Asides

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.

New Zealand Australia game ruined by Poite

New Zealand v australia ruined by Poite’

Forty thousand people paid good money to see this in New Zealand. Millions of people around the world looked forward to it. I got up early with a hangover. And we were rewarded by the IRB with le buffoon.

How does Poite still have a job?

Aside from the fact Australia were offside on nearly every kiwi attacking phase ( which destroys the spectacle with space at a premium already) Poite also never stopped the clock for substitutions or restarts. He showed a surprising eagerness however when play had stopped due to injury to start the clock again when both sides were far away from ready for the restart scrum or lineout.

Cheika may have visibly cursed Poite at one point up in the Andy Robinson crucible *( and i salute him for it) but he should be thanking the Poite, because this was very much about saving face for Aus rugby and under Sanzar’s auspices. They need this to look like a competitive championship. Either that, or Poite is unfit and wants to slow it down as much as the top 14 slop he eats with his bread and butter.

If the IRB reffing panel mandarins sit down and review the game ( they wont) there was at least ten minutes burned off the clock on substitutions. Questions have to be asked. Why did he not say time off? He does it immediately in France. Poite gave pens incessantly. He stopped quick tap penalties and quick lineouts. This was policy.

He’s an unmitigated disaster as a ref and paying ticket holders and subsciption holders are being treated with utter contempt by rugby’s ruling bodies.

Premiership Singha Sevens – Rugby preview

Premiership Singha Sevens – Rugby Betting preview

7Aug 2016 Coventry

14:00     Cardiff Blues 7s vSale Sharks 7s    Ricoh Arena
14:25     Exeter Chiefs 7svNorthampton Saints 7s
14:50     Harlequins 7s v Wasps 7s
15:15     Newcastle Falcons 7svOspreys 7s
http://www.premiershiprugby.com/singha7s
Image taken from BetterRugbyCoaching.com

Assume teams are the same as last week unless mentioned below.

Having watched all four of the group stages for the sevens this year, I was very aware that the bookies were way off on their prices on multiple games. On the live chat here, we were nailing it in running, particularly the game where they had Sale at +5 in the game they won by 50 points.

Without giving too much away to them, there is still money to be made judging by the prices they’ve come out with. And the real opportunity here will be in the second and final round of games.

The main contenders are Wasps, Exeter, and Harlequins – no other team are capable of winning this from the eight finalists.

In order of the games;

Premiership rugby Sevens Quarter 1 preview – Cardiff v Sale

Cardiff were lucky enough to come through to top the group at the last minute v the Dragons. There is no doubt that the referee 100% favoured Cardiff, handing the Dragons two yellow cards, the first of which was a complete sham, and just when the Dragons were about to put them to bed. The second card was merited. In this instance (bizarrely for me) I was glad to see a spot of buggery  from the ref, they deserved it – the ref was no doubt disgusted at some of the twat behaviour of one or two of the Dragons lads. To summarise – Cardiff were fortunate to top the group after scraping past the Ospreys.

Sale sharks had an easy enough group. They possess two or three quality players, and  they definitely eased off against Newcastle to ensure they had reserves to come second in the group. They had a nice schedule which helped. The result against Leicester of over fifty points is best taken with a pinch of salt as Leicester had a couple of yellows in their previous game which was back to back before this one. And they received a yellow in this one too – they were completely out on their feet basically.

Despite the above, and the presence of Odogwu the tryscorer for Sale, I slightly fancy Cardiff here to take this – they have more Sevens players, and were that bit more consistent. Sale are a bit more disorganised. This is the hardest of the games to call and probably best left in running.

Premiership rugby Sevens Quarter 2 preview – Exeter v Northampton

Northampton have removed three or four lads bizarrely from the side that got them here, a ridiculous decision by management when they could have competed – with Collins and Pacman in partiular being standouts last week. Pacman and Collins are out, which means there is NO question that Exeter will win this. And there’s no point in me going into Saints and what they did/how they played – they’re now the worst side and will more than likely finish bottom in the shield too.

Exeter should win well – they won’t go nuts because they’ll be trying to keep energy for the next two games. Expect Exeter to ease up after putting them away early. The Exeter key man is Simmonds, pure quality – and Bodily is also key. If they can keep them fit for all the games, they have an outside shot of winning this tournament – I have no interest in the 7/2 available though, it’s no value. I have Ex even with Wasps in terms of quality for this final day, even with Wasps’ additions.

Premiership rugby Sevens Quarter 3 Preview – Harlequins 7s  v Wasps 7s

The clash of the Heavyweights.  Wasps have brought in Wade and Guy Thompson, Umaga also who was due to play last week but was injured. Rob Miller though, who was so key to stringing play together for them, is out. No Simpson or Robson like last year either. Halai is playing well but he did look tired from preseason. De Luca is a good sevens player.

Looking at the Wasps side you can see why the bookies have cut them with those big names, and Wade’s elusiveness is of course a huge asset.

Quins on the other hand, are basically a sevens side. All serious athletes. Cam Cowell and Mikalcius are absolute beasts and international sevens players.  Cheesman and all of the young lads are involved in the sevens too. And they’ve made one change and brought in another sevens junior.

Quins are the better side, better organised, better drilled, better ball skills and they have a fundamental understanding of Sevens. Versus a few sevens player for Wasps and the three Premiership players.

Things like clearing out rucks, ball presentation, the right and wrong lines of running, will all come into play as instinct for the Quins lads in the final five minutes of this game, and that will be where the game is won and lost. Defensively once they can keep Wade shut down, they should be fine with a far superior defensive structure. Watch out for Mikalcius, he’s an absolute horse.

