Six Nations Round Four: England’s march to continue?

By Brian Rucker, My Club Betting Rugby Correspondent

After a week off, the Six Nations returns this weekend and it couldn’t be more tense!

As expected, it’s England and Ireland vying for the title, with Scotland sitting closely behind in third. They’ll be getting a nosebleed soon…

The Scots will be brought back down to earth at Twickenham this weekend though and while Italy host France in the basement battle, Wales and Ireland kick things off on Friday night.

That’s where I’ll begin…

Wales v Ireland (Friday @ 20:05)

I’ve given the Welsh a lot of flack in recent times, so why change the habit of a lifetime…

You wouldn’t think things could get much worse for Wales after their shambles of a display in Scotland, but they need to prepare themselves for the worst. It’s going to hurt!

Why? Because come Friday evening, the Welsh will have lost to Scotland, England and Ireland in the same year in the five/six nations for the first time since 2003… Ouch!

The Irish will punish Rob Cowley’s side, who make way too many unforced errors, which will set up a lovely title decider in Dublin next Sunday against England. I’m already rubbing my hands…

Don’t get me wrong though, Ireland haven’t got much boasting to do. Let’s face it, they’ve only beaten Italy and France so far and that’s not exactly difficult.

They’ll win this one. It’s just a shame it will only give them false hope ahead of England’s victory next week!

BEST BET: IRELAND TO WIN BY 1-5 POINTS @ 17/4

Italy v France (Saturday @ 13:30)

Is there any point to this one? Well it is the Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy I guess…

I suppose it does give France a chance to feel better about themselves following their defeat in Ireland two weeks ago.

To bounce back from their defeat against England, with a win against the Scots but then to lose against Ireland just proves that the French are as consistent as my bowel movements and trust me, that’s not a good thing…

They’ll surely have enough to beat the whipping boys in Rome, but this does look like Italy’s final chance to get any points on the board because they don’t stand a chance at Murrayfield next week.

Oh, who am I kidding, another wooden spoon is in the post!

BEST BET: FRANCE FIRST HALF HANDICAP -9.5 @ 10/11

England v Scotland (Saturday @ 16:00)

It’s Calcutta Cup action at Twickenham and I’d put my daughter’s new pony on England to continue their march towards back-to-back Grand Slams. My life wouldn’t be worth living if I lost that one, so trust me when I say it’s going to happen!

I could not think of a better opponent for England to secure a record equalling 18th consecutive victory against…

The Scots could actually win the Triple Crown on Saturday afternoon but there’s more chance of that happening than Donald Trump telling the truth.

Yes, they’ve picked up wins against Ireland and Wales but England aren’t Ireland and Wales. Thank god!

Eddie Jones’ side haven’t even put in a good performance yet and they’ve won every game. It’s been like taking candy from a baby…

Enjoy another win lads!

BEST BET: ENGLAND TO WIN BY 6-10 POINTS @ 15/4

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Six Nations Round Three: More Welsh misery on the cards…

By Brian Rucker, My Club Betting Rugby Correspondent

Are you ready for another scintillating weekend of Six Nations action? Well I am!

It’s only been two weeks since England crushed Welsh hearts, Ireland battered the whipping boys Italy and France brought the Scots back down to earth but it’s felt like a lifetime!

The weekend of action kicks off at Murrayfield on Saturday and ends at Twickenham on Sunday afternoon and here’s my thoughts on how things will unravel…

Scotland v Wales (Saturday @ 14:25)

I’ve had some unconfirmed reports over the last fortnight that every shop in Wales sold out of tissues following their 21-16 defeat to England!

Those shelves better be re-stocked because the demand will be high once again come Saturday afternoon when the Welsh get battered in Edinburgh…

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Captained by John Barclay, the Scots will have to improve on their awful set-pieces which so far, have been as successful as a Wayne Rooney hair transplant.

Do that and they’re onto a winner. The Welsh will try to bully Scotland but what always happens to bullies? They get found out. Wales will be no different. Tissues at the ready folks…

BEST BET: SCOTLAND TO WIN BY 1-5 POINTS @ 9/2

Ireland v France (Saturday @ 16:50)

This game is being billed as the clash which could keep the title hopes alive of the winner but let’s be honest, it’s the decider for second place because neither have the balls to win it.

Yes, the Irish crushed Italy two weeks ago with nine touchdowns but come on, Sutton United’s former pie eating goalkeeper could get into that Italian side!

