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Aviva Premiership Rugby Preview 2016/17

Premiership Rugby Preview 2016/17

By Wazza 23 Aug 2016

Premiership Rugby is back! Welcome to my preview of the 2016/17 Aviva Premiership. Last season saw Saracens 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?

Key Statistics: 

I’ve put together the following tables to assist with our analysis of last season:

Aviva Premiership 2015/16 Stats
Aviva Premiership 2015/16 Stats
Aviva Premiership 2015/16 Kicking Percentages
Aviva Premiership 2015/16 Kicking Percentages
Aviva Premiership 2015/16 Yellow Cards
Aviva Premiership 2015/16 Yellow Cards
Aviva Premiership 2015/16 Try Scorers
Aviva Premiership 2015/16 Try Scorers I
Aviva Premiership 2015/16 Try Scorers II
Aviva Premiership 2015/16 Try Scorers II

Premiership rugby Team by team analysis:

Bath Rugby

IN: Luke Charteris (from Racing 92), Taulupe Faletau (from Dragons), Elliott Stooke (from Gloucester), Michael van Vuuren (from Leicester Tigers), Harry Davies (from Cardiff Blues), Kahn Fotuali’i (from Northampton Saints), Jack Walker (from Yorkshire Carnegie).

OUT: Will Spencer (to Worcester Warriors), Ollie Devoto (to Exeter Chiefs), Rob Webber (to Sale Sharks), Jonathan Evans (to Scarlets), Luke Arscott (to Bristol), Max Northcote-Green (to London Irish), Brett Herron (to Ulster), Stuart Hooper (retired), Dominic Day (to Toyota Verblitz), Amanaki Mafi (to NTT Shining Arcs), Tom Woolstencroft (to Wasps), Leroy Houston (to Queensland Reds), Horacio Agulla (to Castres), Kyle Eastmond (to Wasps), Alafoti Fa’osiliva (released).

FIXTURES

Sept 3 Northampton A

Sept 10 Newcastle H

Sept 17 Worcester H

Sept 25 Leicester A

Oct 1 Gloucester A

Oct 7 Sale H

Oct 30 Exeter A

Nov 18 Bristol H

Nov 26 Harlequins A

Dec 3 Saracens H

Dec 23/24/26 Wasps A

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Exeter H

Jan 8 Newcastle A

Feb 11 Northampton H

Feb 18 Harlequins H

Feb 24 Bristol A

March 4 Wasps H

March 25 Saracens A

April 8 Leicester H (Twickenham Stadium)

April 15 Worcester A

April 29 Gloucester H

May 6 Sale A

ANALYSIS – Last season was a really tough one for Bath. Finishing 9th was a significant downturn given the previous season’s performance and the amount of quality in the squad. Mike Ford has gone, to be replaced by Todd Blackadder from the Crusaders along with his assistant Tabai Matson. Undoubtedly they are excellent coaches but it will almost certainly take them a good while to get to grips with English rugby.

In terms of the playing squad, there are lots of questions that still need answering. Personally I think George Ford is outstanding, but he was a long way below form last season. Devoto and Eastmond leaving are losses, especially as they look really short in the centres. Mafi, Houston and Webber are all losses in the forwards, but Charteris and Faletau are both excellent and should improve them. Scrum half has been a real issue over the past couple of seasons, with Chris Cook in particular struggling last season. Fotuali’i should make a big difference.

Blackadder will be aiming to finish top 4 for sure, but it is difficult to see where enough improvement comes from to achieve this aim, given that this would require some others to underachieve also. Top 6 looks more realistic. They will need to score more points that last season, averaging only 21 points per game at home and only 19 points away from home. They also lost 5 games at home last season, something again that they will have to address.

Rokodugani aside (who scored 12 tries), the next highest scorers included Mafi and Devoto on 4 tries and they have both left. Consistent try scoring has to be high on Blackadder’s list of improvements. Bath also had the worst disciplinary record in the league last season, collecting a total of 17 yellow cards. They will need to cut down significantly on this if they are to have a chance of success.

 

Bristol Rugby

INS: Martin Roberts (from Ospreys), Rhodri Williams (from Scarlets), Luke Arscott (from Bath), Tusi Pisi (from Sunwolves), Jordan Williams (from Scarlets), Nick Fenton-Wells (from Bedford Blues), Jordan Crane (from Leicester Tigers), Thretton Palamo (from Saracens), Jon Fisher (from Northampton Saints), Soane Tonga’uiha (from Oyonnax), Will Hurrell (from Doncaster Knights), Giorgi Nemsadze (from Tarbes).

OUTS: Matthew Morgan (to Cardiff Blues), Marco Mama (to Worcester Warriors), Dwayne Peel (retired), Craig Hampson (to Wasps), George Watkins (to Jersey Reds), Ellis Genge (to Leicester Tigers), Tommaso Benvenuti (to   Benetton Treviso), Josh Ovens (released), Darren Hudson (released), James Stephenson (released).

FIXTURES

Sept 3 Harlequins A (Twickenham Stadium)

Sept 11 Northampton H

Sept 18 Wasps A

Sept 23 Exeter H

Sept 30 Saracens H

Oct 8 Newcastle A

Oct 30 Sale H

Nov 18 Bath A

Nov 25 Leicester H

Dec 3 Gloucester A

Dec 23/24/26 Worcester H

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Sale A

Jan 7 Northampton A

Feb 10 Harlequins H

Feb 18 Leicester A

Feb 24 Bath H

March 4 Worcester A

March 26 Gloucester H

April 8 Exeter A

April 16 Wasps H

April 29 Saracens A

May 6 Newcastle H

ANALYSIS – The new additions to the league, having finally gained promotion after two or three close failures in recent years. 11th will be success for them but the question remains who are they good enough to finish above?

