The World Cup is now just a month away, and teams will be finalising their squads and working out the best pairings across their starting XV’s. With a strong slate of international rugby to look forward too, our Rugby Union expert guides you through the best bets from this weekend’s international fixtures.
Australia v New Zealand
The All Blacks have stuttered at the crucial pre-World Cup period, struggling in the Rugby Championship before being losing heavily to Australia in Bledisloe last week. Scott Barrett’s red card played a big role in that defeat, and the All Blacks have rung the changes, with Crusaders wingers Sevu Reece and George Bridge entering the starting XV. However, the Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett double pivot, which worked well with Damien Mckenzie, hasn’t clicked yet, so they could struggle. New Zealand are convincing favourites at 2/13, while Australia are 4/1. I think it will be a closer game than most, and Australia won’t roll over like they have in previous years. Back the All Blacks to win by 1-12 points at 2/1.
Wales v England
These two old adversaries clashed at Twickenham last week, with an experimental England team comfortably despatching Wales. Wales also lost influential fly-half Gareth Anscombe to a serious injury, ruling him out of the World Cup. Warren Gatland’s men will look to bounce back in Cardiff, against a largely similar England team. Wales are the 8/11 favourites, with England an outside bet at evens, but if the hits start falling on Dan Biggar he could quickly be subbed by Gatland for protection, with the Englishman hungry to stake a claim for a starting spot. Back the visiting underdogs to win outright.
South Africa v Argentina
South Africa have been resurgent under Rassie Erasmus, winning this year’s Rugby Championship and looking like a genuine threat for the World Cup, something unthinkable in the Allister Coetzee era. The emergence of talent such as Warrick Gelant, RG Snyman and Herschel Jantjies has gelled with the experienced veterans excellently, and they are trending in the complete opposite direction to the Pumas. Argentina have been poor in the last year, and are 13/2 to leave Pretoria with a win. The handicap sits at a large 19 points, but I expect South Africa to cover that with ease. The Springboks to win on the handicap (-19) can be backed at 10/11.
France v Scotland
Two of the biggest unknowns in the World Cup, both sides will be expected to leave their group, and can beat anybody on their day, or lose by 40 points. France are favourites at 4/11, but both sides put out very strong teams. The visiting side are 2/1 to win in Nice, but I think it will be close. Scotland offer a lot of value, and they are 10/3 to win by 1-12 points, which I think looks a good bet.