Saracens v Clermont Rugby Betting Preview

Heineken Cup semi-final betting – Saracens the wolfpick

aracens v Clermont rugby betting one-man-wolf-pack
For a game that I’ve been agonising over for the last week, this preview could easily have turned into a Sarries love parade after this last day’s deliberations. Let me first say I think Saracens are going to win.  So with that in mind, I’ll run through the cons before I list off the pros.

Saracens v Clermont Rugby Betting Preview – Cons – Why Clermont might upset Saracens.

Well, first, they’re Clermont – everyone fears them, they have that ridiculous home record, and they’ve been here before.  They’re a  class team with superstars, a hard edge, and can beat anyone on their day – stating the obvious is a waste of time. This is their last chance as a group you feel for a couple of years with Cotter leaving and a few lads past their prime. So many near misses, so much heart-break, ever the bottlers. You definitely get the feeling it’s now or never for this core group of Clermont servants. It’s therefore a reasonable assumption for the Clermont-fancier to think the big push will come this weekend, and that they’ll give it everything.

And look at their backs. James, Nalaga, Sivivatu the genius, Byrne playing well enough, and Fofana the finisher. When you line Nalaga and Sivi up against Strettle and Ashton, you would be forgiven for having a little Vincent price giggle – it could (& should) be carnage. And let’s not forget Burger for Saracens – a yellow card magnet who loves playing filthy – so Clermont might even get to play against 14 men for a time.

And that’s it. That’s all I see as positive for les Jaunes. I just can’t help this love-in I’m feeling, for the ugly over-achieving red-headed Stepchild that is Saracens. Allow me to explain.

Pros – Why the Sarries Wolfpack ( shudder….) should win the day

Well, there’s a shit-load of reasons in my mind; so let’s try to match up my reasons with Clermont’s failings in those departments.

  1. Saracens have had two weeks rest. They had a high intensity dress rehearsal for this game versus Northampton two weeks ago where they played with openness and scored some excellent tries, showing great cohesion and understanding. They took the foot off the gas at the end but that was the Ulster remnants. Last week they sent the reserves up to Newcastle ( all except Goode who was coming off injury and needed some game time) so they’re totally fresh and ready to keep the tempo high. Clermont on the other hand were mired in a shitfest at hard-hitting-bunglers Racing Metro, with most of the first team playing, failing to make breakthroughs.They did turn up at Racing and tried to score(and win), but they were bested by a brutal Metro team pulling away at the end. It’s been a long season for Clermont, and they’re showing fatigue – no doubt about it.

  2. Saracens are a winning team. They’ve lost two games in the Aviva Premiership out of 20 games, and they lost one game in the Heineken Cup group stages to Toulouse by a point at home. Clermont have also lost just one game in the Heineken group stages (against v racing Metro interestingly, who have the best defence in the TOP14, like Saracens in the Premiership). But look at the TOP14 it’s a different story – just two away wins both v relegated Biarritz and likely relegated Perpignan. Now before you jump down my throat I know, TOP 14 away wins are like hen’s teeth this season – still, that’s no stat to be proud of. In truth they were lucky enough to beat Quins away in the qualifying stages too, and Quins weren’t in great form at that point; But for a seriously cruel bounce of the ball it would have likely been a Quins win ( Nalaga’s butchered earlier chance aside).

  3. Organisation. Saracens are a happy camp. There’s no way I can know the mood in the Clermont camp but I can infer from how they’re playing that all is not well. Cotter’s remarks about the players at the end of last season looks to have sucked the spark out of their play relative to the past few seasons when things seemed to be clicking for them much more. If you look at the preparation for this game it also looks perfect for Sarries after that good run against Saints and a full two weeks rest. You can bet the extensive Sarries backroom staff have analysed Clermont fully at this point and executed accordingly in training in the two weeks off.

  4. Main men in good form. Saracens look to be firing on all cylinders, with good backup in all positions – Hodgson has been dropped (his chargedowns might be missed v James but his tackling won’t) as Bosch can cover fly half; we saw last week his confidence is sky-high with a 56 metre penalty.

  5. Most of the team is playing well and look to be peaking, and Bosch has brought alot to Saracens’ game from his experience as probably the best Argentinian back around at the minute. The two Vunipola’s are well rested and ready to unleash that carrying ability on a tired Clermont backrow and a knackered Hines who has been giving away some daft Jim-Hamilton/Leo-Cullen-like penalties lately. Clermont have lost Captain Rougerie and his absence will be felt. A huge leader for club and country in these sorts of games (and the man who finally unlocked the Leicester defence if you recall), him missing leaves me looking around for leaders in this side in this type of game. Hines is in no form, looks very slow around the park, and he will leave holes. Sivivatu at a push for leader? He did look good last week returning from injury. Still, I’m looking for who pulls them together if things start going against them and I don’t see much bar Parra having a squawk.

In general freshness and hunger I just see Saracens as being the  more likely winner here. Saracens were 100% on their lineout against Ulster and 100% in their scrum. I know Payne was missing and the  ripple effect will have been felt, but that bodes well – along with two weeks practice. In general Saracens have been like that all season, owning their lineout, and own scrum ball. Clermont lost 4 throws against Leicester and they’ve only become more tired since then. As I said Hines looks in bad shape and I feel he’s a liability in the line, the lineout and the scrum.

Lining up both sets of players, there’s no doubt Clermont have an edge in the backs but the question is how much ball will they get from a likely dominant Sarries lineout and marginally dominant scrum.

One key thing I can’t shake out of my head in arriving at the decision to oppose Clermont is their fatigue (relevant to Sarries) and I believe it will tell in the second half particularly. Watching them, you just feel they’re tired, and they’re defending very narrowly – which should open things up for a Saracens side who look to be ramping up for a game of ball-in-hand attack. In the last two big games away from home they’ve conceded to a cross field kick – once against Leicester when they hadn’t the legs to get back and defend the cross field kick on half way, and once against Racing 6 days ago when Imhoff found acres of space from a cross kick. When you line that up against Saracens’ try-scoring exploits this season, it’s ominous for Clermont.

