Rugby Review – Scotland v France and England v Ireland

It was another exciting and informative weekend of rugby union action as we draw ever closer to this autumn’s World Cup in Japan. That showpiece event gets underway on 20 September and we will see a champion crowned at the conclusion of the final on 2 November. What goes on between those two dates will have followers of the sport around the globe gripped.

Teams, coaches and players are putting the finishing touches to their preparations and that’s the reason we see the autumn rugby test series take place during the summer months. The final squads have been picked, meaning players are out to impress their coaches and prove they, not only, deserve a place on the plane to Japan, but they are also worthy of a starting slot. The best way to show that is by giving a strong performance in the warm-up matches.

Coaches also want to rotate their squad and give everyone a chance to impress, while trying out new tactics. The matches happening just now are dubbed friendly games or warm-ups, but there’s a tension in the air. Let’s reflect on what we saw over the course of the weekend and point out anything worth noting down as we size up our World Cup outright bets.

Two internationals were played on Saturday afternoon with both games shown live on TV. It was a real treat for armchair fans as there was very little between the four sides involved on paper. Some were looking to flex their muscles while others were out for revenge. Did the matches go according to plan? Do they ever in top-level international rugby?

Scotland v France

Scotland was flatted by France away from home last week and experts predicted more of the same. The home side returned from that trip with more questions than answers and some critics were even predicting the worst for Scotland in Japan, but they bounced back and they did it in some style too. Saturday just goes to show you can never write this Scotland team off and when the chips are down and the critics are circling, they are capable of beating anyone in rugby, especially when cheered on by a passionate, patriotic and noisy Murrayfield Stadium.

That’s exactly what happened on Saturday afternoon as Scotland exploded out of the traps and, determined to snatch a piece of revenge, they set about their visitors. The final scoreboard read Scotland 17-14 France, but even that didn’t give the full picture of what happened that day. It was tense, nervy and, in the end, it was a glorious win for the home nation.

Penaud scored two tries for France and those were added to by a couple of conversations from the boot of Ramos and that sent Les Bleus into the interval with 14 points on the board, four more than their opponents. What was said had half-time seemed to rouse the Scots and they came out for the second 40 like a team reborn, determined not to let their support or themselves down in this glamour tie.

Maitland and Harris scored tries that day, Laidlaw converted both and the latter also slammed home an all-important penalty to win the match. Two converted tries each had the scores at 14-14 but it was the boot of Laidlaw that made all the difference and handed his nation an incredible and memorable win over France who is one of the early favourites in the outright betting to win the World Cup. Where does that leave Scotland? Well, it just reminds us that they will be a force when things get interesting in Japan. The Scots came painfully close to upsetting the odds in the last World Cup and will believe they have unfinished business when touching down in Japan.

Townsend Triumphs in the Face of Adversity

Head coach Gregor Townsend spoke to the press at the conclusion of that match and looked as relieved as he was glad at the win. He told reporters his team found a way to win amongst adversity and labelled it a collective effort, with every member of his team playing for the jersey. The Scots certainly didn’t make it easy for themselves, losing a try early on and conceding another when they had the ball, but that only made their victory all the sweeter.

That win did come at a cost however as they lost lock Sam Skinner to injury and he will now miss the World Cup, which is heart-breaking for the player. Skinner picked up a hamstring injury during that thrill-a-minute win over France and a scan showed he will not recover in time to play a meaningful part in Japan.

A sore one for the player, in every sense of the word, but it will also affect Scotland who isn’t in a position to lose their best players. They need all hands on deck if they are to stand any chance of going deep into the World Cup. Townsend and his coaching staff must shuffle the pack and hope they suffer no other injuries between now and game one in Japan when kicking off their campaign against Ireland.

Bookies Write off Scotland’s Chances at the World Cup

The current Rugby World Cup betting has Scotland ranked as 50/1 outsiders with Betfair. That looks a tad harsh on the side as they showed on Saturday they can play good rugby or they can roll up their sleeves and go toe-to-toe with the best of them.

They aren’t the most talented team in Japan, of course, but 50/1 looks to be verging on disrespectful to their chances and that’s sure to capture the imagination of value hunters or those after an each-way play at a nice price. If Scotland gets anywhere near repeating their efforts at the last World Cup we expect backers will be able to cash out for a profit.

You can also get in early to secure a better price on match one for the dark blues and back them to beat Ireland on Sunday 22 September at 8.45am, a match that will be shown live on ITV. Ireland are 3/10 favourites to win that one against the 31/10 of their opponents and 33/1 for a draw. You can also have your say on handicaps, half time/full time, winning margin, team to score first, race to 10 points and plenty more besides.

England v Ireland

England was another side playing at home and looking to bounce back to winning ways at the first time of asking. The locals walked out at Twickenham determined to record a win following the pain of defeat to Wales recently, but they also knew they owed their support a strong performance into the bargain. Losing to Wales not only hurt England’s preparations, but it also allowed their rivals to become the number one ranked team in the world heading to Japan. That was deserved, of course, but to be achieved thanks to a win over England didn’t do anything for the beaten side’s confidence.

The home side not only had to beat a talented Irish side at Twickenham, but they also had to drive them into the ground and prove, beyond doubt, they are in the best shape possible heading into the World Cup and are good enough to go all the way again this year and finish on the top step. Bookmakers believe England have every chance of winning the trophy, but they also know they must remain injury-free and in the best possible shape, both mentally and physically if they are to live up to expectations. At this stage, it’s all about preparing, but sports bettors also have one eye on what’s to come as they get ready to invest their cash.

England was able to get the desired result over Ireland on Saturday and they did it in some style too, battering their opponents on route to a stunning 57-15 win. It was a real show of strength and much of their best work came in the second half. The game was over as a contest by the break with England enjoying a 22-10 advantage. In the second 40, the visitors were simply blown away. There were tries in the match for Cokanasiga (2), Daly, Tuilagi, Itoje, Kruis, Curry and Cowan-Dickie. Farrell scored six conversations, Ford adding a seventh and Farrell also chipped in with a penalty.

There wasn’t an awful lot for Ireland to take from the day, but they did score tries through Larmour and Akri, while Byrne hit a conversation and a penalty. The visitors were sent home to return to the drawing board and plan how they are going to recover in good time for taking on Scotland at the World Cup. Lose that match and a lack of confidence and self-doubt could begin to creep into the ranks. They must dust themselves down and bounce back as soon as possible. Winning in England was always going to be a tough ask under the circumstances, but it was a warm-up match and must be treated as such.

England Respected by Traders

England’s chances have been afforded the respect they deserve by betting traders heading to the World Cup and they rank as one of the early favourites for success in Japan. The outright betting is topped by New Zealand who is 11/8 top price at Betfair to come out on top. The All Blacks sit ahead of South Africa at 5/1 before we find England as third favourites with an 11/2 price tag attached. There’s very little between the top three in the betting but, if traders are proven to be correct, New Zealand should run away with the trophy.

The fixture list hands England and opening match against Tonga on Sunday 22 September and you can watch that one live on ITV from 11.15am. That looks a perfect chance to get off to a winning start and the betting has them priced at 1/33 with William Hill to do just that. It may look tight for an opening game from a major competition, but that quote is value when compared to the 1/500 you’ll get with some firms on the same outcome. Tonga are as big as big as 66/1 and the draw is 110/1 in places. The handicap betting gives us a better price with England -33 points an eye-catching 10/11 at William Hill. The same firm offer Tonga +33 points at 10/11 and that will attract attention. Not too many World Cup matches are more than 33 points apart.