It’s no secret in the forum that I believe Quins have the better side and I make them favourites for this whole tournament. We had them at 7 to 1 for the group in the qualifiers and it waltzed in. If you’re interested in the odds that are …ahem…fairly decent for Quins (and too big), check here.

This is of course a knockout and a game of sevens, and anything can happen – and Wasps are at home (although it is Coventry…) the ref may feel in true Union fashion that he needs to keep the big names like Wade in the main cup final knockouts by buggering Quins and fixing this game with some bizarre decisions, but LET’S HOPE my cynicism is not merited, and we will all see a FAIR REFEREEING performance, and not one that looks after commercial interests and hoping to keep Wade in the headlines so they get good copy in the media afterwards.

So if we get that, Quins should win, and likely it’s them and Exeter in the final once they avoid each other. Quins are the better side by far in this tournament.

Premiership rugby Sevens Quarter 4 Newcastle Falcons 7s v Ospreys 7s

Newcastle are not as good as they were last year and are a fair bit off the pace. They do have some game changers like Pampers, but he’s prone to error and they don’t have enough good all-rounders bar the two premiership lads.
The Ospreys are depleted – have brought in a few, one sevens player from Wales, so they might win a game if they come up against Northampton, otherwise it’s bottom of the pile more than likely.

Newcastle will win this game, but an Exeter/wasps/or Quins would wipe the floor with them. They might make a final but won’t win.
And that’s your lot for now – if you’re interested in joining the forum it’s free – and I can’t stress enough that you should check out that price on Quins for a tournament in which they are undoubted favourites once we get fair refereeing.

Leicester v Gloucester – Premiership Rugby Betting

Premiership Rugby Betting

Leicester v Gloucester, Sat 29th December, 1700 GMT Sky Sports one. Tigers -6 Paddypower, Gloucester +8 Stanjames

Gloucester are only six point underdogs with most bookies coming into this game off the back of a better-than-expected run of form. Looking back at their last five games they’ve lost both away games and won three at home. All five of those games have a story to tell when it comes to tomorrow’s clash at Welford road.

They beat Leicester at home after a try in the opening two minutes from the first phase of play. They grimly held on despite being down to 13 men towards the end, and last season’s 36-3 hammering at Welford road was a big motivator here in helping them secure the win against a strong-ish Tigers side. Following this they’ve had a big home win against Sale (where it must be noted they left a bonus point behind, seeming more interested in showing off Freddie Burn’s boot than scoring tries) and snuck past Exeter at home last week by two points with a penalty in the dying minutes.

The two away games were losses against Quins and Saracens, and are interesting results for some unobvious reasons. Gloucester managed to pick up two losing bonus points, and at first glance it’s it makes the start of +6 tomorrow look more attractive. However, it must be remembered that both Quins and Saracens were disrupted by international call-ups for both of these games.

Tomorrow’s game swings the revenge motivation back around to Leicester again, and there are some notable changes from the side that lost at the shed five rounds ago. Hamilton isn’t on the wing (despite scoring a try in that game his lack of pace was costly) and Ben Youngs comes back in to partner Toby Flood (Harrison started there five rounds ago, and he’s nowhere near the player Youngs is).

There are a lot of similarities between this game and the aforementioned hammering that Leicester gave Gloucester last March. Firstly, leading up to that game Gloucester were on a fantastic run of form and were expected to run Leicester extremely close, yet they were beaten off the park in the muck and wet – tomorrow’s weather will be almost identical.. Secondly, Youngs and Flood had just been re-united at half back as they are tomorrow, and with Flood recently stating he’s not bothered about international call-ups and more interested in the Aviva Premiership, he’ll be delighted his favourite dance partner Youngs is back to give him good ball. Thirdly, before last march’s game both teams were neck and neck in the table, just as they are for tomorrow (third and fourth). And finally, the guts of that Gloucester side that lost here last year are either starting or on the bench tomorrow.

There are changes in the backrow for the better but it’s still a side that is yet to be really tested this season. Jimmy Cowan is another change at scrum half but for me Cowan is a liability in attritional games and he will be targeted tomorrow by the Leicester backrow and a sniping Ben Youngs. Rob Cook has been excellent recently for Gloucester at full back, but he misses out through injury tomorrow and is replaced by former Dragons full back Martyn Thomas. This enforced change could be crucial in the weather conditions and he’s unlikely to have an easy ride tomorrow.

Main Premiership rugby bet

– We’ve taken Leicester -6 at 10/11 in Paddypower (as big as -8 elsewhere). Gloucester have definitely improved from last season, particularly in the back row, but for us that won’t be enough to hold Leicester back tomorrow. There’s huge impact on the Tiger’s bench, and Gloucester’s scrum will come under plenty of pressure in foul weather. Tigers will be up for revenge in a major way, and morale in the club should be sky high with plenty of players signing new contracts this week, and class players like Parling and the excellent Steve Mafi deciding to stay at the club. We’ve also learned our betting lesson from last March; foolishly I had a big bet on Gloucester on the plus handicap, believing in their form leading up to the game. Tomorrow I’m fairly confident we’ll be taking back that loss with interest. (Teams below)

Side bets- The alternate handicap is interesting in Ladbrokes if you expect a repeat of that game last March and a bonus point for Leicester ( as I do), with Tigers -22 at 11/2, small stakes only of course. Toby Flood is also interesting for anytime try – he’ll secretly want to prove a point against Freddie Burns and he’ll see plenty of chances, and knows where the tryline is. Prices not out everywhere so hold fire on this until tomorrow, small money again.