Clermont will expect Saracens to come out controlled and methodical but I don’t think that will happen – I’m expecting an all guns blazing start like the Northampton game, and the selection of De Kock at Scrum half backs that up as he’s much quicker than Wiggleworth. I’m expecting this to get Saracens ahead early, and I don’t think they’ll look back at a Clermont side I feel may be rudderless and past it’s prime. Tomorrow should be about making a statement for who they’ll face in the final, and all signs for me are pointing to an unexpected comfortable Saracens win. I’m very much in the minority and a one man wolfpack in our rugby betting forum, with many supporting Clermont, so don’t go too nuts. I’m confident though – Nigel to bring it home for the home side.

Recommended Rugby bets –

For the cautious – Saracens plus 4.5 on the no draw handicap in Boylesports

For the coy – Saracens to win at 6/4

For the courageous – Saracens to win by 13+ in Stan james at 12/1. I see this as a very real outcome as Sarries will want to make a statement and ensure they don’t get caught (fingers crossed for a Cudmore card and a bit of luck on this one)

For the chaser – Billy Vunipola for anytime try at 15/2 in Skybet looks generous. Ashton at 11/4 in Ladbrokes and Nalaga at 11/5 both look worthy of a punt depending on what side of the fence you’re on too

There’s a list of Free Rugby bets here

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

Munster v Toulouse Heineken Rugby betting

Munster v Toulouse Rugby betting, 130 GMT Saturday

Weather, should be dry enough without too much wind, small chance of rain.

I’ll start with the teams (at bottom of post). No surprises really bar the spark of McAllister likely missing at ten (Beauxis is named; McAl is subject to a late fitness test). Beauxis is inconsistent enough and I’d rather have Keatley kicking the way he did v Leinster than taking a chance with Beauxis. Him starting is great for Munster too as he can’t quite get a backline moving like LM can. Truth be told, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s being held back intentionally, more on that below.

O’Mahony back is of course crucial to Munster and has no doubt been held back for this game. Camara will give him a run for his batch-turnover money but once Munster hit rucks with intensity, which they will; Camara’s heart for the turnover should wane quickly enough. Picamoles looks flogged to death too in recent months.

One of the key things for me here is the Munster attack v the Toulouse defence. I’ve been watching Toulouse a fair bit recently in the run up to this game, and how they defend. They don’t hold a straight line and they usually have one or two pushing up. Munster can be a frustrating side to watch in attack at times under Penney, with the first receiver standing 15 yards back from the opposition defensive line sometimes, giving a regimented line ample opportunity to see what’s coming and just defend by numbers. But the way Toulouse defend I think this will play into Munster’s attacking arms with lots of doglegs and gaps, meaning inside balls and Laulala offloads should pay off big time for Munster getting in behind. You can see this coming off say lineout’s in the Toulouse 22, going into a maul, everybody hitting the deck and then the recycle as it’s sent wide. Either way, i think Munster’s overall attack will work much better here than it has recently, and we know they’ll front up with intensity in defence. Nigel Owens is generally good to Munster too.

More crucially though, Toulouse have shown in recent years that their commitment to this tournament is much less than 100% when they have two away knock-outs in a row on the horizon. If they win here, they have to go away to either Toulon or Leinster in the semi.

Recent history suggests they won’t be as up for this as if they were at home. I know that sounds obvious but I think this has been very pronounced for Toulouse in the last five years or so. Also, and key, is the fact that Toulouse have a very real chance of moving from 6th up to 4th or 3rd in the TOP 14, with a tiny chance of second. They have three games left and a very realistic 15 points, with Grenoble and Brive at home, and Oyonnax away. When you put this beside Castres’ fixtures, currently in 4th and 4 points ahead of Toulouse with tough fixtures to come, you get the meaning here. Fourth place for Toulouse would mean a home barrage playoff before the semi-finals in the league.

Now juxtapose a likely home playoff in the Top14, with two away games at Europe’s powerhouses. I think you can see where I believe Guy Noves’ and his players’ priorities will lie for the remainder of the season – if this game gets tough, I can see them throwing it in. And Munster will make it tough. Hon ta f*ck Munster!

Best bet – Munster -4 at evens looks good to me – I don’t see any value in the 1-12 at 11/8 unless you have it in a multi. Keatley at 10/1 for a try anytime looks worth a flutter playing off Zebo and with his opposite number being Lionel Blair ( er, Beauxis).

There’s a list of Free Rugby bets here

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

Munster Rugby

15. Felix Jones; 14. Keith Earls, 13. Casey Laulala, 12. James Downey, 11. Simon Zebo; 10. Ian Keatley, 9. Conor Murray; 1. Dave Kilcoyne, 2. Damien Varley, 3. BJ Botha, 4. Dave Foley, 5. Paul O’Connell, 6. Peter O’Mahony (c), 7. Tommy O’Donnell, 8. James Coughlan
16. Duncan Casey, 17. John Ryan, 18. Alan Cotter, 19. Donncha O’Callaghan, 20. CJ Stander, 21. Duncan Williams, 22. JJ Hanrahan, 23. Gerhard van den Heever

15. Maxime Médard; 14. Yoann Huget, 13. Florian Fritz, 12. Gael Fickou, 11. Hosea Gear; 10. Lionel Beauxis, 9. Jano Vermaak; 1. Gurthro Steenkamp, 2. Christopher Tolofua, 3. Yohan Montes, 4. Yoann Maestri, 5. Patricio Albacete (c), 6. Yacouba Camara, 7. Joe Tekori, 8. Louis Picamoles
16. Jaba Bregvadze, 17. Cyril Baille, 18. Schalk Ferreira, 19. Romain Millo-Chluski, 20. Gillian Galan, 21. Jean-Marc Doussain, 22. Luke McAlister, 23. Yannick Nyanga

Intercept tries and live rugby betting odds

Weekend lessons – interception tries

It’s the off season for me as a punter as my three rugby betting loves the Premiership, the Rabo & Top14 have all left me for the summer (well, I say three ‘loves‘, but the Top14 is really more like that girlfriend that you have nothing in common with and drives you insane but still has you coming back for more every time). That doesn’t mean i don’t have a bet each weekend, but I’m a bit more picky about what i get involved in, and the stakes are considerably smaller than my regular season action.

