benches everywhere have less impact than a BT-Sport metaphor. The best are in France or down under, and it will continue like that for the foreseeable.

When the European Cups get underway we are going to see some skewed results involving the top teams in their domestic leagues. And it’s hard to see anything but a French winner this year in the Champions cup, Saracens won’t get lucky twice.

As an aside, what happened to Saracens at Quins? This one was a surprise. The only thing we can take from this is that a combination of Quins having far more intensity, and Sarries being overrated, sealed the win for them. Indeed, it’s something we see every year – Saracens have a patch, and when challenged they can go to pieces. Personally my own thoughts are that during the year most teams don’t give Saracens their best game in the Premiership, and save it for the playoffs – with their excellent defensive structure the impact can be too high on tight enough squads.

 

Fair play to Quins anyway, who have been really cack for three games – the fronted up and did what every side needs to do to beat Sarries, instead of most of them lying down and giving it 50%. I do think this was a one off, Wasps should give them a right going-over (Quins).

***
As another aside, there were an awful lot of kicks missed at the weekend across both British and Irish leagues. That wind really had an impact. Gusting to 30kmph means take a long hard look at tries in future from a punting perspective.

***
As yet another aside – Cockerill cost his side a bonus point. 17 points ahead and with bath reeling, he called from the stands for Williams to kick a tough penalty instead of putting them in the corner and having a shot at a bonus point. This says to me one thing in particular – Cockerill still has no faith in this squad’s abilities, and more importantly, their fitness. Worth bearing in mind.

And how in God’s name is Ben Young’s getting standing ovations?! He’s brutal! Or were the crowd at Welford road clapping Matt Carley?

Referees

Referees continue to bugger away sides. Ok ok… we all understand – they are minding home teams to keep the crowds there. But there were two incidents in particular (among many this weekend – like Sale being crucified at Worcester) that home fans will even see are reducing many games to unfair contests.

Premiership rugby – Matt Carly- Tigers v Bath (He did this fixture last year too).

There was a series of scrums on the Bath 22 on around 20 minutes. Ayerza (as he has done for the past 18 months, since before the world cup) dropped the scrum twice and the linesman said nothing. Then Carly came around and watched the third. Despite a clear sequence of Ayerza dropping his shoulder and pulling it down, he blew hard and fast for Leicester. Carley did a number on Bath here in 2015 too. Is he the new Wayne Barnes for Leicester? Probably. On a serious note, this continued throughout the game, and despite George Ford having a stinker in general, Bath had no chance of winning this game with the subconsciously biased refereeing on show.

Top 14 rugby – Laurent Cardona – Montpellier v Brive

I’m not even going to go into the absolute buggering Clermont were given away at Toulon. Or Parisse’s red card at Toulouse (which Toulouse wouldn’t have won without).

But let’s look at Montpellier’s second try. It was at a point in the game when a depleted Brive were still well in the game, playing well. A turnover and kick through on 20 odd minutes resulted in Nadolo’s second try.

The ref (Cardona) who shafted Brive for 80 minutes was 30 metres behind the play, when there was a turnover, then some ping pong on half way before Nadolo got the ball and ran it in. This was the turning point that made it a blow out (41-13 in the end, a win that Monty weren’t worth).

He didn’t even check the try. Had he done so, he would have seen a clear knock on by the world’s most handless fullback Benjamin Fall) and also the fact that Nadolo was ahead of the kicker.

More shenanigans turning the sport into semi-farce. In both instances, these decisions took the game away from the oppositions at key points when it hung in the balance. They came at crucial times…as they always do. I had money on Montpellier and Leicester tries so I’m not complaining.

***

Ulster look very good in the early running and the Pro 12 is wide open, are they playing for Pienaar? I think they want to send him off with a title. Cardiff hopefully keep it lit for the  forum 12 to 1 top Welsh team bet.

No doubt Saracens will be in the playoffs and the Chiefs again, the other two spots are between four other sides, and standards have definitely dropped.

Pau will go close to French playoffs, the old lady Toulouse will continue to fester this year, like your mother in law on a Sunday afternoon.

The European games are going to be a blast this year; so many teams are looking absolute gash, the lines will be well off.

Guinness Pro12 Rugby Preview 2016/17

Pro12 Rugby is back! Welcome to my preview of the 2016/17 Guinness Pro 12. Last season saw Connacht play some outstanding rugby and be crowned champions – will they repeat that feat this season or will someone else rise from the pack to challenge them?

 

There’s a team by team analysis below the fixtures.

Guinness Pro12

Friday 2 September
19:35
Leinster
v.
Benetton Treviso
19:35
Ospreys
v.
Zebre
19:35
Ulster
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
Saturday 3 September
15:00
Scarlets
v.
Munster
17:15
Connacht
v.
Glasgow Warriors
19:35
Cardiff Blues
v.
Edinburgh
Friday 9 September
19:15
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Zebre
19:35
Edinburgh
v.
Scarlets
19:35
Munster
v.
Cardiff Blues
Saturday 10 September
15:00
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Leinster
19:05
Benetton Treviso
v.
Ulster
19:35
Connacht
v.
Ospreys
Friday 16 September
19:00
Cardiff Blues
v.
Glasgow Warriors
19:05
Ulster
v.
Scarlets
19:35
Edinburgh
v.
Leinster
Saturday 17 September
17:05
Zebre
v.
Connacht
17:15
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Munster
19:35
Ospreys
v.
Benetton Treviso
Friday 23 September
19:05
Benetton Treviso
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
19:35
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Ulster
19:35
Leinster
v.
Ospreys
Saturday 24 September
15:00
Munster
v.
Edinburgh
16:05
Zebre
v.
Cardiff Blues
19:35
Scarlets
v.
Connacht
Friday 30 September
19:35
Connacht
v.
Edinburgh
19:35
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Glasgow Warriors
Saturday 1 October
17:00
Munster
v.
Zebre
18:30
Ulster
v.
Ospreys
19:05
Benetton Treviso
v.
Scarlets
19:35
Cardiff Blues
v.
Leinster
Friday 7 October
19:35
Connacht
v.
Ulster
19:35
Edinburgh
v.
Benetton Treviso
19:35
Ospreys
v.
Cardiff Blues
Saturday 8 October
14:05
Leinster
v.
Munster
16:05
Zebre
v.
Glasgow Warriors
19:35
Scarlets
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
Friday 28 October
19:35
Cardiff Blues
v.
Scarlets
19:35
Edinburgh
v.
Zebre
19:35
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Benetton Treviso
19:35
Ulster
v.
Munster
Saturday 29 October
15:00
Ospreys
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
17:15
Leinster
v.
Connacht
Friday 4 November
19:15
Benetton Treviso
v.
Cardiff Blues
19:15
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Connacht
19:35
Edinburgh
v.
Ulster
19:35
Munster
v.
Ospreys
Saturday 5 November
16:05
Zebre
v.
Leinster
19:35
Scarlets
v.
Glasgow Warriors
Friday 25 November
19:35
Connacht
v.
Cardiff Blues
19:35
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Ospreys
19:35
Scarlets
v.
Leinster
19:35
Ulster
v.
Zebre
Saturday 26 November
17:00
Munster
v.
Benetton Treviso
Sunday 27 November
15:30
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Edinburgh
Friday 2 December
19:35
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Munster
19:35
Ospreys
v.
Edinburgh
Saturday 3 December
14:05
Zebre
v.
Scarlets
15:00
Connacht
v.
Benetton Treviso
17:15
Cardiff Blues
v.
Ulster
19:35
Leinster
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
Friday 23 December
18:35
Benetton Treviso
v.
Zebre
19:35
Ulster
v.
Connacht
Monday 26 December
14:05
Cardiff Blues
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
16:05
Edinburgh
v.
Glasgow Warriors
17:30
Munster
v.
Leinster
Tuesday 27 December
15:00
Ospreys
v.
Scarlets
Saturday 31 December
00:00
Zebre
v.
Edinburgh
13:00
Benetton Treviso
v.
Glasgow Warriors
15:00
Leinster
v.
Ulster
17:30
Connacht
v.
Munster
Sunday 1 January
15:00
Scarlets
v.
Cardiff Blues
17:05
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Ospreys
Friday 6 January
19:15
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Benetton Treviso
19:35
Leinster
v.
Zebre
19:35
Scarlets
v.
Ulster
Saturday 7 January
00:00
Ospreys
v.
Connacht
15:00
Edinburgh
v.
Munster
19:35
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Cardiff Blues
Saturday 11 February
00:00
Benetton Treviso
v.
Leinster
00:00
Cardiff Blues
v.
Connacht
00:00
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Scarlets
00:00
Munster
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
00:00
Ulster
v.
Edinburgh
00:00
Zebre
v.
Ospreys
Saturday 18 February
00:00
Cardiff Blues
v.
Benetton Treviso
00:00
Connacht
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
00:00
Leinster
v.
Edinburgh
00:00
Ospreys
v.
Munster
00:00
Scarlets
v.
Zebre
00:00
Ulster
v.
Glasgow Warriors
Saturday 25 February
00:00
Benetton Treviso
v.
Connacht
00:00
Edinburgh
v.
Cardiff Blues
00:00
Munster
v.
Scarlets
00:00
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Leinster
00:00
Ospreys
v.
Glasgow Warriors
00:00
Zebre
v.
Ulster
Saturday 4 March
00:00
Cardiff Blues
v.
Munster
00:00
Connacht
v.
Zebre
00:00
Edinburgh
v.
Ospreys
00:00
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
00:00
Leinster
v.
Scarlets
00:00
Ulster
v.
Benetton Treviso
Saturday 25 March
00:00
Benetton Treviso
v.
Ospreys
00:00
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Connacht
00:00
Leinster
v.
Cardiff Blues
00:00
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Ulster
00:00
Scarlets
v.
Edinburgh
00:00
Zebre
v.
Munster
Saturday 8 April
00:00
Edinburgh
v.
Connacht
00:00
Munster
v.
Glasgow Warriors
00:00
Ospreys
v.
Leinster
00:00
Scarlets
v.
Benetton Treviso
00:00
Ulster
v.
Cardiff Blues
00:00
Zebre
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
Friday 14 April
19:35
Connacht
v.
Leinster
19:35
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Zebre
Saturday 15 April
14:45
Cardiff Blues
v.
Ospreys
15:00
Munster
v.
Ulster
17:15
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Scarlets
19:05
Benetton Treviso
v.
Edinburgh
Saturday 29 April
00:00
Benetton Treviso
v.
Munster
00:00
Cardiff Blues
v.
Zebre
00:00
Connacht
v.
Scarlets
00:00
Edinburgh
v.
Newport Gwent Dragons
00:00
Leinster
v.
Glasgow Warriors
00:00
Ospreys
v.
Ulster
Saturday 6 May
17:15
Glasgow Warriors
v.
Edinburgh
17:15
Munster
v.
Connacht
17:15
Newport Gwent Dragons
v.
Cardiff Blues
17:15
Scarlets
v.
Ospreys
17:15
Ulster
v.
Leinster
17:15
Zebre
v.
Benetton Treviso
Friday 19 May
00:00
TBC
v.
TBC
00:00
TBC
v.
TBC
Saturday 27 May
00:00
TBC
v.
TBC