They have made a couple of decent additions, and people like Jordan Crane and Soane Tonga’uiha with their experience will be important. Matthew Morgan is a loss, but Tusi Pisi coming in at 10 will help significantly as he was often the stand-out player for the Sunwolves in my opinion. Ian Evans will be invaluable in the pack if he can stay fit, and if you look at their backs, there are enough good players like Tom Varndell, Callum Sheedy, David Lemi and Gavin Henson to win them games if their pack can win enough ball.

They have also been dealt a bad hand with the fixture list, having to play possibly the best 5 teams in the league in Harlequins, Northampton, Wasps, Exeter and Saracens in their first 5 games. They could conceivably still be pointless by the time they travel to Newcastle on October 8th, which will make that an even more important game.

 

Exeter Rugby

INS: Greg Holmes (from Queensland Reds), Ollie Devoto (from Bath), Dave Dennis (from NSW Waratahs), Lachlan Turner (from Toulon).

OUTS: Adam Hughes (to Dragons), Josh Jones (to Salford Red Devils), Alex Brown (to USA Perpignan), Brett Sturgess (to Ampthill), Jerry Sexton (to London Irish), Chrysander Botha (released), Byron McGuigan (released), Lewis Stevenson (to Connacht).

FIXTURES

Sept 4 Wasps A

Sept 11 Saracens H

Sept 17 Harlequins H

Sept 23 Bristol A

Sept 30 Northampton A

Oct 8 Gloucester H

Oct 30 Bath H

Nov 18 Newcastle A

Nov 26 Worcester H

Dec 2 Sale A

Dec 23/24/26 Leicester H

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Bath A

Jan 7 Saracens A

Feb 11 Wasps H

Feb 18 Worcester A

Feb 25 Newcastle H

March 4 Leicester A

March 25 Sale H

April 8 Bristol H

April 15 Harlequins A

April 29 Northampton H

May 6 Gloucester A

ANALYSIS – Great season last time around – reaching the quarter finals of the European Cup and the final of the Premiership. On paper they always seem to punch above their weight, but Stuart Baxter is a great coach and seems to specialise in maximising the potential of every player.

The good news for this season is that they have lost pretty much no-one who played a big role last season, and all four signings will add to the squad in a good way. You have to think that they are nailed on for the top 4 again, and should give Saracens a real run for their money again. The fixture list has paired them against their two main rivals first up, away to Wasps in the first week and then at home to Saracens the week after.

They had the joint best home record in the league last season, so expect them to be strong at home again, where they scored and average of 27 points per game, only conceding an average of 13 points per game. They did lose 6 away games in total, although most were by narrow margins.

In terms of discipline Exeter were one of the best behaved teams in the league, only receiving a total of 6 yellow cards. Thomas Waldrom was top tryscorer with a remarkable 13 tries, and if he can hit double figures again I am sure he will be delighted. It remains to be seen how the new maul laws impact on Exeter’s extremely powerful maul from last season – if it is anywhere near as strong again they are bound to do well.

 

Gloucester Rugby

INS: Lewis Ludlow (promoted from academy), Matt Scott (from Edinburgh), Motu Matu’u (from Hurricanes), Josh Hohneck (from Highlanders), Tom Denton (from Leinster), Andy Symons (from Worcester Warriors), Dan Thomas (promoted from academy), Ollie Thorley (promoted from academy), Cameron Orr (from Greater Sydney Rams).

OUTS: Elliott Stooke (to Bath), Steve McColl (to Yorkshire Carnegie), Luke Cole (to Rotherham Titans), Tom Hicks (to Rotherham Titans), James Gibbons (to Ealing Trailfinders), Rob Cook (retired), Nick Wood (retired), Bill Meakes (to Western Force), Steph Reynolds (released), Dan Murphy (released).

FIXTURES

Sept 2 Leicester H

Sept 9 Worcester A

Sept 16 Sale A

Sept 24 Newcastle H

Oct 1 Bath H

Oct 8 Exeter A

Oct 28 Northampton A

Nov 19 Wasps H

Nov 26 Saracens A

Dec 3 Bristol H

Dec 23/24/26 Harlequins A (Twickenham Stadium)

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Northampton H

Jan 7 Worcester H

Feb 11 Leicester A

Feb 18 Saracens H

Feb 26 Wasps A

March 4 Harlequins H

March 26 Bristol A

April 7 Newcastle A

April 15 Sale H

April 29 Bath A

May 6 Exeter H

ANALYSIS – My hometown club and I probably know them better than any other team in the league. Last season was very frustrating, no real progress appeared to have been made, and the team mixed some outstanding performances (Wasps at home) with some genuinely terrible ones (Dragons at home). Their home form ended up being decent enough in the end but away from home they were terrible again.

Defensively last season was much better, only conceding an average of 15 points per game at home (2nd best in the league) and 23 points per game away (7th best in the league)

In terms of recruitment, I can’t say I’m massively enthused that things will be any better. Matt Scott will improve things in the centre no end but apart from that things are much of a muchness. Johnny May is badly needed fit again to spark the backline. I would be suprised to see them improve much on last season’s performance – I can see them being decent at home but struggling on the road again.