Last weekend was a bit different – knackered from some contract work during the week I had lots of spare time lounging around the house, feeding the birds, talking to the cats about not eating the birds, and (not without some shame) picking my fantasy football team for the wendy-ball starting in three weeks. As I scratched around online for some betting value, there were three bets in three games that had been on my mind from Thursday onwards. Only one of those rugby bets turned out to be a winner, but I noticed something quite valuable for the future that never really factored into my calculations before.

Firstly, we’ve all seen intercept tries at the start of games that give the vanquished loser a small consolation. But what effect do intercept tries have in games that are still contests? There are no official figures for intercept tries, so we’ll have to mostly go from memory here and base most of our thinking on last weekend, some high profile past games, and any help you guys can give in the forum to test this hypothesis.

Ok, so most rugby fans know that intercept tries are valuable commodities – it’s not rocket science. But last weekend there were three intercept tries that caused the favorites at the time to lose their games. One worked out well for me, two didn’t – but they all had the same effect on the game.

Rugby bet 1 – Kings 1-12 v Lions at 14/5, Super 15 playoff. Result – bet Lost

There was a massive disparity in the winning margin odds for this game so I felt it was good value. The Kings were at home, and Paddypower were only offering 9/5 on the Kings 1-12 when Stan James were offering 13/5. These two-way playoffs in any league are usually very tight affairs won by the home team, and I felt the Kings were well able to eek out a win. Everything was going great by the 37th minute – the Kings were totally dominant for the past 25 minutes in all the half-time buzz-word statistics, they were playing good percentage rugby, and they were ahead on the scoreboard.

The Lions were probably mentally in the land of the losing bonus point until, in the 38th minute, Stokkies Hanekom grabbed an intercept try for the Lions as the Kings were attacking (with an overlap). It totally changed the game, and the Kings never looked like winning after that; they lost all the collisions, they lost their excellent flyhalf Catrakilis on 57 minutes (who had thrown the intercept), they lost on the penalty count.

Many Kings fans will blame the ref, and it definitely didn’t help that Jaco Peyper (who had been moved from linesman at the Bulls game to referee this one two days previously, for some reason) had one of the dodgiest refereeing performances i’ve seen in a long time – when all of his dodgy decisions and non-decisions seemed to go against the Kings. Even the commentators were exasperated at times, and in truth, had the owner of the Lions franchise reffed the game himself he couldn’t have done more for his team than Peyper did. However, most of us know what Peyper is, and while we laugh at the SARU and SANZAR on a weekly basis (who still seem to think we can’t see what goes on week-in-week-out in suspiciously-reffed South African Super15 games), the fact remains that the intercept try on 38 minutes totally changed the momentum & psychology of this game and was instrumental in the Lions getting the win.

Rugby bet 2 – Chiefs ht/Crusaders full time 7/1, Bet lost

This match went the opposite way to my own punt – the Crusaders were winning at half time (9-3) and the Chiefs at full time (20-19). This game started with the Crusaders -4 point favourites on the handicap. After leading at half time, the first five minutes of the second half were truly edge-of-your-seat living for Chiefs fans; Carter hit the post with a penalty to miss taking the gap to nine points; Read screwed up the final pass in a move where the Crusaders looked destined to score a try. Not much money was going on the Chiefs at this point, and the Crusaders were on top, no doubt about it.

Still, the Chiefs survived that early onslaught (amazingly), and earned a penalty on 46 minutes to make it 9-6. The Chiefs put on a surge and after Masaga scored that wonderful monster of a try, they were leading 13-9 after 50 minutes. Nobody was writing off the Crusaders though, as they had been the better team, and the live betting was reflecting this – with the Chiefs only slight odds-on favourites despite being ahead by 4 points and at home.

In response, the Crusaders set about pounding the Chiefs line but knocked on at the crucial moment. Winding up once more (it was only a matter of time surely before the heroic Chiefs defence would break!), the Crusaders were once again on the attack and looking dangerous, when KERBLAMMO! – Aaron Cruden took an intercept in midfield and raced to the other end to score the try, making it seventeen unanswered points for the Chiefs in the space of about 15 minutes.

It was testament to the Crusaders that they hit right back with Dagg’s solo effort soon after, but the damage had been done – Cruden’s try was a true 14 point swing against the Crusaders when even my dog (who is currently a very disappointed Warrington Wolves fan – more on that below) was expecting the Crusaders to score next just before the intercept happened. The intercept try again proved crucial as Carter scored a pen and missed a pen in the final 20 minutes, and it afforded the Chiefs the option of concentrating on defending against an undoubtedly tired Crusaders side.

Would the Chiefs have won without the intercept? No, I don’t think so. And while the live odds reflected the fact the Chiefs had gone into an 11 point lead so we couldn’t take advantage this time, the polar opposite psychological effect on both teams was evident in those final 20 odd minutes.

Rugby bet 3 – Hull to beat Warrington in the Rugby League Challenge cup semi-final at 4/1. Hull win, bet wins

Warrington went into this game as -14 point favourites, and have a fantastic record in the Challenge cup. They’re second in the league (just a point behind Wigan) and are in good form. I backed Hull as they were at home, had their main kicker back from injury, and had plenty of motivation. I thought if they could stay with Warrington there would be plenty of opportunity to trade out for a profit.

Anyway, after racing into an 8 point league with some excellent play, many viewers will have felt that the writing was on the wall and it was going to be another hammering (after Wigan won 70-nil the day before)- my initial thinking looked to be way off, and Hull went to as high as 20/1 in live betting to win the game. At this point I felt my bet was gone – Hull were defending again 20 metres out, Warrington looked like they were going to totally blitz Hull to a hammering, and the home fans were very quiet. So what happened?

Warrington tried a cross kick. The kick itself was quite good and it was there for the taking by the Warrington lads on the wing. But Hull winger Tom Lineham went for it, intercepted, and ran 80 yards to touch-down for Hull’s first (and vital) score. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Hull were fired up, and they scored the next three tries to go into a 16-8 lead. They ended up squeaking the win after Warrington snuck a try in the last five minutes, but there was no doubt – the intercept totally changed the game psychologically, and made the massive underdog the better team, and the winner on the day.