Pro12 Rugby Team by team analysis:

 

Cardiff Blues Rugby

Players In

Nick Williams (Ulster), Matthew Morgan (Bristol), Willis Halaholo (Hurricanes), Rhys Gill (Saracens), Steven Shingler (Scarlets), Kirby Myhill (Scarlets), George Earle (Scarlets) ,Rhun Williams (RGC 1404)

Players Out

Rhys Patchell (Scarlets), Sam Hobbs (Dragons), Craig Mitchell (Dragons), Chris Dicomidis (Pontypridd), Tom Williams (Scarlets), Miles Normandale (Rotherham), Harry Davies (Bath), Manoa Vosawai (RC Vannes), Lou Reed (Sale), Richard Smith (Scarlets), Tom Isaacs (Hong Kong Football Club), Tom Davies (Dragons), Gavin Evans (Neath), Gareth Davies (Merthyr), Elis Wyn Benham (released)

ANALYSIS – A team that has flattered to deceive in recent seasons, but under Danny Wilson’s leadership they seem to be on an upward trajectory and the second half of last season in particular was excellent. Nick Williams will bring some much needed go forward at number 8, whilst Halaholo and Morgan add some dancing feet to an already exciting backline.

Their 7th place finish last season saw them have a very strong home record with 8 wins and 3 losses, but away from home they had the reverse record (joint 4th worst in the whole league) where they suffered the indignity of away defeats to both Italian teams.

They were the highest points scorers at home by a considerable margin (335 points, next highest was Leinster on 296), which equated to an average of 30 points per home game but matched that to a poor defensive record – an average of 19 points conceded per game – the 4th worst record in the league. If they are to have a real go at the top 4 this season they will need to tighten up defensively, as they also conceded an average of 23 points per away game.

Their disciplinary record was outstanding, the best in the league in fact with only 5 yellow cards awarded against them in the whole season.

 

Connaght Rugby

Players In

Marnitz Boshoff (Lions), Eoin Griffin (London Irish), Conor Carey (Nottingham), Cian Kelleher (Leinster), Dominic Robertson-McCoy (Northland), Josh Rowland (Ireland Sevens)

Players Out

Robbie Henshaw (Leinster), Rodney Ah You (Ulster), AJ MacGinty (Sale), Aly Muldowney (Grenoble), Api Pewhairangi (London Broncos RL), George Naoupu (Harlequins), Fionn Carr (released), Jason Harris-Wright (released), Ian Porter (released)

ANALYSIS – Last season’s surprise champions, Connaght made friends the world over with their never-say-die attitude and willingness to run the ball.  Repeating the triumph will be a supremely difficult feat but Pat Lam will keep expectations high and if they can finish in the top 4 again then anything is possible in the playoffs.

With 10 home wins and only 1 defeat they had the second best home record in the league last season. They only won 5 away though and that perhaps in an area for improvement that they will be targeting. Their home record was built on defence – with an average of only 14 points conceded per game (3rd best in the league).

How they cope with the loss of both MacGinty and Henshaw from the backs in particular will have a big impact on how their season goes, but Connaght has never been about the big names, it has been about the collective.

 

Edinburgh Rugby

Players In

Duncan Weir (Glasgow), Junior Rasolea (Western Force), Viliami Fihaki (Sale), Rory Scholes (Ulster), Glenn Bryce (Glasgow), Kevin Bryce (Glasgow), Nick Beavon (Melrose), Jason Tovey (Dragons), Alex Northam (North Harbour Rays), Sasa Tofilau (Kirkcaldy), Lewis Carmichael (Melrose), Viliame Mata (Fiji Sevens)

Players Out

Matt Scott (Gloucester), Mike Coman (London Irish), Sam Beard (Dragons), Greig Tonks (London Irish), John Andress (Munster, Jack Cuthbert (Jersey Reds), Andries Strauss (retired), Nick McLennan (Scotland Sevens), Grant Shiells (London Scottish), Alex Toolis (Melbourne Rebels), Jade Te Rure (Manawatu)

ANALYSIS – A 9th placed finish last season probably disappointed lots involved at the club, although to be fair they were a long way clear of the bottom three. There has been quite a large turnover of players since the end of last season and although Duncan Weir will undoubtedly provided a steady hand to run the back division, Matt Scott will be a big miss in midfield.

They were decent at home last season, with 8 wins and 3 defeats, but only won 3 times away from home (Treviso, Zebre & Dragons), and if they want to challenge for a top 4 place they will need to win more away games.

They did struggle for points both at home and away, only averaging 22 points per home game and 14 points per away game. Their defensive record on the whole though was excellent, only conceding an average of 14 points per home game (only Leinster and Ulster had better records) and an average of 19 points per away game (4th best in the league). With that solid foundation to build on, if they can improve their attack they should have high hopes of finishing much higher this time around.

Their disciplinary record was also strong, with only 8 yellow card received all season (4th best record in the league).

 

Glasgow Warriors

Players In

Corey Flynn (Toulouse), Leonardo Sarto (Zebre), Rory Clegg (Oyonnax), Nemia Kenatale (Farul Constanța), Tjiuee Uanivi (Sharks), Hagen Schulte (Canterbury), Jarrod Firth (Counties Manukau)

Players Out

Duncan Weir (Edinburgh), Glenn Bryce (Edinburgh), Robbie Fergusson (London Scottish), Mike Blair (retired), James Eddie (retired), Kevin Bryce (Edinburgh), Leone Nakarawa (Racing 92), Jason Hill (Bedford Blues), Taqele Naiyaravoro (NSW Waratahs), Michael Cusack (Yorkshire Carnegie), Gregor Hunter (Gala), Fergus Scott (Currie), Will Bordill (Ayr), Javan Sebastian (released), Jerry Yanuyanutawa (released), Tyrone Holmes (released), Shalva Mamukashvili (released)

ANALYSIS – Leone Nakarawa is the standout name on the transfers out list for the beaten semi-finalists from last season, who performed superbly for much of it. Replacing what he brought to the side will be difficult, but Corey Flynn is a good player, and Kenatale is a similar type of 2nd row to Nakarawa

They won 9 and lost 2 at home, scoring an average of 24 points per game and conceding 18. Their away record was excellent also, winning 5, drawing 1 game and losing 5. They were the leagues highest average scorers away from home (24 points per game) and also had the joint second best away defensive record (18 points per game).

One area they will want to improve on is their disciplinary record; they had the 3rd worst in the league last season with 15 yellow cards and this is surely something that Gregor Townsend will want to work on before he takes over the Scotland job at the end of the season.