They simply need to score more tries – when your 10 is your highest try scorer (Hook with 5 tries) you know you have issues. They have got rid of the highly rated Nick Walshe as backs coach and replaced him with ex-player Tim Taylor in an attempt to address this. It will be interesting to see how Taylor gets on with this challenge.

 

Harlequins Rugby

INS: Charlie Mulchrone (from Worcester Warriors), Ruaridh Jackson (from Wasps), Aaron Morris (from Saracens), Mark Reddish (from Highlanders), George Naoupu (from Connacht), Cameron Holstein (from Pau).

OUTS: Kieran Treadwell (to Ulster), Tito Tebaldi (to Benetton Treviso), Ben Botica (to Montpellier), Beau Robinson (released), Nick Easter (retired).

FIXTURES

Sept 3 Bristol H (Twickenham Stadium)

Sept 9 Sale A

Sept 17 Exeter A

Sept 24 Saracens H

Oct 2 Wasps A

Oct 8 Northampton H

Oct 29 Worcester H

Nov 20 Leicester A

Nov 26 Bath H

Dec 4 Newcastle A

Dec 23/24/26 Gloucester H (Twickenham Stadium)

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Worcester A

Jan 7 Sale H

Feb 10 Bristol A

Feb 18 Bath A

Feb 25 Leicester H

March 4 Gloucester A

March 25 Newcastle H

April 8 Saracens A (Wembley Stadium)

April 15 Exeter H

April 29 Wasps H

May 6 Northampton A

ANALYSIS – The league was disappointing for Quins last year, only finishing in 7th. They did well in the Challenge Cup, losing in the final to Montpellier and will be hoping for some improvements in form this season now things are more stable. Connor O’Shea’s decision to announce his leaving part-way through the season probably did them no favours at all. John Kingston has taken over, and he knows he ropes there as well as anyone.

Not a huge amount has changed personnel wise, Botica and Evans have gone but Ruaridh Jackson is a perfectly capable replacement. You look at the internationals that Quins have got and wonder why they didn’t finish higher. They will feel that they should be pushing for a top 4 place and they will undoubtedly be targeting that this year.

They had no problem scoring points last season – averaging 29 per game at home and 21 per game away, but will want to tighten up defensively – they conceded an average of 26 per game at home (the worst in the whole league) and an average of 25 per game away (only London Irish and Newcastle had worse records).

Wingers Walker and Visser were top try scorers last season with 10 and 9 tries respectively, which demonstrates that width that Quins try and play with (especially at home).

 

Leicester Tigers Rugby

INS: Matt Toomua (from Brumbies), JP Pietersen (from Sharks), Tom Brady (from Sale Sharks), George McGuigan (from Newcastle Falcons), Pat Cilliers (from Montpellier), Luke Hamilton (from Agen), Ellis Genge (from Bristol).

OUTS: Leonardo Ghiraldini (to Toulouse), Tommy Bell (to London Irish), Laurence Pearce (to Sale Sharks), Vereniki Goneva (to Newcastle Falcons), Miles Benjamin (retired), Seremaia Bai (retired), Sebastian De Chaves (to London Irish), Michael van Vuuren (to Bath), Jean de Villiers (retired/released), George Tresidder (to Rotherham Titans), Jordan Crane (to Bristol), Tiziano Pasquali (to Benetton Treviso), Matías Agüero (to Provence), Christian Loamanu (to Provence), Niall Morris (to Leinster), Sam Yawayawa (to Nottingham), Opeti Fonua (to Newcastle Falcons).

FIXTURES

Sept 2 Gloucester A

Sept 10 Wasps H

Sept 18 Newcastle A

Sept 25 Bath H

Oct 1 Sale A

Oct 8 Worcester H

Oct 29 Saracens A

Nov 20 Harlequins H

Nov 25 Bristol A

Dec 3 Northampton H

Dec 23/24/26 Exeter A

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Saracens H

Jan 8 Wasps A

Feb 11 Gloucester H

Feb 18 Bristol H

Feb 25 Harlequins A

March 4 Exeter H

March 25 Northampton A

April 8 Bath A (Twickenham Stadium)

April 15 Newcastle H

April 29 Sale H

May 6 Worcester A

Analysis – Last season was a strange one in many ways for Leicester. They flattered to deceive in my opinion at points and completely failed to turn up in the first half of the Premiership play-off semi-final at Saracens. Having said that they did very nearly make the Champions Cup final, losing narrowly to Racing in the semi-final at the City Ground.

They have a strong squad, have no-one of any huge consequence, and in Toomua and Pietersen they have two international backs of huge experience. The fitness of Manu Tuilagi will be the main squad based issue that needs addressing, as when fit he is a powerful weapon. Pietersen has been brought in to replace Goneva (8 tries last season). Strong at home, having the joint best home record in the league last season, they were poor away, losing 8 times and only winning 3. That will be a major target for improvement this time around I am sure.

They also averaged the most points scored per game at home (30) whilst being defensively poor away from home, conceding on average 25 points (joint 3rd worst record in the league). They also came an unwanted 3rd in the yellow cards table.


 

Newcastle Rugby

INS: Joshua Chisanga (from Kenya Sevens), Vereniki Goneva (from Leicester Tigers), Sam Lockwood (from Jersey), Sam Egerton (from England Sevens), Harrison Orr (from Ealing Trailfinders), Joel Hodgson (from Yorkshire Carnegie), Ben Sowrey (from Worcester Warriors), Evan Olmstead (from London Scottish), David Tameilau (from San Francisco Rush), Nick Civetta (from RC I Medicei), Andrew Davidson (from Glasgow Hawks), Kyle Cooper (from Sharks), Tyrone Holmes (from Glasgow Warriors), Opeti Fonua (from Leicester Tigers).