Of course it could be. However what is interesting is that all of these three games had something riding on them. They weren’t just ordinary league games- motivation was at it’s highest for all six sides involved in games with interceptions. Knockout games are the thoroughbred horse races of Rugby – it’s when you can usually count on maximum effort, and your appraisal of form can be most counted upon. All three intercepts had huge opposing psychological effects on the six teams in the three games, in favour of the perceived lesser team (in the eyes of bookmakers and most neutral fans). These three games were not home/away league games so home advantage is slightly less important relatively speaking.

I guess the ultimate lesson i’m trying to convey here for rugby bettors and non-punters, is that an intercept try seems to be worth far more than the 4 or five points (depending on code) you see on the scoreboard. Again, many fans will have noted this already, but this past weekend is compelling evidence that’s it’s not just hearsay and conjecture. The price you see after an intercept try in live betting may hold alot more value than at first glance – I know a few punters who think the opposite effect takes place, and that the team who conceded the intercept become even more motivated to score next. That view has some merits, but I know what side of the debate i’m on.

Joe Roff’s try, right after half time, the intercept try, was just the medicine we needed…

John Eales and George Greegan sum up what i’ve been on about pretty well here when talking about this massive game-changer;

There’s lots more out there, and i’ve set up a thread in the forum that we can add to whenever we see one in future. The lesson here overall is to pay close attention to betting prices after intercept tries – they’re worth far more than points on the scoreboard in my opinion.

Australia v Lions Rugby Betting Preview, Second test

Australia v Lions Betting, Second test. Saturday 29th June 11am GMT

There’s alot going on this week across the Lions tour soap-opera – it’s very like an episode of neighbours (back when Kylie was there of course). Anyway, Buckle up.

It’s fairly clear that there’s plenty of subtext behind this week’s media releases, from both camps. Gatland praising Joubert, Beale & O’connor taking pictures at 4am, the IRB going after Horwill in an unprecedented move. Anyone who takes these releases at face value needs to wake up and enter the real world. I have no proof why O’Connor and Beale were eating burgers at 4am, and making sure the world knew about it by taking pictures with all and sundry (they do have drive-thru’s in Australia you know). But there was a reason, and I doubt that Robbie Deans was unaware it was coming. Maybe they wanted to create an illusion of a fractured squad. Maybe they wanted it to look like they didn’t care. Whatever is was, if Robbie Deans offered me 2/1 that he knew about it before hand, i’d bite his hand off. And that episode has mirrored the tone of every thing else this week.

Warren Gatland’s waffles

Gatland praising Joubert was simply his way of taking the piss. Saying he’s ‘the best ref in the world‘ was actually quite funny. Many many people know he is a poor ref – everyone at least who watches any decent amount of rugby and is unbiased knows he isn’t the best. (The French have even created a new national holiday based on him to mirror Guy Fawkes night in the UK). Even forgetting the disgraceful world cup final handover to New Zealand, he is accepted as a poor ref in most of my own circles anyway. Hence, we can probably assume Gatland wasn’t being truthful and was trying to somehow curry favour – like him or love him, Gatland knows more about rugby than most (if not all) of us.

So why did Gatland say it, if he wasn’t being truthful? Well, it’s because Joubert clearly favours home teams. He is 70% for home wins since he started reffing internationally almost ten years ago. His away wins are mostly made up of the likes of New Zealand playing away, or Wales at the USA. He is a Homer. Personally, I think the main reasoning for his favouring home teams is the fact he’s too slow to keep up with the game mentally and physically; thus his decisions come down in favour of the home team as a safe bet. It also means that home unions are happy for him to ref their home games, and he keeps getting work.

Gatland more than likely knows all this, so my genuine belief is he was taking the piss in the expectation of a tough day at the office from the referee. You could almost argue that’s why he has picked Vunipola in the front row – if you’re going to be done by the ref in the scrum anyway, you may as well have your best man in the loose on the field.

The IRB start waving their Pitchforks

The IRB’s witch-hunt after Horwill is unprecedented on a Lions tour, and rarely happens in international rugby in general. It doesn’t matter if you think he was guilty or not. The simple fact is they have never appealed a disciplinary board’s decision before. So ask yourself why are they doing it now? It’s not over worries about fairness or how the game looks – they’ve let plenty of international transgressions go in the past when it suited them. The horn-blowing hunt screams out a few things to me. Number one being they’re really worried they’ll lose this second test. Number two being, the Lions know they’ve lost their main man in Paul O’Connell. Forget ‘Tiger-face’ Warburton. Forget Brian O’Driscoll. POC was the main man here, and the IRB (whose interests are well connected with the Lions money-machine) no doubt received a well placed phone-call. Taking Horwill out of proceedings evens things up somewhat, and there is no doubt he would be a massive loss for Australia.

There is big money on the line here for the Lions franchise. Big money on the line for business interests. Essentially it’s a money making jolly at this point, and it will be a much harder sell in four years if they fail again to get a series victory. But i’m talking about the third test here, let’s get back to the second this Saturday.

Big Money burning at the stake

What do
a) the Wallabies
b) the bookies
c) the tour marketing organisers
d) the tv stations
e) the fans
f) Sheila’s happy-ending massage emporium
g) The pub owners in Crocodile Dundee
h) Toady
all have in common?

They all secretly or overtly want Australia to win this game so we get a series decider. The big money showdown. The increased spend by everyone. The broadcast the rugby world will all be tuning their tellyboxes in to. I wouldn’t say there’s more than three die hard lions fans out there who really care if they lose this game, and most want a decider. It’s not like this is your countrymen lining out for HSBC against the world here. It’s a cobbled together team of a load of tired lads at the end of a long season. A tour that Sky have been forcing down our throats since three months ago. Everyone wants it to go to a decider! And with Joubert in place, you couldn’t have a better referee to get the full entertainment effect.

So the point here is, even if you think rugby is squeaky clean (it isn’t, sorry to burst your bubble), almost every bit of influence that can be wielded wants Australia to win.

Australia v Lions Rugby Betting – Teams (at base of post).

There’s only one thing that matters this week – Paul O’Connell is out. The man talking in the huddle, the man talking to referees. You have to feel sorry for Warburton – he was the captain pick of the marketing men, the younger man. Can you imagine Paul O Connell making tiger faces? No. No you can’t.