Leicester:15 Geordan Murphy, 14 Niall Morris, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Brett Deacon, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Louis Deacon (c), 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 George Chuter, 17 Logovi’i Mulipola, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Ed Slater, 20 Steve Mafi, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 George Ford23 Matt Smith

Gloucester: 15 Martyn Thomas, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Mike Tindall, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Shane Monahan, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Akapusi Qera,6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Jim Hamilton (c),4 Will James,3 Shaun Knight, 2 Huia Edmonds, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Dan Murphy, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Tom Savage, 20 Matt Cox, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Tim Molenaar, 23 Drew Locke.

There’ll be plenty of excellent opinion and stats for the other weekend Premiership rugby games in the Betting forum here

Northampton v Harlequins Rugby Betting

Premiership Rugby Betting

Northampton v Harlequins, Sat 21st December, 1515 Sky Sports two. Saints -3 everywhere, Quins +4 ladbrokes

There’s plenty of excellent opinion and stats for the other weekend Premiership rugby games in the Betting forum here

This is probably the clash of the weekend in the Aviva Premiership, and despite initial impressions that this is a top of the table clash between two English heavyweights; the form of both teams in the league over the past five games from round six to ten is surprisingly average.

Looking first at Quins, and they’ve been beaten by Exeter (comprehensively) and Bath away from home. Their three wins have all been by exactly three points at home to Gloucester and Worcester (late drop goal) and away at London Irish (through the luckiest try of the season at the end). So realistically we could be looking at one win against Gloucester, one draw at home to Worcester, and three losses. Not the most spellbinding of form for Quins backers. I don’t think their European Cup form matters too much here as their group is the weakest in the competition.

Moving onto Saints, and the general theme is underwhelming. They had three losses on the bounce in rounds six, seven and eight; they lost at London Irish with a weakened starting fifteen, were beaten at home by Saracens, and away by Leicester. The loss to Saracens was tough and they were a little unlucky and ultimately lacking any creativity to work their way back into the game having gone behind. The loss as Leicester by four points was quite positive however, and I felt they were very hard done by the referee on the day (as most teams are at Welford road). Their last two games have been dutiful wins over Sale and London Welsh that didn’t set the pulse racing. The win away at Ulster does need to be taken with a slight pinch of salt considering how poor in general Ulster were last week, however you feel they’ve shaken a huge ape of their backs that has arguably been there since the capitulation to Leinster two years ago in the final.

For me tomorrow is simply about who wants it more. The backline’s look similar to me with Quins edging it in the creativity stakes, however in tomorrow’s weather what that edge will mean is debateable. Nick Evans versus Myler on place kicks is pretty even too with Evans on middling enough form for his high standards. Foden for me is a better full back than Brown, with better decision making overall and both will be tested tomorrow with expected territorial kicking.

The lineouts should be pretty even with plenty of ability in the Saints back row making up for weakness at lock, but I see a clear advantage in the front row for Saints and that’s where I see this game won and lost tomorrow, with poor weather forecast and with Johnston being a big weakness for Quins at scrumtime. Mujati is on the bench again and we saw his impact last week when he came on in the second half against Ulster. Myler has been picked to start because he’s reliable with the boot and in tomorrow’s conditions they’ll need a ten that can attack the gain line and keep it tight; functions he is far better at executing than Lamb.

Premiership Rugby main bet
– We’re taking the 1-12 Northampton win at biggest 7/4 in Stanjames. Games between these two are usually tight and Northampton are unlikely to score many tries here, especially with the wet weather and heavy ground. With Myler at ten the game plan looks clear- win at all costs and try to dominate them in the forwards. They can go top of the table this week by taking advantage of Quins marginal form on the road and after beating Ulster away last week they should have plenty of confidence. The minus three handicap at 10/11 is also attractive but its unlikely Saints win by 13+, so I’m happy to take the bigger price for slightly more risk.

stanjames.com

England v New Zealand Rugby Betting

England v NewZealand Rugby Betting Preview, Dec 1st 230pm. All Blacks -14 10/11 sportingbet, England +16 Williamhill

Sky Sports

The last weekend of the Autumn internationals sees England host the world champions at Twickenham, and it’s been an up and down week for the handicaps. The All Blacks started at -17 and -18 in places and have now dropped as low as -14 in sportingbet (which probably won’t last until kickoff). It’s been one of those weeks where momentum with punters has slowly and almost imperceptibly swung England’s way. There’s a couple of possible reasons – Carter wasn’t 100% declared fit, the Hore suspension was hanging over New Zealand, and there’s been a reported bout of food poisoning in the Kiwi camps early in the week; you can read about that here at the BBC. Long-in-the-tooth rugby punters may be remembering the 1995 Kiwi food poisoning episode that arguably cost them the world cup final v the Springboks. Aside from that, there is some residual feeling about that maybe England were unlucky last week against the Springboks, and that perhaps the All Blacks looked tired in the closing stages v Wales. It’s hard to argue with any of those notions, and at first we were quite optimistic that England could put on a decent show here. But then Owen Farrel was named at Out Half, and we scrambled sharpish for a posh berth on the good ship All Black.