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France did what the Irish couldn’t a fortnight ago in beating Scotland but they reminded me of a dying cat struggling to get home, as they stumbled across the line to record a 22-16 victory in Paris.

Ireland will win this one but that’s only because the French wings are as strong as the British economy…

Don’t get too excited though. It’s only second place after all.

BEST BET: GAME TO BE TIED AT HALF-TIME @ 10/1

England v Italy (15:00)

Are you ready for a cricket score? I hope so because that’s what we’re going to get!

In fact, England’s class of 2001 should enjoy their last few days of being the record point’s scorers in a Six Nations game.

Surprise, surprise they registered 80 points against Italy 16 years ago and it’s the Italians who will be on the end of yet another drubbing on Sunday afternoon.

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They’ve managed 17 points so far, but Eddie Jones’ men will have scored more than that in the opening 20 minutes at Twickenham!

It could be that bad that the Italians have to declare a national day of mourning on Monday.

RIP Italian Rugby…

BEST BET: ENGLAND TO WIN BY OVER 50 POINTS @ 9/5

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WEEKEND BETTING GUIDE: OUR TOP TIPS

There is another exciting weekend of sport ahead, with the Autumn Internationals and Premier League action taking centre stage!

Can the England rugby union side maintain their unbeaten record? Can Chelsea keep yet another clean sheet? Find out below, as our tipping team analyse the weekend’s action…

ENGLAND v ARGENTINA

Saturday – 14:30

England have managed an impressive 95 points in their first two Autumn Internationals.

After convincingly beating South Africa for the first time since 2006, England then brushed past Fiji last weekend to make it 11 wins out of 11 under Eddie Jones.

Argentina on the other hand, have come up short in their last two games against Wales and Scotland respectively.

It is worth nothing that England have won their last five meetings against Saturday’s opponents.

However, the hosts may have one eye on player preservation as they prepare for a visit from bitter rivals, Australia in a week’s time.

That said, we still fancy England on Saturday and see them extending their unbeaten run with a convincing win at Twickenham.

BEST BET: ENGLAND -17.5 POINTS @ 10/11

CHELSEA v TOTTENHAM

Saturday – 17:30

Chelsea are the in-form side in the Premier League. Antonio Conte’s men have won their last six league games – netting a staggering 17 times in the process.

Tottenham are still the only unbeaten team in the Premier League this season. The North Londoners snatched victory from the hands of defeat against bitter rivals West Ham last weekend, with two late Harry Kane goals eventually giving them a 3-2 win at White Hart Lane.

While Chelsea’s goal scoring is hitting the headlines, it has been their defensive record that has impressed many. The Blues haven’t conceded in any of their last six league games and have only let in one goal at home game all season.

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To make things worse for Tottenham, they have only managed to score in two of their last six games against Chelsea.

We see the hosts ending Tottenham’s unbeaten record and keeping a clean sheet in the process.

BEST BET: CHELSEA CLEAN SHEET @ 7/5

IRELAND v AUSTRALIA

Saturday – 17:30

Ireland will be hoping to end their series on a high when they host Australia on Saturday.

The Irish started the Autumn Internationals with a bang a fortnight ago. They beat New Zealand for the first time in 111 years – ending the All Blacks’ long unbeaten run in the process.

After cruising past Canada, a lack of finishing and some questionable refereeing decisions cost Ireland another victory against New Zealand last weekend.

Australia have scraped past Scotland and France in recent weeks. However, during these games, the Wallabies have chosen to rest their top players in preparation for their upcoming trips to Ireland and England.

We see a hard fought game being played out on Saturday – with Ireland just nicking it.

BEST BET: IRELAND TO WIN @ 4/5

SOUTHAMPTON v EVERTON

Sunday – 16:30

These sides are among the most evenly matched in the Premier League. Both play with a quick tempo – favouring short, sharp passing over the traditional ‘route one’ method.

Much of this is down to Ronald Koeman, who has managed both clubs.

Sunday sees the now Everton manager returning to Southampton for the first time since his departure in the summer. While Koeman was hugely popular during his time on the South Coast, his unexpected summer departure didn’t sit well with a large proportion of Saints’ supporters.

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The two teams have shared a whopping nine draws in the Premier League this season. In fact, the last meeting between Southampton and Everton was a tight affair that eventually ended in a 1-1 draw.