With POC gone you lose leadership, a rallying point, incessant tackling, and top-class ability. Watch any clip of last week’s game and you’ll see him putting in tackle after tackle. The reason Lydiate has been drafted in despite playing 80 minutes on Tuesday is primarily to make up for that lost O’Connell tackle count. And Heaslip, Warburton and Lydiate don’t exactly scream guile and electric-dreams-ball-carrying-prowess either.

Phillips out is a blow for the Lions even if Australia shepherded him well last week. The whole ‘knee-issues’ excuse is a charade – he’s not fit aerobically, simple as that. Watch the clip of Folau’s try with Dirty Mike and the boys huffing and puffing in the background. Youngs is a weakness despite his good record against Australia. If the Lions pack gets them on the front foot, he’s a dream. Going backwards it’s a whole different story. Vunipola in the front row is a red rag to Joubert and expect penalties. The best thing the Lions have going for them is the relationship between Parling and Tom Youngs. The lions threw to the front every time last week and that should change this week, giving them more clean attacking ball. Will they be able to disrupt Australia’s 100% lineout from last week though? I doubt it. The bench doesn’t look too sharp for the Lions to be honest, and I think it’s their turn to have some horrid injury luck this week, after last week’s nightmare for Australia – at one point I thought I was watching a re-run of the movie Braindead with the amount of crippled Aussie bodies lying around everywhere…

The Australian pack is the same as last week, with a few changes in the backs, with the main one being Tomane on the wing for Ioane. Make no mistake though, as RA pointed out in the forum, he’s all class, and has a try rate of one every two games (including his rugby league career). He’s in Rugby-union two years now with the Brumbies so knows exactly what he’s about.

Aside from all that, the main thing to remember is that Australia WILL be better this weekend, as they hadn’t played a test in seven months before last week. They’ve now had time to gel, and they’ll know they were the better side last week and should have won (and that was with O’Connell on the field). For me there’s big question marks over defensive cohesion for the Lions when they’re on the back foot, and that’s understandable, not knowing each other that well, and being at the end of a long season.

In conclusion

Take your IRB-sponsored witches cauldron.

australia v lions rugby betting The Lions bitching brew
IRB-sponsored witches cauldron

Now throw in Joubert the homer. Throw in the IRB working like crazy to get Australia’s main man Horwill out for the third test (if they were confident this week, would it matter?). Toss in the loss of Paul O’Connell. Sprinkle in fatigue at the end of a long European season. A dash of Aussie pride. A dollop of home advantage. And just a smidgen of increased Aussie cohesiveness and it all points to one indisputable conclusive concoction – Back the Lions!

nah, just kidding! We’ve taken Australia +4.5 in Boylesports on the no-draw handicap at 5/6. Best priced and biggest handicap start you can get on Australia right now, and the start is generous for a game they should win with Joubert on the horn. Everybody needs good Neighbours, and the Craig does oblige.

free rugby bets dropkick

There will be lot’s more insight in our rugby-betting forum (where membership is free, and always will be) on the Lions game thread with plenty of side-bets and value picks for this week. The forum voted on Australia plus cap last week and won, and we were robbed by Kurtley Beale’s two missed kicks on a 10/1 Lions half time/ Australia full time bet!


British and Irish Lions: :15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O’Driscoll, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 George North, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Makovina Vunipola.Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Ryan Grant, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Tom Croft, 20 Sean O’Brien, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Alex Cuthbert.


Team : 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Christian Leali’ifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Will Genia, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ben Mowen, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson. Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Rob Horne, 23 Jesse Mogg.

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, 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.

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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.

Heineken cup semi-final betting – Saracens v Toulon

Heineken cup semi-final betting tips – Saracens v Toulon, Sun28April, 3pm SkySports

Heineken cup rugby betting semi final Saracens v toulon rugby betting
-Handicap of Saracens +1, Toulon scratch available

There are a number of macro indicators ahead of this weekend’s Heineken cup semi-final suggesting Toulon should have the edge.

Let’s take a quick look at the last weekend of European rugby, when three Premiership sides met three French sides in the quarter-finals of Europe’s top two competitions. In the Challenge Cup, Stade Francais & Biarritz both sent under full strength sides away to Bath & Gloucester and both convincingly dispatched their Premiership opposition (as predicted in our betting forum at huge odds of 7/2 and 4/1). Bath and Gloucester sent out strong enough sides with a few players rested, & most bookmakers expected them to win handily.

So by that Saturday afternoon we already had a decent relative indication of the current strengths of both leagues – understrength lower table French sides hammering aspirant top-six Premiership sides.

Then Leicester were beaten in Toulon in the Heineken cup Quarter final. Leicester turned up and put their bodies on the line, and for that they deserve commendation. However, George Clancy’s refereeing of the scrum was, as usual, on the side of Leicester (remember the Toulouse game?), and questions have to be asked on how he keeps getting Leicester and England international games (Just as Wayne Barnes has refereed three of Clermont’s major European games in the past three years).

Clancy’s odd interpretation (to put it mildly) of the scrum two weeks ago saw Leicester 12 points to three ahead, until Toulon cranked up the intensity and worked their way back into things to win by six points. True, Leicester were within a score at the death, but had Toulon had a little bit of luck they could easily have run out 20+ point winners even after having to deal with George Clancy’s bizarre Tigers-friendly calls. Near misses from Toulon kept things tight; Botha’s double movement for the disallowed try; Bastauread pushed out in the corner instead of just running straight with only Thompstone to run through; and Tilous-Borde frustratingly missing three Toulon forwards with a pass, when the Leicester line was there begging. Had any of these chances been executed with more composure, Toulon would likely have won far more comfortably.

So what does all this have to do with Sunday’s game between Saracens and Toulon?

Saracens are at the top of a league full of teams that have had no answer to French power this year, and up until last week Toulon were leading the TOP14 (now 1 point behind Clermont). You can see the comparison we’re making here – Toulon are at the top of a vastly stronger league based on this year’s head to heads, and it’s a fair enough bet that the dominance will continue this weekend as the two league leaders collide.

Toulon are mercenaries, pay-cheque collectors, hooering jesses, Guns for hire, etc

Not so in our opinion. Toulon have plenty of obsessive critics as the new money side in French rugby, but the fact is they have frequently shown character in adversity. Take the Quarter final against Leicester – it would have been very easy to lie down and wilt at the coal-face of one of the aristocratic sides of Heineken cup rugby, after going 12-3 behind, along with the referee being against them. But they battled back into it, stuck to their game plan, and overcame significant adversity – they have a real hunger for this competition there’s no doubt about it.