OUTS: George McGuigan (to Leicester Tigers), Todd Clever (released), Andy Goode (retired), Rob Hawkins (retired), Richard Mayhew (to Yorkshire Carnegie), Joshua Furno (to Zebre), Kensuke Hatakeyama (to Suntory Sungoliath), Giovanbattista Venditti (to Zebre), Kane Thompson (to Manawatu), Eric Fry (to Sacramento Express), Ruki Tipuna (to Bay of Plenty), Jamie Booth (to Manawatu), Scott MacLeod (retired), Gonzalo Tiesi (retired), Alesana Tuilagi (released), Anitelea Tuilagi (released), Michael Cusack (to Yorkshire Carnegie).

FIXTURES

Sept 2 Sale H

Sept 10 Bath A

Sept 18 Leicester H

Sept 24 Gloucester A

Oct 2 Worcester A

Oct 8 Bristol H

Oct 30 Wasps A

Nov 18 Exeter H

Nov 26 Northampton A

Dec 4 Harlequins H

Dec 23/24/26 Saracens A

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Wasps H

Jan 8 Bath H

Feb 10 Sale A

Feb 19 Northampton H

Feb 25 Exeter A

March 5 Saracens H

March 25 Harlequins A

April 7 Gloucester H

April 15 Leicester A

April 28 Worcester H

May 6 Bristol A

ANALYSIS – Last season has to go down as a success for Newcastle given that they avoided relegation. Their survival was essentially founded on solid home form, winning five home games on their new artificial surface. They were poor away only drawing one game and losing ten. Their success relied on a strong forward pack, collectively one of the strongest in the league despite a lack of star names. Dean Richards has moulded the pack in his own image.

In terms of ins and outs there has been quite a high turnover. Goneva from Leicester is the biggest name coming in and they will be hoping that he can improve their try scoring capacity. Newcastle had the lowest average points score per game both at home (17) and away (16) in the whole league. The move to an artificial surface has not yet seen a wholesale change in their playing style or point scoring. There are a couple of interesting signings from the 7s circuit though.

You would have to be concerned for them again this season, on paper Bristol look a stronger outfit, so they could well be scrapping for their lives again. Their last two games of the season at home to Worcester and then away to Bristol on the last weekend could prove crucial.

 

Northampton Rugby

INS: Louis Picamoles (from Toulouse), Campese Ma’afu (from Provence), Charlie Clare (from Bedford Blues), Nic Groom (from Stormers), Juan Pablo Estelles (from Club Atletico del Rosario).

OUTS: Alex Corbisiero (sabbatical), Matt Williams (to Worcester Warriors), Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (to London Irish), Patrick Howard (to Dragons), Kahn Fotuali’i (to Bath), Jon Fisher (to Bristol).

FIXTURES

Sept 3 Bath H

Sept 11 Bristol A

Sept 17 Saracens A

Sept 24 Wasps H

Sept 30 Exeter H

Oct 8 Harlequins A

Oct 28 Gloucester H

Nov 18 Worcester A

Nov 26 Newcastle H

Dec 3 Leicester A

Dec 23/24/26 Sale H

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Gloucester A

Jan 7 Bristol H

Feb 11 Bath A

Feb 19 Newcastle A

Feb 25 Worcester H

March 3 Sale A

March 25 Leicester H

April 9 Wasps A

April 15 Saracens H

April 29 Exeter A

May 6 Harlequins H

ANALYSIS – A frustrating season overall for the Saints last time around, with a 5th place finish in the league and losing to Saracens in the Champions Cup quarter-final. They have brought in Louis Picamoles who is undoubtedly a class act and will give them serious go-forward up front.

They were strong at home again, winning 8 and losing 3, but were not particularly high scoring, with an average of 23 points per game which only puts them 7th overall. They were strong defensively though, with the 2nd best defensive home record (average of 15 points conceded). The fact that Lee Dickson (scrum half) was their top tryscorer with 6 tries tells it’s own story.

They are another team who will be targeting a top 4 finish this time around.

 

Sale Rugby

INS: Rob Webber (from Bath), Laurence Pearce (from Leicester Tigers), Kieran Longbottom (from Saracens), Josh Charnley (from Wigan Warriors), AJ MacGinty (from Connacht), Dan Mugford (from Nottingham), Mike Phillips (from Racing 92), Halani Aulika (from London Irish), Lou Reed (from Cardiff Blues), Byron McGuigan (from Exeter Chiefs), Curtis Langdon (from London Irish).

OUTS: Vadim Cobilas (to Bordeaux Begles), Tommy Taylor (to Wasps), Danny Cipriani (to Wasps), Tom Brady (to Leicester Tigers), Phil Mackenzie (to San Diego Breakers), Nick Macleod (to Dragons), Joe Ford (to Yorkshire Carnegie), Chris Cusiter (retired), Mark Easter (retired), Viliami Fihaki (to Edinburgh Rugby).