 

Leinster Rugby

Players In

Robbie Henshaw (Connacht), Jamison Gibson-Park (Hurricanes), Ian Nagle (London Irish), Niall Morris (Leicester)

Players Out

Ben Te’o (Worcester), Ian Madigan (Bordeaux Begles), Marty Moore (Wasps), Darragh Fanning (retired), Cian Kelleher (Connacht), Tom Farrell (Bedford Blues), Tom Denton (Gloucester), Isaac Boss (Waikato), Tadhg Beirne (Scarlets), Eoin Reddan (retired), Luke Fitzgerald (retired), Aaron Dundon (retired), Mick McGrath (Ireland Sevens), Royce Burke-Flynn (released), Kevin McLaughlin (retired), Collie O’Shea (released), Tony Ryan (released)

ANALYSIS – With only 4 players coming in to join last season’s beaten finalists, Leinster obviously have faith in the existing depth of their excellent squad and the youngsters coming through the system. To be fair, Henshaw in the centre and Gibson-Park at scrum-half will seriously strengthen a back-line packed with quality. Madigan and Te’o though will be missed.

Leinster had such a good season overall that they will have been seriously disappointed to fall at the final hurdle against Connaght. They had a 100% home record, winning 11 out of 11, with both the second best attacking record (27 points per game) and the second best defensive record (12 points per game).

They will though have been disappointed to lose 6 times on the road where their excellent defensive record continued (average of 14 points per game conceded) but their attack was blunt, with only 167 points scored in total, only better than the bottom four in the league. 10 yellow cards will also be disappointing, although 9 of these did come away from home.

 

Munster Rugby

Players In

Sam Arnold (Ulster), John Andress (Edinburgh), Darren O’Shea (Worcester), Jean Kleyn (Stormers)

Players Out

Jordan Coghlan (Nottingham), Gearoid Lyons (Nottingham), Shane Buckley (Nottingham), Jack Cullen (London Scottish), BJ Botha (released), Gerhard van den Heever (released), Cathal Sheridan (released), Denis Hurley (released)

ANALYSIS – There is a school of thought that by far the best signing Munster have made this season is their new director of rugby Rassie Erasmus. He has brought defence coach Jacques Nienaber with him from the Stormers, and the Munster fans will be keen to see an instant impact, as a 6th place finish is not what they are used to.

They were strong at home last season with 8 wins and 3 losses, with decent attack and defence averages (25 points per game and 17 points per game respectively), and a 5-1-5 record away from home is very respectable in the league overall – only the Scarlets and the Ospreys had better records. They did struggle for points away from home though, only scoring an average of 17 per game.

Erasmus will almost certainly be looking to build on last season’s strong defence, but look to build a more effective attacking game plan to target a top 4 finish.

 

Newport Gwent Dragons Rugby

Players In

Sam Hobbs (Cardiff Blues), Sam Beard (Edinburgh), Nick Macleod (Sale), Craig Mitchell (Cardiff Blues), Patrick Howard (Northampton), Darran Harris (Rotherham), Tom Davies (Cardiff Blues), Ashley Sweet (Ebbw Vale)

Players Out

Taulupe Faletau (Bath), Hugh Gustafson (Ospreys), Jason Tovey (Edinburgh), Andrew Coombs (retired), Matthew Pewtner (retired)

ANALYSIS – Fans of the Dragons are probably correct to be apprehensive about the season ahead. Their stand-out player in Faletau has gone to Bath, and although they do have some talented youngsters in Amos, Dixon and Morgan, the squad does look short on talent and depth. However, as their progress in the Challenge Cup last seasons showed, on their day they are capable of some outstanding performances.

Last season’s 10th place finish saw them only 2 points ahead of Zebre and a huge 28 points behind Edinburgh in 9th. They only won 4 games all season, all at home, losing all eleven games on the road. Scoring points was a real issue for them, with the second lowest average points score at home (18) and the second lowest average points score away (14). Whilst they were strong defensively at home they were terrible away, conceding an average of 27 points per game. They will have to do something about this if this season is to go any better.

Discipline has been an on-going concern for the Dragons – they had the 4th worst record in the league last season with 12 yellow cards received.

 

Ospreys Rugby

Players In

Bradley Davies (Wasps), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), Hugh Gustafson (Dragons), Kieron Fonotia (Crusaders)

Players Out

Aaron Jarvis (Clermont Auvergne), Kristian Phillips (London Welsh), Marc Thomas (Jersey Reds), Ifereimi Boladau (London Scottish), Rynier Bernardo (Scarlets), Jordan Collier (released), Matthew Dwyer (released), Lloyd Evans (released), Richard Fussell (backs skills coach), Rhodri Hughes (released), Aled Jenkins (released), Gareth Delve (released)

ANALYSIS – An 8th placed finish last season was disappointing, considering the wealth of talent they have in their squad. The world cup did play havoc with their internationals though, Alun Wyn-Jones for example only started 4 games for them, however on the flip side one could argue that Leinster coped with the impact that the world cup had on their internationals pretty well to finish 2nd. Bradley Davies and Kieron Fonotia are both excellent additions to the 2nd row and centre respectively and will add something extra for sure.

The Ospreys were poor at home last season, only winning 5 games, but actually had the best away record in the whole league – winning 6 games. That away success was built on an average of 23 points scored in each game away from home and they will surely be looking to maintain that attacking game-plan. Doubts though still linger about Dan Biggar’s suitability to play an attacking game, although their is no-one better in Wales at managing a game at present.

Their disciplinary record was excellent, only receiving 6 yellow cards all season – the joint second best record in the league.

 

Scarlets Rugby

Players In

Jonathan Davies (Clermont Auvergne), Rhys Patchell (Cardiff Blues), Johnny McNicholl (Crusaders), Werner Kruger (Bulls), Jonathan Evans (Bath), Tom Williams (Cardiff Blues), Rynier Bernardo (Ospreys), Tadhg Beirne (Leinster), Richard Smith (Cardiff Blues)

Players Out

Rhodri Williams (Bristol), Rhodri Jones (Ospreys), Steven Shingler (Cardiff Blues), Maselino Paulino (Lyon), George Earle (Cardiff Blues), Kirby Myhill (Cardiff Blues), Jordan Williams (Bristol), Harry Robinson (retired), Kieran Hardy (Jersey Reds), Regan King (Jersey Reds), Michael Tagicakibau (Treviso), Josh Lewis (Ebbw Vale), Ben Leung (Cardiff), Connor Lloyd (Carmarthen Quins), Jack Jones (Llanelli), Torin Myhill (Carmarthen Quins), Phil John (released), Michael Collins (released), Jack Payne (released)

ANALYSIS – A season that promised much petered out disappointingly last time around as the Scarlets could only finish 5th. They have attempted to build on the progress made last season though with some extremely exciting signings. The additions of Patchell, McNicoll and Davies give them arguably the best backline in the league. Their success or failure as a team though will depend on the strength of their forward pack as a unit though.

They won 8 games at home last season, were defensively poor, conceding an average of 21 points each game (only Treviso and Zebre had worse records). They did have the joint best away record in the league (with the Ospreys), winning 6 and losing 5 but again will feel that they conceded too many points.

If they can tighten up defensively, especially at home, their backline could and should cause everyone serious problems. Their discipline was atrocious last season – and this is one area that they will surely be looking to improve on. They had the worst record in the whole league with a total of 18 yellow cards received in 22 games.

 

Treviso Rugby

Players In

Marty Banks (Highlanders), Tommaso Allan (Perpignan), Tommaso Benvenuti (Bristol), Tito Tebaldi (Harlequins), Michael Tagicakibau (Scarlets), Andrea Buondonno (Mogliano), David Odiete (Mogliano), Ian McKinley (Viadana), Guglielmo Zanini (Rovigo), Giorgio Bronzini (Rovigo), Nicola Quaglio (Rovigo), Filippo Gerosa (Viadana), Tiziano Pasquali (Leicester), Federico Zani (Mogliano), Luca Sperandio (Mogliano)

Players Out

Matteo Muccignat (Rovigo), Ludovico Nitoglia (retired), Enrico Bacchin (Padova), Simone Ragusi (Padova), Alberto Lucchese (Padova), Salesi Manu (Honda Heat), Andrea De Marchi (Rovigo), Duncan Naude (Limoges), Sam Christie (Waikato), James Ambrosini (Amatori), Chris Smylie (North Harbour), Rupert Harden (released), Tom Palmer (released)

ANALYSIS – Last season was very poor for Treviso. They finished bottom, missing out on Champions Cup qualification to Zebre. There has been a huge turnover of players with Marty Banks coming from the Highlanders the standout signing at fly half. Whether they have the depth required over a long season to make any further progress remains open to question.

They only won 3 games last season, all at home. Their average points scored at home (16 per game) was the worst in the league. They also had the fifth worst defensive record, picking up 11 yellow cards. It is hard to know where they go from here – if they can finish above Zebre again they will see it as a successful season.

 

Ulster Rugby

Players In

Charles Piutau (Wasps), Marcell Coetzee (Sharks), Rodney Ah You (Connacht), Kieran Treadwell (Harlequins), Brett Herron (Bath), Angus Lloyd (Trinity College Dublin)

Players Out

Nick Williams (Cardiff Blues), Sam Arnold (Munster), Rory Scholes (Edinburgh Rugby), Ian Humphreys (retired), Willie Faloon (released), Paul Jackson (released), Ruaidhri Murphy (released), Bronson Ross (released), Paul Rowley (released), Frank Taggart (released)

ANALYSIS – Last season’s 4th placed finish was a great achievement for the Ulstermen, and in Charles Piutau they have undoubtedly the most exciting signing in the whole league.