Everything points to an even game at St Mary’s on Sunday and we are going for the draw.

BEST BET: THE DRAW @ 12/5

LYON v PSG

Sunday – 19:45

Lyon and PSG meet at Parc Olympique Lyonnais on Sunday night, and if recent clashes are anything to go by, then goals should be on the agenda.

Between them, the two sides have netted on 14 occasions during their last four meetings, with each game ending with at least two goals.

Talking of goals, Alexandre Lacazette has been in blistering form this season. After summer moves to West Ham and Arsenal failed to materialise, Lacazette stayed with Lyon and has since netted ten goals in nine league games.

Expect to see the net bulging with regularity in Lyon on Sunday night.

BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 3/4

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RUGBY WORLD CUP 2015: THE MCB BETTING GUIDE

The wait is finally over! The Rugby World Cup kicks off on Friday night as England host Fiji.

All roads lead to Twickenham, where the Final will be played on October 31st.

We hope our pool-by-pool betting guide, constructed by our man Calum Chinchen, can provide you with some winners along the way.

Remember to keep checking out the MCB WordPress site (myclubbetting.wordpress.com) for regular betting previews on a variety of sports.

All prices quoted are an average from across the industry… we wish you the best of luck!

New Zealand: Defending champions

POOL A

Hosts England have looked more than efficient in their warm-up games and were particularly impressive in victories over France and Ireland. Anthony Watson is England’s key man at the moment and the speedy Bath fullback will be hoping to carry his Aviva Premiership and World Cup warm-up form into the tournament itself.

Watson: Speed merchant

Home advantage will be massive for Stuart Lancaster’s men, who are second favourites to lift the famous Webb Ellis cup. We fancy them to advance as from Pool A as winners.

Australia come into this tournament after winning the 2015 Rugby Championship, a tournament involving themselves, Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa. The Wallabies looked terrific throughout the tournament, beating tournament favourites New Zealand along the way and finishing with a 100% record. They haven’t got the best World Cup record of late and they have not reached a final since losing to England in 2003. That said, they will have no difficulty advancing from Pool A and we fancy them to finish second behind the hosts.

Wales are not in the greatest form and we can see them struggling throughout the tournament. Key players Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb have been ruled out of the tournament, with coach Warren Gatland cursing his luck after both were injured in warm-up games.

Wales will find it very difficult to get vital results against both England and Australia, thus we don’t see them finishing in the top two.

Uruguay and Fiji are the other two teams in this pool and we see the latter possibly causing the so-called ‘big boys’ a little difficulty along the way.

BEST BET: ENGLAND TO WIN POOL A @ 2.10

POOL B

Habana: Experienced

South Africa are the strongest team in Pool B, and by a considerable distance. The Springboks had an extremely tough time in the Rugby Championship over the summer, losing all three games. We just feel the lack of strength within the group, coupled with the presence of experienced stars Bryan Habana, Jean de Villiers and Schalk Burger will be more than enough to see South Africa top the pool and advance to the next stage with a 100% record.

Scotland won’t be too downhearted by being drawn in this pool and it looks as though it will be a straight battle between themselves and Samoa for second place. The clash between the two sides at St James Park comes in the final round of fixtures, and looks as though it will be crucial for both nations. We think it will be tougher for Vern Cotter’s men than most people expect, but fancy influential captain Greg Laidlaw and experienced hooker Ross Ford to guide the Scots to the next round at the expense of their Samoan counterparts.

We can’t see Japan or the USA troubling any of the other three teams in Pool B, and we can only see the two sides gaining points when they play each other. We see Samoa comfortably finishing in third position here.

BEST BET: SCOTLAND TO QUALIFY @ 1.67

POOL C

There is absolutely no doubt who is going to come out on top of Pool C. New Zealand are the clear tournament favourites and we can see them winning every match in the pool with real ease.

The All Blacks suffered a shock defeat to rivals Australia in the Rugby Championship, which cost them the trophy. However, we don’t see that having a negative effect on them during this campaign.

McCaw & Carter: Final World Cup

Experienced flanker and skipper Richie McCaw will be looking to lift the Webb Ellis Cup, in what will be his last World Cup. Iconic fly-half Dan Carter will also be participating in his final World Cup campaign and will be looking to make amends after only playing two games of the 2011 tournament which the All Blacks captured.

Argentina would have been delighted with the draw and will more than fancy their chance of advancing. Although they will accept that the All Blacks will be too strong for them, they will also feel more that confident of beating the other three sides in the group and qualifying behind New Zealand.