Owen Farrell has been named at ten for England in what amounts to the Rugby Equivalent of playing Fernando Torres up front- you know he’s got the talent, but you also know you’re unlikely to see it. The stats speak for themselves- Saracens average less than one try per game every time he starts ahed of Hodgson for Saracens, which is a rare occurrence in itself. Indeed, he’s not even starting at ten for his club, so it begs the question, how will he do against the black pain machine? On top of his less than prolific attacking form, he’s been off form with the boot since May, and his passing game has gone to pot ( though in fairness he has been improving somewhat lately in the Premiership). And to heap more pressure on the undoubtedly talented young man, he was bizarrely named as a contender for Player of the year by the IRB, in a move that has been widely met with wonderment. The IRB either has a huge sense of humour, or they just don’t watch any rugby. Farrell went into the May and June test against South Africa and the Barbarians with huge expectation heaped on his shoulders, and unfortunately he bombed big time. Arguably, he has even more pressure on his shoulders now in a game against the World Champs in which many are touting England as contenders.

Aside from that change, the England team stays the same, and lamentably so. Brown is still out of position on the left wing and Cory Jane should get plenty of change there again, just as he did last week against an out of position Liam Williams on the Welsh left wing – As did much of the All Black backline, in the first half especially. Tuilagi and Barritt continue in the centres, so in the unlikely even the ball gets to them from Farrell, it will probably stop right there. It’s a shame for Chris Ashton that he has very little to work with on the wing for England. He constantly has to come inside looking for ball and when you’re the opposition defence coach, the inside pass he comes looking for time and again (because he has to) has to be one of the easiest things to plan for. Launchbury is still a shining light in the second row and he’ll learn alot from this, and he and Parling were excellent last week, especially in the loose, and England may get some lineout return from on Saturday to go with good carrying. However, Morgan, Wood and Robshaw in the backrow don’t convince, and you’d particularly worry for an ordinary looking Morgan up against Read, McCaw and Messam. Now put those two backrows up against each other in your mind head to head – and who wins? Yep, thought so.

Another issue for England is Corbisiero in the front row. As we said last week, he was done over in the scrum against a young Leicester tighthead in the LV cup two weeks ago. Last week Nigel Owens gave England a few scrum penalties that were completely wrong, with Corbisiero boring in at the side in each instance. Luckily for New Zealand, Dean Ryan even came on the Sky analysis and fair play to him, pointed out the clear illegality of Corbisiero in the scrum. I say luckily, because without that video analysis you’d wonder if referee Clancy Wiggum would be able to pick up on scrum infringements at all.

There’s not a whole lot to say about New Zealand bar Carter’s return at flyhalf. Cruden was immaculate with the boot last week, and Carter will also bring that along with an unrivalled passing game. England have three big boots in their backline (Farrell, Brown, and Goode) and they’ll have to kick alot of ball down the throats of Dagg, Savea and Jane. It didn’t work for Wales last week and it sure as hell won’t work this week – The All Blacks will see plenty of counter attacking ball and New Zealand on the counter will likely tear England to shreds. Savea impressed particularly last week. Previously he has scored plenty of tries, but there was serious intelligence and class about what he did last week, particlarly for the opening try. The tap down to start it off showed serious brainpower, and the passing for the remainder of the move was unreal. He and Dagg should eat England up with the ball sent their way this weekend.

So what about the handicap? There’s three issues that have us going against backing New Zealand on the full handicap. They’re only human and the food poisoning will drain them. They’re only human and they’re at the end of a long season. And three, the England bench deserves respect. Freddie Burns, Jonathan Joseph, Danny Care and even Haskell will all be thrown in around the 55 minute mark (Care should be starting, but we had that whinge last week). All of them will bring pace and hunger to an opposition who slowed down markedly in the second half v Wales, and also have the sickness midweek to contribute to possible fatigue. Freddie burns will be an unknown to them, and he has serious ability – on a hiding to nothing why Lancaster doesn’t start him is beyond me; you need tries to beat New Zealand and Farrell is unlikely to create them. Defensively Burns is not the greatest but he scores tries from nowhere for Gloucester. 9/1 in Paddypower for an anytime try looks generous for a man who will be itching to make an impression for 30 or so minutes; has serious gas ( no he didn’t get food poisoning too- we mean SPEED gas); and space will be available in the closing stages. So the Handicap is just off for us (though New Zealand should still beat the -14/15). We had something different in mind for our main bet.

England v New Zealand main rugby betting

Rather than take on the -14/15 full time handicap, We’ve taken New Zealand -7.5 on the half time no draw handicap, available at evens in bet365 and betfred. The regular half time handicap is available at -7 (which is the same as -7.5) at 10/11 elsewhere, it’s shortening though, and is -8 in most places. The reasoning here is plentiful and simple. First, The All Blacks may tire in the second half for the above mentioned reasons, so we can’t be fully confident on the -14, despite the gulf in class. Second, New Zealand minus 7 at half time would have covered in four of New Zealand’s last six away games (the two that didn’t make it were Italy- NZ leading by 6 at half time, and at South Africa, who were leading by a point at half time before getting blown away). Third – like last week, New Zealand will take their penalties when they come and try to be out of sight by half time, and Farrell hasn’t been great with the boot to keep England in touch. Four, most of England’s tryscoring ability starts on the bench. Five, the All Blacks will want to put this one away early knowing full well they may tire in the second half. And six, New Zealand are simply a far superior team to a poorly picked England side being led by an undermined captain and a coach who has stuck with last week’s media-driven side, in our opinion due to public perception that they were unlucky last week v South Africa.

