England Need To Stay Awake To Keep Alert Wales At Bay.
Eddie Jones revealed he endured a sleepless night following England’s unconvincing opening Six Nations success over France last weekend.
However, it will be rugby traders from bookmakers up and down the country whose shut-eye will be interrupted with worry should the Red Rose nation follow up with another win in Wales on Saturday.
England were already odds-on to follow up their 2016 Grand Slam winning year with another title this season, but despite their workmanlike victory over Les Bleus at Twickenham the market makers have still shaved a few fractions off their price to reproduce the success from 12 months ago.
Grosvenor Sport now rate Jones’ men 5/9 to win the Six Nations and 8/5 to earn victories in each of their remaining four fixtures for a double Grand Slam.
Wales defeat of Italy at Stadio Olimpico sees Rob Howley’s team cut to 11/2 from 6/1, while Ireland’s surprise failure to win at Murrayfield has persuaded the odds compilers to push them out to 11/2 (from 5/2), with Scotland 10/1 (from 16/1), France 16/1 and Italy 1000/1.
I suggested last week that ‘No Grand Slam’ winner was a sensible call, the price has contracted slightly to 7/10 from 4/5, but still seems a fair bet.
England must improve on their performance against Guy Novès’ team if they are to justify their cramped price, but surely will. And it is perhaps a sign of the times, given the expectation of continuing a record breaking winning streak, that victory over France isn’t just celebrated for what it is.
Ireland’s incredible second half fightback in Edinburgh looked as if it was going to be enough to stun the Scots, but Vern Cotter’s men secured only their second win on the opening weekend of Six Nations action thanks to two late Greig Laidlaw penalties.
It would be no surprise, though, if Joe Schmidt’s side were England’s closest challengers come the final reckoning. Ireland and England both finishing in the top two – in any order – trades at 5/2, which could prove a profitable punt.
The biggest mover in the Top Points Scorer market has been Leigh Halfpenny, cut to 2/1 after his haul of 18 points for the Welsh in Rome.
Stuart Hogg has leapt to the summit of the Top Tryscorer betting after his double against Ireland. Those that took the 33/1 will be hoping for just a couple more from the Glasgow Warriors full back – four tries have been enough to top the tryscorer standings in each of the last four championships.
Round Two Matches
Italy v Ireland
Whether Ireland were guilty of complacency or not against Scotland last Saturday has mattered little to the compilers when it comes to framing the odds for this week’s fixtures, who have chalked up Joe Schmidt’s side as clear favourites to beat Italy in Rome, at a pretty much unbackable 1/34.
A shock, of course, is unlikely – Conor O’Shea’s team are 13/1 shots on the match market with Grosvenor Sport – but at 87/100 your choice on the handicap, with Ireland giving up 21.5 points, the betting lines are significantly blurred.
Italy received only 10.5 points on the handicap against Wales at Stadio Olimpico on Sunday and failed to win on the spread despite leading at the break – the Italy-Ireland half-time/full-time double result, therefore, might attract some interest from punters.
However, given Ireland’s stumbling start in Edinburgh, the visitors to the Italian capital will be desperate to kick off on the front foot, with both 40 and 80-minute handicap marks within their compass.
Wales v England
England have only won 29% of Six Nations matches across Severn Bridge in their history, but that’s not stopped the market makers listing Eddie Jones’ side as 4/9 favourites to win in Cardiff, with Wales 17/10. The visitors give up 4.5 points on the handicap with both nations quoted at 87/100.
The appearance of England football manager Gareth Southgate at Pennyhill Park ahead of the trip to the Principality Stadium might not have done much for Red Rose punters’ confidence (the two sports have rarely been happy bedfellows – remember Sir Clive Woodward’s brief spell at Southampton?), and, with the visitors set to go with an inexperienced back row, the call here is side with Wales getting a 4.5 point start.
England just took too long to get going against France, with replacements Jamie George, James Haskell and Ben Te’o helping to produce their best rugby, but only late on. A similarly sluggish start could play into Welsh hands who have won five of the last seven meetings on home turf.
France v Scotland
There is some belief in rugby circles that Vern Cotter can lead Scotland to a first ever Six Nations title after his side’s shock success over Ireland last week. A first win in Paris since the Scots 1999 championship success (the last featuring five nations) is priced at 19/10 (the same odds they were to beat the Irish), with Les Bleus 2/5.
The handicap mark offers Scotland a 5.5-point start, with 87/100 about either side overcoming the spread.
France showed much more than many were expecting in their narrow defeat at Twickenham last time out, with Louis Picamoles, Kevin Gourdon and Scott Spedding all impressing.
Their record of 17 wins from their last 19 meetings with Scotland suggests a home win is the best bet, with Les Bleus also taken to cover the spread. It’s more than possible the market makers have overreacted to Scotland’s opening weekend success and it might just be too much to expect the inexperienced visiting prop forwards to handle the powerful French scrum.
You can watch all three of this weekend’s Six Nations games at any of Grosvenor’s 53 casinos up and down the UK.
Image: Flickr (Creative Commons – Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))
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