Ulster were very strong at home, winning 9 and only losing 2 games, and their defensive record was immense, only conceding 108 points at an average of 10 per game (the best record in the league by far). They won 5 games away from home, and their defensive solidity was transported to their away games as they had the second best record away from home, with an average of 18 points per game conceded.

They will also be looking to maintain their excellent disciplinary record; their 6 yellow cards last season was the joint second best in the whole league.

 

Zebre Rugby

Players In

Joshua Furno (Newcastle), Carlo Festuccia (Wasps), Giovanbattista Venditti (Newcastle), Kurt Baker (New Zealand Sevens), Lloyd Greeff (Golden Lions), Derick Minnie (Golden Lions), Bart le Roux (Leopards), Carlo Engelbrecht (Blue Bulls), Gabriele Di Giulio (Calvisano), Mattia Bellini (Padova), Tommaso Castello (Calvisano), Maxime Mbandà (Calvisano)

Players Out

Leonardo Sarto (Glasgow), Mirco Bergamasco (Sacramento Express), Filippo Ferrarini (Ohio Aviators), Mils Muliaina (San Diego Breakers), Marco Bortolami (retired), Emiliano Caffini (Fiamme Oro), Filippo Cristiano (Fiamme Oro), Kelly Haimona (Bay of Plenty), Giulio Toniolatti (Lazio), Jean Cook (Kintetsu Liners), Michele Visentin (Mogliano), Paul Derbyshire (Amatori), Emiliano Coria (Nevers), Gonzalo Garcia (Cahors), Ulrich Beyers (released), Luke Burgess (retired), Bruno Mercanti (released)

ANALYSIS – 2015/16 was as successful a season as they are ever likely to have, finishing 11th and qualifying for the Champions Cup. There has again been though a huge turnover of players – they look to have made some interesting signings, Kurt Baker in particular is a very good 7s player, but whether they can be moulded into an effective team remains to be seen.

They won 4 home games in the league last season,and beat Treviso away. Statistically though they have a huge amount of work to do. They conceded an average of 29 points per home game (the worst in the league) and an average of 37 points per away game (again the worst in the league). They also only scored 71 points in their eleven away games at an average of only 6 per game. This is surely something that must be improved.

They also had the second worst disciplinary record in the league, picking up 16 yellow cards in their 22 games.

 

Betting Angles:

Pro 12 Betting Odds

Not a huge amount of value in the long-term market as far as I can see. Leinster and Glasgow are worthy favourites. Connaght seem a big price if they are anywhere near as good as last season.

Rugby Betting tips – Premiership & Rabo round 21

Rugby Betting tips – Premiership & Rabo round 21

There’s only two games left for each of the teams vying for playoff and European places in both the Rabo and Premiership. Friday nights can be unpredictable sods to back at times during the year but we’ve a few situations tonight that should re-enforce our betting logic that can so often go astray on nights like these. So let’s take a quick look at tonight’s most interesting games.

Premiership Rugby – Bath v Northampton 745 Bt Sport

Bath have floundered in these kind of games all season and they struggled to put Wasps away in the Challenge cup last week, despite dominating for most of the game. There’s a mental block in this side and I was tempted to fear for them tonight against a Saints side with nothing to really play for. Saints are second in the table and 7 points ahead of both Tigers and bath with just two games to go. Theoretically Bath or Tigers could catch them for the second home semi final spot but it’s very unlikely due to the fact Northampton have Wasps at home in the final round, and it’s very hard to see a light enough Wasps pack winning that.

On the other hand Bath have to win this game at all costs, as if they don’t , Quins will go away to a hapless and bottling Exeter side on Sunday and beat them, knowing they have Bath at home in the final round to take the final playoff spot and destroy a promising season for Bath (keep an eye on this result and betting odds regarding Exeter- If Bath win tonight, Quins are out of the reckoning and have no motivation to win at Exeter on Sunday, while Exeter still have a hope of a European playoff spot in 7th if they win and Wasps get hammered at Saints next week).

Thus, we have a home side tonight who need to win at all costs, and a Saints side coming away with no pressure on them and a few England Internationals looking for a healthy run out. While it has been tempting to look at Saints here due to slightly better form, the fact is they have no need to put bodies on the line and Bath do, and in rugby that’s all important. Saints have a better backrow with Bath missing both Garvey and Luow, but the backs for Bath are better once they concentrate and click, the second row overall is evens enough with Attwood back for bath (despite Lawes’ fantastic form), and the bath front row is far better than the Saints opposition (who are missing Hartley of course, amongst others). It’s David Wilson, Rob Webber, & Paul James for Bath versus Salesi Ma’afu, Ross McMillan, & Alex Waller and that’s all in favour of Bath.

I think Bath win this out of necessity and though they’ll do their best to shag it up as they so often do, they should fall over the line and secure the playoff spot with home advantage and a Saints side who will definitely show up, but who have absolutely no need of a win with top spot in the Premiership well out of sight. It’s also in the league’s interests for some new blood to be in the top 4 after recent years, so I can’t see the referee Matt Carley being anything but sympathetic to them.

Premiership Rugby Bets for tonight
– bath are 10/11 to win in Paddypower and that’s a solid enough pick. If you’re on lower stakes the 1-12 is 13/8 in Bet365 and Coral, and it’s hard to see them winning by more than 10. Rob Webber is 10/1 anytime try in skybet and 5s elsewhere, get some of that for small money before it disappears, he got two last week and is always a threat.

Rabo Pro 12 betting tips

Ulster v Leinster, BBC and RTE 730pm

Thanks to the Ospreys and the utterly uncommitted and arrogant garbage they coughed up in last night’s loss to Zebre, Ulster now only need a point from their remaining games to get a playoff spot. They play Leinster at home this week and then Munster away in the final round, and they only have to get one point out of both of those games; tonight is obviously the best one to target. Leinster meanwhile do not have top spot secured just yet ( and thus a home final if they win their semi), and are only five points ahead of Glasgow. Glasgow have treviso away this week, and Zebre at home next week – so nine points are very attainable for them. Leinster meanwhile have Edinburgh away in the final round after Ulster tonight.

You can follow the logic; Leinster need a win, and Ulster need a losing bonus point at least. Leinster to win anyone? The teams named stack up in Leinster’s favour, with a strong starting 15 and a strong bench, with front row starters and replacements particularly strong for Leinster. Ulster are still missing Pienaar and Best of course, and without those key men they’re two thirds the side they can be. Indeed if Joe Schmidt started the entire Leinster 15 playing tonight for Ireland in a six nations game (bar Kirchner of course) not too many eyebrows would be raised bar some big hairy Munster one’s (teams listed at the bottom of this post). Ulster could of course win tonight with a side that’s still full of quality, particularly in the backs, but Leinster need this win more, and have sent their main men North for victory. Watch out for an interesting battle between the incumbent Ireland centre BOD and the future 13 Jared Payne.

Rabo Pro 12 betting Tip for tonight – back Leinster to win at evens in skybet, they’re shorter everywhere else. Personally I’m on the 1-12 but I wouldn’t recommend it due to the fact that if Leinster got a bonus point win here they’d be almost set for home semi and final. Don’t back the 13+ either though because the odds are rubbish at 5/1. There’s a niggle in the back of my head though this may happen, thanks to Sportscompiler in the forum pointing out that this is an opportunity for Leinster to help get rid of a dangerous playoff opponent in Ulster potentially. Leinster should win this barring any brainfarts either way, with a solid no risk gameplan in the first half- Ulster are not great chasers.

Also rans – I also like Glasgow to pip Treviso by 1-12 points away from home (best 6/4 in ladbrokes). Glasgow need the win to keep their home semi final on course ahead of Munster and Treviso need at least a point to make sure they get Europe ahead of Zebre. Again, two dovetailing ambitions that should lead to the 1-12 coming in – fingers crossed for a logical night

There’s a list of Free Rugby bets here

And lots more top info and opinion in our Rugby Betting forum here

Ulster: 15 Ricky Andrew, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Tommy Bowe, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Roger Wilson, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Johann Muller (capt), 3 Andrew Warwick, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Callum Black, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Dan Tuohy, 20 Sean Doyle, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 James McKinney, 23 Darren Cave.

Leinster 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Zane Kirchner, 13 Brian O’Driscoll, 12 Gordon D’Arcy, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Jamie Heaslip (capt), 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Martin Moore, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Mike Ross, 19 Leo Cullen, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Luke Fitzgerald.

Ulster v Leinster betting preview – Rabo Pro12 Final

Ulster v Leinster betting preview – Rabo Pro12 Final

Saturday May 25th 16.45pm – weather good

Ulster look value here on the handicap.