–Like the Wales game, If you’re with Paddypower, they have a money back special this weekend on all losing tryscorer (first, last, anytime) bets if a number 14 scores the first try. With Cory Jane and Ashton on either right wing, this is a realistic pice of insurance value if you’re backing any of the above anytime tryscorers. Something to bear in mind anyway, and a possible indication that they think Jane is likely to be first tryscorer – nothing like a money-back special to keep paddypower in punters minds with the Heineken cup and Six Nations coming up–

England: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Mike Brown, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 David Paice, 17 David Wilson, 18 Mako Vunipola, 19 Courtney Lawes 20 James Haskell, 21 Danny Care, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Jonathan Joseph.
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumunia, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Victor Vito, 21 Piri Weepu, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Ben Smith.

Don’t forget the Skybet free no deposit tenner bet and free fiver bet every week offer ends Dec 7th
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Wales v Australia Rugby Betting

Wales v Australia Rugby Betting Preview, Dec 1st 230pm. Australia -2 Bluesquare 10/11, Wales +4 bwin

Dec 1st 230pm, BBC

**Ian Evans in the Welsh second row has been pulled this evening (Friday) from the the Welsh squad. Lou Reed of Cardif replaces him. GOod luck to Lou Reed, but Wales are now down to the bare bones in cover – Ryan Jones looks to be realistically covering the backrow and second row now. Wales are in trouble if any injuries occur, and in in the second half. Preview remains unchanged below**

This has been a truly nightmarish Autumn series for Wales so far. We expected Argentina to do a number on them but it’s safe to say almost everyone was surprised when Samoa beat them two weeks ago. That was the one they really needed to win to stay in the second tier of the world cup group seedings, and a loss to Australia will leave them in tenth, and guaranteed to be in a tough group for the 2015 world cup. So with that in mind, you’d say ‘motivation is with Wales, they have to get it together this week, everything is on the line’. You’d be right to assume that, but if you take your mind beyond reasonable assumption and search for hard evidence, you’ll have a tough time coming up with anything concrete. Plus, Australia have a big motivational boost of their own in addition to finishing second in the world rankings; It’s Nathan Sharpe’s last game in a Wallaby shirt and a resurgent Australia will surely give everything so he can finish on a high.

As George Bush once famously tried to say, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me”. We were fooled that Wales could turn it on against Samoa, and we’re wary of being fooled again here based on blind optimism and belief that Wales will get it together finally. They’re down to their fourth or fifth choice tighthead (19 year old on the bench); Williams on the left wing is a full back and was exposed last week at times; Roberts is unlikely to last the first half with the injuries he’s carrying; Priestland is at ten by default; Cuthbert has huge defensive issues; according to Gatland Phillips isn’t fit from being in France; Shingler is inexperienced in the backrow; and Ian Evans is fighting injury in the second row. To top that all off, there’s very little impact on the bench for Wales – and i’d imagine if Biggar was actually fit after the Samoa incident, he would be starting here and not filling out the bench. If Wales win this it will be a big surprise to us, considering the injuries, the losing run, and the lack of confidence that has to be everywhere in the squad. Even the recent wet weather is seemingly against Wales this week – it has been dry throughout and will probably be right up to kickoff when the roof will be closed anyway. A bit of wet weather would have suited Wales during the week to muddy up the Cardiff pitch, for an Australian side notoriously poor in wet conditions. When it rains it pours (or doesn’t, in this case).

Australia are not without their own injury problems, but they welcome back the world class Pocock from injury. He takes the place of Hooper, who many will see as being a little hard done by to not be starting the game after a series of excellent international performances. Kane Douglas comes in for Timani and won’t weaken the side, especially in the loose. And Polota Nau returns after supposed injury against Italy – we don’t buy that though and he was almost definitely rested with this game in mind. This game is one of the rare occasions where you can look at an Australian scrum and expect it to have the better of it’s opposition. This is something Australia rarely have, so you don’t often realise how lethal they are off clean first phase ball. The backs ripped Wales apart on the rare occasions they had it during the summer, and they used it well whenever they had it in the Rugby Championship. Some of the impact from the bench for Australia also far exceeds what Wales have to offer (Stephen Moore, James Slipper, Michael Hooper, Mike Harris, Digby Ioane) and that quality on the bench is likely to be the winning and losing of this game.

Both of these sides know each other so well after the June series, with Australia winning all three games by 7, 2 and 1 points. The difference this weekend is that Wales have lost so many to injury, and are carrying a number of injuries in the starting 15. Familiarity will serve Australia better than Wales here, as Australia have a much more settled look about them and are in a better position to expose the Welsh. Australia were hammered by France in the muck initially but they battled to a win against England, and that England side is stronger than this Welsh one. You have to go back to 2008 to find a game where Australia didn’t beat a 2 point handicap away from home against Wales, And 2005 before that three point loss.

Australian coach Robbie Deans was quoted during the week as saying Australia were running on empty for this game, but that should be taken with a pinch of salt. They clearly saved Polota Nau for this game, and they most definitely took their foot off the gas against Italy to conserve energy. They come into this relatively fresh compared to Wales, and it’s hard to see them not coming away with a comfortable enough win here.

Wales v Australia rugby betting

We’ve already taken the -2 on Australia still available in Bluesquare. If you don’t have a bluesquare account you can get Australia -2.5 on the no draw handicap for 5/6 in Ladbrokes.