FIXTURES

Sept 2 Newcastle A

Sept 9 Harlequins H

Sept 16 Gloucester H

Sept 24 Worcester A

Oct 1 Leicester H

Oct 7 Bath A

Oct 30 Bristol A

Nov 20 Saracens H

Nov 27 Wasps A

Dec 2 Exeter H

Dec 23/24/26 Northampton A

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Bristol H

Jan 7 Harlequins A

Feb 10 Newcastle H

Feb 17 Wasps H

Feb 25 Saracens A

March 3 Northampton H

March 25 Exeter A

April 7 Worcester H

April 15 Gloucester A

April 29 Leicester A

May 6 Bath H

ANALYSIS – Sale had a great season last time around, reaching the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup and finishing 6th and securing qualification for the Champions Cup. Danny Cipriani has gone to Wasps, but in his place they have made a range of decent signings in the form of McGinty, Webber, Charnley and Phillips.

They were very strong at home, only losing 1 game, but really struggled away from home, only picking up two wins. If they can maintain their strength at home and improve away, they will fancy their chances of maintaining their top 6 position. Lots will be made of Cipriani’s absence, but his kicking % was only 62%.

Sale had the best disciplinary record in the whole league last season, picking up just 5 yellow cards (just 1 at home). They have some good young players and it will be interesting to see their development continue this season.

 

Saracens Rugby

INS: Schalk Burger (from Stormers), Alex Lozowski (from Wasps), Savenaca Rawaca (from Fiji Sevens), Mark Flanagan (from Bedford Blues), Sean Maitland (from London Irish), Vincent Koch (from Stormers).

OUTS: Charlie Hodgson (retired), Rhys Gill (to Cardiff Blues), Catalin Fercu (to Timisoara Saracens), Kieran Longbottom (to Sale Sharks), Dave Porecki (to London Irish), Jacques Burger (retired), Aaron Morris (to Harlequins), Thretton Palamo (to Bristol), Biyi Alo (to Worcester Warriors), Ben Ransom (to London Irish).

FIXTURES

Sept 3 Worcester H (Twickenham Stadium)

Sept 11 Exeter A

Sept 17 Northampton H

Sept 24 Harlequins A

Sept 30 Bristol A

Oct 9 Wasps H

Oct 29 Leicester H

Nov 20 Sale A

Nov 26 Gloucester H

Dec 3 Bath A

Dec 23/24/26 Newcastle H

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Leicester A

Jan 7 Exeter H

Feb 11 Worcester A

Feb 18 Gloucester A

Feb 25 Sale H

March 5 Newcastle A

March 25 Bath H

April 8 Harlequins H (Wembley Stadium)

April 15 Northampton A

April 29 Bristol H

May 6 Wasps A

ANALYSIS – The all-conquering double winners from last season look just as strong this time around. They have lost Hodgson and Burger, but look to have actually strengthened the squad overall. They really tweaked their playing style to add some expansive play to their more traditional steam-roller.

They were very strong again at home, losing just twice and had by far the best away record in the league, winning 8 and drawing 1. This away record was based on an outstanding defence, with just an average of 17 points conceded per game.

Their disciplinary record was again excellent – they had the third best record with just 6 yellow cards all season. I can’t see anything other than them having a real go at repeating last season. They have the best squad depth, the best game plan and now have the confidence that they can win the double.

 

Wasps Rugby

INS: Marty Moore (from Leinster), Tommy Taylor (from Sale Sharks), Danny Cipriani (from Sale Sharks), Tom Cruse (from London Irish), Guy Armitage (from London Welsh), Craig Hampson (from Bristol), Tom Woolstencroft (from Bath), Marcus Garratt (from Cornish Pirates), Kurtley Beale (from NSW Waratahs), Matt Symons (from London Irish), Nick de Luca (from Biarritz), Kyle Eastmond (from Bath), Willie le Roux (from Sharks).

OUTS: Charles Piutau (to Ulster), Alex Lozowski (to Saracens), George Smith (to Suntory Sungoliath/Queensland Reds), Jamie Stevenson (to London Scottish), Ed Shervington (retired), Ruaridh Jackson (to Harlequins), Bradley Davies (to Ospreys), James Downey (retired), Ben Jacobs (retired), Carlo Festuccia (to Zebre), Andrea Masi (retired), Lorenzo Cittadini (to Bayonne).

FIXTURES

Sept 4 Exeter H

Sept 10 Leicester A

Sept 18 Bristol H

Sept 24 Northampton A

Oct 2 Harlequins H

Oct 9 Saracens A

Oct 30 Newcastle H

Nov 19 Gloucester A

Nov 27 Sale H

Dec 3 Worcester A

Dec 23/24/26 Bath H

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Newcastle A

Jan 8 Leicester H

Feb 11 Exeter A

Feb 17 Sale A

Feb 26 Gloucester H

March 4 Bath A

March 26 Worcester H

April 9 Northampton H

April 16 Bristol A

April 29 Harlequins A

May 6 Saracens H

ANALYSIS – A season that promised so much eventually ended in disappointment for Wasps. They lost in both the semi-final of the Premiership and the semi-final of the Champions Cup. They did however play some outstanding rugby and on their day have the ability to blow anyone  away as their destruction of Saracens in the league at Allianz Park demonstrates.

Charles Piutau and George Smith will be missed, but Wasps have probably made the best set of signings in the entire league. Cipriani, Beale (when fit), Eastmond and Le Roux will take an already exciting backline to the next level, and their forwards still look a strong unit.

They had the second best home record in the league last season, losing just twice, and the second best away record. They also had the joint best disciplinary record, receiving only 5 yellow cards all season. I can’t see anything other than a really strong year from them again.