It’s been a long and tough season for Ulster both physically and emotionally, and they rock up to the RDS as the technical home team tomorrow afternoon. I’m not sure of the exact road that led them to picking the RDS as their home ground (or whether there was any other ground available), knowing full well Leinster would probably be their opposition once they managed to avoid them in the semi finals. Either way, observers would be forgiven for thinking it was a blunder by Ulster & advantage Leinster. There there’s another way of looking at it though; Ulster are so determined to win this league for all it signifies this year, that they didn’t care where they played the final.

And they shouldn’t fear Leinster this year either. They’ve beaten them twice this season, once in the RDS just recently. Ulster not only had to overcome Leinster on their home patch that day, but also the ridiculous refereeing of George Clancy in a game in which he gave every 50/50 and more to Leinster (along with the astonishing act of blowing the final whistle, pointing to the dressing rooms, and then going to the TMO to see if he could conjure up a winning sore for Leinster, after a Leinster player suggested he do it). Thankfully, Clancy is only manning the touchline tomorrow with John Lacey acting chief whistle warbler. We’re no strangers to complaing about dodgy referees on Dropkickrugby.com, but we have no complaints here as Lacey is about as good a pick as you could wish for in this league. He’s always fair and consistent (even in his inconsistencies), and a man who doesn’t ride one team for an entire game for one offence, as so many other clowns do to re-inforce their decisions. Lacey is a good ref, and i’m amazed the mandarins in cheap-skate Celtic-league towers have managed to get one decision right this season. Just listen out for any meddling from Clancy on the mic!

So, after their Heineken cup final hiding last year (as forecast by our good selves!), Ulster have been determined bring out their their Sunday best when playing Leinster this year. Indeed, overall they’ve matured as a side you feel and are the better for it. Whereas last May there were maybe four Ulster players you’d take from the starting thirty, now it’s closer to evens if you were picking the best 15 taking the field.

Ulster v Leinster betting – Head to heads

Ulster’s pack has the slight advantage here for us, with Leinster having played three more games than Ulster so far in the Amlin, and a far tougher Rabo semi-final against Glasgow. The backrow looks more balanced, and Afoa is back from injury to pillar a scrum that had the beating of Leinster’s twice this year. Tuohy and Muller should win the combined lineout & carrying battle against Cullen (who looks tired, and who could blame him?) and Toner, who always seems to be missing something. The front row battle will be key with Pienaar kicking so well, and we have Ulster slightly ahead here both on scrummaging form and evens on ability one Tom Court has been given some one to one time.

It gets a bit more interesting in the backs. BOD is back, but how fit can he be really? Madigan at inside centre could be the X-factor but Ulster won’t leave holes like Stade Francais did (and blatant obstructions won’t be missed like Owens missed, in another sham of a refereeing performance; Leinster deserved to beat Stade, but Owens contributed to the whitewash). Ulster centre Stuart Olding will surprise a few casual rugby watchers tomorrow with just how good he is, and Darren Cave has hit some form in the past two months. Bowe and Trimble have experience and ability to burn and are well able for Macfadden and Nacewa, and Payne is a match for Kearney, and maybe even more than a match with his ability to create something from nothing. Sexton has the upper hand on Jackson but Jackson won’t be kicking tomorrow and once he doesn’t have a bad day Ulster have a great chance.

Have Leinster been lucky?

You could say that. There’s no doubting Leinster are a class side, and that’s taken as a given these days. But have a look back over their recent big wins. Bairritz were in it up to half time when suddenly two breakaway sucker punch tries just before half time knocked all the fight out of them. Stade Francais, aside from getting the wrong end of Nigel Owens’ latest fancy didn’t bother defending for the first 60 minutes; they froze, left massive holes, and never looked like they believed they could do anything that day. And Glasgow missed a connversion at the death to draw the semi. On top of that, Glasgow were playing headless rugby on 60 minutes (like there was only 3 minutes left), when all they had to do was to stop forcing every pass and keep their heads, go to ground, & recycle. Leinster were out on their feet at times only for Glasgow to throw a hail Mary that wasn’t needed, and knock on.

I’m convinced had they just been a little calmer Glasgow would have won. Overall, this was one that Leinster were a tad lucky to win,with one of the worst refs in the business, Pascale Gauzere, murdering Glasgow with the whistle. There was just so much he got wrong (the yellow card was an absolute farce when Matualu clearly tried to get out of the way, again, 3 yards in front of Gauzere). He missed forward passes in front of him, and made bizarre breakdown interpretations for the entire 80 minutes. One early moment from him set the tone for the whole game; 3 minutes in, Glasgow attacking, and he gave Leinster a penalty for Glasgow holding on, 1 metre from the Leinster line. Replays showed there wasn’t one Leinster player challenging for the ball, with McLaughlin the closest, on his knees a metre away. Gauzere came into that game with an agenda – Glasgow were going to have to do something extraordinary to win with him reffing. Whenever you see him refereeing (he’s doing Toulon/Toulouse on Friday night) the wise thing is probably to back against he market; he’s at best a clouseau-esque clown.

Anyway, back to tomorrow. All signs are pointing to Ulster for me. Leinster have been riding their luck a bit and it has to run out sometime. They look pretty tired, & Ulster will be fresher having had a week off. Ulster have beaten Leinster twice already this year too. I can’t see the referee riding them either, given the emotive circumstances surrounding Ulster’s league campaign this year. The sheer insatiable hunger Ulster will have tomorrow should eclipse anything Leinster can pull out I think – even considering the large number of league finals Leinster have lost in recent years. Stats point to Ulster too. I won’t bombard you with them, just mentioning the tryscoring situation; Ulster have scored 62, & Leinster 63. However, Ulster have only conceded 33, whereas Leinster have conceded 46. Defence wins finals, and with Leinster also having a more pronounced fatigue profile, this points to Ulster winning too.

Ulster v Leinster – Betting verdict.

If I had to choose a winner here, the 15/8 on Ulster looks good value in a game that looks about as 50/50 as they come. However, i’m more than happy to take Ulster on the handicap. There’s +4 available in a few shops, but Boylesports are the standout having +4.5 available on the no-draw handicap at 5/6, and that’s where my money is this weekend. A five point start is very generous for slightly less than 10/11. Small interest tryscorers; very hard to look past Tommy Bowe with the form he’s in – that try against the Scarlets was far harder than it looked. 11/1 looks ok for a small bet. EDIT – Ulster +5 now available at evens in Ladbrokes.

free rugby bets dropkick rugby.com

Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Stuart Olding, 11 Tommy Bowe, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Johann Muller (c), 3 John Afoa, 2 Rory Best, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Callum Black, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Mike McComish, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Michael Allen, 23 Peter Nelson.

Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Brian O’Driscoll, 12 Ian Madigan, 11 Isa Nacewa, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Leo Cullen (c), 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Quinn Roux, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 John Cooney, 22 Andrew Goodman, 23 Andrew Conway.

Rabo Pro12 Rugby Betting Round 15

Rabo Pro12 Rugby Betting Round 15 preview


Ulster v Zebre betting, 7.05 pm BBC. Ulster -24, Zebre +26

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.

All Rabo discussion this week is in the betting forum. Head on over and contribute. The Rabo pro 12 betting thread is located here

Friday’s Rugby Betting – Leicester & Leinster

skybet.com

There were quite a few games last weekend in which teams that were fairly dominant failed to find reward on the scoreboard for much of the game. December in general has been a poor month for conventional punters, and one of the main culprits has most definitely been the poor state of many grounds around Britain and Ireland. Looking at the weather for this weekend it has been generally ok in the run up, with the rain easing off slightly and Friday night looking clear overall. Still, grounds are still soft underfoot and if we’ve learned anything from December it’s that handicaps are proving to be dicey affairs, with an inordinate amount falling right on (or one point either side of), the bookies’ handicaps. With this in mind we’re taking a different trail this Friday evening with two thoroughbreds on patchy form.

Worcester v Leicester Premiership rugby betting, 20:00 GMT ESPN. Tigers -4 general

Leicester head to Worcester for their Round thirteen showdown after barely sneaking off with a home win against Gloucester last weekend. It was a strange game that found Leicester defending their own line with seconds to go, having owned the scrums and dominating overall for about 70 minutes. There were two reasons why Leicester didn’t put this game away – woeful refereeing of a non-existant Gloucester front row (as Richard Cockerill complained about early in the week), and an abysmal George Ford at ten (who replaced an ill Toby Flood just before kick-off, and who has been dropped from the squad entirely for this Friday’s clash).

Ford missing handy penalty kicks (the word ‘missing’ is actually a kindness – more like ‘butchering’ or maybe ‘mangling’) and the non-refereeing overall of the Gloucester scrum allowed Glaws to roll with the muddy punches when this game should have been well beyond them. Credit to them, they almost took their opportunity as they surged up-field through their excellent workhorse Monahan ( Irish squad call-up anyone? Mr. Kidney? Bueller ?..) for an attempted late mugging at the death.