Since the turn of the millenium, these teams have played each other fifteen times, with Australia winning twelve times, losing twice, and drawing once. Of those twelve wins, NINE of them have been by 1-12 points, and every away win bar one has been by 1-12 points. So there’s strong evidence for an Australian win by 1-12 points, with the biggest price a miserable 13/8 in Ladbrokes ( 6/4 everywhere else). For us, that price is too small, and thinking back to Argentina’s 14 point win here, who is to say Wales won’t completely implode again? We wouldn’t tell someone not to back the 1-12, especially if you want to lower your stake and increase your returns. But you’re also increasing risk, as there’s a decent enough chance Australia could do some serious damage here where Argentina’s backs couldn’t, but working out whether they’ll want to mentally is impossible. The better, more conservative bet at 10/11 is the -2/3, as Australia have far more bankable firepower and will want to finish the season on a high.

In short, there’s just no viable reason that we can see for backing Wales here even with a three point start. With a stronger side that took a relative break last week in Italy, Pocock returning, and Nathan Sharpe’s retirement looming large, Australia will want to go out with a bang and drive the nail home this weekend. A 2/3 point handicap should be comfortably beaten against a Welsh side with nothing going for it.

Possible Tryscorer punts
Drew Mitchell is up against Alex Cuthbert on the wing and is biggest 12/5 anytime try in paddypower and 11/1 for first try. Cuthbert has looked awful defensively in the past three tests- falling off tackles everywhere, and he seems to always need help to bring someone down. No commentators have mentioned it, but watch him this weekend an you’ll see what we mean. Either the anytime or first try appeals here for Mitchell on the left wing.

**If you’re with Paddypower, they have a money back special this weekend on all losing tryscorer (first, last, anytime) bets if a number 14 scores the first try. With Cuthbert and Cummins in both number 14 jerseys, this is a realistic piece of insurance value if you’re backing any of the above anytime tryscorers.**

Nick Cummins is looking for three in a row this weekend and is also 12/5 anytime try. His direct running at out of position Williams on the other wing could cause problems.

And lastly, Nathan Sharpe
is 66/1 first try in Ladbrokes, and 14/1 anytime try in there too. Either one of these is worth a fiver for value, as Sharpe has form and knows where the tryline is. Sharpe will most definitely have his eye on a try with this being his last ever Australian cap, and it would be such a fitting occurrence for such a great servant to the game; he was probing the English line 2 weeks ago quite a bit too. I just have a strong feeling he’ll rumble over at some point, and his team-mates will be looking to play him in whenever they can surely – maybe go with the anytime 14/1 and don’t be greedy!

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Ian Evans, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Ryan Jones, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Scott Williams.

Australia: 15 Berrick Barnes, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Dave Dennis, 20 Michael Hooper, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Mike Harris, 23 Digby Ioane.

Don’t forget the Skybet free no deposit tenner bet and free fiver bet every week offer ends Dec 7th
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Premiership Rugby Betting – Round ten

Premiership Rugby Betting Previews round ten

 
 
 
 
Saturday Premiership Rugby Betting
Leicester v Bath, Sat 1st December, 1230 ESPN. Leicester -6 Stanjames, Bath +7 everywhere
Saturday morning, have a lie in, turn on the TV, and see the marquee game of the weekend from the Premiership at 12:30 in the afternoon. I tell you, it’s a nice way to wake up for a rugby fiend. After three tries from nothing last night in the first half, our main bet lost in the final two minutes with a late Sale try. However, had you been following in the forum, a few of us were on Saints/Quins 1-12 double, which that late Sale try brought home. The lesson? Pay attention in the forum!

Moving onto today’s early game, and i’m going to push the boat out here and say Bath could win this game. What? Well yes, they could win it, and i’ll be putting my money where my mouth is. Why?

Leicester were beaten last week by Wasps in a poor game they still should have won. Ford missed some easy enough kicks that had some pressure on them, and tomorrow he’ll have plenty of those to deal with. Leicester will need to take their kicks because their backs are far from fluid (as pointed out in the forum Tait is still finding his feet at full back), and with a potentially wobbly goalkicker tomorrow a depleted Tigers side have to be opposed. Murphy is on the bench as backup full back but I don’t think he came on last week, and he may not be ready yet. Looking at the Leicester bench there’s also very little experience and quality there to finish out this game.

The Leicester scrum should have the upper hand on balance, but Castrogiovanni and Ayerza are not the almighty world beaters they’re made out to be. We expected Perenise to fold last week in the scrum against Quins but with James back he played well. The backrows look even enough, and with Bath having two groundhogs in Mercer and the excellent Francois Luow, they should turnover plenty of ball on wet ground from rain overnight (dry weather is forecast for the game).

There’s just far more punch in this Bath side, and from 10 to 15 Bath have proven tryscorers – Donald, Biggs, Banahan, Agulla, Eastmond and Abendanon. The Bath bench has more impact and experience aswell. Leicester are missing their entire starting backline, elements of the pack, a dependable kicker….the price is just too big on Bath.

Overall Leicester are favourites here because Leicester have their reputation, and Bath haven’t beaten them there in something like ten years. But if you line them up 1-15, i’d take every one of Bath’s backline and maybe three of their forwards over the Tigers, and i’d take most of their bench aswell.

Sometimes you have to forget convention and back the better team on paper despite away form and home reputation. One last important note – Agulla was dropped by Leicester for some unknown reason at the end of last season and shipped off to Bath. It looked a mistake then and it looks a major mistake now for sure. He’ll be one man revving his new Bath team mates up for a win here tomorrow and he’ll have a serious point to prove. He’s all class, and at 11/2 to score a try anytime in Coral (as low as 5/2 elsewhere) he’s well worth a small interest.