 

Worcester Rugby

INS: Ben Te’o (from Leinster), Jackson Willison (from Grenoble), Will Spencer (from Bath), Marco Mama (from Bristol), Perry Humphreys (promoted from Academy), Dewald Potgieter (from Yamaha Júbilo), Matt Williams (from Northampton Saints), Francois Hougaard (from South Africa Sevens), Biyi Alo (from Saracens), Alafoti Fa’osiliva (from Bath).

OUTS: Darren O’Shea (to Munster), Charlie Mulchrone (to Harlequins), Jean-Baptiste Bruzulier (to Nevers), Ben Sowrey (to Newcastle Falcons), Heath Stevens (to London Welsh), Joe Rees (to Rotherham Titans), Andy Symons (to Gloucester), Alex Grove (to Birmingham Moseley), Ravai Fatiaki (released), Dan George (released), Matt Gilbert (to Hartpury College RFC), Dan Sanderson (to Yorkshire Carnegie), Sam Smith (retired).

FIXTURES

Sept 3 Saracens A (Twickenham Stadium)

Sept 9 Gloucester H

Sept 17 Bath A

Sept 24 Sale H

Oct 2 Newcastle H

Oct 8 Leicester A

Oct 29 Harlequins A

Nov 18 Northampton H

Nov 26 Exeter A

Dec 3 Wasps H

Dec 23/24/26 Bristol A

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Harlequins H

Jan 7 Gloucester A

Feb 11 Saracens H

Feb 18 Exeter H

Feb 25 Northampton A

March 4 Bristol H

March 26 Wasps A

April 7 Sale A

April 15 Bath H

April 28 Newcastle A

May 6 Leicester H

WORCESTER

Sept 3 Saracens A (Twickenham Stadium)

Sept 9 Gloucester H

Sept 17 Bath A

Sept 24 Sale H

Oct 2 Newcastle H

Oct 8 Leicester A

Oct 29 Harlequins A

Nov 18 Northampton H

Nov 26 Exeter A

Dec 3 Wasps H

Dec 23/24/26 Bristol A

Dec 30/31/Jan 1 2017 Harlequins H

Jan 7 Gloucester A

Feb 11 Saracens H

Feb 18 Exeter H

Feb 25 Northampton A

March 4 Bristol H

March 26 Wasps A

April 7 Sale A

April 15 Bath H

April 28 Newcastle A

May 6 Leicester H

ANALYSIS – Another team I know well, who were disappointed with how last season turned out. They recruited well, and I know Dean Ryan was disappointed that they got themselves into a relegation scrap. He has now left the club and Carl Hogg has been promoted as his replacement.

I think they are better on paper than their finishing position showed and have recruited well again. Ben Te’o is excellent, Mama is good, and Hougaard made a real impact last season. The Worcester academy is outstanding I know they have some really well thought of youngsters coming through.

Hogg will undoubtedly want to change a few things this season. His first priority will be the defence; Worcester conceded an average of 25 points a game at home (2nd worst in the league) and an average of 29 points a game away (the worst in the league). They also had the second worst disciplinary record, collecting a total of 14 yellow cards over the season.

They have joined Saracens and Newcastle in installing an artificial pitch at Sixways for the new season – theirs is an upgrade on the surface used at Saracens and Newcastle though, being based on an organic infill rather than rubber crumb. You would expect their backs to enjoy playing on it rather more than the old Sixways turf. Wingers Vuna and Heem (top scorers last season with 9 and 7 respectively) will be relishing it.

 

Betting Angles:

Aviva Premiership Odds

Aviva Premiership Odds

Aviva Premiership Relegation Odds

Saracens to win again does seem a decent bet at 2.6, however it’s a long time to tie up your money for. If you have a lump sum in a savings account I can’t think of a better place to make 5% interest between now and May by backing them to finish in the top 4.

The relegation odds are interesting for me. I have Worcester as the third worst team this year. Bristol will find it tough but I have it between them and Newcastle, and Newcastle at 4/1 jumps off the page at me, although tactically it might be worth seeing how Bristol get on in their first five games and getting much bigger odds on Newcastle if Bristol have a bad start.

Premiership Rugy Betting Round 21

Premiership Rugby Betting Round 21

Quality commentary by Legend from the betting forum

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Friday 8th May

Harlequins v Bath

Saturday 9th May

Sale v Newcastle
Gloucester v London Irish
Saints v London Welsh
Wasps v Leicester

Sunday 10th May

Saracens v Exeter

Pressure. Who is going to cope with it the best? Players with experience tend to, so teams who have been in these high pressure games, internationally and at club level, should fare better. Youngsters can often be better at coping as they tend to be more fearless in these situations. However, players or teams who get in these positions and then tend to fall at the last hurdle have demons that hang over them and cause below par performances. This weekend will be interesting as there is a lot at stake for those three teams chasing a play off spot. Also the battle for a home play off game is also in the balance.

The first game on Friday screams back Bath -3 (early line from Unibet, etc..) but if you look a little deeper at their record at the Stoop, it doesn’t make pleasant reading for a Bath supporter. They haven’t won a Premiership game there in their last 6 meetings. But a factor to take in to those games though was that Quins were the favourites. They were at those times in a better place than Bath. If you look back Quins have been a top 4 team for a while now or considered one. Bath have been a work in progress and are in a far better place than Quins now I think we would all agree. So the question is….. will Bath now push on and secure that second spot?

I will put up cap stats but I must admit I think in some cases they become a little irrelevant at this stage of the season, as funny things can happen. I believe patterns tend to form after a few rounds in and stop with a few rounds to go. So I wouldn’t read too much in to them.