So what has changed? This week Flood is back in alongside Youngs, and we’ll have to take the team sheet’s word that he will actually start this week. Youngs and Flood are excellent together and Flood will take his kicks and keep the scoreboard ticking. Leicester name a strong side overall, with a beefy lineup in the backs to weather what will likely start off as an attritional game. Hamilton has been picked at right wing and while he’s a little short of pace, he’s brilliant at ‘standupability’© in the tackle. No Tuilagi this week, but the excellent Mafi and Croft return to the backrow alongside Waldrom. There’s slight concern that Mafi at seven isn’t an openside up against Kvesic, but Waldrom will likely fill the groundhog role while Mafi romps around in the loose like a pirouetting hairy ballet dancer from Easter-island. Basically, it’s a very strong Tigers side gearing up for the Heineken cup next week, with lots of impact off to come off the bench to help finish off a side that Sale should have scored five tries or more against last week.

The Warriors name a side with a few injury returnees and a few notable absentees – Hodgson at scrum half will be missed particularly. There’s six changes to the team that went to Sale and you can bet they were targeting that game more than this one at home to Leicester. This simply means that logically they’re not as strong as they were last week when they lost at bottom-of-table Sale Sharks, who were unlucky not to get a try bonus. Taking a look at Worcester’s home form, despite losing only once there (to Bath) this season the quality of the opposition they beat means their home form is not as daunting as it is at first glance. Home wins against the three relegation battlers London Irish, London Welsh, and Sale (that they were lucky not to draw), and a home win v Saracens. That Saracens team lost 12-3 but missed five penalties, were missing lots of players to the England camp, and they blew umpteen red-zone opportunities. Worcester deserve credit for the wins, but it’s no reason to assume they’ll win on Friday night.

You get what I’m saying here then – Worcester weakened, form not as amazing as it looks, and Leicester with a far stronger starting fifteen and squad. The handicap is -4 for Tigers and while I expect them to beat it well, boggy ground isn’t mugging us this week.

Part one of Friday’s Rugby Betting double – Tigers, 8/15 to win.

Edinburgh v Leinster, Rabo Pro12 Rugby Betting, 19:35 GMT BBC Alba. Leinster -9 general

Edinburgh have been truly woeful this year and there’s no reason to assume that won’t continue on Friday night against the European champions as they try to ramp it up before they chase Heineken cup survival and go after a bonus point against Scarlets next week. Edinburgh have won three games this season and all morale is gone from the squad with coach Micheal Bradley undoubtedly on the way out soon.

New man Piers Francis at ten has had a series of bad performances, with many fans calling for him to be dropped, and even captain Laidlaw is in the doldrums. There’s nowhere this Edinburgh side has the upper hand here tomorrow bar the fact they’re at home, and Edinburgh have suffered plenty of big defeats here so far. Their recent form off their most recent two games against Glasgow ( it has been awful before that) was essentially Glasgow getting well ahead on the scoreboard as they pleased, and then easing off and letting Edinburgh lose respectably.

I’m expecting them to take a beating up front first and foremost, with Nel and Murray in the front row for Edinburgh up against Mike Ross and Cian Healy – I just can’t see Leinster losing this head to head. Sidenote; It’s important when assessing a Rabo Pro12 game, to look at the referee as the standard is often dire. However, it’s reasonable to have faith in the referee Ian Davies on Friday night, who generally seems to be fair, clear, and unbiased from when I’ve watched him. Once he refs the scrums right Leinster should have haggis-loads of penalty ball on Friday.

Moving onto the backrows and you have an all international had hitting unit of Sean O’Brien, Heaslip and McLaughlin against Denton, Basilaia and McINally. I only see this battle going one way- Leinster’s. Brian O’Driscoll returns alongside Darcy and from 10-15 I’d only take Visser from Edinburgh in place of Carr. In fact, from the whole starting fifteen I’d only take Visser and Laidlaw onto the leinster side to replace Carr and Reddan.

Will Leinster be up for it is the final question? Yes, most definitely. They’re drifting in the league and in need of points, and need a good performance before the Heineken cup kicks back in. Since their poor Heineken Cup games Schmidt has gone back to basics and that kind of simple direct style is perfect for Edinburgh. BOD is back to guide them, they have a proper full back with Kearney back from injury, and they have plenty of motivation to make their dominance tell and win well. There has been a lot of money for the Leinster handicap, which started at -7 and is now up to -9 in most places but again, we’re steering clear of handicaps this Friday night as Leinster are not in amazing form and you couldn’t be confident on a minus nine away from home. leinster have a good bench but it’s not stunning, so the likes of Talei coming on for Edinburgh could help ruin a Leinster handicap bet with a late score. (Incidentally Tim Visser is 10/3 in Ladbrokes for anytime try, and he’s as low as 13/8 elsewhere. Leinster or not, Visser almost always seems to get a chance for a score and the 10/3 in ladbrokes should be taken for a small interest- we have).

Part two of Friday’s Rugby Betting double- Leinster to win at 2/7.

Friday’s Rugby Betting Pick

Combined into a win double, Leinster and Leicester at 8/15 and 2/7 (both best combo prices in Paddypower) returns just under evens (1.97). You’re dodging the handicap risk (which has been very high of late), and backing two teams that are far superior to their opposition and with plenty of motivation. That’s our main Friday night bet.

Don’t forget to head over and join in the forum if you haven’t already, for plenty more chat about the rest of this weekends Premiership, Rabo Pro 12, and TOP14 betting

Ulster v leinster – Rabo Pro12 Rugby Betting

Rabo Pro12 Rugby Betting

Ulster v Leinster betting, Ulster -5 Paddypower/William hill, Leinster +8 stanjames


BBC2 NI 9:05 Friday, 21st December

Back to the Rabo then for Friday night’s derby showdowns. No doubt the most interesting clash in the RaboPro12 this weekend is between Ulster and Leinster in Ravenhill. Both sides come off the back of slight shocks in then Heineken Cup with Ulster going down by a point at home to Northampton and Leinster being systematically conquered by Clermont in Dublin. Comparing the two defeats you’d have to say Ulster’s loss was the most avoidable, with plenty of bad decision making, handling errors, and missed kicks. In contrast, Leinster just weren’t at the races and were like a jockey without a saddle holding on for dear life, ducking punches, trying to avoid the seemingly inevitable. They were devoid of ideas against one of the most complete team performances in European rugby in many years by Clermont, and it’s testament to their spirit that they pulled a hugely undeserved losing bonus point from the fire.

It’s difficult to draw comparisons between both losses – but arguably Leinster played better against the better team, and arguably emerge better psychologically compared to Ulster, whose much-vaunted winning streak has come to a crunching halt. Also, individual performances last week were arguably poorer on the Ulster side – with most players contributing to an astronomical error count, and Pienaar, Cave and Jackson showing particularly poorly. Jared Payne dropping and forcing passes was worrying as he has been the oil in the gears of this Ulster backline in big games. Tommy Bowe is now out injured for four months, Muller and Touhy are out and all of a sudden fortress Ravenhill isn’t looking impenetrable. On top of all that, some players ( definitely Gilroy and Cave – possibly more) haven’t trained in the Ulster squad and were sick during the week. Let’s take a look at the starting teams;

Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry (c), 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Neil McComb, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 John Afoa, 2 Rory Best, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Callum Black, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Alan O’Connor, 20 Roger Wilson, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Paddy Wallace, 23 Adam D’Arcy.

Leinster: 15 Noel Reid, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Brendan Macken, 12 Gordon D’Arcy, 11 Fergus McFadden, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Leo Cullen (capt), 3 Michael Bent, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Heinke van der Merwe, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Tom Denton, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Andrew Goodman, 23 Adam Byrne.

There is inexperience in that Leinster backline but you could say the poor form of Ulster’s backs makes this evens. And we’re not just basing Ulster’s poor form on last week either – they have squeaked though in their last three league games away at Scarlets, Zebre and Treviso. On recent form I’d choose Madigan and Reddan over Pienaar and Jackson, and when we move on to the pack the advantage starts to swing Leinster’s way. The lineout is Leinster’s, and the Leinster backrow is an all international unit and shades the undoubted quality for ulster. I can’t predict how the scrums will go but I think the other all international unit of Leinster will have the upper hand. Benchwise- both sides look equal enough, but with a little more experience for Leinster probably.

For me leinster are the better side here, and recent history points to them staying well within this handicap start –
In the past six years in the league games immediately following Heineken cup round four, the following results occurred;


Leinster 42 – 13 Ulster 2011
Ulster 13 – 30 Leinster 2010
Leinster 15 – 3 Ulster 2009
Ulster 13 – 21 Leinster 2008
Leinster 29 – 0 Ulster 2007
(leinster lost away at Munster in 2006)
Ulster 19 – 24 Leinster 2005

All Leinster wins. Case closed?

Main Rabopro12 Rugby bet

while the leinster win is tempting at biggest 9/4 in stanjames our main bet is taking Leinster with the start biggest +8 in stanjames at 10/11. The stats all point to leinster tomorrow night and despite some weakness in the Leinster backline Ulster are in no form to take advantage. Ulster’s form has been poor for the past six weeks if you forget the win away at Northampton, and Leinster hold the upper hand over the past six years and beyond in this fixture. The handicap started at +8 in Paddypower and has since contracted to +5 so there has been money for Leinster.