There’s three bet’s we’ve invested in;

Main bet Bath to beat Leicester by 1-12 points is biggest 10/3 in Bet365 and we have a medium stake invested. As above, Bath are the better side tomorrow, and these two have plenty of rivalry left – Bath won’t get a better chance for a long time to beat them, and the early start might help them catch them cold.

Other value punts we also have a small bet on Leicester half time/ Bath full time at a very big 10/1 in Paddypower and Ladbrokes. As above, Bath held Quins off right up to the death last week, and with the way both benches look Bath should finish the stronger. Bath ht/ft is also 4/1 in Paddy Power and skybet, and we have a small interest in that too – If bath get ahead it’ll be hard for Leicester to reel them back in.

Head over to the Rugby Betting forum for views on the rest of the weekend’s games and to join the discussion and contribute. All are welcome and you can choose your own team/country crest.

Friday Rugby Betting

Sale Sharks v Northampton Saints, Fri 30th Nov, 19:45 ESPN. Sale +5 10/11 Ladbrokes, Northampton -3 5/6 Stanjames
According to the BBC weather forecast this game is set to be played in pretty heavy fog, and there’s heavy fog up there already. While wind and rain will always affect sports, Fog brings a whole new dimension to proceedings, and generally it keeps the scores down – you can’t see attacking opportunities, and you can’t see the posts on long range kicks! There’s a small chance this may even be called off so we won’t go too deep into this preview.

The Northampton pack is undoubtedly better than Sale’s on paper but they were better than London Welsh too last week and couldn’t put them away. Sale name as strong a side as they have had out recently, and are definitely improving. No matter how many big names Northampton have in their team, I can’t back them away from home, and likewise Sale haven’t convinced enough to make the +5 worth it, though it is tempting. Ben Foden is just back from Injury and you’d expect plenty of high balls jammed up in the fog by Sale to try to catch him cold. And he will be cold, along with the other 29 players because freezing fog is freezing fog no matter how much you’re running around.

We’re backing mother nature tonight- Under 40.5 points in Bet365 (the only one with under 40.5 available at 10/11). As we said the fog should keep scores down, and there’s a decent stat to back this bet up – of ten games so far in the Premiership on Friday nights only three have gone over the 40 point mark, and none in the past 4 weeks when defences have strengthened and become more coherent. The over 40 point Friday games involved Sale, London Irish and London Welsh in the early rounds before they found their feet and got their defences together. It’s not an exciting punt, but you may as well get paid for watching fog tonight.

More to follow

Don’t forget to head over to our new Rugby Betting forum to join the discussion and contribute. There’s already plenty of discussion and winning rugby tips. All are welcome and you can choose your own team/country crest.

Wales v NewZealand Rugby Betting

Wales v NewZealand Rugby Betting Preview, Nov 16 730pm. All Blacks -17 Betfred 10/11, Wales+19 bwin, Sat 24 Nov, 17:15 GMT

BBC2

*** Dan Carter has now been named out of Saturday’s game, which was unexpected to say the least. Handicap has comedown by a point in places but still standing around 18, Cruden is an able replacement although he hasn’t been at his best recently. Preview below still stands, but don’t go full stake on it, and wait until an hour before the game if you can as late money could come for Wales and give you more value with a smaller All Black handicap.***

There have been some pincer-like market movements during the week for this game, closing in around -18 for New Zealand as handicap consensus across most online bookmakers. First Paddypower came out at -17, which was quickly snapped up and pushed to -18, then Bwin put -20 up as their starting point and have subsequently contracted to -19. The head to head stats suggest that this game will be won by around 25 points for New Zealand so the bookies look to be possibly expecting a bit of a Welsh backlash, against themselves as much as New Zealand. You could be fooled into thinking there was a bit of money coming at Bwin for Wales – but I have my doubts, it looks like a marketing differentiation exercise to me. Perhaps there’s alot of patriotic punters in Wales who have waded in here, hoping that the weight of their cash and sentiment might somehow tip the balance of power their way (i’m not knocking it, i’ve done it myself in the past). Maybe there’s a quiet whisper they’ll be leaving the roof open for the rain to pour on through and disrupt Kiwi continuity – the rain worked for Ireland. Perhaps the Welsh are planning on asking the Kiwis to do the Haka in the dressing room again, and springing Micheal Flatley (or Tom Jones) from a closet somewhere to disrupt their Island rythms. Alas, I fear a hurricane wouldn’t be enough to quench the Black torches from Mordor en route to slaying the Dragon this weekend.

It’s all about motivation. The Kiwi coach Hansen has been stirring the shit big time all week in reference to Edward’s remarks about New Zealand being ‘ there for the taking’ in last year’s world cup final. (To be honest, we agree – they were – but that’s beside the point). The All Blacks have been handed a nice extra dollop of motivation for a game they seemed to be already targeting. The last two games have been slightly experimental lineups v Italy and Scotland, so you get the feeling that Hansen has been winding things up long before this week’s press conferences. After two good thirty point plus runouts against Scotland and Italy, they have a fully blooded squad all itching to put Wales in their place, and you have to wonder how they’re going to be stopped.

Last year Wales were being talked up as serious challenge to All black domination in the medium term, and few people were bold enough to shout it down. That world cup semi loss to France was yet another close loss when Wales should have won ( two more v Australia during the summer), and the recent five defeats in a row will have really taken their toll mentally – it’s a slippery slope- one minute you’re drinking on your own after a row with the missus, the next you’re stumbling through a packed morning tube train with no trousers on. When it rains it bloody pours.