Quins have had a poor season covering at home (3-7, 1-1 on a positive cap at home) and they have lost to 4 teams above them in the table but have beaten Leicester and Wasps. They have won their last two games at home against Gloucester and Irish, so recent form is better. It’s not phenomenal but it is better. Bath on the other hand have been good away from home. Their W/L record away is 5-5 and is exactly the same on the caps 5-5. But interestingly when they have been dogged with the favourite tag they have achieved a 4-1 record on a negative cap below 7. They seem to get over the line when they are perceived the favourite in a one score cap. I like that in a team. It’s when they keep losing these ones that worries me. This is a good sign for Bath backers but as I said earlier tis is a funny stage of the season where strange things can happen.

This game is difficult and I keep swinging from one thought to the other. I think it’s a Bath 1-12 market for this with very low stakes or nothing at all. Another angle would be to hope the Bath cap gets bigger and that the Quins team points total gets lower and back that. I think Quins will get a few points in this game.

Sale and Newcastle is a tricky one, as you need to know the attitude of these two teams as neither have anything to play for. Sale can’t qualify for Europe and Newcastle can’t finish higher than 11th. Do they fight passionately to preserve home records or noticeable progress and development, or do they down tools and call it a day to a hard season. From what I have seen from these two teams in the past it would seem Sale tend to take their foot off the pedal, particularly at home for some reason. In the last five times Sale have met Newcastle at home the Falcons have won 3 out of the 5. Slightly surprising. Not as far to travel? Sale taking their eye off the ball against weaker opposition?

Anyway on the caps it’s incredibly even. Sale are 7-3 at home and Newcastle are 7-3 away. On a negative home cap Sale are 5-1 after giving up their 100% record to Quins last week (4-1 on negative caps 7 or below). Newcastle are 6-3 on positive caps away from home. So there is not a lot we can take from that really. Both look good. I think a good healthy cap on Newcastle would be the only option for this one.

Gloucester v London Irish. Now this has potential. What will be the mentality of Gloucester? They are poor at home only covering 3 of their 10 home games. Alright some teams only look to win games they are not interested in covering caps for the betting man, so we need to look a bit deeper. Their W/L record is equally bad with 5-1-4 record and it seems they only bring out the performances when they play a big name. The only trouble is Irish have not got a very impressive record at Kingsholme winning 1 out of the last 6. They played each other at a similar stage of the season last year and the score was 38-30.

Gloucester will they open up now the shackles are off them and relax and play their open attacking rugby or will they, as teams often do after a big game, switch off and think of the games coming ahead for European qualification? That is the one to decipher. If it is the latter, which I tend to think will be the case, there is a great chance with a healthy positive cap on the Irish. As the Irish tend to finish their season strongly as I said last week. Although last week they struggled to stay with Bath after a decent start.

I would be looking closely at the Irish cap for this one.

Saints should secure the bonus point win and then rest up I would imagine. I can’t believe they will look to amass a huge score. They might do I suppose, throw the ball around, use it as a training exercise. But I’d be surprised if players are going to be feeling full of life and energy and wanting to go hell for leather in this one. There is a good chance of a massive cap for Welsh as Saints, as Champions, have been hit very hard with their home caps. They also have had a tendency to just get the job done apart from that first game of the season against Gloucester.

The Wasps game should be a belter along with the one on Sunday at Saracens. These two games are massive.

Wasps are the better team in comparison to Leicester at the moment. The only thing that isn’t is their respective league positions. But that could change on Saturday. Whoever wins this game will be, in my opinion, in the box seat to take the final play off spot. I’m struggling to see anything but a Wasps win in this game. The only thing that could go against them is the lack of big game experience, but they have had a season that has involved some big games, as they were competing right to the end in their Heineken Group stage and battled hard with players missing at Toulon, the eventual winners. So they have experience in some respects.

It’s just the nagging feeling that Leicester always make the play offs. However this has to end some day doesn’t it? Is there a shift from Quins and Leicester in the top four to teams like Bath, Wasps and Exeter now? You can just see a typical massive Leicester performance that sees them to victory. You wouldn’t rule it out. They did beat Toulon, so there is that glimmer of possibility.

I don’t think their record on the caps is very relevant here, but Wasps are 8-2 at home and Leicester are 3-7. Worse than that for the Tigers is that they have been given 5 positive away caps and only covered 1. Extraordinary really that firstly they have received so many and then only covering 1 suggests a drop off from their usual standards. Wasps are 6-2 on the negative home caps.

I would say Wasps on a small negative would be the only route or perhaps a 1-12.

Finally the Sunday game. Saracens have all to play for and so do Exeter. It’s a known fact that home semi-finals are crucial to reaching a final spot, so I’d expect an all guns blazing performance from the Wolf pack here. In which case I’d find it difficult to make a case for Exeter. All their hopes went last week I’m afraid. They needed to beat Wasps and then hoped Wasps did them a favour against Leicester and then all they had to do was win against Sale to make the play offs. Now they are not going to think that of course that’s just how I see it.

The Chiefs played far better than I expected last week and it was only a piece of opportunist brilliance by Simpson sunk them. However, Wasps really should have put them away. Away from home they have covered 4 from 10 and they have failed to do so in their last 2. They are 2-6 outside the International windows as well being 1-4 with positive caps.