Other bookmakers have lowered the Leinster handicap too except Stanjames at +8. I’d also take +7 if I had to. Big teams bounce back after poor disappointing showings – i’m expecting Leinster to take their frustrations out on a wounded Ulster side this Friday, and while I fancy them for a win, I’m happy enough taking the excellent value +8.

stanjames.com

Rabo Pro12 Rugby Betting, Round 8

Rabo Pro12 Rugby Betting

Sunday

Ospreys v Leinster, 4pm GMT, on S4C and RTE. ospreys -2 Bet365, Ospreys +4 Stanjames.

Folks i’m not going to make something up here for the sake of having some copy up on site; I think this one should be swerved on handicaps and margins for a few reasons. I will arrive somewhere at the end of this piece with a bet for you, but let me first say why I think handicaps and all other margin betting large punts should be avoided here. Leinster are on an awful losing streak to the Ospreys, and intuitively you’d think that tomorrow, heading out there with alot of green players, that the losing streak will continue. However the Ospreys have have lost almost all of their leaders to the international squad, and while they’re a bit stronger in the backline, they’re weak in the forwards where Leinster hold an advantage. The weather tomorrow is set to be heavy rain with a decent wind blowing, and rugby being rugby, the better pack usually wins those games. So ‘why not back leinster?’ you might say? Well, with flakes like Leo Av’aa and Fionn Carr you couldn’t really count on them on recent form and both of them fronting up will be crucial.

Psychologically we also fancy leinster, based on thinking that some may deem obscure. The Ospreys tend to beat Leinster when it’s least expected. Look at the 27-3 wallop they gave leinster in September last year. And look at the two Rabo finals they mugged off them in recent years. Tomorrow, they’re favourites, even if the bookies have them tight enough and that’s when they can crumble mentally when it matters. Looking at the team sheets, who in that Ospreys side is going to lead this team? Morgan? Bearman? Stowers? None of these will. Duncan Jones might, if he can get his breath back ( no disrespect). There’s reasons the Ospreys aren’t 8 point favourites for this game. Leinster owe them a mugging too, and tomorrow would be the perfect day to do it. Leinster will be 14 points behind Ulster if they lose this and that’s a big gap, so they’ve major motivation and that’s important.

Dirty weather, a small crowd, a weak pack, and wee Mathew Morgan missing kicks and being targeted from the off…You see what i’m getting at? It’s a bloody minefield to pick how this one will go on the handicap – anything could happen.

The price has been coming in for Leinster in a few shops, and the 1-12 has been cut in Bet365, so there is money coming for them. I’m going to stick my neck out slightly and say I think leinster are going to win tomorrow. Leinster will have the Munster win away in Cardiff on Friday on their minds aswell – ‘anything you can do’ and all that. But i’m not going to stick my neck out far enough to say ‘bet on it’. Instead, we’ve two punts for you.

Main bet- Medium stakes – UPDATE. Like alot of bets this weekend with so many missing players, max medium stakes. Our main bet for this game is Total away team points of over 17.5 is available in Ladbrokes and PaddyPower at 5/6. There’s alot of rain around but with so many players missing it’s hard to see the european champions (albeit green in places) being kept under this number away at a very weakened side. Madigan can kick, and you’d expect at least one try, and 4 penalties and a try is all we need. Ulster scored 16 points there this season, Munster scored 15, and Glasgow 28. And that was with their full team out at home. There’s plenty of rain about but it could help as much as hinder

Solid Sunday tryscorer punt – Ian Madigan is biggest 9/2 in Skybet for anytime try. He scored six or seven last season, a few this season, and he’s up against the lightweight Morgan tomorrow. He’s always looking for a try – expect a few attempts at least, or a pop from the new Kiwi Goodman or Boss.

If you haven’t seen it yet, scroll to the bottom of this post for an explanation of the new Sky bet free bet offer that ends in ten days. Don’t miss it if you’re not already with them, you won’t see a better offer – ever.

Saturday

Connacht v Treviso, 5pm not televised. Connacht -7 Stanjames, Treviso +10 Ladbrokes

Despite this not being televised it’s worth having a crack at for medium stakes and we’ve already invested in the -7 for Connacht. There’s a three point difference between some bookmakers on the handicap as you can see above, and that usually spells opportunity.

Connacht name a side that is almost full strength. They’re a little light in the back row, but it shouldn’t have too big of an effect. Treviso turn up with an almost completely changed team from their Heineken cup squad, with second divisioners called up on the bench.

Connacht put a decent Leinster side to the sword here on their last home game and logic and common sense suggests they’ll be able to do the same to Treviso missing almost all of their quality. I say almost, because Di Bernardo is back from injury and he will kick his goals and take whatever opportunities Treviso get. He has been key in many of their victories so far this season. So probably best to take any notions of big priced handicaps out of your head.

With the weather set to be windy tomorrow and a fair bit of rain around, Parks will be kicking most things territorially, and Connacht will know exactly how to play it, with an undoubtedly superior scrum and lineout, and the excellent McCarthy back from the Irish squad. I’d be surprised if they weren’t pushing for a bonus in the last ten minutes, as long as Treviso don’t get a freak first try to grimly cling onto in the rain.

Main bet – We’ve taken Connacht -7 here in Stanjames, with value still probably up to -8. Medium stakes.

Friday

Ulster v Edinburgh 19.05 GMT, BBC2. Ulster -12 Skybet, Edinburgh +13 Paddypower

At this stage we all know that Ulster are unbeaten in Europe and domestically but tomorrow night they have to do without many of the players that have been integral to their fantastic season start. The first thing to do is have a look at the team and find the remaining quality;

Ulster: 15 Ricky Andrew, 14 Chris Cochrane, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Mike McComish, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Neil McComb, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 John Afoa, 2 Nigel Brady (capt), 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Ricky Lutton, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Robbie Diack, 20 Nick Williams, 21 Niall O’Connor, 22 Stuart Olding, 23 Peter Nelson.

In purely black and white terms, the players in bold above won’t weaken the team in the slightest, and that’s ten of the starting fifteen. Most of the other starters have played a decent part in the season so far, and Jared Payne is well able to play at outside centre (playing at full back normally for Ulster so far). Full back and right wing tomorrow are from the academy and are probably the most obvious Ulster weakness. However, Andrew has spent some time in France and has impressed in training; and Cochrane has serious pace and he played in preseason for Ulster scoring a try. Ferris should only get roughly 50 minutes and there are two excellent backrow replacements on the bench in tryscoring machine Nick Williams and Robbie Diack. The question is whether Edinburgh take advantage of any weakness.

Probably not is the short answer. They’ve lost many of their players to the Scotland squad and are already hit hard with injury. They’re on their third choice ten and James King at centre hasn’t played a game all season. They have very few options on the bench and their new arrival Van der Westhuizen has barely stepped off the plane and yet is likely to come off the bench at some point. They’re coming off the back of two demoralising losses to Scarlets and Edinburgh at home in the league, and two hammerings in the Heineken cup on top off that. Edinburgh were beaten by 13 or more (tomorrow’s handicap is 12) by Dragons away, and twice in the Heineken cup. Shorn of most of their quality and away at a rampant Ulster side that are scoring tries for fun at home and away, and with morale at an all time low, it’s hard to see Edinburgh staying inside 15-20 tomorrow, let alone 12. The weather is set to be dry with rain early in the day and shouldn’t have too much of an impact either way.

Rabo Pro 12 betting main bet- Take the Ulster -12 at 10/11 in Skybet. If you want more security there’s -11.5 available in Skybet and Betfred at 4/5. A bonus point win looks on the cards here on current Ulster form, and their strong squad has them in great shape despite International callups.

Cardiff v Munster

No bet for us here. Munster should win by 1-12, it should be a high scoring game, but the handicap looks a risk too much with so many absentees and switches. O’Gara isn’t in the best of form and Duncan Williams’ toe-pass specials from scrumhalf won’t help dear old Ronan. Keatley at inside centre doesn’t really fill you with confidence either as he hasn’t played there much.

Glasgow v Dragons

Another one that we’re steering clear of. Glasgow and Dragons always give each other tough games and Dragons at least have continuity of selection which is more than Glasgow have, with players lost to Scotland training and Canadians (more of them – new boy Taylor Paris) on the wing. Glasgow are stuck for scrum half cover too. Probably one to steer clear of but if you’re deperate for some action from the land of Rab-C, the Glasgee 1-12 is the most likely outcome. No bet here for us though.

Another (main) reason we’re staying away from this one is that there’s a distinctly hometown’awful look to the officials tomorrow with a homer in Mitrea from Italy, and two of the Changleng and Patterson running the lines.

Some unintentional hilarity from the dragons forum says it all really, who seem to have spotted what we have, but with a bit more subtlety;

Dragon_andy
Posted: Thu Nov 01, 2012 5:48 pm
Location: Pontnewydd I.E Cwmbran
not that italian again!!!!

New Boy Old Boy Irish Boy
Posted: Thu Nov 01, 2012 5:54 pm
Location: Birmingham
Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR)
Assistant Referees: Neil Paterson, David Changleng (both SRU)
Citing Commissioner: Paul Minto (SRU)

Oh no

4nmoll
Posted: Thu Nov 01, 2012 6:19 pm
Whats the point in playing.