Tonga will no doubt give Argentina competition for the converted second place in Pool C. Captain Nili Latu will be vital for the Tongans. The former Green Rockets star recently signed for the Newcastle Falcons and is equally capable when playing on the flank or at number 8. We see Tonga running Argentina close, but we just can’t see them doing enough to qualify.

The other two sides in the group are Georgia and Namibia, and we can see the presence of two minnows alongside the phenomenal All Blacks leading to a massive number of tries within Pool C.

BEST BET: OVER 76.5 TRIES IN POOL C @ 1.90

POOL D

Zebo: Vital for Ireland

Ireland are favourites to win Pool D. Although they have never advanced further than the Quarter Finals in a World Cup, they do come into this tournament in good form after winning this year’s Six Nations title. Speedy winger Simon Zebo will be key for the Irish, along with fly half Jonny Sexton who has recently joined Leinster after a successful two years at Racing Metro.

France aren’t in the greatest form, but they always seem to have the capability to pull a rabbit out of the hat on the World Cup stage, as they showed in 2011 when they reached the final.

However, there have been rumours of disharmony within the camp and reports suggest that they aren’t happy with the facilities or surroundings at their Croydon base (now there’s a shock!). We fancy them to advance, but see them finishing second in Pool D, behind this Irish.

Italy area vastly improved side, and will cause both France and Ireland difficulty. Sergio Parisse is an icon amongst Italian rugby fans and will once again captain his nation at the tournament. The instrumental Stade Francais talisman is widely regarded as one of the greatest number 8’s in modern rugby, and will be vital for his side as always. That said, we just can’t see them doing enough to get a victory against the big two in the pool and can’t see them advancing to the next stage.

Canada and Romania make up the numbers in Pool D and we can’t see them causing any upsets if we are honest.

BEST BET: IRELAND/FRANCE (STRAIGHT FORECAST) @ 1.95

WHO WILL WIN?

We fancy the hosts England to make it all the way to the final, where they will more than likely be facing an incredibly strong New Zealand side.

We just can’t see the All Blacks being stopped and think they will cruise to World Cup glory on October 31st at Twickenham.

OUR WINNERS: NEW ZEALAND @ 2.30

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Something for the weekend – your wager persuaders – Six Nations (March 8-9)

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England v Wales

The RBS 6Nations Championship is heading towards a climax, and while both sides will naturally want to win, this is as much a pointer to see where each nation is going into the 2015 World Cup.

Wales are almost where they want and expect to be. Warren Gatland’s side have been together for some time. England are quickly emerging as a major force and what some units lack in experience, they make up for in depth and quality.

Many see Wales as contenders for the World Cup semi-final, yet they failed to convince against Italy and were completely out-classed by Ireland. They are rushing back Jonathan Davies and will also be boosted by fellow British and Irish Lion Alun Wyn Jones.

Wales won last year’s tussle 30-3 in Cardiff. At present, they are the best team in Europe – since the last World cup they have won both Six Nations titles that have been played with a record of 11 wins and only two losses. England are still a year away from peaking, which is exactly where this young team expects to be.

We have our doubts about referee Romain Poite, who virtually handed New Zealand a 29-15 victory over South Africa in Auckland last September, but hopefully he won’t get in the way of what should be a Twickenham thriller.

For our money, England (4/7) have a vastly superior pack and will be fuelled by last season’s humiliating defeat which robbed them of the Grand Slam.

Wales’ crushing victory over France owed much to the woeful play of Philippe Saint-Andre’s team, yet the bounce-back from the crushing defeat in Dublin was nonetheless impressive.

We take Wales to win a close one and upset the odds. They are currently 6/4, but can be backed at 9/10 in receipt of 3.5-points.

Ireland v Italy

Italy will be without influential captain Sergio Parisse because of a leg injury and he will be replaced by Trevisio’s Robert Barbieri, with veteran lock Marco Bortolami leading the winless Italians.

Ireland make one change for the side beaten by England: in comes back-row Iain Henderson as a replacement for the injured Peter O’Mahoney.

Italy picked up a first ever Championship win over Ireland 12 months ago but don’t expect them to double up. Ireland are considered 1/33 favourites, with the Italians available at 10/1.

With Brian O’Driscoll winning a world record 140th Test cap and playing his final game for Ireland on home soil, look for his side to send him off in style.

