England beat New Zealand at Twickenham this time last year and, even though the Three Lions were patchy in despatching Argentina and Australia in their recent Test matches, they are receiving too many points from the All Blacks on the no-draw handicap to do anything other than back them.
Ladbrokes is offering odds of 1.91 about England beating New Zealand with the assistance of a 12-and-a-half-point start. One was expecting England to be the underdog but for Stuart Lancaster’s team to receive around half the number of points that Ladbrokes has put up for grabs. As good as New Zealand is, England is very capable of staying inside the spread.
First, New Zealand was only seven points too powerful for France in Paris last week. France finished bottom of this year’s Six Nations Championship standings, with its three losses including a 23-13 defeat at Twickenham. If France can get within seven points of New Zealand then England should fancy its chance of giving the All Blacks a real fright.
Second, the IRB world rankings have New Zealand in first place on 93.20 rating points and England occupying third position on 86.31 rating points. The IRB’s number crunchers put a value of three rating points on home advantage, which reduces the gap between New Zealand and England to 3.89 rating points. From watching the IRB world rankings over time, it seems that one rating point equates to about two real points so, again, it would appear that the handicap line for the Twickenham should not be 12 and a half points.
Third, England was the last side to beat New Zealand and the Three Lions did it convincingly as well, defeating the All Blacks 38-21 at Twickenham in December 2012. New Zealand’s management claimed that a debilitating virus had hit its squad during the week leading into the game but, even so, the manner of England’s victory was immensely impressive.
And finally, Craig Joubert will referee the match between England and New Zealand. Joubert is an official known for his tendency to penalise at scrum time and this is an area of the game in which England justifiably feel that it holds an edge over New Zealand. Joubert has a tendency to penalise teams repeatedly once he makes up his mind that they are in trouble at scrum time. That is a factor worth considering.
England is massive odds at 7.50 with PaddyPower to beat New Zealand at Twickenham for the second year in a row. That may not be the smartest bet – England really ought to have lost to Australia two weeks ago and New Zealand is desperate to avenge its loss in the last meeting of the sides – so stick with backing the Three Lions in receipt of a huge start or, if one must bet at odds against, punting on the All Blacks winning by one to 12 points at odds of 2.75 with Ladbrokes.
Ireland was flattered by its winning margin over a Samoa team shorn of many of its best players so back Australia to cover a surprisingly small spread in its Test match versus the Irish in Dublin. Australia’s play is improving rapidly under Ewen McKenzie and, even though the Wallabies did not impress up front against Italy last week, its backs ran amok. Unibet is offering odds of 1.91 that Australia beats Ireland by more than one and a half points. Alternatively, Australia is available at odds of 1.80 with Paddy Power simply to win the game. The handicap play is the way to go.
The IRB world rankings suggest that Australia should be about two-point favourites but the Wallabies are on the upgrade and they have not forgotten how poorly that they played in losing 9-15 to Ireland in the 2011 Rugby World Cup. With Quade Cooper, Israel Folau and Matt Toomua in tip-top form – Australia has scored 18 tries in its last four matches having only scored 18 tries in its 18 games before its purple patch – back the Wallabies to triumph.