Superstitious people everywhere are in a heightened sense of arousal at this unprecedented confluence of incompetence. Ok,ok… Paterson has gotten slightly better this year but still… you couldn’t depend on that lot to referee the Craggy island over 70’s. STAY AWAY.

More to follow

Incidentally, Skybet

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Don’t forget to head over to our Rugby Betting Forum to join the discussion and contribute.

Rabo Pro12 Rugby Betting, Round 7

Rabo Pro12 Rugby Betting

Saturday
None of Saturday’s games really jumped out at us this week so we won’t manufacture something for the sake of a punt. Glasgow/Treviso and Ospreys/Connacht could both go either way on the handicaps.

Leinster v Cardiff at 630is a very tough game to call on the handicaps (around 15). Leinster’s scrum should be enough to win this for them but there’s change in alot of combinations. Leinster are still not playing with a full deck and are missing some key players like Nacewa and the long term injured lads, and they will be coming down from the intensity of the Heineken cup. Cardiff send over a good team with lots of quality, buoyed after a valiant effort at home to Toulon. Initial thoughts are that the +16 is probably the right pick on balance but it’s rarely a good idea to back against Leinster beating a handicap at home despite recent form, and we don’t recommend it.

There is however some value in Cuthbert to score a try anytime (score a try in 80 minutes) at a very large 4/1 in Paddypower (2/1 and 5/2 elsewhere). He scored a hatrick v Sale in the Heineken, he’s in terrific form, and he’s a nightmare to stop. Up against him here are Dave Kearney who is just back from injury, Madigan at Full back who hasn’t been convincing, and MacFadden who has been playing mostly at centre so far this season. There’s a potential for holes then in the Leinster backline defence. If Cardiff get any ball it’ll end up with him and his pace and power could well see him over the line. Small enough stakes that should pay off.

Friday

Dragons v Ulster kicks off round seven of the Rabo Pro12 this weekend and at first glance there’s not alot screaming off the page at us. After a busy fortnight in the Heineken cup and Amlin challenge cup, there’s plenty of rotation across the league. Add to that the resting of certain players for upcoming Autumn internationals, and the blooding of others, and you’ve a complex recipe to try to bake your profit-cake from. Friday nights are always the most unpredictable rugby betting period of the weekend for some unknown reason, and the extra spice mentioned above means the best tack is probably not to over analyse too much and try to simplfy things as much as possible.

Rabo Pro12 Rugby Betting, GMT 19:05 Dragons v Ulster, Ulster – 7 Boylesports, Dragons +9 Stanjames

Formwise Ulster are the form team in Europe and come into this one unbeaten both domestically and in Europe. They dispatched Glasgow dutifully last week and despite scraping in at half time they stuck to the game plan and won comfortably in the end. Tonight’s game will be a similar affair just without the incessant rain – both the Dragons and Glasgow are at a similar level lately and Ulster should have the beating of them, despite the positional changes.

Tommy Bowe – in page one from Declan Kidney’s ‘how to interfere with provincial teams’ manual – is in a full back here, for some reason best know to Kidney. Could it be because Irish cover is very short right now at Full back, and he might need to cover there in the middle of a game? Who knows really, but for tonight’s purposes he’s there and we have to deal with it. If you’re thinking of the Ulster handicap, it puts things a bit more in doubt as it will undoubtedly take some adjusting to for the entire backline, and the Dragons will likely target their kicks to try to take advantage of it. Bowe is a winger, simple as that really. There are a few other changes but not as important; Pienaar starts at ten with Jackson on the bench, and Stevenson (who is no slouch) comes in for Muller alongside Tuohy, with the capable Fitzpatrick in for an overworked Afoa.

The Dragons were just beaten by Bayonne (3 point margin) on Saturday and are virtually unchanged from that game. It was a strong Bayonne side and they played far better than we expected them to. Chavanga coming back made a difference, Robling played well, and had they got the rub of the green they could have beaten an almost full strength Bayonne side. They’ll come into this game with renewed confidence and they played well-ish against the Scarlets, losing away by only 11 after some awful luck in the first half. Both those games were in the rain, and they’ve been in three tough slogs in the rain (Small bit when they were beaten by Wasps), so they’ll be tired too. Ulster have been excellent in attack recently and the dry weather should suit them more than it will the Dragons.

When the handicaps first came out for this game we were immediately a bit put off with Ulster up around eight or nine. Ulster were beaten here last year with a similar (albeit weaker) side than they have out tonight. The key for Ulster here is the three lads on the bench in Payne, Afoa, and Jackson, who can all come on and have some real impact if Bowe, Fitzpatrick and Pienaar are having issues. Ulster have to lose at some point this season, but the Dragons are probably not going to end the streak. Ulster have to be tired too though, and they may just settle for four points here.

Rabo Pro12 rugby betting – Main bet– Alot of people are expecting Ulster to run away with this, but we’re not crazy about the handicap. We initially had a different tip up here for about 20 minutes but due to some miscommunication between a few of us we’ve taken it down. The ‘Will one team win both halves’ market and price was mixed up via email as Ulster/Ulster. It’s probably still a good bet but we’re changing our main punt. We’re taking Ulster to win by 1-12 points at biggest 7/4 in stanjames (8/5 bet365). Ulster should win this but with the disruptions and fatigue, along with a confident enough dragons side, they shouldn’t hammer the Dragons on their own turf. We’re having a small nibble of Dragons half time/Ulster Full time too, also biggest in Stan James at 13/2.

Tryscorer tip
– for small money have a go at Afoa last tryscorer at 40/1 in Williamhill or Ladbrokes (nowhere else). He’ll be on in the second half, is always sniffing around the tryline and off any breaks, and the price looks too big.

Rabo Pro12 Rugby Betting, GMT 19:35 Edinburgh v Scarlets, Edinburgh +3 evens Stanjames, Scarlets scratch (not for long) in Williamhill, BBC Scotland

This game started out around scratch in most bookmakers but has drifted out in many places, with most money coming for the Scarlets it seems. You can see why fairly easily – Edinburgh have been on an awful five match losing streak, getting hammered everywhere but at Leinster. Morale at the club is very low, and Bradley can’t be long for the chop. Both teams are playing ropey centre combinations here, but Stoddart, North and Williams are the better backline, with Thomas edging young Harry Leonard too at fly-half. Both packs are even enough, and Edinburgh have a decent backrow which could help them win this.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Edinburgh might nick a result here. Bradley will have watched his fellow countrymen from leinster demolish the Scarlets pack with lots of high balls and box kicks giving forwards time to hump it up field shunt them off any ruck ball, and he has a decent enough pack to do that. North should get close to a try but he’s very questionable defensively and Visser could get alot of change out of him. There’s also an Italian ref on his way over, and two Scottish linesmen. With the market moves, the customary Friday night madness, and an Italian with the crowd on his back we couldn’t back a thin enough Scarlets side here even at scratch. We’re not going to tell you to back Edinburgh on the handicap, but we’re having a few bets here.

We’re waiting for one line to come out before we put it up here, lest the bookies be hanging around and adjust their prices accordingly. So we’ll have a good main bet for you, come back today around lunchtime. Decent Prices didn’t materialise so our only bet on this game is Visser anytime try.

Tryscorer punt-In Visser we trust– he’s 7/4 in skybet (evens in Boylesports!) for anytime tryscorer. If you haven’t joined yet, you’ve a free tenner with no deposit through this skybet link, and this could get you started for the weekend. As above, North is dodgy defensively, they have a rickety looking centre combination, and there should be holes in the Scarlets backline win or lose. Visser is always there or thereabouts at Murrayfield so well worth a punt even if you already have an account.

Rabo Pro12 Rugby Betting, GMT 19:45 Munster v Zebre, Munster – 26 Boylesports, Zebre +28 Ladbrokes

You couldn’t back Zebre for obvious reasons unless they were +40, so let’s get that out of the way early. Munster haven’t beaten a 26 point handicap all season; in two comparable fixtures 20 points was the margin at home to Dragons, and 13 at home to Treviso. The team has alot of changes, most notably being – Felix Jones in his first game back from injury at full back, Duncan Williams at scrum half who has passing issues, JJ Hanrahan making his first senior start (watch this lad, definitely one for the future) and most of the senior players getting a rest. But there’s quality there to replace them and the likes of O’Dea and Zebo should get on the scoresheet.

In looking back since the start of the season, only Edinburgh and the Dragons have beaten this handicap against Zebre, and both of those games had Zebre stronger than they are tomorrow. Munster traditionally have a slow enough game following round two of the Heineken cup, but we’re pretty much unanimous that they’re going to demolish this Zebre side tomorrow. There’s no rain to hide behind for Zebre with clear skies forecast, and Zebre have rested all of their quality players. If the Dragons and Edinburgh can beat this handicap against a relatively strong Zebre side, then a Munster side after a bonus point with people playing for places and a good bench can beat it too.

Rabo Pro12 rugby betting – Main bet Take the Munster -26 in Boylesports or Stanjames before it disappears later today.

Tryscorer prices – none appeal

More to follow

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