We expected a shock against Argentina, but the loss to Samoa seems to be a glaring statement that all belief is lost in Welsh rugby at the minute. There seems to be some notion around that Wales are going to pull a performance out of the bag here but if they were ever going to do that it would have been the last two weeks, when ranking points were more likely to be gained, and more costly to lose. Instead they’ve looked lethargic and just not interested to be frank. The games v Argentina and Samoa have blown away the oft-quoted notion that Wales are the fittest side in the Northern hemisphere for one thing. They’ve had precious little go forward and Samoa continually drove back a huge Welsh backline. It’s almost as if this black Kiwi cloud has been festering on the edge of their subconscious for a month, like an upcoming visit to the dentist for a route canal, or a long talked about visit to your new girlfriend’s parent’s house – either way you know that they know what you’ve been up to, and you’re expecting the worst – you lose your mojo.

That’s how Wales have looked recently, but is it only recently? The following paragraph won’t be pretty reading for our Welsh friends but remember, there’s money at stake, so these things have to be discussed. If we go back to the start of this year and look sideways at the six nations Welsh glory, you can find some holes. Ireland stupidly relaxed and let slip a lead with five minutes to go and Wayne Barnes did the rest (correctly I might add – controversial that!). Then a beautiful (lucky?) bounce of the ball did it for Wales against England. Were the other five nations teams just really bad last year or were Wales just that good? I must say at the time I thought the latter, but now I’m not so sure. The three summer test losses against an average and rusty Aussie side and the two recent losses have firmly turned 2012 into a coffin-dodging exercise for Wales. Can they break out of the funk-box with a one-inch punch to glory against the All Blacks?

Eh, no. And they probably know this, and have known it all summer – so looking at the handicap you just have to ask yourself will Wales have a crack at being valiant runners up- or CAN Wales have a crack at being valiant runners-up? Well, there’s scant evidence to say so. Wales are rudderless- Warburton is again captain after being benched last week for Tipuric, and if it didn’t work against Argentina in a 14 point loss, why would it work against the All Blacks? Ryan Jones, a man we touted as potential saviour, was awful last week and not at the races giving away lots of penalties; Samoa missed kicks last week – it could have been worse. The scrum with Jarvis in it is just not functioning, and it’s to be expected that the All Blacks will see alot of penalties from it. The lineout is looking thin on the pitch and on the bench, but Charteris might bring some Perpignan form back with him. Priestland and Phillips brings to three the number of halfback combinations that Wales have tried this Autumn, and there’s no reason to think this one will stand up to scrutiny – there’s a couple of eager fly halves at the Dragons that would do a better job than Priestland in current form, and his form for the past year really (no disrespect to the mighty Dragons). How he’s starting even ahead of Hook is a mystery – you don’t get career defining form change at home to the best team on the planet. And the Welsh backline was again inept last week, with Cuthbert and North being exposed in defence yet again. It looks sadly bleak. The one hope for Wales is Davies back in the centre – he’s a big intelligent part of what makes them tick. But he hasn’t played in five weeks and won’t be match fit. Unless Gatland has brought back some magic beans from his leave, we just cannot see where Wales can stay with the All Blacks.

New Zealand haven’t named their team as time of writing, but expect it to be full strength – we don’t need to go through the constituents, they’re the best in the business right now, it’s that simple. Good news for neutrals everywhere is that the awesome Israel Dagg is very likely back at full-back, and with Wales likely to try to use a kicking game to get North and Cuthbert in behind the All Blacks, there should be plenty of classy counter attacking.

This game could be out of site before Wales even realise it, with scrum penalties a likely contributing factor. The only question for us before wading in here was weather New Zealand would be motivated enough to beat an 18 point cap at a wounded Wales. But the clear answer to that question is yes. They’re the type of side that revels in humiliation and unfortunately for Wales they will try to put them in a nasty hole on the end of a hiding. Argentina and Samoa had more chances than their scores let on. The difference with the All Blacks is that they put those chances away. When will their reign of terror end ?! Oh, the humanity!

Main Rugby bet

Take New Zealand -17 still only still available in Betfred. Everything points to a big Welsh loss. This handicap will get pushed to -18 and 19 by the time Saturday rolls around so don’t leave it too late. There’s also -16.5 available there at 4/5. There’s very little reason other than hope to think that Wales can hold out here, and you’d expect New Zealand to beat this handicap and then some. This could get ugly. (One man we know has ten quid on New Zealand to win by 51+ at 34/1 in Betfred (all the best prices are happening at Betfred this week it seems – maybe they’re going out of business).

Tryscorer bet– prices are out now and either of the wingers Jane or Savea are solid punts for any time tryscorer. Both priced around evens ( Jane is 5/4 in williamhill). Israel Dagg is just as likely to score as those two and he’s 6/4 in ladbrokes and Boylesports. Dagg feeds off breaks by the forwards and centres better than the others too.

Don’t forget to head over to the betting forum for discussion on all of this weekend’s other games, including the Rabo pro12 and Premiership full schedules.

Betfred Sport

Wales team: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Ryan Jones (capt), 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Gethin Jenkins, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Aaron Shingler, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 James Hook, 23 Scott Williams.

Don’t forget the Skybet free no deposit tenner bet and free fiver bet every week offer ends Dec 7th
you can find more details by clicking here.