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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*Odds correct at time of publishing.

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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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*Odds correct at time of publishing.

MCB EXCLUSIVE – The Tuesday Twosome – a duo of top tips!

You already know that your club betting service gives you more than any other high street bookie: We give your club free kit and equipment – plus we give back 20% of revenues!

And now we are attempting to find a couple of bets each day to stimulate your punting juices.

Two out of three again on Monday, but you would have made money backing all of them. Here’s our offering for Tuesday, March 31…

Football: Italy v England

Wayne Rooney England
England’s greatest: Wayne Rooney

Revenge for the 2-1 World Cup defeat, the latest goal-scoring escapades of Harry Kane, Wayne Rooney potentially becoming England’s all-time top scorer – there are plenty of talking points ahead of tonight’s friendly.

Italy (Odds: 2.42) have won 10 of the last 17 meetings, including three of the last five and England’s record against the Italians is not a good one – just two wins since 1977 (12 meetings).

Since the 2-1 World Cup defeat, England (Odds: 2.96) have won all seven of their matches but Italy away is the toughest test since the debacle of Brazil 2014. And no, we will not forget another one of Steven Gerrard’s finest hours against Uruguay.

Wayne Rooney is on course to break Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of 49 all-time England goals, many of which were accumulated in the Home Internationals. It is unfair to compare the two – England were a greater force in World football in Charlton’s era, and the Three Lions rarely played minnows outside of the Home Nations as they do now.

No English player has scored 50 goals in international football. A Rooney hat-trick can take him to the magical half century of goals for England. He has 47 goals in 102 internationals, so his statistics suggest he is slightly odds against to score in any match for England.

Harry Kane scored the fourth-fastest goal as a debutant for England in the Euro 2016 qualifier against Lithuania at Wembley on Friday evening and is set to make his first start. We would not be backing him to score at any time, however.

A glance at his scoring record this season will show that he gets his goals in bursts and can go three or four games without netting. While he has 30 goals to his name, the majority of them have come against weaker teams than Tottenham.

He has notched five goals in 10 games against the top sides – Chelsea (2), Arsenal (2), Manchester United (0), Liverpool (1), Manchester City (0) and Southampton (0). While his confidence is high and he has a happy knack of being in the right place at the right time, Kane still looks something of a flat-track bully.

The Italian defence is unlikely to give him any quarter.

As for the result, we are still patriotic souls and it might be worth backing England to gain at least a draw.

Selection: Double Chance – England and Draw @ 1.55

Tennis: Juan Monaco v Fernando Verdasco

World 46th-ranked Juan Monaco takes on 34th-ranked Fernando Verdasco in one of the more enticing clashes at the Miami Open this afternoon.

Verdasco has won three of the last five meetings, the last of which came at the Shanghai Masters three years ago.

Monaco holds an 8-5 all-time series advantage and five of those eight wins came in two sets, and we think he is a value punt to upset the odds again.

The asterisk with backing Monaco is the surface. Verdasco has lost six of the nine meetings with Monaco on clay courts. Miami is a hard-court surface the pair have split both hard-court meetings.

Verdasco saw off Rafael Nadal in three sets in the last round, following another three-setter with James Duckworth. Monaco’s two wins have both come in straight sets.

And the value lies with the underdog.

Selection: Juan Monaco @ 2.36

All odds quoted from Shoreham FC’s betting service shorehamfc.myclubbetting.co.uk

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Euro 2016 qualifiers – MCB betting angle

Ton up: 100 caps for Wayne Rooney

International week is never an easy time for bookmakers, as the betting public’s apathy is palpable.

England face Slovenia at Wembley Stadium on Saturday (5pm), hoping to keep their 100% Euro 2016 qualifying record intact after three successive victories.

Slovenia lost both previous meetings by the odd goal and are no pushovers, and perhaps that is why Roy Hodgson was getting his excuses in early this week, blaming the state of the pitch after the NFL game held there last Sunday.

You cannot blame the Football Association for doing a deal with the NFL which saw three fixtures take place at Wembley this year, with another three scheduled for next autumn.

Dolphins v Raiders wembley
Sell-out: Fans flock to NFL games

The average attendance for an NFL game at Wembley over the past three years has been 83,609. In contrast, the attendance of 40,181 for England vs. Norway in September was the stadium’s lowest since it re-opened in 2007. Just 55,990 turned up for England vs. San Marino last month.

And a few thousand of those tickets were given away free to schools in a bid to boost the attendance.

If there is criticism to be levelled, it should be at the F.A., who spent over £800 million on a stadium without a fully retractable roof! Here’s a clue: it rains a lot at this time of year and always has.

There may be a couple of hundred added to the gate on account of Wayne Rooney gaining a 100th international cap, but even that landmark has been met with plenty of apathy – Jason Burt’s excellent commentary piece in the Telegraph could not have summed it up any better .

Wembley stadium England v Norway half empty
Half empty: Plenty of England fans dressed as red plastic seats

England are 1.32 (8/25) to win, with Slovenia on offer at 11.0 (10/1). The draw is 4.70 (37/10).

We expect England to win with a little in hand and the odds of 1.93 (40/43) to be leading at half-time and full-time are of interest.

Given that a healthy percentage of England fans at Wembley are dressed as red plastic seats, it should be odds-on for the Three Lions to play their home internationals at a more appropriate venue when their contract expires in three years’ time, leaving this great stadium – even without a suitable roof – to the NFL, who know exactly how to fill it on a consistent basis.

Elsewhere, Scotland take on the Republic of Ireland on Friday (7:45), with the hosts 2.22 (61/50) to win. Gordon’s Strachan’s Scotland side have lost three of their last four meetings and five of the last six meetings were won to nil.

It is worth noting that the Scots have failed to net in five of the last six meetings and it is 3.15 (43/20) that they fail to score on this occasion.

While Strachan has made a great start, Scotland have been here before. There were moments in Craig Levein’s tenure that exuded optimism. The same was the case under George Burley. It all came to nought.

Scotland should progress to the Euro 2016 finals in France, given that 24 teams qualify, as opposed to 16 which has been the case.

Scotland’s game at Celtic Park should provide an easy three points, such is the dearth of talent available to Martin O’Neill, providing they play to the level shown in the 2-1 defeat by Germany at Dortmund in September.

The approach was refreshing – an attacking style that deserved at least a point and, at times, they looked more than equal to the World Cup winners.

Gordon Strachan 11
New era: Gordon Strachan brings hope

Despite Ireland’s recent good record against the Scots (they are 3.20 or 11/5 to win), Scotland look capable of landing the odds and laying Ireland at 7/20 (by backing Scotland and the Draw on the Double Chance market) is a safe option.

Arguably the most attractive fixture this weekend sees Italy hosting Croatia at the San Siro on Sunday (7:45), with the Azzurri attempting to beat them in a competitive fixture for the first time.

The Croatia team is likely to be very different form the one that was defeated 2-1 by Argentina at Upton Park on Wednesday, with coach Niko Kovac stressing the game is of far more importance.

He said: “Honestly, we are not too happy to be playing Argentina before the Italy game = we’d have preferred it the other way round.”

Italy are unbeaten in their three qualifiers thus far and are 2.12 (28/25) to beat Croatia for the first time in seven meetings, having lost thee and drawn three. Croatia are 3.45 (49/20), while the draw is 2.98 (97/49).

A draw seems the most likely outcome and we look for a Correct Score of 1-1 at odds of 6.20 (26/5).

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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