Yet another example was last year’s TOP14 final, when they fought back with an amazing series of phases to almost pip Toulouse at the end with no time remaining – a high pass and a knock on 5 metres out prevented a certain try. These Toulon lads are serious international professionals that want to win this trophy, plain and simple. There will be no stereotypical French away days here.

Statistical league Match-ups (bear in mind there are four more games played now in the TOP14 versus the Premiership -25 v 21)

Tries scored (leagues) – Toulon 63, Saracens 38
Tries scored (Heineken cup Pools) – Toulon 23, Sarries 15
Tries conceded (leagues) – Toulon 30, Saracens 23
Tries conceded (Heineken cup Pools) – Toulon 8, Saracens 6

Some other interesting stats – Toulon have conceded the least amount of yellow cards in the TOP14, so their discipline has been excellent, showing that they work for each other. They have also won more away games than almost every other side in the TOP14, (where away wins are tough to come by), with seven, joint top with Racing metro. In playing 21 games of the 25 so far, Johnny Wilkinson has the top spot for drop goals (7), conversions (42) and penalties (78) for a league-leading total of 339 points. Lastly, Toulon have scored a league-leading 736 points and conceded 435. Saracens have scored 510 and conceded 325.
If it seems like we’re concentrating on the TOP14 here more than the Premiership, it’s for the simple reason that the TOP14 is the stronger competition, and thus has more meaningful numbers (and I don’t have all day here!). (We can blame the fact we have a weaker competition on the salary cap, we can blame it on the greedy/lying club chairmen, the dodgy TMO decisions, the fact the Premiership is an unfair cartel possibly operating against European competition laws, David Rose’s love affair with yellow cards, or Wayne Barnes pulling decisions out of his arse…. – it’s another day’s discussion either way).

Backrow Blue Bloods

If you’re a Saracens fan, you’re hanging onto the defensive potential, where they have fared slightly better statistically in both the Heineken cup pools and the league. However, this is where the news that Will Fraser is out injured will really start to look ominous. Fraser (Man of the match v Ulster in the Quarters) has started 16 and played in 19 of Saracen’s 21 premiership games this year. Saracens don’t have another fit openside (Jacques Burger is back, but he isn’t fit, and he has been missing tackles since returning to the side), and the loss will be felt hard by a side that relies on his turnovers and ground work to relieve pressure.

Toulon’s ball carrying back row have the winning of this game. We’ll probably see a 6, 7, 8 of Lobbe, Armitage, Masoe, (actually turns out Armitage and Joe VN are on the bench, and the backrow is 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Danie Rossouw).(Full teams at base of page) That’s some serious firepower against a likely back row for Sarries of three from Wray, Brown, Joubert, and Kruis & Burger. Solid players, but it’s advantage Toulon with no fit Sarries seven, and the brains of the operation Joubert wearing a face-mask due to a facial injury. Last year the Saracens Wagon wobbled in both competitions due to back row problems and it looks to be happening again here. The overall ball carrying, international experience, and ground-hog ability of that Toulon back row is simply phenomenal in contrast.

Saracens need to keep the ball away from Toulon for as long as possible but I’m not sure they have the quality to do it. Dean Ryan has made the point a number of times in recent months that you need a bit extra to win these sorts of games, and you can’t just rely on on defence at this level, and I agree with him. Yes, Saracens have been scoring tries of late, and their game has come on leaps and bounds from last season, but i’m not convinced yet – mainly due to the caliber of their opposition recently (I actually fancied this game to be high scoring, but i’m not sue that will happen with Rollaind reffing). Saracens are no longer a defensive side that’s for sure, but have they got the attacking weapons to deal with a really top side? I’m yet to be convinced. Where’s the spark in this Sarries side? I just don’t see it compared to Giteau, Armitage, Masoe Smith and even Wilkinson. They’re also conceding tries too and when it comes to the crunch, I’m not sure they have the creativity to change things if the game is going against them.


The Toulon backs have the edge in ability and experience too, with Giteau and Bastauread a potent combination, and creatively alongside Wilkinson and Tilous Borde they have the edge on the conjurers remedial class of Farrell and Barritt. Even Felon Armitage at full back looks to have the edge on Goode, and is in fine form at the minute. David Smith is the equal of Ashton at least, and David Strettle goes missing if it isn’t laid on a plate for him, and he still has passing issues (though he has got better from no passes per game, to a few passes per game in recent months).

The scrums (once refereed properly) should be slightly in favour of Toulon with the international experience they have in Jenkins, Sheridan & Hayman, and the lethal ball carrying ability of Orioli to match the excellent Vunipola (though not so excellent at scrummaging) will tell in the last twenty minutes. The lineout should be Saracens, and this being their main weapon, it needs to function flawlessly against Botha and Kennedy (maybe even Botha and Lobbe) to have any chance of winning this game. Botha has a few titles under his belt though, and should be able to have an impact….so nothing is guaranteed for Saracens in this respect.

Vunipola will be a huge factor in Saracens winning or losing this game. His possible scrummaging weaknesses will be an easy target for the referee. On the other hand his ball carrying (and tryscoring) ability could be key; Saracens have been using him running at full tilt as first receiver off ruck ball in the opposition 22 for about three months, and if Toulon haven’t done their research to watch out for this, they’ll pay the price.

5050 game?

There’s too much in favour of Toulon here for it to be a 5050 game as the bookies are pricing it up, and the loss of Fraser really is as big as it has been made out to be. The key positions all hold so much international experience for Toulon and they have definitely shown against Leicester that they are interested in the Heineken Cup. Wilkinson should direct thing’s ably against Owen Farrell, and when you read that the ground will be half empty with less than 30,000 tickets sold, all of the chips look to be falling in Toulon’s favour. Despite Saracens acknowledged defensive ability, in these kinds of games you expect both sides will be up for it in that respect, and it’s usually the superior attack that comes up trumps.