Italy gave Wales all they could handle on opening weekend, but are a far different proposition without Parisse and we take the hosts to cover a large handicap.

Scotland v France

France come into this game on the back of a humiliating 27-6 loss to Wales – which could have been far worse – while Scotland are buoyed by their 21-20 success in Rome.

Yet even after their dreadful loss, France are still in the mix for the 6 Nations title. Coach Philippe Saint-Andre, with his job in doubt, has turned over almost half the side, with three new loose forwards, three new backs and a third-choice hooker.

Scotland make four changes, including bringing in tight-head prop Geoff Cross for his first start in a year. Skipper Kelly Brown is recalled, as is David Denton.

Scotland will play with passion at Murrayfield and it is anyone’s guess which France side turns up. The guess is the experienced French duo of captain Pascal Pape and tighthead Nicolas Mas will get the edge up front and that is one of the reasons why they are considered 3/10 favourites.

Scotland can be backed at 9/10 in receipt of 7.5 points, because they have the capability to win this.

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Something for the weekend – your wager persuaders – Six Nations and Soccer betting

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England v Ireland

This pivotal RBS 6Nations Championship encounter sees unchanged Ireland going for the Triple Crown and a win keeps them on course for the Grand Slam. They have not won at Twickenham since 2010, but that should not put anyone off taking them at 13/8.

If Ireland are to win, they will need a strong kicking game in order to take advantage of England’s inexperience on the wing in Jack Nowell and Jonny May. The key, however, is only so much down to the boot of Conor Murray, Brian O’Driscoll, Rob Kearney and Jonathan Sexton.

England will sorely miss Dan Cole, who has started 45 of England’s last 48 Tests. He has been the fulcrum of England’s scrum. While David Whitehead is a competent tighthead, Stuart Lancaster’s side are sure to miss Cole.  

There is no question that the Irish backs will challenge England at the breakdown. Likewise, England’s line-out, and in particular Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes, will be challenged by Brian O’Driscoll’s men.

Losing narrowly to New Zealand was no flash in the pan; Joe Schmidt’s Ireland are the real deal and England are simply too short at 4/6. Ireland look the value bet to pull off a shock. They can be backed at 19/20 in receipt of a 3.5-point handicap start.

Italy v Scotland

Scott Johnson’s selections and tactics have been questioned in some quarters, with just six points scored in two 6Nations matches. But forget current form for a moment; Scotland are building for the 2015 World Cup and the Australian has been hampered by a lack of squad depth.

Scotland have won five of the last eight meetings with the Azzurri but have not come away from Rome with a victory since 2006 and the battle up front will be key.

Italy’s Alessandro Zanni, Roberto Barbieri Sergio Parisse go head-to-head with Ryan Wilson, Chris Fusaro and Johnnie Beattie at the breakdown. This battle up front will be key to the outcome, which, on paper, will be a tight affair.

Scotland are considered 8/5 outsiders, with Italy at 3/5. The draw is on offer at 21/1. We think Scotland have the capability to win this, but take them with a 6.5-point start at 4/7.

Wales v France

France should feel the full force of a Welsh backlash on Friday night. Pride has been hurt. A tactically superior Ireland left the champions dishevelled but Wales know that a victory will keep their hopes for a third successive title alive. France seek a third victory, following a fortunate win over England and a battering of Italy.

France have not beaten Wales since 2011 but the power of the French front row will fancy their chances against the Welsh front three who struggled against Ireland and Italy.

Ireland laid down the blue-print for beating Wales – kicking the leather out of the ball to nullify the Welsh attack. But Jean-Marc Doussain, who is likely to retain the kicking duties, produced a shaky display against Italy and despite their jaded display against an underrated Ireland, Wales look the bet at 4/6 to see of France (6/4).

Football:

West Ham v Southampton

Although four of the last six meetings have been drawn, Hammers lack potency up front with Andy Carroll suspended, and have won just one of their last eight vs. Saints. With Saints already safe and perhaps lacking in motivation, there is a fair argument for backing the more desperate hosts, who are just four points clear of the relegation zone and facing a tough run-in.

However, the Saints have a decent road record in the Premier League, winning three of their last six away from home (with two draws and only one defeat – a 2-1 reverse at Everton), so the visitors look a decent bet at 7/5 to take all three points at Upton Park.

