The Rugby World Cup is now underway, with a six-week showcase of the finest the rugby world has to offer, culminating in the final on November 2nd.
New Zealand v South Africa
Undoubtedly the group clash to watch this year, the Group B battle sees the holders face the two-time previous winners, as rugby royalty face off in New Zealand v South Africa.
The two teams are so inseparable – over the last four fixtures, the points differential is 0. South Africa are revived under Rassie Erasmus, while the All Blacks have had to battle through an injury crisis of sorts.
New Zealand are still overwhelming favourites at 2/5, while the Springboks are 15/8. However, the handicap sits at 5.5, and with these two so closely matched, that’s where the value lies. South Africa may lose, but if so it’ll be close, so back them with a +5.5 points head start at 5/6.
Anton Leinert-Brown has looked in good form, and with Ryan Crotty inside him, he should have plenty of space to do some damage against opposite number Lukhanyo Am, so back him to score anytime at 4/1.
Ireland v Scotland
The big battle in Group A is Ireland v Scotland, as the Celtic rivals look to establish dominance in the early stages of the pool.
Ireland enter off the back of a poor Six Nations, and in the warm-ups, they were utterly dismantled by England. They are, however, the best team in the world according to the rankings.
Scotland have hinted at becoming an excellent team in recent years, but despite thrilling attacking play, they lack the consistency of the best teams in the world at the moment.
Ireland are comfortable favourites at 3/10, while Scotland are 5/2. In a game that will be a real collision of styles, Ireland’s pragmatic approach should see them through. However, don’t rule out Finn Russell having another masterclass, and the stand-out 10 is 11/2 to score anytime.
England v Tonga
England will have every expectation to be in the final of this tournament, and to make up for the sorry showing in 2015.
Eddie Jones has rolled out the big guns for the opening game, with Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi and Billy Vunipola all getting the nod. England are naturally heavy favourites at 1/100, while Tonga are 16/1.
The Sea Eagles are no strangers to a World Cup, and will undoubtedly be one of the more physical sides in the tournament. With plenty of Premiership players in their squad, there will be a lot of familiar faces, but it’s hard to look past the Red Rose.
The handicap sits at 44.5 points, and while this seems a lot, this is an England team that put 57 past Ireland recently. Take England on the handicap at 9/10, and enjoy what should be an excellent display of attacking rugby.