Heineken cup semi-final betting – Saracens v Toulon, the verdict

We’ve backed Toulon simply to win at 10/11 in Paddypower. Toulon are simply the better side, events are conspiring in their favour, and they’ve shown they want it. Plus, there will be precious few Sarries fans to get the atmosphere pumping by doing that finger thing in the stands. No loudspeaker playing daft music either. In fact, I know a few Saracens fans who will be happy the pathetic loudspeaker is off, so who knows!

Saracens can win this game – they have a good squad and some game breakers, but everything will have to go perfectly for them, particularly for their defence, and i’m willing to bet against that happening. Farrell is wobbly under pressure and he’ll have to control the yips too, as if they don’t kick their goals, they’re doomed.

Further betting thoughts;
Initially I thought this would be high scoring contrary to expectations, but with stop-start-whistle-happy Rolland refereeing and destroying things as a spectacle in his own way, the Under might be the pick. No lines available yet, but I won’t be touching it either way as I’m invested in the Toulon win. The 1-12 winning margin price is terrible too so I wouldn’t touch it – there’s a chance Toulon could win by more, and 6/4 is not worth the risk of a late score or two.

Try scorers
– Very few prices up yet (Only powers) and I will update here when more are available in thee next couple of days. One or two look tasty for now (Vunipola is probably worth a fiver anytime try at 12/1 in Paddypower, especially if you like Saracens contrary to the above – he will be one of their main strike weapons).

Good luck whichever way you go, especially if it’s my way.

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Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Kelly Brown, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steve Borthwick, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 John Smit, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Carlos Nieto, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 George Kruis, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Chris Wyles.

Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Rudi Wulf, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Sébastien Tillous-Borde, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Danie Rossouw, 5 Nick Kennedy, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Sebastien Bruno, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16 Jean-Charles Orioli, 17 Gethin Jenkins, 18 Davit Kubriashvili, 19 Joe van Niekerk, 20 Steffon Armitage, 21 Maxime Mermoz, 22 Frederic Michalak, 23 Jocelino Suta

Rugby Betting tips on the Rugby League World Cup

The Rugby League World Cup might come second to Rugby Union when it comes to media coverage, but it is certainly one of the events that fans of Rugby League – and of sports betting in general – will be following with considerable interest this October & November. The competition doesn’t start until October the 26th, but people will be placing bets on it – with outright bets on the winner being the most punted market – well ahead of that date, and you can get odds information from most bookies already. So who have they marked down as being amongst the favourites for the tournament?

Just now there is no question that Australia are seen as the outstanding favourites to win the Rugby League World Cup – with their odds of 1/3 showing just how strong the bookmakers consider them to be. Behind them are New Zealand on 11/2, and England on 8/1, but after that the fourth placed team (Tonga) have odds of 200/1. This suggests that it is basically a three country battle for the trophy, but even then Australia are the clear favourites – having beaten defending champs New Zealand in both recent one-off test matches – so outright rugby betting fans could be faced with either accepting these low odds to bet on Australia or opting to just watch the tournament and do something else to keep the thrill in it, like and play rugby league world cup themed games at

There are quite a few of these to choose from – generally slots games – with two popular ones being Rough Rugby and Odd Shaped Balls. The former is a five reel slot with a backdrop of a rugby pitch and reel icons of players, rugby balls and match tickets, while the latter is more specifically World Cup inspired. As the daft name suggests, Oddly Shaped Balls goes for a humorous slant with its reel icons, including a (strategically censored) female streaker, but there is certainly nothing silly about the $200,000 top jackpot it offers. Either of these rugby themed slots games could offer a fun alternative to betting on the World Cup. Betting on Australia at those odds definitely isn’t advised – but small money on a heretofore underachieving England side might be worth it for interest.

Heineken cup betting – Toys out of the pram

As a quick preamble to this weekend’s games, It must be said that it’s hard to weigh up team chances without looking beyond the absolute necessity for European rugby (and the big business of the ERC) that at least one English club gets to the final this year. It also must be said that Sarries and Quins are rightly favourites this weekend, and are the stronger sides. Ok, with that out of the way……..

First, have a quick look at this in the Tory Gloryhole, essentially outlining how our club chairmen are still intent on destroying this fantastic and inclusive competition solely for money.

The article shows how just yesterday these silly sods couldn’t come to an agreement on what is happening with European rugby, and the fact remains that the majority of English Premiership fans (i’m one myself, and I know loads), have a chip on their shoulder that they’ve been coming off second best because of the structure of this competition, and not due to the fact that we just haven’t been good enough.

The fact is simple – the fans are the ones that count, and they’re putting it up to the chairmen, who also want more money – so them jockeying for more money, stricter entry for Scottish and Italian sides etc., dovetails nicely with their own money hungry quest. The fans views are crystal clear (partly due to the lack of critical thinking in the English media, and the big business agenda) – the majority can’t deal with the fact their teams haven’t been good enough (similar to our National side since ’04 in all fairness), and the blame seems to be getting placed at a combination of – money, no relegation in the Rabo, and Leinster resting a few players before Heineken cup games (despite the fact that it happens week in week out in the Premiership in one guise or another – i.e., those ‘sore knees’ we read about from the offy’s in other words).

This is not an attempt to persuade anyone of right and wrong – everyone is on their side of the fence and it’s doubtful many will be persuaded now. You’re either an Englishman and thinking your teams aren’t winning because it’s all unfair, or you’re from somewhere else and thinking;

‘why are English clubs jeopardising the game of rugby for money and essentially trying to contract the spread of the sport globally by proposing to hobble Scottish and Italian rugby?’ or ‘ why can’t England make use of their player base which dwarfs the other countries?’ or ‘didn’t they originally change the spread of money and the qualifications precisely because English clubs were wiping the floor in this competition?’, or ‘why in Christ’s name are they trying to ruin the best rugby competition on the planet just for money?’.

It won’t please many fellow English rugby fans to read it (we speaks our mind and tells it as we sees it), but throwing the toys out of the pram seems to be something of a running theme in English rugby right now. Last week Steve Walsh was hounded out of international rugby for the next six months thanks to incessant RFU complaining of how he reffed the scrums versus Wales.

Nevermind the fact that even with Craig Joubert reffing them off the park, France still managed to win the scrum against England. Nevermind that George Clancy ignored Italian scrum dominance in the entire second half against England (watch the replay, the Italians sent England backwards…alot) by not giving their superior scrum the penalties. Nevermind that the Irish got parity in the scrum even with injuries.