Walsall v Crawley Town

John Gregory’s side are teetering on the brink of the relegation places in League One, while Walsall are on the verge of the playoff places. So how come the hosts are 1/1 and not odds-on to win this?

Simple. Crawley have not played for over a month, thanks to monsoon-like conditions deeming the Broadfield Stadium pitch unplayable. Crawley have six games in hand on Crewe, who are below them, and have six in hand of Tranmere, who are a point above them. Yet rustiness could prove a factor and the Midlands side can maintain their promotion push with a win.

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Preview: England v Ireland, RLWC2013 (Nov 2)

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For 30 minutes in each half, England gave every indication that they could cause an upset in their World Cup opener against Australia at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff last Saturday.

England blew a 10-0 lead and switched off either side of half-time to concede four tries, eventually going down 20-28. But there were plenty of good signs from Steve McNamara’s team.

Given that Australia are expected to win all three of their Group games, England must now hope that they can overcome Ireland and Fiji to reach a likely semi-final with World Champions New Zealand at Wembley on November 23.

Not since 1972 – when Great Britain triumphed in France – has a northern hemisphere side secured the title. The odds say that trend will continue, as it is 4/7 that Australia meet New Zealand in the Old Trafford final on November 30.

However, if you fancy the Aussies not to win the World Cup, you can take them on at the inviting odds of 9/4.

Currently 15/2 tournament third favourites, England may well be worth a bet at 8/5 for a rematch with the Aussies in the final.

As anticipated, reigning champions New Zealand had too many guns for Samoa in their World Cup opener at Warrington, buoyed by a hat-trick of tries from Manu Vatuvei. Yet the Samoans showed the Kiwis’ vulnerability, scoring four tries in 13 minutes to leave the final score a respectable 42-24.

England had a turbulent build-up to their campaign. They were humbled in their warm-up match by Italy, saw forward Gareth Hock thrown out of the tournament for what the management deemed as “serious breaches” of team discipline, and McNamara then abruptly cut short a press conference.

Yet for all the negatives, there was a major positive on the pitch: a striking team unity was evident against Australia. Senior players in the squad were visibly disappointed that they did not beat the 14-point favourites Australia.

“It feels like we have thrown it away,” said Rangi Chase, England’s New Zealand-born stand-off. The reason for the defeat was largely down to the odd unforced error and silly penalties. They were not a million miles away from taking the biggest scalp.

Of course, Australia are known to be notoriously slow starters, so skeptics will feel England have already had their best opportunity to beat Australia – their seventh straight defeat by the Kangaroos.

Yet the cohesiveness and quality was there for long periods of the game, suggesting McNamara’s side have every chance of earning a rematch which would be a major draw and a shot in the arm for the sport in this country.

England, 15-8 to be the tournament runner-up, will be without front-row forward Sam Burgess for today’s game against Ireland after he was banned for a high tackle in last Saturday’s defeat. Canterbury Bulldogs front rower James Graham is a very capable replacement and they could also have Wigan loose forward Sean O’Loughlin back after he missed two matches after suffering an achilles injury.

Ireland, surprise packets of the 2008 RLWC, are currently 500/1 to make it to the final. 

Their 2013 campaign got off to a rocky start, however. Akuila Uate scored a hat-trick as Fiji trounced the Irish 32-14 in their opening World Cup Group A fixture at a sold-out Spotland.

MyClubBetting can claim a little reflected glory – thanks to their wonderful fans. Fiji were celebrating their 52-year association with Rochdale, forged by the influx of Fijian signings at Rochdale Hornets during the 1960’s. As part of the celebrations, MyClubBetting handed 10 pairs of tickets for the clash to rugby league legend Mike Ratu, of the Rochdale Fijian Society, to distribute to fans.

Ireland will prove a tough opponent, with Scott and Simon Grix leading the charge. They have some talented young backrowers so don’t be surprised to see the likes of Ben Currie, Tyrone McCarthy and James Hasson make an impact on the World Cup.

But this current Ireland team is not a patch on the 2008 vintage that almost reached the semi-final stage. England are massive favourites and deservedly so. Take them to cover a lofty handicap.

World Cup Outright Odds:

Australia 2/7

New Zealand 4/1

England 15/2

Samoa 100/1

Tonga 100/1

Italy 110/1

Fiji 125/1

France 150/1

Papua New Guinea 225/1

Wales 500/1

Ireland 500/1

Cook Islands 500/1

Scotland 500/1

USA 500/1