Saracens on the other hand have been gaining momentum. Good European performances and recent home league performances have put them in decent form coming in to the latter stages of the league season. They had before that looked a bit vulnerable and out of sorts. They have covered 3 of their last 4 league games at home and I would be looking at Saracens pushing for a bonus point win in this one so that they can sneak that second spot from Bath. Due to the big game situation I would be hoping for a cap in single figures, but fear it will be bigger than that which would make a bet very difficult as I see Saracens winning this well.

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

Toulouse
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.

Co-incidence?

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.

Rugby Championship Betting – Dead Rubber Danger

Rugby Championship Betting 2012 preview – Final Round Dead rubbers

South Africa v New Zealand Betting preview – 1600 GMT, Sky sports. New Zealand -5 evs in sportingbet, South Africa +6 Stanjames 10/11

Okelly dokelly. Let’s start with New Zealand on our last Rugby Championship betting preview of the year.

They’re unbeaten in 15 games and are chasing the longest unbeaten international rugby run in history (as Cobus Visage pointed out this week- McCaw will be desperate to get this before he takes a break from the game), and consequently an unbeaten run in the first ever rugby championship tournament. They’re unbeaten in this tournament of course, and the closest anyone has come to them in losing was Australia, in australia, by 8 points. Last week they beat Argentina away from home by the biggest margin of the tournament, 39 points. They have Dan Carter back (he was missing when they played South Africa at home) and they have no injuries. They have a 95 points for/against difference in the tournament versus South Africa’s 27. They have no pressure on them now that the Championship is won. All we have to decide on is their mental state- hence the title credits.

Meanwhile, back on the highveld…South Africa got rid of Morne Steyn, brought in some youth, and then beat a very weakened Australian side by 23 points, leaving behind quite a few kicking points a fair few tryscoring opportunities. They’re at altitude which should favour them, and have won three from the last four at home against New Zealand. They have a new young quality fly-half who will probably be there for a long time, and there’s a more youthful overall look to the side. And lastly, (not to overlook it) they’re at home. But i’m finiding it hard to find much else in their favour.

Looking at last week’s win at home to Australia, the defence wasn’t stretched and they missed alot of chances and kicks. That was the weakest Wallaby side we’d ever seen, and if not for the late yellow card for shenanigans, they would have beaten Australia by a fair bit less. New Zealand will take the high ball up-and-under tactics they tend to revert to on static ball and eat them alive with a backline that will thrive on any possession, let alone possession running from deep against a defence that is slow to set. Hosea Gear doesn’t weaken things, and has been excellent since the second half of the Super rugby season and you’d do worse than to punt on him for first/anytime tryscorer.

Goosen is a talent for the future but he’s 20 years old and up against Carter in the dry. Pienaar will be the man to take care of him on paper and he’s talking about making the number nine jersey his own. But he could have problems tomorrow- the last time he played against a team like New Zealand his side were hammered and he lost the head a bit, ( not that you could blame him) to Leinster in the Heineken cup final. That day he had a young 19/20 year old inside him in Paddy Jackson and there was just far too much on Pienaar’s shoulders. Ulster had to play running rugby that day and it didn’t happen, just like South Africa are talking about doing it this week…. and just like Argentina did last week – we know where that got them.

It’s hard to find any solid reasons to back South Africa. Initial prices were slight value at 11/4 but they quickly disappeared and the 2/1 available now isn’t big enough. They’ve talked this week about playing running rugby but their best chance is to try to keep it tight and frustrate New Zealand. Even the altitude factor isn’t one to get excited about as New Zealand have a higher average points up there in recent years than South Africa.

So, if you’re a stats/history/form man, you can’t help heavily coming down on the side of New Zealand on the -5. Essentially, we have to ask ourselves the following question to confirm that as a decent betting pick;

Will New Zealand be arsed?

After much deliberations and scoops of ale, our answer is – Yes. They will.

New Zealand is best -5 at evens in Sportingbet and it will likely drift a little before Saturday afternoon. You couldn’t touch the winning margins as we know South Africa and bonus points don’t matter now.

Tryscorer anytime punts are a plenty but we’re focusing on one; Hosea Gear is on the left wing and will want to show he’s still a part of this team. He has been on great form and he’ll be there to finish off any All Black moves on the wing and in close, just like Savea last week. He’s 2/1 across the board for anytime try, including skybet, where you can get a free no deposit tenner bet by clicking here

One other angle is ‘will one team win both halves’. If you don’t like the New Zealand handicap, this quite a big 11/10 in bet365. If South Africa somehow kick ahead by half time, New Zealand may find it hard to motivate themselves more than South Africa in front of their home fans. Conversely, if New Zealand get ahead it’s hard to see any way back for South Africa – despite this the biggest you can get New Zealand to be winning at half time at is 8/13. So there’s value there, and you’re covered if South Africa manage to win both halves.

Head over and join our rugby betting forum to get yourself heard and point out your bets we may have missed. Also don’t forget you get a free bet by clicking on any of the bookmaker links on this page.

Free Bet!

Rugby Championship Betting 2012 preview – Argentina v Australia, 2210 GMT

Sorry but this is a total coinflip, and we’re not going to boother you by writing about WHY we can’t make our mind up.

If you want a bet for interest, try half time argentina, full time Australia at very biggest 7/1 in ladbrokes; Argentina have started fast in most of their games, and Australia have been pulling games from the fire in the second half since June, and they wont want to be the first to lose in the tournament to the Argies.

Aussie pride at stake, value bet we make. That rhymes Marge and you know it does.

Goood luck