No, nevermind all that. Just mind Graham Rowntree and the RFU throwing their toys out of the pram when Steve Walsh correctly gave the decisions to a Welsh scrum that was totally on form, that contained proven talent from one to eight, and over twice the international caps of the English eight. I was genuinely embarrassed at our complaining in the days after the game. I’m even more embarrassed that a man lost work because we can’t deal with reality.

And the result? Steve Walsh taken off International rugby (or suspended from his job to be more accurate) because he chose to referee English rugby and the RFU correctly, and chose to keep his integrity and NOT do a Craig Joubert on it, and give us everything.

Is it any wonder then that the clubs think they can act in the same way, when their home union is going around stamping it’s feet and crossing it’s arms like a spoiled brat? (we also know now that New Zealand no longer control the IRB, and who does)

So what has this got to do with this weekend? Well, this is an attempt to point out the glaring logic for punters. English sides have been given a cushy ride in this championship so far precisely to sway the minds of fans, who won’t want to walk away from the Championship if one of their own gets their hands on the cup. Anyone who doubts this just needs to watch a replay of the farcical refereeing of Munster v Saracens last Autumn (in particular the final five minutes, when Keith Earls was wrongly penalised, and Sarries were given a phantom maul penalty to nail a losing bonus point for them) in Thomond park, for an education in the realpolitik now facing the ERC, and how refs are being told to intervene in order to save this competition.

And yes, Owen Farrell had missed a shed load of penalties (the awarding of most of which had that crowd on the verge of a riot), but that’s neither here nor there when you look at how Saracens were marched up-field by the ref to save the day at the last minute. This war is about hearts and minds people.

It’s important to note that Saracens and Quins are excellent sides and are rightly favourites to win this weekend against Ulster and Munster respectively, especially looking at the recent form of the Irish sides. And make no mistake – it’s down to Sarries and Quins to keep the Heineken cup alive now, because it’s hard to see Toulon screwing up in the cauldron against an ordinary Leicester side. It’s down to Sarries and Quins to take our collective heads out of our collective arses and realise what our club chairmen and women are on the verge of destroying in the name of money, greed and preying on the fueled self delusion of ‘we the fans’.

Ulster and Munster definitely have it in them to win, and in truth the sides are more evenly matched than the bookies are pricing it up. But it really looks like the death knell for this wonderful iteration of European cup rugby if they win, with the way negotiations have been going. Sarries and Quins have to win, no matter what, to save us from ourselves. This is the first European rugby weekend I haven’t looked forward to in thirteen years.

If you’re a cynic looking for value, the Sarries/Quins straight win double is paying biggest in Paddy power, and 11/10 (just a shade over evens). Beating two good sides getting the calls from the refs is going to be a seriously tough ask for the much vilified (wrongly) Irish sides this weekend. If you’re an optimistic and flighty sort, and not grounded in commercial reality at weekends, then a Munster/Ulster 1-12 winning margin double is paying 12/1 in Stanjames or Boylesports.

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Super Rugby betting tips – round 8

Super Rugby – Week 8 beting tips, by Billy Bonds

Having taken a break last week, a new approach is underway in regards to the previews for the Super Rugby weekend. It’s been a tough few weeks so hopefully a different angle might reap dividends. This week will be mainly focused on Fridays games as there appears to be more value in these as opposed to Saturday’s match ups.

Blues – Highlanders

The first of the weekend’s action takes place in Auckland and we should be in store for a fascinating clash of two sides desperate for a win. The Highlanders are amazingly still searching for their first win of the season but have been showing signs of improving of late. Regardless though, to be still winless at this stage of the season with the talent available begs to ask questions of Jamie Joseph and his coaching staff. The return of Tuiali’i coming in this week from Japan and going straight into the side shows where the weakness lies in this team. The talent the Highlanders have out wide is scary and if they can get quick ball and hold their own up from, they are more than a match for anyone. They’ve been impressive enough in some of their games so far this season and it seems only a matter of time before they begin to exhibit their true potential. The Blues welcome back Kevin Mealamu to their squad this weekend and and it could be the boost they need after an alarming run of form. The season started off so impressively for the John Kirwan’s men but they appear to have reverted to the Blues of old recently. They’ll be hoping to get back on track in front of their home fans this weekend but I think the Highlanders should cover the handicap on this one and perhaps even sneak a win.

Selection: Highlanders +8 at 10/11

Brumbies – Kings:

The Kings continue their odyssey in their maiden super rugby season and continue to confound critics and spectators alike. They’ve been very impressive in defeat and have defying all pre-season expectations. However, their squad will begin to get stretched the longer the season goes on and they’re approaching the end of a tough trip. With one eye on what they will view as a very winnable game against the Rebels next week, the Kings have made more than a few changes to keep things fresh. This could play into the hands of the Brumbies who will be keen to wrap up the bonus point win as soon as possible. They won’t be taking the Kings lightly though and that can be seen with the pretty much full strength team named. The combination of Pat McCabe returning inside centre and Christian Lealiifano returning to the out half position is one that should promote even more attacking play. The 80 minute handicap is a tough one to call but I quite like the look of the half time markets.

Selection: Brumbies first half -12 at 5/6

Sharks – Crusaders

This clash is probably the toughest game of the weekend to call in what should be a fantastic game between two heavyweights. The Crusaders were very impressive in beating the Stormers last week with what was a weakened team. However, that win will have taken a lot out of them and they’ve lost a couple more players this weekend. The Sharks appear to have the upper hand both out wide and up front. I fancy home field advantage to see the Sharks though here

Selection: Sharks – 2 at evens

Hurricanes – Waratahs

The bookies appear to have this line close enough in my eyes and I’d loath to put too much on this. However the Waratah’s appear to be improving massively in recent weeks and would take a small punt on the cap here.

Betting Selection: Waratahs +8 at 10/11

Western Force – Rebels

This is a no bet for me as it’s too hard to see which way this game could go.

No bet

Cheetahs – Stormers

Huge game in SA with the form side up against the traditional powerhouse. Should be a very open game and like the over play here.

Selection: Overs

Best of luck lads
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